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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cute Little Long-Eared Mouse

My friend BPaul over at the Institute Of Jurassic Technology blog pointed out this little story on the BBC about an An "extraordinary" desert creature has been caught on camera for what scientists believe is the first time. The long-eared jerboa from the Gobi Desert

Well its not as quite as cute, but Oregon has the Pinyon Mouse - a long-eared mouse that likes to eat juniper berries and requires rocky habitat to survive. I photographed this little fellow near Clarno, not far from OMSI's Hancock Field Station.



Incidentally, this is one of the last photographs I took using film.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tree Farm Color

The storms currently pounding Oregon and Washington have blasted off the remaining fall leaves giving trees the bare look of Winter. Just a few weeks ago however, I was captivated by the fall leaves at a hybrid poplar tree farm.


These are fast growing trees that are ideal for paper production. If they are processed quickly, the produce a brilliant paper with minimal bleaching.


Monday, November 05, 2007

A Rare And Extraordinary Creature – Euderma maculatum, spotted bat

Years ago I heard a biologist describe an encounter they had with a spotted bat, and I remember how impressed I was by the sense of wonder and awe that I heard in that description. Perhaps it is necessary to spend one's professional life in the study of bats to get a sense of the mythical status surrounding these creatures, but I was immediately impressed with the description, and how unique and rare the spotted bat is among bats.

Spotted bats were once considered to be the rarest of North American mammals. Up until the 1990's very few had ever been collected, and most of these were dead or mummified remains. A few live spotted bats were seen, one at the entrance to a cave. However, it turns out that spotted bats are one of the few bats who's echolocation call can be easily heard by the human ear. Once this fact was discovered, biologists eventually found that, while they are still not a common species, they can be detected in many habitats where their presence was completely unknown before.

They fly high and fast in the darkest hours of the night, and they have an uncanny ability to avoid being captured using specialized techniques commonly employed by biologists who study bats. To this day, capturing one is still a rare event, and there are bat biologists who, despite years in the field, have never seen one.

I am still slightly stunned that I was along when a graduate student, working near the rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, caught four spotted bats over the course of two nights - even though he was trying to capture an entirely different species. This gave me a unique opportunity to get some detailed photographs of the the bat.

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spotted bat (Euderma maculatum)

Below you can see the pattern of three distinctive spots that give the bat its name.

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spotted bat (Euderma maculatum)

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spotted bat (Euderma maculatum)

A photograph cannot really show the amazing amount of character these bats have.

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spotted bat (Euderma maculatum)

Bats are still largely mysterious creatures - many of their habits and roosting sites remain completely unknown. However, technology is just now giving biologists the ability to use miniature transmitters to track these tiny mammals. The female bat, seen in these images, was lactating - meaning that she had a pup hidden away somewhere. Because this capture presented a rare opportunity to track a mother spotted bat, she was outfitted with a transmitter and set free (the transmitter will fall off after a few days).

The next day a plane was chartered, and Grand Canyon National Park gave special permission to fly into the Canyon with radio telemetry gear to see if the day roost of this bat could be located. After many hours of searching, the bat's location was detected, 17 miles from the capture site the night before, in a crevice in one of the sheer cliff walls of the Grand Canyon. Presumably, she returned to nurse her young pup after a night of hunting insects in the warm Arizona night.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Unexpected - A Flash Of Virescent Color

For nearly three years I have been on a quest to photograph the virescent green metallic bee. They are not particularly uncommon, but they are small and quick - and despite my unusual attention to the small denizens of the insect world, I have only caught glimpses of them.

I had hoped to catch a photo of the tiny creature with my high-speed camera system - which requires considerable planning and time. Good fortune smiled upon me, however, in the middle of an assignment to photograph honey bees.

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So I had all of the complex equipment that I use to take high-speed images set-up and ready to go when I spied the magnificent emerald flash of a green metallic bee among a field of flowers buzzing with insects.

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I continue to find it remarkable how life on such a small scale can be so vibrant and intense.

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This bee also reminds me of an even smaller insect that I photographed last year - the cuckoo wasp. This little insect has an intensely green exoskeleton that is also extremely thick and tough. It must be durable because part of its life cycle requires it to sneak into the heart of a bee hive and hijack a larval cell for its own use. If it is discovered, it will need a thick hide to survive the attacking bees.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Fire Escape

I decided to actually take a vacation with the family for a week at Black Butte Ranch. Photography was not my primary objective - instead my goal is to have fun and relax.

However a large forest fire managed to take "relax" out of our vacation, and we had to pack-up and be prepared to evacuate "at a moments notice". Smoke blocked out the sun and scattered ash everywhere.

We left before the official evacuation began. Of course, I took a photo.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bats in the old mine - Townsend's big-eared bats

I have spent most of the Summer photographing bats - including a trip through the Southwest in July. Along the way I met some wonderful people, and managed to also get some pretty cool images of bats. Some of the bats were extraordinarily rare and beautiful, and I hope to post some of these images after I have had the opportunity to do some editing.

However I just returned from Prineville, where an unexpected opportunity presented itself. I had traveled to the Maury mountain area of the Ochoco National Forest to photograph bats drinking from an old water trough. Unfortunately, this was a fruitless effort, but it turns out that an old, abandoned mercury sulfide mine was nearby with hundreds townsend's big-eared bats roosting in the interior.

The mine looked like a set piece from Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. There were little rail trackways, buckets full of cinnabar, 55 gallon oil drums, and old timbers shoring up the walls and the roof. All of this was mostly untouched since abandoned in the 1950's. I could not really get many of these elements into the photographs along with the bats, but I did try to capture some of the ambience of the place with the lighting and composition.

By the way, I did obtain permission to photograph this site from the local biologist and had a bat survey team along to collect data at the same time.

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These bats are really cool looking with their big ears and large wing span. While you can't see great numbers in the images, there were actually over one hundred bats flying about the interior once the sun set.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Chasing Bats In The Ochocos

All last week I was out working with the Forest Service and BLM bat survey teams in the Ochoco National Forest.

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The bat crew at work.

Bats are very fast, nocturnal flyers that can be seen all around the northwest at dusk, but determining species can be very, very challenging. The biologists that specialize in bats will typically catch a few bats, measure ears and wing arm length, record their vocalizations and do their best to determine species. The bat is released a few minutes later. They will collect this information for years to try and identify population trends, and measure how healthy bat colonies are.

Photographing bats can be quite challenging as well, but between the capture and the recording of data, I will spend a few minutes to try and photograph the bat, and if I am lucky - I can get a cool photo or two. The detail I am able to record of the bats in flight can actually help researchers identify the bat species, and the biologists use the images as part of their reports and published literature.

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A western long-eared bat (Myotis evotis)

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Yuma myotis

In the time exposure image below, a light is temporarily placed on the bat so that researchers can record the high-frequency calls of the bat. The light will fall off in a few minutes.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Near Miss

I made a trek into the Wind River area in Washington to do some scouting for an idea that has been percolating for a while. I am specifically looking for large, old logs that have fallen across streams to become natural bridges. Wouldn't it be interesting to see what kind of animals use these crossings, especially when the water is tumultuous? For this purpose I brought along a remote camera that would photograph any creature that made the crossing, and I left in place for 22 days to see what kind of activity I could photograph.

These images are not particularly good, but they give me some interesting ideas about how I might approach the project. I was surprised at the number of small creatures that used the log. I have combined two separate images, to show this rabbit and bushy-tailed woodrat in transit. I also have numerous images of tiny deer mice running along the log as well.

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I was especially surprised by the appearance of a mountain lion on these frames. Again, these are not great photos by any means, but I love the idea of a wild mountain lion, also called a cougar, puma and panther – crossing a stream called 'Panther Creek'. The cat jumped onto the log from the stream bank, and I assume he just sauntered across in search of deer. I am always thrilled when I photograph a wild mountain lion because they are so secretive, and so rarely photographed in the wild

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Too bad I got the back-end, otherwise it might have been an interesting shot!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Remote underwater camera

I had an idea recently, while observing steelhead trout jump up a waterfall, that it would be cool to put a camera in the water and capture some images from a unique perspective. Usually in this situation, one simply puts a camera in a marine housing and gets in the water to snap a few shots.

However, the water was too swift and too shallow for this to work, and the presence of a person in the water would likely scare the fish off for a quite a while.

My idea was to put a camera in a water proof box on an extension arm with a video feed from the viewfinder of the camera and a remote hand control to trigger the camera. In this manner I could observe the video screen and snap the camera whenever a fish came into view. Sounds like a solid idea to me. Does anyone make such a contraption? No.

So I built my own. And it works!

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A local fish hatchery let me test it out in a pool with rainbow trout fry. Easy targets for sure, but I simply wanted to test the function of the camera and see if everything worked. I could clearly observe the fish in the camera viewfinder, and easily trigger the shutter when a good shot happened. Cool!

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I am excited to have this interesting tool in my bag of tricks.

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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Fun With Chickens

The freshly hatched chicks arrived home with my wife and daughter on Thursday. We had been toying with the idea of having urban chickens for some time, and this last weekend we got the chicken coop and chicken yard built, and set up a brooder in the lower bathroom. My daughter loves them, and spends a fair bit of the day hovering over the brooder or holding them. Each has been given a name - mumble, gidget and sylvia.

I could not pass on the opportunity to have a bit of photo fun with the little darlings, and set about creating a few images that would be fun and marketable.

Not many people would guess that as a photographer doing work in the field of natural history, that I would necessarily possess the skills of a studio photographer. The truth is, however, that I made my living in commercial photography for many years, and the techniques I learned in studio photography have served me well, very well, in the transition to nature photography.

My goal was to do something that my daughter would enjoy doing with me, and create images that would communicate a simple idea in a fun way.

For each of the images below, I actually photographed the chicks first and then separately photographed the egg shells arranged just the way I wanted. The elements were combined digitally for the final composition. The overlap of wispy feathers into the eggshell in the photo with the blue background was especially challenging to get right.

I have about fifty other ideas to try, but I will never get to all of them before the chicks are grown!

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Coho salmon eggs

With the generous help of Washington Fish and Wildlife I had a chance to photograph live coho salmon eggs. The eggs are transparent and the developing fish can be seen within. At this stage, 10 weeks along after spawning, most of the egg is taken by the nutrient sac, or yolk, that the young fish feeds upon.

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Of course, these eggs are tiny. It is amazing that such a small egg, deposited in the cold water of a northwest river, will grow into a hardy coho salmon that will eventually make it out to the open ocean. And then years later fight its way back up stream to start the process over again. It is an astonishing feat.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

New Web Site and More!

The office has been my primary habitation lately, and while it is exciting to have the image catalog completely up to date, key worded, fully functional - It really isn't a very exciting post subject. However, I managed to get my new web site design up and running, and I like the look much better than the old site. It is simple but functional. It might be painfully obvious that I built the thing myself with no actual working knowledge of web design, but it will serve for now. The image search function has yet to go online, but it should be completed in a week or so.

It is time to make submissions for 2008 calendars, and for the first time ever, I am proposing a calendar photographed entirely with the high speed camera.

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The entire image gallery can be seen here:

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Rat Lowdown

It seems that few people appreciate rats, primarily because we tend to see them in the creepiest places. Like the sewer. Not a lovely spot unless you are pretty low on the totem pole. The sewer rat however, comes from Europe and has followed civilization around the world. They have made an art form out of living off the refuse of humans. It is probably among the least attractive members of this class of rodents. Note the lovely naked, scaly tail.


My wife, daughter and I went to see the new version of Charlotte's Web and I was surprised to see the sympathetic treatment of "Templeton" the rat. Sure he comes across as a self-centered lout, but even he eventually succumbs to the charms of Charlotte and Wilbur and spends time selflessly guarding the spider's egg sac. Templeton appears to be a European brown rat, the same species that haunts Portland's nether regions. However he has the curious habit of collecting trinkets and other curious items. This behavior is more reflective of the pack rat.
Pack rats are native to North America, and I recently photographed one in an abandoned shed in NE Oregon scurrying across a shelf with a rusty old turpentine can.

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Please note the furry tail. While I wouldn't want one in my house, I think these little fellows are bit more gifted on the "cute" end of the scale. Feel free to disagree.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Angry Rattler

I first spotted this rattlesnake in a horse pasture when it startled a horse – the horse then made a brief effort to stomp it to death, but wisely moved away. Then a house cat ran out from garden and began to harrass the thing. The snake went from angry to furious, and began striking at the cat – which was just quick enough to avoid getting tagged.

The snake took refuge under a rock fence brace, and I put the camera on an extension arm which was just able to fit into the hidey hole. I could see nothing, but I could hear the angry snake take offense at the intrusion. I used a remote trigger to quickly crank off a few frames and then left it in peace. Here is one of frames. The camera was outfitted with a superwide lens, so the snake is just inches from the lens.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Blue Spider Wasp

I'm continuing on the wasp series of images. The wasp below looks black at first glance, but it has a deep blue exoskeleton, and a few other interesting colors on a second look. I'm not sure that this web image does the photo justice, however I did not zip up the saturation to highlight this color.

They are known for feeding live black widow spiders to their young.

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Details About Me

Portland, Oregon, United States
Husband, Father, Student Of Natural History, Photographer