Missing the Winged Ones

Sand Hill Cranes, with the help of their sentinels, scope out a roosting spot on the North Platte River near Kearney Nebraska at twilight.

Sandhill cranes, with the help of their sentinels, scope out a roosting spot on the North Platte River near Kearney Nebraska at twilight.

Spring like all the seasons has special meaning to all of us. It’s  a time of intent. New beginnings, rebirths and regeneration. The initiation of a new cycle. And it too, has it’s smells and sounds. One event in particular defines spring for me.

Like they have for centuries, the majestic Sandhill and Whooping cranes, with out-stretched wings, recently made their migration from Mexico through America’s heartland on their way to more remote regions north.

Unfortunately, due to work conflicts, I wasn’t able to witness the spectacle this year.

My wife and I have had the privilege of visiting good friends Jerry Kenny and Bridget Barron ; Executive Director and COO, respectively, for Headwaters Corporation in Kearney Nebraska to see first hand shrouded skies and corn stubbled fields amassed with these beautiful creatures. Headwaters has been overseeing the Reclamation of the North Platte River Project for nearly seven years. It is a program dedicated to reclaiming, revitalizing and sustaining  the river and river habitat for a myriad of migratory birds  and wildlife. It is a life belt of water in central Nebraska.

Kenny, Barron and their entire staff reap the benefits each spring and summer as they witness activity in the flyway and nesting grounds.

Though we weren’t  able to make the pilgrimage, we did, however, see  Dean Reynold’s CBS’s segment on April 1 featuring the crane migration with wonderful appearances by University of Nebraska emeritus professor Paul Johnsgard and Jane Goodall as well as Joel Sartore’s piece on the March 30 Sunday Morning program.

I emailed Jerry and reported just hearing on the news programs that incredible ancient call the birds reveal on their migratory stop in the heartland of America made ” my juices really flow”.

He responded with a classic Jerry Kenny response.

“There has been excellent viewing this year, but they will do it again next year. And, Nebraska is open all year, so you don’t have to wait for cranes to come on out and enjoy the Good Life!”.

Indeed the Good Life!

Lacing the sky at sunset like well strewn ribbons, the Sand Hill cranes move with precision westward along the North Platte River near Kearney, Nebraska during migration

Lacing the sky at sunset like well strewn ribbons, the Sandhill cranes move with precision westward along the North Platte River near Kearney, Nebraska during migration.

 

 

A memorable wet and wild assignment

Jean Devera paddling through Elkhorn rapids prior to reaching camp at Deadman on Day Three of the scouts' whitewater rafting trip down the Salmon River in northern Idaho.

Jean Devera, my “Cover  Boy” for Boy’s Life Magazine, is captured paddling through Elkhorn rapids prior to reaching camp at Deadman on Day Three of the scouts’ whitewater rafting trip down the Salmon River in northern Idaho.

I often get asked, “What’s been your favorite assignment?”.

The response is usually pre-empted with a chuckle and  a smile and a rather bewildered reply of “That’s a hard one.”

Much like with a bucket list there are assignments you hope to cover in a career and then there are the ones you have encountered and register deep in the memory bank.

Just about a year ago one of those occurred. I joined a group of seven senior scouts and their four adult leaders from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands on a river expedition of the Salmon River in Idaho. I was assigned by Boy’s Life to document these young men’s adventure. The story was just released about a week ago.

Living in Idaho years ago I had heard many tremendous stories of the “River of No Return” but never had a chance to explore the river until last summer.

The five-day float took the expanse of 94 miles of the Main Salmon River. We covered nearly 80 miles of the most scenic and raft-gobbling white water this giant flow of water could offer.

Verle Dureden, guide and owner of Action Whitewater Adventures, who orchestrated the trip, told me during spring runoff certain sections of the river would crest at 40 feet. And I bared witness to the scarred walls of the canyon to prove it- shivering at the thought that over 100 years ago the first explorers of this river floated it in raw-timber rafts.

Each day presented incredible experiences and it definitely gave me a chance to relive my youth. It’s hard not to when you are amongst some well-mannered, experienced scouts that are total thrill seekers.

Camping on pristine sandy beaches carved and manicured by the powerful river, sleeping under the stars with an occasional call of an owl and the ever-present rushing sounds of the river complimented with daily roller coaster rides of white water rapids engulfing your raft with names of the likes of Split Rock, Salmon Falls, Big Mallard and Elk Bar made for lifetime memories.

When the expedition came to an end and we pulled our supplies from the rafts and deflated the crafts to be ferried back the AWA headquarters, I kept mulling in my head,  “couldn’t we just go a couple more days?”.

I am pretty sure the scouts felt the same way.

 

Awquen Irish from Boy Scout Troop 227, from St. Croix , U.S. Virgin Islands gets blasted from a wave on the first day of river running during the their whitewater rafting trip down the Salmon River in northern Idaho.

Awquen Irish from Boy Scout Troop 227, from St. Croix , U.S. Virgin Islands gets blasted from a wave on the first day of river running during the their whitewater rafting trip down the Salmon River in northern Idaho.

Philip Edwards ,left, and his father scoutmaster Dale Edwards of Boy Scout Troop 227, from St. Croix , U.S. Virgin Islands get swallowed up by the Five Mile rapid on the morning of the third day  during the their whitewater rafting trip down the Salmon River in northern Idaho.

Philip Edwards ,left, and his father scoutmaster Dale Edwards of Boy Scout Troop 227, from St. Croix , U.S. Virgin Islands get swallowed up by the Five Mile rapid on the morning of the third day during the their whitewater rafting trip down the Salmon River in northern Idaho.

 

A dragonfly rests atop bow rope on a raft during the St. Croix Boy Scouts,Troop 227  whitewater rafting trip down the Salmon River in northern Idaho.

A dragonfly rests atop bow rope on a raft during the St. Croix Boy Scouts,Troop 227 whitewater rafting trip down the Salmon River in northern Idaho.

A scout knocks sand from his cot as he preps his camp spot for the night on the raft trip.

A scout knocks sand from his cot as he preps his camp spot for the night on the raft trip.

A watered down inverted raft made for some awesome play time  for the St. Croix Boy Scouts at a campsite on their whitewater rafting trip down the Salmon River in northern Idaho.

A watered down inverted raft made for some awesome play time for the St. Croix Boy Scouts at a campsite on their whitewater rafting trip down the Salmon River in northern Idaho.

Awquen Irish pulls a wake up prank on one of the scout leaders who overslept one morning on the trip.

Awquen Irish pulls a wake up prank on one of the scout leaders who overslept one morning on the trip.

 

On the morning of Day Five a pair of scout's river sandals sits idle in the sand on the Maxwell river bar  on Day Five of their Salmon River whitewater rafting trip in northern Idaho.

On the morning of Day Five a pair of scout’s river sandals sits idle in the sand on the Maxwell river bar on Day Five of their Salmon River whitewater rafting trip in northern Idaho.

 

 

 

 

 

A tribute to a great teacher and friend

June 9th, 2013

Filed under Art, Life, People, Photography, Uncategorized

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I just  had the pleasure of participating in an photographic invitational gallery showing this weekend at the  University of Northern Colorado honoring one of my professors . It was called The Dennis Morimoto 47 Invitational.

The most impressive part of that title is the 47. My professor Dennis Morimoto dedicated 47 years of teaching, enlightening and inspiring students. That’s phenomenal.

Dennis  was my industrial arts- graphic arts professor at UNC. I was a wide-eyed sophomore trying very hard to find my career path. I had rejected or turned from several earlier paths of interest. I chose to pursue a career in journalism. My minor however was in industrial arts as the university referred to in that day.

A concentration in design, photography, layout and print making were the main focus. It complimented my main focus of journalism because in my still developing mind I thought if I ever became involved in a newspapers or publications it would be to my advantage to know about photography, design and of course print making and presses.

His courses weren’t easy but he made the curriculum fun and the end result made for better grades and in my mind a more effective way of storing valuable information I would certainly use at a later date in a future career. And in fact it did just that. There very first job I had a week from graduating demanded many of those skills.

The show itself was comprised of students Morimoto considered to be  influential and reflective of his tutelage in his  47 years  of instruction at the university  and those  he felt had an impact on his career. The truth of the matter is he had an enormous impact on my education and career path.

I can honestly say he instructed me at a pivotal point of my pursuit of higher education  and a career and provided a major impact.

We all go through a period of  ife where certain people open your heart, inspire you and provide  the catalyst to do good things. Dennis was one of those individuals.

Dennis gave each of us a few small momentos for participating at the exhibit. But the one that touched my heart and will forever be a keepsake for me was the small inscription he wrote in a personalized show catalogue.

It said: ” Eric- Thank you for sharing your great images and for being a very special part of my career.”

Wow, talk about tugging at the heart. The fact of the matter is it’s just the other way around.

These are the photographs I chose for the exhibit. Proceeds from the exhibit are going to a newly established Dennis Morimoto Scholarship fund for aspiring visual artists.

Thailand Salt Harvest

Thailand Salt Harvest

Manning Intro

Manning Intro

 

 

Hungry black bears don’t pay much attention to the spring calendar

May 1st, 2013

Filed under Animals, Entertainment, Nature, Weather

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A sow black bear and her two cubs foraging at night in a spring snow storm.

A sow black bear and her two cubs foraging at night in a spring snow storm.

I have been diligently monitoring the higher altitude weather patterns , reading wildlife reports and checking with locals to see if the bears have been coming out of hibernation.

There  have been no confirmed reports of activity in our  area though certain regions of the state have definitely seen bruin movement recently.

With an armory of bird feeders scattered about our property, I generally begin retrieving the feeding stations at  night about mid April. However, with all our late spring snow storms I thought a could fudge a bit.

I told myself the other day, “Ok, Eric remember to start bringing in the feeders this weekend ( as in three days from now). I was pretty confident this last couple of storms carrying unseasonably cold weather would perhaps give me a reprieve.

WRONG!

About 10 p.m. this evening our two Weimeraners exploded into horrific blood curdling howls and barks which from past recollection warned us there were either bears, fox or coyotes in our midst.

Sure enough a sow black bear with two cubs in tow discovered  one of our rather tall “squirrel-proof” feeders in the back acreage.

Mind you “squirrel-proof” means nothing to a hungry bear. This fuzzy, snow crusted trio was seen tumbling and spinning the wire contraption all about the ground before burying their snouts in the fresh blanket of snow picking out morsels of bird seed.

Knowing I all but lost the battle on that  tall feeder, I started scrambling about the property in my untied Sorels in the extremely dark cover of night peering over my shoulder at every feeder I grabbed fearing the worst. In short order all  the remaining feeders were safely placed in the garage and all that was left was to grab a photo of the spring marauders.

 

Early spring brings amusing critter activity

March 10th, 2013

Filed under Animals, Entertainment, Nature

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A magpie perches on the back of a bull elk resting in a pine grove in Evergreen CO. after a March storm.

A Magpie perches on the back of a bull elk resting in a pine grove in Evergreen CO. after the March 9th storm.

Living near the Upper Bear Creak drainage from our closest fourteen thousand foot peak  Mount Evans provides a remarkable view into the lives and habits of a lot of wildlife. It’s not unusual in this montane environment  to see unique animal movement and behavior this time of year at 8000 feet.

Many of the migrating birds and some of the winter stragglers have been seen recently  in the area. The Pine Siskins,  Red Wing Black birds and several American robins have already frequented our area and have joined the throngs of Magpies, Crows, Chickadees and Finches . Mule deer have been shuffling through the area all winter but the elk ( Wapiti )  are just starting to move more frequently. Part of  the Mt. Evans elk herd has been holding in our area for several weeks now.

Nine bulls decided our property was a good respite for the day today. Most came to graze on some dormant grasses, bed down, rest and soak up some sunshine. But one unruly boy decided to take on our bird feeders to pilfer a little bird seed. It was quite amusing but as you can imagine some what messy and  destructive.

It’s all in good natured fun and simple amusement.

A bull elk decides to poach some bird seed from a feeder by tipping the feeder with his antlers.

A bull elk decides to poach some bird seed from a feeder by tipping the feeder with his antlers.