I recently discovered a series of 58 fascinating videos that
capture the highlights of the diverse national parks in the United
The five-minute videos, by photographer Dennis Burkhardt
of Oregon, take us on trips into some of the most amazing
wilderness areas in the world. The scenic photography and
accompanying narration make me yearn to visit every park to see
them for myself.
I’ve posted on this page three of the videos, including the one
that describes our familiar Olympic National Park. The complete set
of can be viewed on the YouTube channel
“America’s 58 National Parks.” Be sure to go full-screen.
I’m sure every park has a story to tell, and these videos
briefly tantalize us with the possibilities of exploration. I
recall stumbling upon a rich history and some amazing tales while
researching a Kitsap Sun story for the 75th anniversary of Olympic
National Park. It is called
“At 75, Olympic National Park has grown amid push-pull of
In 1872, our first national park was born when President Ulysses
S. Grant signed a law creating Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone was followed by Mackinac in 1875, then Sequoia and
Yosemite in 1890. Mackinac was converted to a state park in 1895 —
seven national parks to go out of existence in the national
National parks are selected for their natural beauty, unique
geological formations, rare ecosystems and recreational
opportunities. In contrast, national monuments, also administered
by the National Park Service, are selected mainly for their
California has nine parks, the most of any state, followed by
Alaska with eight, Utah with five and Colorado with four.
Washington has three — with
North Cascades National Park created in 1968.
New parks are still being created, with Pinnacles National
Monument in Central California becoming a national park in 2013.
(Pinnacles is the 59th national park and is not included in the
list of videos.) The largest national park,
Wrangell-St. Elias in Alaska, is larger then nine entire
states. The smallest is
Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.
A handy list of all the parks with links to more information can
be found on
I’m amused by this looping video, which shows a bear waiting for
a fish to appear. In the background, a wolf reaches down
nonchalantly, bites into a large salmon and carries it away.
Not long ago, it was widely believed that bears love salmon but
that wolves prefer deer, elk, moose and related animals whenever
they can find them. Now we know, from careful observations in
Alaska, that wolves will go after salmon when they get the
Researcher Dave Person of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game
says wolves will seek out tidally affected streams where they can
find salmon passing through shallow water and trapped in pools.
“They’re not as skillful as bears at fishing,” Person told Riley
Woodford, reporting for
Alaska Fish and Wildlife News. “Each year, they spend over a
month in estuary areas, with the pups. It’s right in middle of pink
and chum runs, and we watch them eat salmon all the time. There are
lots of places they could go; I think they go there for the
Based on the video, I would have to say that wolves are pretty
good at catching fish upstream as well.
Salmon may have gone unnoticed as a staple in the wolves’ diet,
because the entire salmon, bones and all, are digested by wolves,
leaving no signs of fish in their scat — unlike the bones and fur
discovered after they eat a deer or other mammal.
Another Alaskan biologist, Shelly Szepanski, has been studying
the stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen in wolf bones to see
whether the bones are made of elements that come from the land or
the sea. She found that salmon appeared to make up as much as 20
percent of the diet of wolves living in coastal areas of Southeast
Alaska, compared to 10 percent of those living farther inland.
As I continued to look at the video of the bear and wolf fishing
for salmon, I wondered if they ever interacted and how things might
turn out in a head-to-head fight. I was able to find a video that
demonstrates that a bear might get the best of a wolf in a
one-on-one battle, but we can never forget that wolves often travel
in packs. If you watch to the end, you will see who takes charge of
the meal in question.
Speaking of fights, I am still amazed at the video below, which
shows a leopard swimming across a stretch of water, grabbing onto a
crocodile and dragging it back into the water. I never would have
guessed that a croc could be defeated in or around water like that
— but it looks like he never saw the cat coming until it was too
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