American Exceptionalism????

Hey Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and all you “Christian” members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans –who voted to turn your backs on Syrian refugees, let me quote YOUR Bible to you:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Matthew 25:35-40

Your piousness seems to only matter when it serves you politically.  SHAME!

Costa Rica

Costa Rica…my third visit and they say the third time’s the charm.  Maybe so, but if you want sun, don’t go to 3 different rain forests.  Of course, that’s where all the neat birds hang out so it’s a push.  My first 2 trips were sunny and few birds, this time it rained a lot but I got good images of at least 35 species in my 10 day trip.  And, with 2 superb workshop leaders, I got a wealth of knowledge of my equipment and how to best use it.


Atlantic rainforest


Catarata del Toro Falls

Tucked back in to jungle, the lodges were adequate…but not luxurious…and NO AIR CONDITIONING (fans do poorly in high humidity!)  Mornings began sunny but rains usually began late morning and into the afternoon.  Humidity was awesome and temperatures ranged into the 80’s.


Laguna Lagarto Lodge


Laguna Lagarto Lagoon

But it sure did rain!  Fortunately, the birds were accustomed to it.


Black Vulture


Montezuma oropendola

Bananas and mangos enticed the fruit feeders to the feeding sites.


Collared acari


Keel-billed toucan


Chestnut-mandibled toucan


Montezuma oropendola

The tanagers weren’t as numerous as in Panama


Blue-gray tanager


Palm tanager


Golden-hooded tanager


Olive-backed Euphonia


Yellow-throated Euphonia

But there were recent migrants from North America to add to the colors


Baltimore oriole


Summer tanager

All 3 species of honeycreepers were active at the fruit trays


Red-legged honeycreeper


Shining honeycreeper


Green honeycreeper (male)


Green honeycreeper (female)

And the kiskadees learned to enjoy over-ripe bananas


Great kiskadee

The ground birds occasionallky came out of the forest


Great curossow


Black guan

Flash set-ups for hummingbirds drew in several species


Green hermit


Violet saberwing


Black-bellied hummingbird

Stopping at a ranch we found a lot of action. The rancher had been rehabilitating injured macaws which drew the wild ones in to his properties.


Scarlet macaw


Green macaw


Macaws flying

But my favorite bird of the trip (and the one I most wanted to photograph) was the king vulture.  An area was baited with cow heads from a local butcher shop which drew in many black vultures to the area where a permanent photo blind had been set up.  In time, a few over-cautious king vultures began to appear.  I think I shot over 1,000 images of them.


King vulture


King vulture


King vulture

Besides birds, there were a number of  frogs, lizards and snakes


Red-eyed tree frog


Poison dart frog


Green Basilisk




Eyelash viper


Green tree viper



But not many mammals






Pallid long-tongued bat

 All in all, it was a great experience.  Next destination…BRAZIL!

My take on life!

My take on life!

Being that I’m a biologist and accept the philosophy of secularism, I find I often have to explain my differentiation between being “Pro-Life” and “Pro Existence” as I definitely am pro-life, but only in a humanitarian sense.

To Me:

Life is NOT simply the merging of chromosomes and their subsequent advancement into a living organism; all organisms do this.

Life is NOT simply the beating of a heart and the movement of blood through a system.

Life is NOT the simply penance you pay for the chance at an everlasting heavenly existence of comfort.

Life is NOT being confined to a wheelchair or hospital bed with the inability to consciously move a limb; nor to eat, drink, or even think or comprehend your surroundings.

Life is NOT spending a good amount of my time on your knees to ensure an unproven salvation…or a favorable job interview.

Life is NOT never laughing, crying, loving…or being loved.

Life is NOT never having tasted sweet or sour or salt but being kept alive from birth through a feeding tube.

Life is NOT being hungry every day of your life or being exposed to heat and cold without the proper clothing or shelter.

Life is NOT being unwanted by your parents; by your community; by society; by your government.

Life is NOT fearing the infliction or continuousness of pain.

Just to insist a heart keep beating and blood flowing is not pro-life, it’s pro-existence.  It’s a lose/lose on all sides and not in keeping with the evolutionary order of life on this planet.

To Me:

Life IS being kissed, hugged and cuddled by your parents; by your children; by your friends.

Life IS putting on a warm coat and going out in the snow; lying in the sand on a warm beach.

Life IS watching the sun sink into the horizon over the ocean; seeing the moon coming up through the pine trees.

Life IS playing tag with your playmates; running along the hard sand at the ocean’s edge; climbing a tree; doing a cartwheel.

Life IS wearing a new pair of shoes; the smell of clean clothing.

Life IS tasting an apple; a Snickers bar; a piece of fried chicken.

Life IS listening to YoYo Ma’s cello or reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry.

Life IS petting a dog; sitting with a purring cat on your lap.

Life IS laughing hysterically at the antics of your children; of your friends.

Life IS crying at the loss of a loved one; of a pet; of a species.

Life IS listening to the sound of a running stream; the song of a bird yet to be identified; a fleeting glimpse of a deer as it disappears in the forest; the smell of  woodsmoke from the campfire.

Life IS a warm shower; fresh clean sheets.

Life IS a glass of good red wine; a cold beer on a hot day.

Life IS watching your partner caring for flowers in the garden; dressing your children; asleep next to you.

Life IS the satisfaction of doing something good for no other reason than just doing it.

Without such the ability to comprehend such things life is simply existence, the beating of the heart and the movement of blood…nothing more.   All organisms exist.   So when you tell me that existence is sacred and must be preserved at all costs, no matter it’s consequences as it’ll all work out after this life ceases, I must say…BULLSHIT!



Contrary to what you urban dwellers might be thinking, an “ecotone” is NOT an environmentally sensitive ring tone for your i-phone.  It is, in fact, one of my favorite ecological conditions. An ECOTONE is the margin between two (or occasionally more) ecological communities.  It is the place where these meet that the organisms common to each come together, providing for a greater diversity of species.  Such is the situation in our western states where forest communities meet desert or grasslands.

In the area west of the pioneer community of Fort Rock, Oregon, at the boundary where the Deschutes National Forest adjoins BLM lands, such an ecotone is obvious as the ponderosa pine forest abruptly ends and the treeless sagebrush community begins.  Here, species common to both forest and high desert communities are often found in conjunction with one another.

Fort Rock


Fort Rock, Oregon


Ecotone: Where the pine meets the sage


This is an arid area, having few locations where water is available during the hot summer months.  The Forest Service and the Audubon Society have enhanced the area through the installation of small water sources, the basins kept wet by water stored in underground cisterns that collect and store water during the winter moisture period.

Water basin


Early this July I set up my portable photo blind near one of these basins and in two days was rewarded with and amazing number of species, primarily birds, using the water source.  I took images of 21 birds and 2 mammals that regularly frequented this site.  These are some of my images:

Clark’s nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker 4

Pinyon jay

Pinyon Jay 3

Northern flicker

Northern Flicker 2

White-headed woodpecker

White-headed Woodpecker 2

Hairy woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker 1

Lewis’s woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker 1

Western tanager

Western Tanager 1

Cassin’s finch

Cassin's Finch 3

Chipping sparrow

Chipping Sparrow 1

Brewer’s Sparrow

Brewer's Sparrow 2

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch 1

Mountain bluebird

Mountain Bluebird 4

Western bluebird



Robin 1

Mourning dove

Mourning Dove 1

Eurasian collared dove

Eurasian Collared Dove 1

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler 2

Mountain chickadee

Mountain Chickadee 4

Sage thrasher

Sage Thrasher 3

Horned lark

Horned Lark 1

California quail

California Quail 1

Yellow pine chipmunk

Yellow Pine Chipmunk 3

Golden-mantled ground squirrel

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel 1

The Gull Feather


Alone –

on a bleak winter beach

endlessly pelted by crystalline sands


Alone –

half exposed midst the grains

held fast in its tomb as by invisible hands


Alone –

worn, frayed – yet still strong

once one of many, now gone from their sight


Alone –

nevermore to be preened

nor feel the air move in the magic of flight


Alone –

cast out and replaced

now blown by cold winds to whence it might lie


Alone –

I perceive its sad fate

we be one in the same, that feather and I.



Dean Carrier

Rio Grande Valley, Texas-Part Two

My next two days were spent at Laguna Seca Ranch with their 5 bird-blind areas.  My guide, Ruth Hoyt, was exceptional…fun…and extremely knowledgeable, helping me through my periodic, “Now why in Hell is my camera doing this?” problems.  Although we had rain and wind the first day, the second day was bright and sunny.  Good opportunities for image both days.

Photographic blinds are rented by ranchers who have found there’s more $$ in catering to photographers than trying to raise cows in this area.  Water and food is provided and birds get used to coming into the sites.


Ruth Hoyt is the primary guide for the Laguna Seca Ranch, although she guides on several others and on South Padre Island.  A very accomplished bird photographer.


The habitat is mesquite scrub…not very picturesque and as the area is FLAT (the highest spot I was on was on a freeway overpass) there are no opportunities for “scenics.”


Caracara-Actually a falcon but adapted to scavenging.

Northern Caracara 2

Caracara-Adult & juvenile

Northern Caracara 3

Harris Hawk-A desert-loving hawk, often hunting in groups.  Found in Arizona, southern Texas and Baja California.

Harris Hawk 3

Turkey vulture-Ubiquitous over this continent.  Likely one of our most valuable species in that they rapidly clean up dead animals from rodents to deer.

Turkey Vulture 1

Black vulture-Smaller, hangs around with turkey vultures.

Black Vulture 5

Scissor-tailed flycatcher-A very showy bird, flying to and from a roost (often a barbed wire fence) but this one was on a natural snag.

Scissor-taile Flycatcher 1

Green jay-The most colorful of the jays and found only in the Ruio Grande Valley of Texas and a small part of Mexico.

Green Jay 4

Bobwhite-The quail found in most states east of the Rocky Mountains.

Northern Bobwhite 1

Black-crested titmouse-Be quick as they are in and gone.

Black-crested Titmouse 5

Cardinal-Never get enough shots of this common species.

Cardinal 4

Olive sparrow-Very pretty and fairly tame.

Olive Sparrow 3

Long-billed thrasher-Somewhat more arboreal than the curve-billed thrasher.  Very pretty song.

Long-billed Thrasher 1

Curve-billed thrasher-A ground-lover.

Curve-billed Thrasher 7

Ground dove-Secretive and cautious.  The sound of the camera shutter and off it goes.

Ground Dove 4

Mourning dove-Ubiquitous but always photogenic.

MourningDove 11

Golden-fronted woodpecker-Brightly colored and aggressive.  Only the green jays are not intimidated.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker 2

Mockingbird-State bird of Texas…appropriate!

Mockingbird 5