Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Sunset on Mount Scott: A Scramble in Fading Light

My intentions were to capture the super moon on Wednesday morning. I arrived at Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge a bit later than I had hoped the night before. I wasn't able to use a tripod and had to scramble to capture the  atmosphere before I lost all light.

I was just one of three other cars up on the mountain which was a wonderful feeling of desolation and solitude. Th steep grade  to the top of Mount Scott is lined with giant granite boulders adorned with rich yellow lichen. On my last visit I don't remember the color of the lichen being so vivid.

I saw a small animal crossing the road and what I thought was a raccoon turned out to be a porcupine. I've only seen one in the wild before and it was a treat to watch him disappear into the dense scrub.

As I came around the bend there it was in all its glory, the full moon rising above the edge of Mount Scott. Pinks and mauves in velvety waves of clouds surrounded it as it rose into the darkening sky. Below I could see Lake Lawtonka as it snaked through the valley. As the sun set, it warmed all the colors to a reddish brown complementing the blue of the water.

All the lights of the cities nearby had begun to twinkle as the wind blew hard across the mountain. The road winds around the mountain with many views of the valleys and buttes below.  As darkness set in, the rich warm reds gave way to purples and blues that faded into the sunset, a violent flame of color across the horizon.

I reached the top as the light was quickly fading. Photographing was difficult because it was really cold and the wind gusts were constant. The valley below was fading into deep blues and purples and the lights of distant cities set the dark horizons ablaze.

Tomorrow would be the super moon, a grand image of the blood moon, little did I know was that the camera would malfunction and I would be forced to shoot with my Iphone. What followed was a day of peace and calm in a beautiful ancient landscape that I will definitely visit again.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Day at the Zoo: Taking time to enjoy individual exhibits allows for a more intimate portrait

I enjoyed taking some closeups in the herpetarium in at the Dallas Zoo. Usually there are too many people crowded into the space, it was a weekday and I enjoyed observing all of the reptiles and amphibians.

This I thought was very odd. A Poison Dart Frog that found its perch on a bushmaster. I liked the way the golden green stood out against the bushmasters' dull browns and beiges. I took many photos just to get one that had them both in focus.

A Komodo Dragon took a bit of notice of me as he dug a hole. He stared through the glass and I was able to get a close up of his prehistoric face. It's closer than I ever want to be to such a formidable predator.

I loved how intense the green of the mamba was, it must have been feeding time because it seemed like it was searching for something.

Prehistoric is the best I can describe this iguana. I was able to get several sharp close-ups of this monster. He was very calm and relaxed.

This was a family of chimps that groomed each other and enjoyed some time in the warm sun. A baby played in the bushes and I wasn't able to get any shots of him. Suddenly they all picked up what they were doing and they were off. I liked how the light side lit her muscular form.

This is the closest I've ever gotten to a cheetah. It was on the other side of a window watching as the kids were tapping on the window. I loved the look in its eyes.

I liked the abstract ribbing in the trunk and how the light eventuated the folds of its skin. I enjoyed listening to the zookeeper about the elephants in the wilds of Africa. 

I enjoyed watching the gorillas, I was able to sit and watch them for a while. Again, the zookeeper told me about their personalities. I liked the blue lighting and the personality in their eyes.

I photographed several giraffe as they were fed. They have beautiful textures and their eyes have much feeling in them. 

This lion sat and watched the people, I think it was hungry. The eyes still had that wild look and I was attracted to the shadows.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Parkhill Prairie: A Place to Disappear

I got lost in the long flowing stalks of bluestem grasses, the great blue sky looming above where hawks dance in slow spirals. I sat on the cold, moist ground and listened to what it might have been like when bison and Indians roamed the backland  prairie.

The clouds drifted with a calm indifference, the wind breathed and than exhaled followed by a ritual silence. Meadowlarks flew in patterns from fences and crows called out breaking the stillness, it is like going back in time.

I guess the fact that the winter chill that settled in my spine and slapped my exposed skin with pins and needles would be a good incentive not to go to the prairie. I assume that's why both times I've gone there has been no one there but I consider it my oasis of silence.

I am comfortable sitting on the cold ground. My breath is still, my senses charged with the sounds as I try not to miss anything. I can hear cattle in the background and even a truck in the far distance but for the most part all is consumed with the rush of the wind through the grasses.

All that moves is the grasses, swaying back and forth as if haunted and the clouds marching passively across the plane, I am in awe of the silence and calm.

I have been dwarfed by mountains, the ocean but never by a huge open field. I have images of our history and it's inhabitants that made a life out here and imagine the distant cows that cry out now were probably the sounds of wagon trains and troops of coyotes, maybe even the bison.

The coyotes are still here, I see their tracks and scat but the bison are long gone. There hawks of all kinds, the red tail, the kestrels and the prairie falcon, their mood is pensive with a mission. They rise and fall in the golden field as it should be.

I learned about this place from a trail guide at the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center and I have been back twice. Yet another great place I learned about from the Blackland Prairie Raptor center, great people and wonderful birds with lots of knowledge, if you haven't gotten a chance to go on the first Saturday of the month, I would highly suggest going.

There is also a pond on the property and again, no one around but an occasional Blue Heron that keeps out of range of my camera. There are also picnic benches and a pavilion, I can't imagine people in this park though, it is so quiet and beautiful, I think I might just be a winter visitor.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Blackland Prairie Revisited: Protecting Birds and the Environment while Educating the Public

Great Horned Owl from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

Protecting wildlife starts with saving habitat, maintaining native plants and fauna and protecting animals that have become injured or can not compete in their natural world. These animals become ambassadors to show our future stewards of the environment why they are so important and what makes them special.
Barn Owl hissing. from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

Blackland Prairie Raptor Center is doing all of these important aspects of wildlife preservation. I visited their first Saturday of the month, it's the only time they're open to the public and they show the birds that pass through their center. 

They keep the birds as wild as they can be, even the imprinted birds that haven't learned to live in the wild are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. It is quite an impressive operation and much of what I have learned about the Blackland Prairie is from talking with the naturalists there.

Barred Owl from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

They take the time to show you each bird they have and explain their unique situations. I was impressed with how much the children knew about the birds and the difference between nocturnal and diurnal.

Every time I go to the center I learn something I didn't know. Here is a list of some more things I've learned from my visit today.

Red Tailed Hawk from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

1. A flock of Kites is a kettle. The mississippi kite is expanding its range southward. With age comes the more grey plumage and it feeds on mostly insects.

2. I've never heard a barn owl hiss up close. They also shriek and it can be quite piercing to the ear.

3. The tuffs of feathers on the head of the owls break up their round shape and make them harder to see in the wild.

4. A barn owls ears are so intense they can hear a heartbeat and they can actually attack a mouse under the snow without even seeing them.

5. Owls have tubular eyes that are more fixed than other animals and therefore they need to swivel their heads to see.

Preregrine Falcon from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

After the bird show we took a hike on the trails and we learned about blue stem grasses, native grass and invasive non-native species. I learned about another place I had never heard of before today and I very much enjoyed my visit, the park is the Parkhill Prairie near Blue Ridge and it was an amazing visit where I saw hawks and vultures flying in their environment. 

It was a wonderful day.

Red Shouldered Hawk from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

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