Monday, May 25, 2015

City Escapes Nature Photography Newsletter - June 2015


Nature Photography, LLC




May / June, 2015



Thanks For Visiting Us at the Olive and Grape in Greenwood!

For the largest of the Phinney and Greenwood Art Walks, City Escapes Nature Photography paired up with the Olive and Grape, a lovely Mediterranean restaurant in Greenwood, to give you great art and great food simultaneously!  We have a number of our large prints displayed on the walls, where you can see them until May 28th, and Jodi was on hand Friday, May 8, between 6 and 9 pm, for the official celebration. 

Thanks for all of you who showed up and helped make this event a great success!


How Oil Spills Affect Birds


Lately it seems that more and more oil spills are making the news, especially from the derailment of trains carrying oil tankers.  While none have been as dramatic as the Deepwater Horizon or Exxon Valdez spills, all nonetheless have a profound impact on the flora and fauna they touch.  A few months ago, I was witness to the cleaning and rehabilitation of some ducks that had been covered – drenched, more accurately – in a tar spill, and I realized that although I know that oil and other spills create dire situations for wildlife, I knew almost nothing about the actual manner in which harm is done.  Here is a taste of what I learned.  Though it is by no means a comprehensive list of the dangers that oil spills pose to birds, it is at least a primer.


Oil (tar, diesel, etc.) has so many deleterious effects on birds it is difficult to know where to begin.  One of the most obvious effects is on the birds' feathers.  These amazing little marvels of natural engineering do so much more than enable a bird to fly; they provide waterproofing, regulate body temperature, provide buoyancy for waterfowl, transport water back to nestlings … I could go on and on.  Oil causes the individual fibers in feathers to separate, clump, and mat.  This releases the air trapped in the downy parts of the feathers next to the birds' bodies, which in turn makes the birds' body temperature plummet, and keeps the bird from being able to regulate it on their own.  (Tar, incidentally, can make the birds' temperature soar, as it creates a very sticky, solid matting that does not allow any heat to escape.)  This, in and of itself, is enough to kill a bird under the right circumstances.  But wait; there's more.


Due to the same matting and separation of the feather fibers, oil also damages a bird's waterproofing.  This waterproofing is created by the precise alignment of the individual parts of the feathers, which have tiny barbs on the ends of each fiber that hook together in a manner reminiscent of Velcro.  The waterproofing is assisted by a layer of natural oil that the bird itself makes and distributes over its feathers during preening.  No waterproofing means greater susceptibility to the elements.  Imagine being in a terrible, cold rainstorm with no coat and no warm house to come into and dry off in afterward, and you get an idea of why this is bad. 


Oil can also cause chemical burns on the delicate skin and eyes of birds, which can lead to a whole host of additional problems.  Keep in mind that birds and other wildlife are usually covered over large portions of their bodies by these spills, and therefore risk having a significant percentage of their skin burned.  Shock can set in, which is just as dangerous for animals as it is for humans. 


Birds may try to clean the oil off of their feathers by preening, or eat oiled foods (or foods that have themselves eaten oiled foods).  This results in the ingestion of oil, which can wreak havoc on the birds' internal organs.  Lesions; ulcers; liver, kidney, and lung damage; intestinal poisoning… The list of deleterious effects is quite long.


Tar has a few more effects that I had not initially considered, but that are worth mentioning here.  For one, it is heavy.  A tar-coated bird must expend significantly greater amounts of energy to simply expand its chest cavity enough to breathe.  It may not have sufficient strength to do so.  If the bird's head and neck are coated, it may not be able to lift its head.  To add an even greater challenge, tar will begin to harden after a while, making breathing that much more difficult.  Tar is also ridiculously sticky.  Even if the bird has no problem expanding its chest cavity, the tar can seal a bird's beak and nostrils shut, also resulting in a terrible, suffocating death.  Tar is more difficult to remove than oil, as well.  But as our beautiful, happily back in their natural habitat ducks proved, it can be done.


Now that you are thoroughly depressed, is there any good news?  Yes – many birds can be helped.  The best way to help them, of course, is to prevent oil spills in the first place.  That, however, is a topic for another day and another place.  Depending upon the size of the spill, many birds will likely succumb to the dangers, but a good number can be saved with the right rescue teams in place and a quick response.  Teams trained in how to clean birds, minimize the effects of ingested oil, and properly care for the animals through their rehabilitation can work true wonders.  Meanwhile, other teams are needed to repair and restore damaged habitat, so that the birds have a safe place to return to once their rehab is complete.  If you are interested in learning how to help birds, contact your local wildlife hospital or other organization dedicated to the welfare of our feathered friends.  You can provide assistance in many forms, from direct financial donations to volunteering to assisting with advertising and fundraising.  Seeing a newly-clean and healthy bird waddle its way back to the outdoors is a tremendously satisfying reward for your efforts.




Fun Facts


As mentioned above, feathers do so much more than help a bird to fly.  We all know that they can also attract a mate or provide camouflage.  But did you know about these lesser-known functions of some types of feathers?


·         Feathers can help some bird species escape being the main entrée on a predator's dinner plate.  In a process known as a "fright molt," some birds can lose a number of tail feathers when threatened or severely frightened.  The predator, instead of a lovely dinner, is left with only a mouthful of feathers.

·         Parent birds soak their belly feathers in water as a means of transporting the wet stuff back to their nest.  They can then give their young ones a drink, or moisten their eggs to prevent them from drying out.

·         It is thought that dark-colored feathers might provide a natural SPF for birds' sensitive skin.

·         Ever thought of feathers as snowshoes?  In winter, the feet of grouse are covered in feathers.  This increases their surface area, and allows the bird to walk on top of snow instead of sinking into it. 

·         Birds carry their own sun shades in the form of their feathers.  On bright, sunny days some birds, such as herons, will cover their heads with their wings while fishing to enable them to see into the water better, while others, such as osprey, will spread their wings above their eggs and chicks to keep them cool.

·         When people eat fish, we have to be careful of the small, sharp bones.  If we ingest them, they can cause quite the intestinal issues.  What do you do if you are a bird that eats fish whole?  Why, you eat your own feathers, of course!  These feathers then line the digestive tract and protect the bird from those damaging bones.



Many thanks to Arizona State University for this month's Fun Facts!



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Sunday, March 15, 2015

City Escapes Nature Photography Newsletter - Mar 2015



Nature Photography, LLC




March / April, 2015



They're So Darn Cute!


The weather is warming, the trees are in bloom, and the allergies are kicking in.  (If you're in the Northeast and are still buried in snow, hang in there – spring is coming!  It may be coming slowly, but it is coming…)  With these changes come critters guaranteed to elicit a few "awwwws" among wildlife lovers: baby animals.  Who amongst us does not love to watch the miniature versions of their more majestic elders romping and playing, learning to fly, or following along obediently behind mom?  And what wildlife photographer would not love to capture in-camera a few of the more precious moments?  Like any wild animal, though, wild babies must be respected as the untamed creatures they are. 


The temptation to get right up to a wild baby to get a good photograph is often strong, but is never a good idea, either for you or the baby.  Where there is a youngster, mom is sure to be close, even if you can't see her – and if she isn't, you can bet dad or an aunt is.  Regardless of the species of animal, rest assured that the adults can hurt you, and will often try to while defending their offspring against the threat that your presence poses.  Even setting aside the larger, more obviously dangerous animals, you should not consider yourself immune from attack.  Anyone who has ever been dive-bombed by a bird can attest to how unnerving that experience is – especially if you get a set of talons upside your head.  Even if mom doesn't attack, baby might.  What the little ones lack in jaw strength, they often make up for in super-sharp teeth and beaks.  Even innocuous-seeming animals like ducklings can do a number on your fingers: depending on the species, they may have serrations or even a nail-like protuberance on their bills.  And just remember those sharp front teeth when you are thinking of sneaking up to a baby squirrel or rabbit.  Even little baby bites hurt.  (This is one of the reasons why, whenever you do handle a baby animal, such as replacing a fallen baby bird back into its nest, you should always wear gloves.)


The dangers to the babies of you getting too close while photographing them are many.  Your presence may cause fear and anxiety to swell in baby animals.  Their heart rates and stress levels may skyrocket, though they may barely be able to move on their own yet.  In some species, it is actually possible for them to die of fear.  Panic can lead to more tangible dangers, too: automobiles in a road the youngster just darted into, the panes of a window it hit while trying to fly away from you.  Assuming the absolute best of all scenarios, in which you are not attacked and the baby is not stressed by your presence, there is nonetheless a major issue to consider: many wild parents will not return to their offspring when people or domestic pets are near.  Newborns of all species need to be kept warm and fed frequently, and even older offspring depend upon the nourishment and protection their parents provide, though the feedings may be less frequent.  Keeping the parent(s) away from a wild baby is a sure-fire way to injure it.   


So how do you get that great, detailed shot?  In short: telephoto lenses.  I consider telephoto lenses among the most important pieces of my gear, because they allow me to get up-close and personal without interfering with the natural rhythm and order of things.  The animals are safe from me, and I am safe from them.  Whether I am a hundred yards away from a lion or twenty feet from a robin's nest, telephoto lenses allow me to observe the lives of animals without disturbing them.  Am I telling you to go out and buy an expensive camera body and an even more expensive lens to go with it?  Not at all.  I am telling you, however, to make use of your camera's built-in zooming capabilities, which roughly mimic the effects of telephoto lenses.  Even smart-phone cameras can zoom now.  Give the youngsters plenty of room, use that zoom, and of course, keep a sharp eye out for mom.  One of the best rewards for shooting this way instead of getting right up next to the babies is that you will often have the chance to capture images of mom and babies interacting.  As in all wildlife photography, if your presence is causing the babies or their parents to change their behavior, you are too close.


Unless you are hiking in bear country and trying to keep from surprising one of the bruins, you should also be quiet when photographing wildlife, whether adult or young.  Many animals can hear very well, and trust me, you are not a natural sound.  Do not talk to the animal or make sounds at it in an attempt to get it to look your way.  Human voices will put most animals on alert.  So, too, will many "human" scents: perfumes, aftershaves, even scented laundry detergents can cause distress in wild animals.  The human sense of smell is practically non-existent compared to most of the animal kingdom, so don't assume that just because it's a light scent, it won't affect the critters.  Both sounds and smells can add to the animals' stress levels, further contributing to the dangers described above. 


Um, Where's Mom?

You've kept your distance, been quiet, and not worn anything scented.  Your reward is some wonderful images of the youngsters.  Throughout, you have watched and waited for mom to return, but she hasn't.  You begin to wonder if the babies have been abandoned.  After all, it's been at least an hour…


It is very common, when humans find baby animals without a parent near, for us to assume that the little ones have been abandoned or that the parent(s) have been killed.  Our own protective instinct kicks in, and we want to help them.  After all, we can't just leave them, can we?  Yes.  We can, and we usually should: very much more frequently than not, the babies have not been abandoned, and they are just fine.  They may be chirping, squawking, grunting, or whining, but just like human infants and toddlers making their myriad coos and whines, these sounds do not mean that the animals are in any danger.  As for the parents, we seem to forget that they need to eat, and that they need to gather food for their offspring.  Lacking grocery stores, this can take a while.  It is also imperative when their little ones are still quite small that the adults handle the shopping on their own, without kids in tow.  There is often another critter around who would love to put the youngsters on its own shopping list if they were to come into the open.  So off the parent goes, in search of nourishment.  The hardest thing for us humans to wrap our heads around may be the length of time that some species leave their offspring while on a snack run.  Seals, for example, may leave their pups ashore for up to 48 hours before returning to feed them, while sea lions may be away for 72 hours.  It breaks our hearts to hear the whining and crying of the little ones, and we feel we simply must do something.  This is the natural rhythm of these species, though, and we underestimate the damage we can do in our naïveté.  Imagine you lay your own little one down for a nap, then go to the kitchen to grab a bite to eat.  When you return, your baby is gone, snatched away because someone thought it was abandoned. 


It can be very hard for some of us to control our natural care-giving instincts.  Especially if the baby is somewhere you can keep an eye on it for awhile, though, and it is safe from domestic dogs and cats, the best thing you can do is often to wait and watch, educating yourself about the habits of the species in the meantime.  You will then be able to make a much better judgment about when to interfere.  Contacting a wildlife rehabilitation center is a great way to get guidance.  Trained personnel can help you decide what, if anything, should be done.  You can find a wildlife rehabilitation center in your area by contacting the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association at or calling your local animal control.




Fun Facts


You know that a kitten is a baby cat, but did you know that it could also be a baby skunk?  A calf is of course a baby cow – or maybe a baby manatee.  Perhaps even a baby hippopotamus.  Here is a small sampling of how the names of the young of diverse species can overlap.  Just to keep it interesting, some species have multiple names for their young (because English isn't complicated enough).


Baby Name              Species

Poult                     Grouse, ptarmigans, turkeys           

Whelp                    Otters, wolves, coyotes, tigers

Infant                     Gorillas, monkeys, baboons, orangutans, lemurs

Joey                      Wombats, koalas, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, opossums, wallabies

Kit                         Ferrets, foxes, badgers, mongoose, beavers, muskrats, servals, weasels, woodchucks

Cub                       Lions, cheetahs, leopards, bears, aardvarks, woodchucks,  badgers, foxes, hyenas, jaguars, tigers, walruses, bobcats, lynx, raccoons

Pup                       Deep breath: Wolves, foxes, prairie dogs, sharks, otters, gerbils, beavers, walruses, sea lions, moles, armadillos, guinea pigs, seals, raccoons, hedgehogs, meerkats, groundhogs, skunks, coyotes, bats, dolphins, anteaters …




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Saturday, October 25, 2014

City Escapes Nature Photography Newsletter - Oct / Nov 2014



Nature Photography, LLC




October / November 2014



In-Camera Color Control


As the weather cools from the blistering heat of summer, leaves begin their annual, dazzling bursts into full color.  Reds, oranges, and yellows decorate the tree lines like wrapping paper on an eagerly awaited gift.  The goal of autumn photographers is almost always to capture these brilliant hues before they fade into the dull browns and grays of winter.  In the days of film, a photographer would choose a particular type of film to enhance these colors.  Fortunately, the digital age has made it very easy for today's photographers to do the same – without ever getting near film or image processing software such as Photoshop.  Sure, you can always enhance or change colors through your computer, but if you can get the image you want right out of the box, that leaves you with more time behind the camera and less behind a desk.  I have yet to meet a photographer who prefers being behind a desk.


A great many digital cameras today, from high-end DSLRs all the way down to point-and-shoots, allow you to change the intensity of the colors you capture.  There are often four different "styles" from which to choose: standard, neutral, vivid, and monochrome.  You can consider each a template, generally designed for a particular purpose but able to be utilized in a wide variety of circumstances for creative effects.  Standard is often used in product photography when a realistic, not too subdued and not too bright color palette is desired, while neutral is often used for portraiture to help even out skin tones and lower contrast.  Monochrome allows you to take those old-fashioned looking sepia images that can be wonderfully nostalgic – and you aren't limited to sepia.  Many cameras offer multiple monochrome hues to play with.  How about blue, green, or purple?  My camera offers 7 different hues within each tone, too…  But for autumn colors, vivid is the setting that you are looking for.  Vivid does exactly what it sounds like: it makes the colors pop, enhancing strong, bright hues.  Many cameras also offer you the option of choosing how saturated you want the colors to be, giving you options from -3 to +3.  Some consider +3 to be oversaturated and unrealistic, while others absolutely love the effect.  Begin at 0, then work your way both up and down the scale to find the color style that you most like for whatever you are trying to capture.  In case that isn't enough fun, you can also adjust contrast and sharpening, and in some models, brightness and hue as well.  What a treasure trove of effects, all without leaving the camera!  


This option is usually buried in the menu folder somewhere, but it shouldn't be too difficult to find.  In Nikon cameras, it is called Picture Controls, while Canon's more recent cameras call it Picture Styles.  (They can never agree on anything.  Ever.)  Other camera brands will call it yet something else; check your owner's manual for the specifics.  That being said, if you know what you are looking for, it is pretty easy to locate.  The following is how to find Picture Controls in Nikon cameras; other brands should be similar.


Press Menu.

Go to the Shooting Menu (little camera icon on the left).

Push the right arrow to get you into the Shooting Menu options, then scroll down to Set Picture Control.

Push the right arrow again to get you into the Picture Control options.


From here, you can choose one of the four styles mentioned above.  Scroll up or down to get to the option you choose, then push the right arrow to get you into that style's options.  Choose your settings, then push OK.  If you skip this last step, your choices will not be saved, and the camera will revert to whatever its previous setting was.


Now that you know how to saturate colors, go out and capture some autumn beauty.  But let's not forget that Halloween is also just around the corner.  The range of Picture Control options can help you create eerier, creepier, bleaker images, too.  So whether you want to create bright, happy images or dark and brooding ones, autumn provides a great excuse to get to know your in-camera color controls.




PAWSwalk Success


In September, I was fortunate enough to be one of the photographers for PAWSwalk, a fundraising event for my local animal shelter and wildlife rehabilitation center, appropriately named PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society).  Every year, hundreds of PAWS supporters come out to the park to show their support, walk with their furry friends (mostly dogs), try the canine agility course, watch training exhibitions, play games, enter contests, and drink beer and mimosas.  (Hey, we know how to have fun.)  The event was a huge success, surpassing the fundraising goals by more than a bit.  The money and resources donated go to helping companion animals find good homes, and to nurturing and mending orphaned and/or injured wildlife that are then returned to the wild.  Needless to say, the latter goal is particularly close to my heart.  If you are an animal lover and have a little extra time on your hands, I would highly recommend volunteering at an animal welfare group in your area.  If you are fortunate enough to have a wildlife rehabilitation center in your neighborhood, so much the better!  (Know, however, that at any rehabilitation center focusing on releasing the animals back into the wild, you are likely to have very little hands-on contact with the animals.  The goal is to keep the animals from getting habituated, or accustomed to people, as this could lead to big trouble for the animal later.)  If you don't have the extra time but would still like to help, I would imagine that most places would be very grateful for donations, and it doesn't even have to be the monetary-kind.  Old towels and blankets, cat and dog toys, plastic bags…  You would be surprised what is useful to these organizations.  PAWS uses lots of empty yogurt containers, hundreds of hot dog wieners, and even bowling pins to aid the animals.  If you are cleaning out the garage, kitchen, or linen closet, contact your local agency to see if they can use any of your old stuff.  The animals will thank you. 




October / November Specials


Get 10% off of boxes of our Holiday Greeting Cards when you order from our specials page.  Beat the last-minute panic and order now!



Fun Facts


As Halloween approaches, a particular furry animal serves as a symbol of the season.  Who does not associate All Hallow's Eve with the oft misunderstood black cat?


-      More black cats are male than female.

-      Black panthers are not uniformly black.  If you look closely, you can see their spots.

-      An Italian black cat named Tommaso made it into the Guinness Book of World Records when his owner left him $13 million in her will.

-      Not all black cats are so lucky.  Due to the superstitions surrounding them, it is widely thought that black cats have a 50% lower chance of being adopted from a shelter.

-      All cats' eyes are huge in relation to their overall head size.  This leads to several interesting phenomena related to focusing.  First of all, cats generally cannot focus on anything within about a foot of their face.  Secondly, their enormous eyes have difficulty adjusting their focus from near to far and back.  This leads a cat's eyes to develop based on environment: inside cats tend to be nearsighted, while outdoor cats tend to be farsighted.

-      Wonder why your cat is not interested in chocolate?  It is one of the few animal species that cannot taste sweet.

-      Experts believe that cats were first domesticated somewhere in the Middle East around 9000 years ago as a result of grain cultivation.  Cats were welcomed as pest control in the fields.



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Saturday, July 26, 2014

City Escapes Nature Photography Newsletter - July / August 2014



Nature Photography, LLC



July / August, 2014




It's Show Time!


Colorado beckons as we get back to our beloved Rocky Mountains.  Come join us for a weekend (or two!) of fabulous Rocky Mountain highs as we join dozens of other talented artists in this year's Aspen and Beaver Creek Art Festivals.  Stroll the festivals, enjoy a gelato, and of course, take a hike!  If you are like me, you don't really need an excuse to head to the mountains, but we're giving you one anyway.  Come say hi!


12th Annual Downtown Aspen Art Festival

Saturday and Sunday, July 26th & 27th, 2014

10:00 am to 5:00 pm both days

Wagner Park (Monarch St & Durant Ave)

Aspen, CO


27th Annual Beaver Creek Art Festival

Saturday and Sunday, August 2nd & 3rd, 2014

10:00 am to 5:00 pm both days

Beaver Creek Resort

76 Avondale Lane

Avon, CO



Forest Regeneration Post-Fire


The effects of a major forest fire, even one that touches no man-made structures, can be awe-inducing, touching off feelings of utter devastation and destruction.  One need only remember the immediate aftermath of the massive Yellowstone fires of 1988 to feel the ache in the pit of one's stomach.  Or, as it is once again wildfire season, you may only need to go for a short drive to see the blackened skeletons of previously lush forests and grassy fields, depending upon where you are.  (Please stay a safe distance from any actively burning fires.  There is no need to add to the danger to yourself or anyone who may come to rescue you by getting too close.  And remember that wildfires can jump large spans quickly, especially in dry, windy conditions such as we have in Washington State right now.  Roads and rivers are not guaranteed fire breaks!)  But the devastation wrought by fires is never permanent.  Nature always comes back.  Indeed, fire has been a part of the natural regeneration cycle of forest and grasslands far longer than mankind has been around trying to control the blaze.


Fire serves several key functions in the forest ecosystem.  It can reduce or remove entirely the duff, which is the accumulated layer of dead leaves, tree fall, etc. that covers the forest floor.  This enriches the soil by returning nutrients to it, while simultaneously clearing space for new seeds to sprout.  Fire also destroys some or all of the crown, the foliage at the top of the trees that makes the forest "roof."  This allows sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor, which can help some of those new seeds to sprout.  Wait, you say, doesn't the fire destroy those seeds?  How can they germinate?  Those answers, like fire itself, are complex.


Many seeds are buried deep in the duff layer and in the soil below the duff.  The duff insulates the seeds and the soil from both cold weather and heat – including fire.  If a fire is not too hot or is fast moving, much of the duff layer can remain intact, replete with lots of eager-to-sprout seeds that now have access to a great deal more water and sunlight.  If a fire is slow moving and very hot, however, it can burn the entire duff layer, destroying any seeds within it, and exposing the underlying soil to temperatures that may be so hot that many seeds within that soil are also destroyed.  Rarely, though, are all of the seeds destroyed.  Some plant species (raspberry, plum, and chokecherry, among others) have evolved seeds that count on fire to germinate them: their seed coats are extremely hard and need the intense heat of a fire to break them open.  Other species, like the jack pine, have cones that are sealed by a resin that protects the seeds.  Fire melts the resin, allowing the cone to open and the seeds to disperse, often with the assistance of a hungry critter or a blowing wind.  (Hypothetically, even if every seed in the forest were destroyed, it would not take long for new life to begin sprouting.  The rich soil created by the fire would soon find itself hosting myriad seeds deposited by winds, birds flying overhead, and rodents.  They are nothing if not natural seed dispersants.)


Seeds that are still on trees when a fire occurs may nonetheless survive the blaze.  The ponderosa pine has long needles that insulate the cone buds to a certain degree from fire.  (On conifers, the longer the needles, the greater the chance the buds will survive.)  The tough "scales" on a live cone serve as additional protection from heat, as anyone who has ever tried to burn a green pine cone can attest.  They only become easily flammable once open and dry, long after the seeds have dispersed.


Depending upon the type of forest, trees can regrow even without the involvement of seeds.  Some trees, such as aspen, have an extensive root system that connects all of the members of a stand of trees together.  These trees are actually all part of a single living organism, not separate trees, though they appear to us on the surface to be individual trees.  When this type of tree burns, the root system is often left unharmed, and new "suckers" shoot up quite rapidly, replenishing the stand in short order.  This is also why it can be very difficult to remove such species from an area where they are not wanted.  Even if you cut down every "tree," unless you kill the root system, suckers will continue to sprout. 


Other trees may survive the fire, though much of their foliage is gone.  Along with extensive root systems, thick bark can help protect trees.  Between the inner bark layer and the sapwood is what is known as the cambium, a layer constituting the vascular system of the tree's trunk.  A healthy cambium is critical for the tree's survival.  The thicker the layers of inner and outer bark, the more protected the cambium is.  While some tree species have a naturally thicker bark than other species, the age of the tree is important, too.  Older trees, with their thicker bark, tend to fare better than younger trees.  (Any connection to people "growing thicker skin" is, I'm sure, purely coincidental.)


Okay, so the plant life takes care of itself, I hear you saying.  What about the critters?  Let's start at the bottom: bugs love burned forests!  They have a ton of food, especially those species that are wood-boring or that find the taste of rotting plants particularly appetizing.  Life is grand for a wood-boring beetle after a fire!  Except for all of the beetle-larvae-eating wildlife that moves in shortly after the beetles do.  Many species of birds flourish in burned-out forests precisely due to the fact that they have an abundant food supply and many new nesting holes created by the fire.  These nesting holes also create new homes for small animals such as mice, squirrels, and chipmunks.  Larger holes, fashioned by hollowed out, fallen logs, create good homes for medium-sized critters such as raccoons and foxes.  All of these eventually draw predators such as wolves, wildcats, and birds of prey back into the regenerating forest.


Elk will eat the bark of burned lodgepole pine trees, but not the bark of healthy pines.  Live pines produce chemicals that make their bark unpalatable to elk, while fire destroys these chemicals.  Fire also makes the bark more digestible, increases its protein levels and concentrates some minerals.  Perhaps more importantly, burned bark is a very easy source of food.  Wild animals, particularly in winter, cannot afford to work hard to find food.  Their calories must be well-spent, not wasted.  Burned forests provide a winter buffet for elk trying to survive the lean season.  In the spring and summer, elk and other ungulates such as moose and deer benefit from the improved shrub growth after a fire, and their populations often amplify markedly in the years after a major burn. 


Bears, also, can benefit from burned areas.  Though they are often thought of as vicious carnivores, bears are actually omnivores whose diet consists primarily of berries, grubs, and flowers.  Fires regenerate berry bushes and flowers through the mechanisms described above, and the dead trees are grub heaven for bears.  Not only are fire-killed trees full of larvae and grubs of all kinds, they are also easier to pull apart than live trees, allowing access to the feast just below the surface with minimal effort.  Like elk, bears are in this for survival, and the easiest food sources tend to be the preferred ones.


This is only a short overview of how a forest regenerates itself after a fire.  Depending upon the type and location of the forest, the details will change, sometimes dramatically.  Nonetheless, fire is often an important component of the life cycle of a healthy forest.  It constitutes both an end and a beginning, a transitional phase that allows the forest to restore its nutrients and reset its balance.  In the end, the forest will be healthier for it.  Even in Yellowstone.




July / August Specials


Get 10% off of unframed, 10x15 prints of "Lounging Around – Lion Cub" and / or 8x12 prints of "Renewal by Fire – Fireweed" when you order from our specials page. As with all of our unframed prints, these prints are eligible for our No Hassle Returns. 




Fun Facts


It's hot out there!  July and August are typically the most brutal months, heat wise, in the northern hemisphere.  But humans aren't the only critters that have to deal with the heat.  Here are some fun bits about how temperature affects a few of our fellow creatures.


·         Toucans regulate their body temperature by controlling the blood flow to their rather oversized beak.  The large surface area allows heat to escape quickly.  When they sleep, toucans tuck their beaks beneath a wing, effectively becoming their own blanket.

·         Similarly, elephants regulate their body temperature through blood flow to their large ears.

·         Wonder how hot it is, but don't have a thermometer?  Do you have a watch – and a cricket?  Count the number of chirps the cricket makes in 15 seconds, then add 37.  You now have the approximate temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.

·         Water temperature affects how long sea turtles can hold their breath.  Colder water allows them to hold their breath longer – sometimes for hours.

·         Temperature determines whether an alligator hatchling will be male or female.  Above 93° F means all the hatchlings will be male; below 86° F, they will all be female.  Temperatures in between will result in a mixed brood.  So there is some truth to "cold-blooded women," at least in the alligator world.

·         Think various types of hibernation only occur in winter?  Think again.  In very hot, arid environments, many creatures go into a state of torpor characterized by inactivity and low metabolic rates similar to winter's more well-known long sleep.  In summer, this hibernation is known as estivation.




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