For the past 22 years, students from across the country have
been painting and drawing some amazing pictures of ducks, swans,
geese and related water birds.
Each year, the best pictures are printed up as Federal Junior
Duck Stamps, which can be purchased from participating post offices
and sporting good stores. With the deadline for the 2015 art
contest approaching, I thought it would be a good time to share
some of these great artworks.
The Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Program is
sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The $5 junior duck
stamps are modeled on the $15 Federal Duck Stamps, purchased by
hunters and used by others as a pass for national wildlife
Proceeds from the junior duck stamps are used for conservation
education, including a national curriculum for students from
kindergarten through 12th grade. The national program involves
elements of science, art, math and technology.
The deadline for the art competition is March 15. At the state
level, students are judged in four groups by grade: K-3, 4-6, 7-9
and 10-12. Numerous awards are given in each group, and one “best
of show” from each state are entered into the national competition
in April. Participants are encouraged to include a conservation
message with their entries.
BirdNote originated in 2005 at a single station — KPLU in Tacoma
— and expanded to 50 participating stations by 2010 with about 200
stations today, according to a
list of facts put together for the anniversary. Birdnote began
as a once-a-week segment before expanding to daily segments in
The searchable archive
covers more than 1,200 shows, featuring more than 650 species of
birds. Besides the daily audio clips, each webpage links to related
sources — including photos or videos; a little history or
biography; scientific explanations; occasional notes or blogs; and
often more information about the featured birds.
In honor of the 10th anniversary of BirdNote, and since this is
a blog about water issues, I’ve picked out 20 clips from the past
two years or so that I think you will enjoy:
I can always count on the annual National Wildlife Photo Contest
to provide some amazing water-related photos — and the 2014 contest
was no exception.
This is the 44th year for the contest, sponsored by National
Wildlife magazine and the National Wildlife Federation. This year’s
contest attracted more than 29,000 entries, according to a
statement accompanying the winning photographs.
The winner of the Grand Prize, Hungarian photographer Bence
Mate, spent 74 nights in a blind over a period of several years to
figure out how to capture this remarkable image of gray herons in
Hungary’s Kiskunsag National Park.
By experimenting with his camera gear, he was able to capture a
clear image of the birds and water in dim light, while also showing
us the stars, which were not in the same depth of field. His
home-made equipment was able to achieve good exposure throughout
“I made the photo with a fish-eye lens that was less than a
meter away from the closest bird and had to be careful not to scare
the herons with noise or light,” he was quoted as saying.
The birds kept moving during the 32 seconds that the shutter was
open, “and they created interesting forms in front of the starry
sky,” he noted.
I like the whimsical appearance of this bullfrog, captured by
Cheryl Rose of Hopkinton, Mass., as she explored Waseeka Wildlife
Sanctuary in Central Massachusetts. The water seems to wrap around
the log, becoming part of the sky with clouds in the distance.
“There were so many frogs in this pond,” she said, “but this one
gave me the perfect pose.”
The photo won second place in the Other Wildlife category — a
category for something other than birds, mammals, baby animals and
First place in the Baby Animals category went to Nathan
Goshgarian of Woburn, Mass., who watching as this mallard duckling
leaped at flies swarming over Horn Pond in his city.
“It had the incredible ability to select a single fly from the
seemingly random movements of the swarm and launch itself out of
the water,” he said.
Animal Planet, the cable network, will follow enforcement
officers for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in a
new six-part series beginning tomorrow.
“Rugged Justice,” which will premier at 5 p.m., will feature
patrols by officers to protect natural resources in the mountains,
along the coasts and on city streets, according to a news release by WDFW.
Deputy Chief Mike Hobbs said WDFW’s participation will help
promote the department and its dedicated professionals.
“Policing the outdoors presents unique challenges, and this show
helps to inform the public about our critical role in preserving,
protecting and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems in
Washington,” he said in the news release.
Added Chief Steve Crown, “’Rugged Justice’ provides a window
into the vital, varied and sometimes harrowing work of officers as
they protect nature and people in Washington.”
The series, filmed from September to November, used three film
crews, each with five members, according to a story written by Rob
Owen for the
The WDFW enforcement program includes 144 officers deployed
across the state. None of the officers nor the department received
any compensation from Animal Planet, according to the news
If you miss the 5 p.m. showing tomorrow, Episode 1 will be
repeated at 10 p.m. and midnight. It will also be shown at 6 and 9
p.m. Tuesday and 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Some of the best photographers in the world contribute to
National Geographic magazine. So it’s no wonder that a photo
contest sponsored each year by the publication draws in some
Last year, more than 7,000 entries were submitted by amateur and
professional photographers from 150 countries, and I would expect
an equal number this year. The deadline has passed for submissions
in 2014, and the winner of the $10,000 grand prize plus several
runners-up will be announced later this month.
Unmanned aircraft, commonly known as drones, are taking over the
world. At least it seems that way. If you don’t believe me, search
for “drone” on YouTube. You’ll find amateur aviation specialists —
and a variety of professionals — demonstrating what drones can do.
Some of the things are pretty amusing.
I’ll mention some water-related drone stories below, but the
first video on this page shows a hawk attacking a drone owned and
operated by Christopher Schmidt, a 30-year-old software developer.
I think Chris did a nice job of protecting the bird by throttling
down the props on his Phantom FC40 quadcopter. The final result is
a great up-close view of an angry bird, well deserving of a place
in “Amusing Monday.”
Chris was using the drone to get images of changing leaves in
Magazine Beach Park in Cambridge, Mass., last Wednesday, when he
saw a bird circling a good distance away. The circling continued as
the bird moved closer to the drone.
“Overall,” he told me in an email, “I was surprised by how
quickly he moved from 400 feet away to on top of the quad. When he
was very nearby, my initial thought was, ‘Okay, stay still, so he
can avoid it’ — which obviously didn’t work out for me.”
He said he saw no evidence beforehand that the bird was upset or
likely to attack. Over the six months he owned the drone, nothing
like that had happened, except for a few crows squawking at the
aircraft. After he posted the video, he learned from bird experts
that immature red tail hawks have not yet learned to hunt
efficiently, so they may attack anything that moves.
As the hawk attacked, Chris cut power to the props, which caused
the quad to drop. The bird hit the chopper and it flipped. Chris
was unable to recover the flight, still worried about the bird,
though he powered back up at the end.
“If I had done nothing,” he wrote, “I expect the quadcopter
would have done the flip (which it did) and immediately recover —
possibly losing about
10 feet of altitude. My fear in that case was that the hawk would
see it as a threat and come back a second time. Well, really, it
about a half second, so I was not really thinking that much through
“I still would do the same thing if I had to do it all over,
even if it might have put the quadcopter at less risk.”
As it turns out, the quad sustained almost no damage from
falling out of the sky and hitting the ground, except for a
slightly bent landing gear. And the hawk was no worse for wear.
Lots of media have been using the footage that Chris took. Based
on a suggestion from a coworker, he is donating any money raised
from YouTube ads to the American Audubon Society. Thanks to Gene
Bullock of Kitsap Audobon for alerting me to this video.
OK, so what are some other odd things that drones can do? How
about helping out with an ALS ice bucket challenge? In the second
video, Austin Hill of Spark Aerial uses a massive DJI S1000
Octocopter to lift a bucket of ice water and pour it rather slowly
on his head.
It was only a matter of time before someone got the idea to use
a drone for fishing — no matter how inefficient that might be.
Check out this 7-minute video by
NightFlyer (the action starts about 5 minutes in) or this
shorter 1.5-minute video by
RYOT. Both these guys now have fish stories to tell. But, after
all that work, even they would admit that the fish they caught are
On a more serious note, there are many legal issues related to
drones, which are not yet approved by the Federal Aviation
Administration for commercial use, and there are many concerns
related to privacy. People also are raising questions about whether
drones should ever be used for hunting or fishing. Michael R. Shea
tackles the subject for
“Field and Stream” magazine.
If sportsmen are thinking about using drones, game wardens are
not far behind, as they consider how drones might be used to catch
“National Geographic” looks at the use of drones in high-seas
Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington vetoed a bill that
would have limited the use of drones by law enforcement. He then
set up a task force to look at the entire subject. A representative
of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said in one task
force meeting that there could be applications for enforcement and
research by the agency. The
Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force is expected to make
recommendations before next year’s legislative session.
The GoPro action camera is the force behind hundreds of amazing
videos. Thanks to this unique camera, we have raced across the
land, soared into the sky and dove beneath the waves.
We have not only followed people closely as they’ve undertaken
wild adventures, we have traveled with a variety of animals through
their natural habitats. One of my favorite videos, shown first on
this page, includes some of the best animal shots taken by many
photographers and compiled by the producers of Tastes Like
The GoPro is no longer the only compact, rugged and mountable
high-definition camera around, but the name has become synonymous
with the type of videos I’d like to highlight today. The history of
the GoPro was the subject of an interesting “60
Minutes” segment, in which Anderson Cooper mentions
that the GoPro has been used again and again to capture video for
the television program.
If it’s action shots you like, check out the second video, a
compilation by GoPro, created as a promotion for its Hero3 camera.
If you’re like me, you will be intrigued by the time-lapse photos
in this video and transfixed by the action shots.
How about some more great animal shots? Of course, all these
videos should be viewed full-screen:
Jellyfish Lake: Photographer Nana
Trongratanawong of Bangkok, Thailand, shot this amazing video in a
lake in Palau. She used different music in the video she posted on
Humpback whales: Drone photographer Justin
Edwards captures some amazing shots of a young humpback whale and
its mom swimming off the coast of Maui in February of this year.
About halfway through, you can see the baby riding on its mom’s
Shark Riders: Free divers Roberta Mancino and
Mark Healey create a dreamlike video that tells a story of becoming
one with the ocean and its creatures.
Teaching a pelican to fly: After a storm, a
young pelican was found stranded on a beach in Tanzania>The
staff of the nearby Greystroke Mahale resort adopted the animal,
named him “Big Bird” and reminded him how to fly. With a GoPro
attached to his beak, the pelican investigated the waters, then
swooped back around to the beach where the flight instructors were
The sand was smooth and still. Waves lapped at the distant
shoreline. A sign, stuck in the sand, stated, “Do not disturb. Sea
That was the scene on a beach in the Florida Keys for the past
few weeks, as it was in June, when I posted a blog entry listing
cameras that were capturing live action in bird nests as well as
other wildlife locations. A quiet patch of sand was not much to
look at, so I didn’t mention it.
On Friday, that patch of sand came to life, as you can see in
the first video on this page. I thought it was time to share the
brief action, as about 100 loggerhead turtles emerged from the sand
and headed out to sea about 9 p.m. Check out the action in
The camera on the beach uses infrared lights to capture the
images, thus avoiding visible light that could confuse the young
turtles. The project is supported by Save-A-Turtle, a
volunteer non-profit group dedicated to the protection of rare and
endangered sea turtles and their habitats in the Florida Keys.
Meanwhile, some of the young ospreys shown in their nests back
in June have fledged, but there is still plenty of action in the
nest at Missoula’s
Riverside Health Care Center, where the camera is
operated by the University of Montana. Check out the images in
full-screen, high-definition while you can, because these growing
chicks will soon be gone.
Brown bears are now feeding on salmon along Alaska’s Brooks
River in Katmai National Park, according to bloggers on the site. Check out the live video
below to see if you can spot a bear, including a subadult mentioned
You may wish to go back to the June 23 “Amusing Monday: A visit with wildlife via
webcam” to see what other cameras are picking up
activity. You can generally count on Pete’s Pond on Mashatu Game
Reserve in Botswana, Africa, for some exotic animals coming to the
It seems kind of strange that we can spy on wildlife in a very
personal way, thanks to modern technology.
The animals never notice the hundreds of humans peering over
their shoulders via webcam. If they could know what is going on, I
actually think they’d prefer the camera to the disturbance that
even one person would create by crowding in that close.
It’s the time of year when many birds are active on their nests,
so I thought I’d bring you some of the best videos on the web,
weeding out those that are inactive or don’t have much going on
The University of Montana operates two live osprey cams at part
of its Montana Osprey Project. I believe the nest at Riverside
Health Care Center in Missoula (shown in first video player)
contains two chicks, while the nest at Dunrovin
Ranch in Lolo contains three chicks.The high-quality video and
sound make you feel you are right there with the birds.
Alberta Conservation Association and its sponsors have set up
cameras to observe three prime nesting boxes for peregrine falcons
in Edmonton, Alberta. Chicks have hatched in each nest, and we can
watch (in real time) the mothers taking care of their little
bundles of fluff. Each bird has a story listed with the video.
Conservancy is in charge of an osprey cam on Maryland’s eastern
shore. The live video features Tom and Audrey, who have returned to
the nest after spending the winter in South America. I have seen
two chicks in that nest.
For a bird of a different character, check out the Puffin Cam
at Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge in Maine, where
Audubon’s Project Puffin operates a field station. The puffins on
the island were wiped out by hunting in 1887, but they were
reintroduced by bringing puffins from Newfoundland. More than 50
pairs nest there. (Three live videos are set up to show the
If you are interested in watching brown bears feeding on salmon,
stay tuned for live videos from
Alaska’s Brooks River in Katmai National Park. The action
should begin in July, according to information on the website.
Meanwhile, you can watch recorded videos from previous times.
One of my favorite live cams is still Pete’s Pond (video player
at right), a watering hole on Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana,
Africa. It began as a National Geographic project and is now
operated by WildEarth, which
features several other wildlife cams. Operators, working remotely,
turn the camera to find the best action at any moment.
I’m still amazed — and amused — by the idea that talented
artists can create edible cake sculptures depicting just about any
object or scene — including underwater realms and seaside
The water-related themes are especially amusing, because water
is one place you would never want to put a cake.
One amazing artist is Kim Simons, who got her start in cake
decorating about five years ago while watching cake shows on
television. As she told
“Dessert Professional” magazine:
“I said to myself, ‘I can do that!’ So I taped the shows and
freeze-framed the shots to learn of all the products they used. I
started to play around with the materials and found my true passion
in the process.”
The magazine listed Kim, a New Jersey resident, as one of the
top 10 cake artists of North America last year.
Since then, she has won numerous awards for her specialty cakes,
including the osprey cake, which was named best of division for
show cakes at last year’s “That Takes the Cake! Sugar Art and Cake
Show” in Austin, Texas. No one photo can capture the intricacy of
this cake, so check out Kim’s website for a variety of shots of the
cake, and click each one to enlarge. The details are truly
The same goes for the painted
turtle cake below. The detail shots help you take a closer
look, as if you were seeing the cake in front of you. This cake won
several awards at the 2011 National Capital Area Cake Show in
Annadale, Va., where the theme was “Under the Sea.” I would have
loved to have seen that show.
If you’re intrigued by these cakes, you must check out all of
Kim’s creations under the tab “Award Winning Cakes” on her website,
Cakes by Kim