Nebraskaland June 2019

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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42 Nebraskaland • June 2019 a decade ago, I took to the fi eld to photograph any wildlife species that crossed my path. Admittedly, my knowledge of birds was extremely low and my original goal was to capture the superstars of the Panhandle's wildlife scene: elk, bighorn sheep and swift fox, to name a few. The birds, though, kept me shooting. When other animals eluded me, I could count on a red-winged blackbird or red-tailed hawk to save the day and pose for an image or two. Often, I would not know the species I was photographing until a bird expert would patiently help me with identifi cation. Those early bird photos, as much as anything, led me to the career I have today. The birds still keep me shooting. And learning. Just for kicks, on a cold day this winter, I compared my images in the Nebraskaland database with a checklist of more than 230 species produced by the U.S. Forest Service: "Birds of the Nebraska Pine Ridge." Memories fl owed one-by- one as I checked the boxes. While many of the photos were shot from a blind, many others were captured while I was just going about business doing other things, whether it be the loggerhead shrike I photographed during the solar eclipse or the rare-to-the-area winter wren that struck a pose while I was hunting turkeys. When making checks, I counted only the images that I thought were good enough for print and therefore uploaded to the magazine's database. The snowy owl that I observed numerous occasions this winter but remained a little too elusive for a passable photo? Sadly, no X in that box. The tally of species: 99. Not quite half of the list, but a gratifying start. It has become something of a goal to get as many species on the list as possible, and I will keep chipping away. Certainly, much of the "low-fl ying" fruit has been harvested and the remaining species will be more of a challenge. Who knows? Before I hang up the camera, maybe I can get them all. If not, I will certainly be thankful for the ones that fl ew my way. Now, on to 100. N LEFT: If one were to choose an official bird of the Pine Ridge, the red crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) would surely be a candidate. It has a beak designed for extracting seeds from pinecones. MIDDLE: The red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is so common in spring that I find myself shooting photos of it only when the light is best. Regardless, its presence is always welcome, especially on a slow photography day. BOTTOM LEFT: Eastern kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus), with their tuxedo plumage and gangster's demeanor, are a frequent subject in summer. Never has photographing them been more enjoyable than staking out this nest fashioned from a decaying fence post in July 2017.

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