Category: Wildlife and Ecology
Sea Turtle Release off Topsail Island
Six 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.
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.
According 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: http://www.seaturtlehospital.org/
Follow this link to a story and video tracing the treatment and release of October: http://www.wunc.org/post/changing-carolina-coast-iconic-creature-faces-uncertain-future
See also http://magazine.wfu.edu/2014/07/10/karen-beasleys-legacy-save-the-turtles/
All photos by D.F.G. Hailson.
We are the Swampians
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 (www.dfghailsonphotography.com) 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.
To catch you up a bit, I’ll share just a few vignettes from recent days:
Back 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?
Brought 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 https://twitter.com/dfghailsonphotography and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/dfghailsonphotography).
Photos Soon To Be Available for Purchase
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
The End of Night? From The Starry, Starry Night to the Overpowering Street Light
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.
In 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.”
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.”
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?”
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: http://www.petliferadio.com/ontheroadep31.html and a link to a short clip of Paul Bogard introducing the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkIdOqu53XA.
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 (www.petliferadio.com).
The Adventures of Salt, Soap and Lori Rome
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.
The 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 PetLifeRadio.com website and over 30 podcast distributors. The Pet Life Radio live radio stream is broadcast 24/7 worldwide on the PetLifeRadio.com 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:
Learning Condor Monitoring
I came to the Grand Canyon to learn, to experience and to become better equipped to serve as an advocate for wild places and wildlife. Now that things have settled a bit and I’ve been able to establish a workable studio and writing schedule, I’m ready to dig in. Next week, I’ll start learning how to do condor monitoring (telemetry and more) and will likely devote a late morning every week or every other week looking for activity. As I write this, most of the condors are at the canyon’s river or in Utah (where it’s warmer) but a chick did fledge a few months ago and, yesterday, a ranger told me he thought he’d seen a condor floating just below Kolb. California Condors are the largest land bird in the U.S. (nine-foot wingspan!) and their numbers had gotten down to just two dozen. They’ve been brought back from the brink of extinction and now number in the hundreds. I am SO delighted to have been offered this opportunity to work with the park service and am eagerly awaiting my first glimpse of a condor!!!
Of Mice and Ringtails
A couple of posts ago, I wrote about having been visited by a deer mouse. The little one had taken up residence under our refrigerator and had demonstrated extraordinary boldness, approaching me one morning again and again. Until…
Mac and Molly, our two Old English Sheepdogs emerged from the bedroom, raced toward me and tussled to capture the “prize” that had positioned itself under a stool on which I was seated. The mouse escaped and I am delighted to report it hasn’t been seen since. There’s no evidence of its presence anywhere in the RV and it hasn’t peeked out at me from any possible ports. Mac and Molly, it would seem, scared the daylights out of the mouse. I am relieved this is so but we do remain on guard. Deer mice are found throughout this region and have been identified as carriers of the hantavirus which is conveyed to humans through contact with the animals’ feces and urine. The first sign of infection is a fever that appears within 7-10 days of contact. I’ve learned that two persons had been infected with the virus here at the canyon. One died.
Around the same time of my deer mouse encounter, I discovered that a ringtail (the state mammal of Arizona) had shown up at Kolb Studio. A woman first alerted me to having seen it peering out of a dormer window. A humane trap was set out for it in the attic and, one morning, the young ringtail (which seemed quite docile and curious) was taken out and released at Desert View.
Held Hostage and then. . .
I’m still struggling to overcome the Internet connectivity issues here at Grand Canyon that have prevented me from posting on this blog in recent weeks. I have hundreds of photographs to share and have been working on stories about the geological features, wildlife, hiking trails, and human history of this Natural Wonder of the World. This has been just one of the “hostage” situations in which I’ve been involved in recent days.
On Halloween, an 800-pound 12-point bull elk kept us captive in our truck for a half hour while he munched on the vegetation just outside our RV door. It’s wise to give these guys a wide berth (150 feet or better) at any time of year but especially during rutting season (which is now) when they’re more aggressive and protecting their cows and calves.
After this bull had his fill of the fare he found on offer in our lot, he sauntered off into the woods and we were finally able to bring our own groceries into our living quarters. Each night, as we walk Mac and Molly (our two Old English Sheepdogs), we look up to see a splendid display of the Milky Way and, as we go, we listen for the bugling of the elk.
This morning, a deer mouse, that’s taken up residence under our refrigerator, startled me with its boldness. He?/she? peeked out from its hiding place, ducked back, but then emerged into plain view and inched towards me. I warned: “uh-uh, too close,” and it returned to its hiding place. Only moments later, however, it RAN towards me until I, again and more forcefully this time, told it to back off. We played this game for a few minutes until Mac and Molly entered the picture. They came racing toward me from the bedroom and started tussling under me, competing for “the prize” that had, apparently, snuck under my seat. The mouse escaped and hasn’t been seen since. Mac has positioned himself at the base of the refrigerator and Molly hasn’t left my side. Knowing my M&M are on guard freed me the rest of the day to focus on writing.