I spent Christmas day filming manatee at Blue Springs State Park and rang in the New Year with fireworks over the water and the remains of a dead sea turtle floating in the mangroves while paddling a canoe off Fiesta Key. This video is some “me time” I got while the students spent their “me time” getting cultured and visiting Ernest Hemingway’s home in Key West. I have removed all cursing worse than “damn” but some maniacal laughter remains. While scary, I think this may just be the sound of pure joy. Sadly, I wasn’t talking to the camera, this is the normal “alone” Ray. Imagine if you could hear my thoughts! Fishing is in my blood again. In this order, the fish I lose here are barracuda, snook, and many tarpon. A nice sting ray makes an appearance at the end. I did catch many barracuda, some jack, black grouper, mangrove snapper, a monster red fish that towed a canoe with me and 2 students, and others during just a few hours of fishing. And the big red and most of the rest came on top water! I love top water fishing.
Author Archives: buffsgonewild
This is the best shot I was able to manage of this least shrew (Cryptotis parva). This shot was taken during the making of the video I posted a few weeks back and I found it while sorting pics and video. Thought I’d share. They are definitely not one of the easier animals to photograph. Very frenetic.
Bosque del Apache is an amazing place anytime of year. The first of November brings brilliant fall colors, cranes and geese. This place is not just a wetland, it is a wooded riparian corridor-wetland complex nestled between desert mountain ranges. Here you see amazing animals against a spectacular landscape. Flocks of white snow geese stand out in low light against steel gray mountains. Gray cranes glide single file, often in straight horizontal lines, in front of brilliant gold cottonwoods.
As usual, I tried but failed to capture all the beauty of a wonderful place in pictures, audio, and video. This doesn’t discourage me. I get a little better each time I go out and I’m well aware that I will never be able to capture all that I see and hear. Below are a few more photographs and a video montage that’s about three minutes or so long. The video was reduced to 720 P but the quality still seems to be good. I hope you like it; I have a lot of pictures, video and audio from the trip that I’ll use in my classes and getting this material was a blast. Sharing my love of all things wild with you is icing on the cake. To see and hear all I failed to capture, you simply have to get outside yourself!
I had a quick but wonderful trip to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico this weekend. I left Canyon on Friday and drove through Roswell up into the mountains through Lincoln, NM. The fall colors were amazing. Top this off with thousands of sandhill cranes and snow geese (and many other species) and you have one happy wildlifer. The calls of cranes and geese still reverberate through my mind. I will have more to share once I get some video edited. Check back soon!
What a consolation prize. This photo was taken last night in Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge. I, as usual, set out take pictures of wildlife. There was wildlife about, including three impressive white-tailed bucks bedded down in the lake bottom at the upper end of the Lake. Even on the way to the refuge I found mule deer bedded down in the upland east of the refuge. A small bachelor herd of about five mule deer were bedded down next to the road. I took some photographs of them but the light wasn’t great. The smallest of the bucks had a miss-formed left antler. The antler grew down along the animal’s face and eye and ended abruptly. This wasn’t obvious until I got a good look at him, at first it looked as if he had no left antler at all. After a while the herd stood and walked off. I have never seen this before but the small buck with only one normal antler poked or goosed the largest buck in the rump with his good antler twice, causing the big buck to draw up his hind quarters and subsequently dart forward. I wonder if that little fellow is going to use the same approach in the rut that will be in full swing in a month or so. I wish him luck, what moxie!
I decided to try my luck near the upper end of the lake. Walking in, I spooked 3 bucks out of the tall vegetation in the moist-soil management plots. These white-tailed bucks were very skittish and ran fast and flagging in 3 different direction. I sat for a while along a levy waiting for something to appear. Coming up empty after time afield isn’t uncommon in terms of share-worthy pictures. It does disappoint me that I can’t share all of what I see with you but I guess that is why I am constantly encouraging people to get outside. Even before there was an inkling of a sunset I knew it would be a good one with the potential of a spectacular show. I made my way back to the truck to swap out the long lens for one more appropriate for capturing the big Panhandle shy. I wasn’t disappointed. What a consolation prize the sunset turned out to be. As usual, the photos do not capture the entire essence of the sunset but I think I have made some improvements in my landscape photographs.
I got up early to photograph pied-billed grebes that have been hanging out on a stream on the golf course in Canyon. I was up before light and noticed that the clouds were just right on the eastern horizon for a perfect sunrise. I headed straight the Palo Duro Canyon and was there in time to capture some photographs. I’m still not happy with my landscape photographs but they seem to be getting a little better. It seems to me impossible to be able to capture the enormity of a Panhandle sunrise by camera. at least I see them in person. Get Outside people, it’s beautiful out there.
“Oh no… I ran over it.”
So went the conversation on the drive back from Caprock Canyon State Park last week. It was my first real introduction to the fellow graduate and undergraduate students working with Ray Matlack. We were returning to Canyon after hosting an educational booth at the Bison Celebration Days festival focusing on the wildlife program at WT. When my fellow students learned that I’d never seen a wild tarantula, the search was on.
Touching my first tarantula (admittedly, just a quick touch) is the newest addition to my long list of wildlife encounters. Like many in this field, I developed my affinity for wildlife early on, yet I had an inkling I had chosen the wrong major (Animal Science) during my last year of college. I had just completed a study abroad in Australia focusing on wildlife and recently started an internship at a tiger sanctuary, so my thoughts about veterinary school were evolving. I learned that the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) was having an annual fundraiser event in Washington, DC and that the CEO and founder of this great organization, Dr. Laurie Marker, would be there, along with wildlife geneticist Dr. Stephen O’Brien. I decided to drive to DC by myself to meet Dr. Marker and ask her a few questions about this whole wildlife business.
I vividly remember sitting down with Dr. Marker and Dr. O’Brien, terrified, to discuss conservation and what it meant for my future. This short meeting set me on the path I walk today because, when I inquired what was better for wildlife conservation- to be a veterinarian or a biologist- Dr. Marker simply replied, “Well, if you want to be a biologist, you can always hire a good veterinarian.”
My name is Imogene Davis. I’m twenty five years old and I’ve recently embarked on the exciting new journey of graduate school at West Texas A&M University. I contacted Ray Matlack this past spring, and through a series of events (the most interesting being stuffing myself into a culvert to flush out some porcupines for Ray), he’s invited me into his graduate lab to study carnivore genetics. I’m ecstatic to accomplish such an important goal, but I’ve had a lot of help in the two years since that fateful discussion in DC. I’ve journeyed throughout the country as a research assistant on a variety of kickass projects: bobcat ecology in Montana; black bear population analysis in Missouri; Cascade red fox and wolverine movements in Washington, clouded leopard endocrinology at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and pacific fisher and American marten population genetics in California. I’ve learned so much from and enjoyed each wildlife research experience.
Holding my first bobcat in northwest Montana (it was -15F!).
Radio-collaring black bears in the Ozarks (this guy weighed 390 lbs).
Enjoying nature at her grandest in Sequoia National Forest.
A fellow biologist and close friend lives by the mantra “Go big or go home,” and I try to do the same. As I learn my way around campus, I’ve realized that many others do, too. Whether it’s meeting fellow grad students and chasing tarantulas or finding that my advisor is delightfully determined to make me pee my pants by honking the horn every time I walk by the truck, everyone in this department is intensely passionate about wildlife biology. I’m taking super awesome classes, making fast friends, and this weekend I’ll be talking with Girl Scouts on what it means to be a wildlife biologist.
This morning I was in Palo Duro Canyon with Ray photographing wildlife. If you’d told me two years ago I’d be here, starting my thesis and having these experiences, I would have been floored. But, ultimately, we shouldn’t be too shocked by our potential in this field: all we have to do is look to the accomplishments of those before us to know that there’s nowhere to go but up. Anyone can make a difference, and anyone can have an adventure. I’m looking forward to mine here at WT. Get ready!
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
- Mary Oliver
Cryptotis parva, the least shrew. Weighs 3.5 to just over 5 grams. A nickle weighs 5 grams. Consumes its own body weight in primarily invertebrate prey each day. The life of a shrew; hunt, eat, sleep, repeat.
One of my favorite sounds in the world is the song of the sandhill crane. Their call is described wonderfully in Birds of North America (The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia); “trumpeting, bugling, rattling, or croaking, but these adjectives do not fully convey the volume or quality of the sound produced by a mature sandhill crane”. The authors explain that the call quality of adult cranes results from an elongation and coiling of the trachea into the sternum which produces the amazing amplitude of their voice and alters the pitch of their voice by the addition of harmonies. A bit technical but everyone will appreciate the result. If I am fortunate, and I usually am, I spend several hours a year searching a clear blue Panhandle sky for high-flying cranes. Without their song’s ability to pierce through prairie skies we would scarcely know cranes move through the Panhandle. In fact, the Panhandle is an important wintering area for sandhills, most of which breed in Alaska and western Canada. Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge is the oldest NWR in Texas and was set aside for wintering waterfowl and sandhill cranes.
This year there is enough water it seems to support a decent number of cranes. I’m certainly no expert, this is my 3rd trip to the refuge and the first with cranes present. On my first trip there was neither water or cranes. This year, a small lake holds water and a salt flat is serving as their night roost. Shallow water would likely be preferred as a barrier to predators but open ground and several thousand other targets for predators must impart enough peace for the cranes. Predators are present as evidenced by a ring of crane feathers on the levy between the pond and the flat.
I was focused pretty intently on the cranes and missed part of the most amazing sunsets I have witnessed. I have over 23 years of Kansas and Panhandle sunsets under my belt so this is saying something! I ended the video the way I ended my visit to Muleshoe, with a view of the sunset. Reality is superior to video, especially at 720p. Get outside and see this for your self!
The Panhandle is often under appreciated in many regards, especially its fauna. The photos that follow are just a few of the sights I’ve seen in the last couple of days. I hope you enjoy them.