Topsail’s Turtles

9fc7ae_d9c507061d5647d0b866be3c658cfb88 (1)Topsail’s Turtles, Episode 2 of Wild Life! Wild Places!, on Pet Life Radio, is now available for listening. In this program, I take you to North Carolina where I am helping monitor sea turtle activity on Topsail, one of the state’s barrier islands. Topsail is a northern rookery for the threatened species that is the Loggerhead; Green Sea Turtles are found here as well, but in smaller numbers. Because of all the threats–from predation to plastics, marine debris to mechanized fishing—it is estimated that only one in a thousand sea turtle hatchlings will survive a year; only one in 5,000 to 10,000 will survive to maturity.img_1925-2
In this episode, I introduce you to the seven species of sea turtles and explain what happens during incubation and hatching. I also discuss where sea turtles tend to hang out, and I catalogue what threats they face in the wild. Shared in this program as well is the history of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center through which I received training for service as a beach monitor. By the end of the show, you’ll know about turtle tracks, false crawls, boils, nest sitters and rampers. You’ll also know why the northern rookeries are so crucial to the continuation of sea turtles and you’ll have a list of simple things you can do to help ensure that sea turtles will have a future.
Featured photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. All others by DFG Hailson (

Sea Turtle Release off Topsail Island

IMG_1971Six sea turtles were returned to the ocean off Topsail Island, North Carolina, this morning after having been healed of illness or injury by the staff and volunteers of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. One by one, in slings or in the arms of caregivers, Camper, Coldie, October, River, Simon and Theodore were carried to the water as hundreds of turtle lovers and onlookers erupted in applause and cheers.

Joy is found in abundance at these releases and you can sense the excitement in the turtles, in the caregivers and in the onlookers! It’s the culmination of lots of love and lots of rehab. Wonderful!

IMG_1925 2

The idea for the center originated with Karen Beasley, who died from leukemia in 1991 at age 29. As her health was declining, she specified to her mother, Jean, that her insurance funds be used “to do something good for sea turtles.” Together, they began to organize their sea turtle protection efforts into the Topsail Turtle Project, writing a mission statement, structuring the beach monitoring program, and recruiting volunteers. The dream became reality in 1997 when the first sick and injured turtles were rescued and rehabilitated. The center was housed in a 900 square-foot building until June of 2014, when home became a new 13,600 square-foot, $1.5 million facility. The center has rehabilitated and released more than 300 turtles since 1997.

IMG_1932According to its mission statement, the sea turtle hospital is dedicated to:

  • The conservation and protection of all species of marine turtles, both in the water and on the beach;
  • The rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick and injured sea turtles;
  • Informing and educating the public regarding the plight of all sea turtles and the threat of their extinction; and
  • Providing an experiential learning site for students of biology, wildlife conservation and/or veterinary medicine from around the world.

The center, which is located at 302 Tortuga Lane in Surf City, will open for daily tours starting June 8, from noon to 4 p.m.

For more information, visit:

Follow this link to a story and video tracing the treatment and release of October:

See also

All photos by D.F.G. Hailson.

We are the Swampians

The chickee hut that sits just outside our door.
The chickee hut that sits just outside our door.

I apologize for the long break since my last post. In the interim, we moved from Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, where I’d been serving as an instructor/guide with the Grand Canyon Field Institute, to Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida. We’ve settled in to our spot in the rear of the property at the Big Cypress Gallery and I’m now spending my days exploring, photographing, writing, and working in the gallery of Clyde Butcher, who’s been called “the Ansel Adams of the Everglades.” I’ve launched a new photography website ( and am trying to learn all I can about gallery work while we’re here in the middle of the preserve. If time allows and I can come up to speed, I’ll also be leading tromps through (what can be) waist high swamp prairies, sloughs and strands.

Gene and I had struggled with whether to accept this gig as we were enjoying our lives in Arizona. But…we were moved to the decision to move through a conversation with Rader, one of the rangers at the Canyon. He’d just returned from Big Cypress and insisted we needed to head for Florida. He described the Western Everglades as pristine, with clouds of birds. So here we are.

Took me a few moments to notice this Green Heron in a canal across from the gallery. The larger herons stand prominently in the open parts of wetlands while these smaller relatives tend to be found at the edges, concealed in vegetation.
Took me a few moments to notice this Green Heron in a canal across from the gallery. The larger herons stand prominently in the open parts of wetlands while these smaller relatives tend to be found at the edges, concealed in vegetation.

To catch you up a bit, I’ll share just a few vignettes from recent days:

American AlligatorBack from my first Swamp Walk. We saw a gator before we stepped in to the swamp but, once in–through the wet prairie where one finds 700-900 year old dwarf cypress (yes, there is a prairie in the swamp) through the slough through the strand–we saw no scary predators. We did see bromeliads and orchids, cypress knees, pickerel weed, native and invasive snails, red-tailed hawks AND a Great Egret that came very near and circled around us. I took photographs but didn’t use my own equipment; instead, I had a friend’s waterproof camera. I enjoyed the experience. After some more training and time in the swamp, it looks like I might just embrace the idea of being a swamp guide.


Chatted with a woman the other day who had just come in from a swamp walk and had spent a couple of overnights in Big Cypress. She told me she was now a “swamp girl” evidenced, she said (with great gusto and great joy), by the fact that she hadn’t combed her hair in four days. I’ve been wondering ever since why she decided to share that with me…Hmmm? Anyone have a mirror?


Ochopee Post OfficeBrought the Christmas cards to the Ochopee Post Office for mailing this afternoon and got chatting with Postmistress Shannon, who, for the last nine years, has been holding down the fort here. Seems she was having a problem with her Pitney Bowes postage machine. A snake, apparently looking for a warm place to sleep on a recent chilly night, had gotten itself caught in the slot where the postage sheets are printed. The poor thing was dead and Shannon was waiting for her snake guy to come extricate it. She’s also been having trouble with curly-tailed lizards that are pooping on her shelves. Just another day in the country’s smallest post office!


Shawn, a neighbor and fellow member of the swamp crew, who is also known as Murf, has introduced me to a new word: “Swampian.” My theme song is now “We are the Swampians” sung to a tune popularized by Queen. Hope you’ll give the new photography website a look see and hope you’ll also look for me on Twitter at and on Facebook at

Skunk Ape Sign at BCG

Photos Soon To Be Available for Purchase

Crossing Temple Butte, Grand Canyon National Park
Crossing Temple Butte, Grand Canyon National Park
Fluffing Raven, Grand Canyon National Park
Fluffing Raven, Grand Canyon National Park

I’m delighted to announce that my photographs will soon be available for purchase at Grand Canyon National Park and via an e-commerce site I will launch later this month (I’ll post a link when the site is good to go)!

The Grand Canyon Association, the park’s non-profit partner, features only a handful of photographers and my work was chosen from more than 400 submissions. My website will not only have Canyon photos, but also images from Yellowstone, Craters of the Moon, Death Valley, Chimayo, Pearl Harbor, Santa Fe, San Antonio and many other locations around the country. The site will also feature photos of wildlife and scenes from “the road”.

Featured photo: Sunset at Navajo Point, Grand Canyon National Park

Desert View Watchtower Ceiling
Desert View Watchtower Ceiling

The End of Night? From The Starry, Starry Night to the Overpowering Street Light

Grand Canyon National Park Star Party. NPS Photo.
Grand Canyon National Park Star Party. NPS Photo.

For nearly a year now, I’ve had the privilege of living and working in Grand Canyon National Park. In late June, I was among some 1,100 attendees participating in one of the four nights of the 24th annual Grand Canyon Star Party. Astronomers from across the country, operating nearly 50 telescopes that were set up behind the Visitors’ Center, invited folks to get a glimpse of the planets in our own solar system as well as nebulae and star clusters sitting millions upon millions of light years distant from us.

The evening took me back to my childhood in Massachusetts where I spent many, many nights out under the stars looking up at a resplendent Milky Way. I am heartbroken to note that, if I were to return to the town of my birth today, it’s more than unlikely that I would catch even a fleeting glimpse of that Milky Way. Eight out of ten Americans today won’t ever live where they can see their own galaxy, their own solar system. More than two-thirds of Americans and Europeans no longer experience real night—that is, real darkness—and nearly all of us in the world live in areas considered polluted by light.

16131044In Episode 31 of On the Road with Mac and Molly, I chat with Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night, about the disintegration of what is natural into what is artificial. In this critically important book, Paul opens our eyes to how much we lose cooped up, as we are, under a perpetual glare.

At one point in the book, Bogard tells of a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York where, he suggests, one can see “real darkness.” There, he notes, fifty million people each year pass by a painting of “a small, dark town, a few yellow-orange gaslights in house windows, under a giant swirling and waving blue-green sky.” In The Starry Night, painted by Vincent Van Gogh in 1889, we see our world “before night had been pushed back to the forest and the seas, from back when sleepy towns slept without streetlights.” The Starry Night is “an imagined sky inspired by a real sky much darker than the towns we live in today.”

The Starry, Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889.
The Starry, Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889.

In a letter from the summer of 1888, Van Gogh described the night sky he saw overhead during a visit to a French beach: “The deep blue sky was flecked with clouds of a deeper blue than the fundamental blue of intense cobalt, and others of a clearer blue, like the blue whiteness of the Milky Way. In the blue depth the very stars were sparkling, greenish, yellow, white, pink, more brilliant, more sparkling gemlike than at home—even in Paris: opals you might call them, emeralds, lapis lazuli, rubies, sapphires.”

Street Light, Giacomo Balla, 1909.
Street Light, Giacomo Balla, 1909.

For most of us today, when we can see stars, most of these appear to be white so the idea that stars come in different colors seems wildly impossible. But, Bogard insists that if one were to “gaze long enough in a place dark enough that stars stand in clear three-dimensional beauty,” one would “spot flashes of red, green, yellow, orange and blue.” When Bogard made the visit to MoMA, he was in search of not only The Starry Night but also Giacomo Balla’s Street Light, a painting, dated 1909, that is so little known that the museum doesn’t even keep it on display. While Van Gogh’s painting depicts, what Bogard calls, “old night,” Balla’s is a painting of “night from now on.” Bogard notes: “In both paintings, the moon lives in the upper right corner, and for Van Gogh, the moon is a throbbing yellow presence pulsing with natural light. But for Balla, the moon has become a little biscuit wafer hanging on for dear life, overwhelmed by the electric streetlight. And that, in fact, was Balla’s purpose. “Let’s kill the Moonlight!” was the rallying cry from Balla’s fellow Italian futurist, Filippo Marinetti. These futurists believed in noise and speed and light—human light, modern light, electric light. What use could we now have of something so yesterday as the moon?”

Paul Bogard
Paul Bogard

In his book and in Episode 31 of On the Road, we travel with Bogard around the globe to find night where it still lives…showing exactly what we’ve lost, what we have left and what we might hope to regain. We hear how the loss of night is not only a loss of beauty above us. More light at night does not, as some insist, ensure greater safety and security; properly designed light at night does. Exposure to artificial light at night has been cited as a factor in health concerns ranging from poor sleep to cancer. Light pollution is also threatening the health of the world’s ecosystems as everything from reproduction cycles to migration patterns are adversely affected by artificial light at night. But there is hope. Light pollution is one kind of pollution we can readily fix. And, as the jacket cover of the book proclaims: Bogard’s “panoramic tour of the night, from its brightest spots to the darkest skies we have left gives us every reason to flip the switch—tonight.”

Here’s a link to the show: and a link to a short clip of Paul Bogard introducing the book:

Interviewing Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night

I’m looking forward, with great excitement, to next Monday’s interview with Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night. The cover of his book notes that: “A brilliantly starry night is one of nature’s most thrilling wonders. Yet in our world of nights as bright as day, most of us no longer experience true darkness. Exposure to artificial night at light has been cited as a factor in health concerns ranging from poor sleep to cancer. And eight out of ten Americans born today won’t ever live where they can see the Milky Way.”

Natural patterns of darkness are as important as the light of day to the functioning of ecosystems. With at least 30 percent of all vertebrates and more than 60 percent of all invertebrates worldwide nocturnal, and with many of the rest crepuscular (active at twilight), the implications are enormous. While most of us are inside and asleep, outside the night world is wide awake with matings, pollinations, and feeding–in short, the basic happenings that keep world biodiversity alive. Light pollution threatens this biodiversity.

I’ll be chatting with Paul about the search for natural darkness in an age of artificial light and will be posting an article on this site about this critically important book. I’ll also let you know when this On the Road with Mac and Molly episode is available for listening on Pet Life Radio (


The Adventures of Salt, Soap and Lori Rome

Canoeing on the lower Colorado River.
Canoeing on the lower Colorado River.

The Adventures of Salt and Soap at Grand Canyon is the true story of two puppies who wandered into the Canyon and maneuvered their way into some great escapades–multiple rim-to-river hikes, a white-water rafting trip, and even a helicopter ride—all while ultimately snuggling their ways into park rangers’ hearts.

6071241The author of this charming book for children, interpretive ranger Lori Rome, adopted this pair of adventurers after meeting them at the bottom of the Canyon at Phantom Ranch, the historic oasis on the north side of the Colorado River that’s tucked in right next to Bright Angel Creek. She took Salt and Soap in as “lost and found items” but, with Lori, the intrepid duo found a home. And home for all of them is now Capitol Reef National Park in south-central Utah where they’ve been joined by a third dog (another stray, Mo, whose proper name is Morri, after the Morrison rock formation near where he was found).

In this episode of On the Road with Mac and Molly, I chat with Lori about Salt, Soap and their buddy Morri. Lori gives us entrée to her life as a ranger in parks from Alaska to Florida, shares stories about pets and wildlife in the parks, and details her exciting work with mountain lions at Capitol Reef.

Pet Life Radio is the largest and #1 pet radio network on the planet, featuring weekly pet-related talk shows hosted by the most well-known pet experts, authors and radio and TV personalities in the world of animals and pets. With over six million monthly listeners Pet Life Radio has hosted celebrity guests like Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Betty White, Rachael Ray, and many more. Pet Life Radio was honored with a 2012 Genesis Award (Humane Society of the United States), and is the official radio media sponsor of the 2013 and 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards.

Pet Life Radio is available free on-demand from the website and over 30 podcast distributors. The Pet Life Radio live radio stream is broadcast 24/7 worldwide on the home page as well as to smart phones, mobile devices and cars through mobile apps including iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, TuneIn Radio, Stitcher Radio, Nokia Radio and ooTunes Radio. Pet Life Radio has millions of pet loving listeners worldwide.

Here’s the link to the show: