NEBRASKAland July 2017

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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Page 40 of 71

JULY 2017 • NEBRASKAland 41 day, and I was thirsty. I stopped my ATV and dug my water bottle out of my pack. As I was drinking, I saw a flash of movement and looked over to see a grasshopper sparrow on a leadplant stem, maybe 10 feet away. Just as I started pulling out my camera, my companions came roaring past me on their ATVs. Disappointed, I started putting my camera back in my bag, figuring I'd missed my chance at a nice bird photo. To my surprise, however, the sparrow stayed put, despite two ATVs passing right by. As I focused my camera on the sparrow, I finally noticed the small grasshopper in its mouth. I guessed the bird was getting ready to feed hungry chicks nearby and figured that was why it didn't immediately fly away when the ATVs drove past. I took a couple of quick photos and then drove my own ATV away, hoping fervently that none of us had driven over a nest. ■ A note on ethics: Despite my seemingly cavalier perspective on wildlife photography, I really do take great care not to unnecessarily harass wild animals. In most of the instances discussed here, I found myself close to an animal while I was simply driving along a road or trail. I didn't go out of my way to purposefully chase down animals that were minding their own business. I never would have approached the pronghorn or her fawns if I'd known what was going on ahead of time, and I stayed just long enough to get a couple photos before slipping quickly away without spooking them. While it's acceptable to take advantage of accidental encounters with wildlife, it's never ok to intentionally flush birds off their nest or nighttime roost, or to do anything else that might put an animal at risk or cause it unnecessary distress. With a grasshopper in its mouth, this grasshopper sparrow seemed to be waiting for me to go away so it could feed its young in a nearby nest. Once I realized what was happening, I moved on and left it alone. With a grasshopper in its mouth this grasshopper sparrow seemed to be waiting for me to go away so it could feed its young in a Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. He has been a contributor to NEBRASKAland since 1994. Chris blogs at l i t

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