I just finished a book on Blurb for Dave Coray at Silver Salmon Lodge entitled "Answers to Questions about Brown Bears". Dave and I came up with the idea when I worked there in 2012 for a couple weeks developing educational materials for his lodge.http://www.silversalmoncreek.com/about.php
It's a 30 page "coffee table" book that answers the questions David and his guides are most often asked. I greatly enjoyed researching for it and much of the text is found her on this blog. Please feel free to preview at http://www.blurb.com/b/4331110-answers-to-questions-about-brown-bears#promote-pane
Just click on the link then click on preview. I'm not sure how I'm going to like the images published and I won't know that until I return from South Africa in July. The published versions are going straight to Dave's lodge now.
As I've mentioned before in this blog, my luck with chasing birds for a good image is little to none. I may get a photo or 2, but not where I want, with the background I want, nor the perch I want the bird to be on. (The only exception I know is shore birds, but that's a different blog subject) The best way I know to get a lot of good images is to go to a place where some one feeds and waters them and it has a blind or hide you can use (please see my blogs on elephant head pond above). But for reasons such as distance, the inability to book a spot, or that the bird (s) you want to photograph do not eat from feeders (insectivores) or are not found in the habitats where such areas are you are up to your own devices. My methods for photographing these birds is audio calling them to perches I have already set up. I'm either in a blind or my vehicle and waiting.
I'm not going to go into here on what methods I use because there are already a couple of definitive sources out there, both by the same author. Noted bird photographer Alan Murphy has produced 2 audio cd books and I am completely impressed with the methods in both. I have used over 50% of the many methods he discusses in both with better than expected results. I'm not going to duplicate his efforts here but instead I urge you to purchase one if not both of these cd's. To order these cds please see Alan's website (http://www.alanmurphyphotography.com/ebook.htm
) and order yours. NOTE: I have never met Alan, talked to him on the phone, etc. and get no kickback from his sales, I just think his products are that good to highly recommend them. If I do meet him I'll certainly shake his hand with a sincere thanks.
After I read both of these cd's I started calling and I'm still learning about our birds here in Arizona. You will find each species has a time that it works best to call them, usually a week or 2 week long period when they are just setting up territories. Some that you can call in late February will not respond in April and visa versa. I just came back from the Catalina's where I hoped to attract red-faced warblers with an off chance I might see a yellow eyed junco based on what a friend told me. What I found was the opposite, the yellow eyed juncos landed right in front of me and I was lucky to get a red faced warbler into range. If you want to know when to go I recommend purchasing a in depth bird guide in your area. Here in Arizona I read the Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas (http://www.amazon.com/Arizona-Breeding-Bird-Atlas-Corman/dp/0826333796/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1368900962&sr=8-1&keywords=arizona+state+breeding+bird+atlas
) to get the best information I could on some different species.
So far I've found I have to tweek some of Alan's methods which he recommends, and that's half the fun. It's your creativity and thoughts against the cautious instincts that every species has, You will "lose" some as the birds won't respond as hoped to your great idea. It sure happened to me but keep it up and success will taste that much better.
A concern biologists have on using bird calls is their overuse (long periods of calling the same bird) causing stress on the bird and/or pair bond, and some research indicates this concern is well founded. The Sibley bird guides has an excellent synthesis of what NOT to do and what is considered ethical. Some people do not like the use of audio at all but research has not found a negative effect when used properly. I strongly urge you to visit this site and follow their guidelines as close as possible. Murphy's "The photographer's guide to attracting birds" has a good overview as well in his extensive section on using audio.http://www.sibleyguides.com/2011/04/the-proper-use-of-playback-in-birding/
Below I've posted a subset of the many images I took this spring, all with the use of audio and using my own perches. My goal was always to get as close to a full frame image as possible with an attractive perch and an uncluttered, preferably light green background. Unlike some bird photographers some times I opt for more of the habitat/plant as well, guess that's the biologist in me. I started in late February in the lower desert and worked my way up. When I started in the desert my goals were the "silver dollar" birds because that's there size (verdins and black-tailed gnatcatchers) and gilded flickers. As I noted what was around me I tried to call them as well, some times with success and sometimes not. Cactus wrens and curve billed thrashers are some of the most aggressive, thus easiest to call. Abert's towhees are very timid, and orioles are just hard to find but call in fairly easily. Unlike visiting a feeding area, I find when calling I have one of 2 species I'm hoping for. If I do and do too much I don't get any good images. As the weather got hotter and desert birds began to stop responding I went up in elevation, still with specific birds as targets such as vermillion flycatchers and kingbirds. As of today, May 18, it's still a great time in higher elevations but due to an upcoming trip of a lifetime (6 weeks in South Africa) I've had to postpone calling until spring of next year. I hope you enjoy the images, I sure enjoyed taking them.
In mid March I decided to try to photograph birds during one of our snow storms in the high country. I was able to get permission to photograph at a private residence outside of Prescott where the owner vigorously fed birds and lived on the the USFS boundary. By setting up my blind, more for protection of my equipment as it was snowing hard I was able to get a few hard to photograph species with different backgrounds than the norm. I was happy with some of my bridled titmouse, dark-eyed junco, ruby crowned kinglet, hairy woodpecker, spotted towhee, and western scrub jay photos. I was really hoping for a nice stellar's jay but the snow was so wet that the crests of all the jays I photographed were droopy. Just gives me an excuse to go back next year in the same conditions.
If you are fond of photographing birds I strongly recommend you find ways of photographing them such that they come to you. My first 2 years of bird photography were "chasing" birds in some popular bird photography areas like Gilbert Riparian and the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden. Both are good spots and I return to the areas a different times of the year. However, I found that the number of species you could photograph well at either area was limited. If I wanted more perching birds I would have to find new areas.
I now concentrate at feeding areas such as this private residence, my favorite is a place discussed before, Elephant Head Pond, and you can go there by contacting owner Bill Forbes at Phototrap.com. I also use bird calls frequently and find this method very successful. I will be discussing some of my method for calling species in future blogs. Although I love the calling, it's hard to get near the species you will at a popular feeding area though.
White House Ruins from the south rim overlook in Canyon de Chelly.
For our Anniversary, my wife Lori and I travelled to the Navajo Reservation for 3 days of sightseeing and photography. Our first destination was Canyon de Chelly and we stayed at the Quality Inn in Chinle. The accommodations were excellent but I will warn you that if you stay out for the sunset your dinner dining opportunities are extremely limited. The restaurants close very early in Chinle. Next time we are bringing food with us. We took a very informative jeep tour with Francene from Canyon de Chelly Tours and were able to photograph many of the ruins and petroglyphs as close as you can legally get. Bring at least a 200 mm lens if you want to get nice close shots of the pictographs and petroglyphs. Unfortunately it was cloudy most of the time so we could not get the colors we had hoped for. Plus it was a little early and the Cottonwoods had not leafed out yet in Mid March. My next trip will be in October-November when the Cottonwoods are in fall colors.
From Chinle we went to Kayenta and met with our guide Shea from Monument Valley Safaris. Shea was excellent and we really enjoyed the campout and scenery from Hunt's Mesa. From there you can see all of the spires located in the Navajo's tribal park. Unfortunately there were 30 mph gusts and our visibility was limited. We enjoyed it enough and the scenery was good enough I hope to get back soon and after a few more trips offer a photo workshop with Monument Valley Safaris. (http://monumentvalleysafari.com
I've attached a couple scans of photographs I had published this month. One was a 2 page spread on a bear viewing article I wrote for Fish Alaska. The other were some bear photos to go along with a fishing story that took place in SW Alaska that appeared in the winter issue of Horns and Hooks. Scans don't have the quality I like but I wanted to show where your bear pictures may end up if you submit enough to editors.
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All you can see are my boots as I enter a black bear den with a sow and cubs in AZ.
HIBERNATION (or is it?)
Most of my discussion will be on Alaska's brown bears since that's what my customers are interested in seeing, but I've included information on all bears, even in my home state of Arizona for those more interested.
When do the bears go into hibernate?
That depends on the sex, but generally late October or early November. Pregnant females are the first to go in, followed by females with older cubs and younger males. The larger males are last and may not hibernate until late November or early December. Occasionally a bear will skip hibernation but that is rare in colder areas like Alaska. A male, or even a barren female may rise briefly for a few days during the winter, and some will even leave one den and dig another, but this is not the norm. Most bears stay in the same den and rarely rise unless bothered.
When they leave the den is the opposite with respect to order. Larger boars are first and may leave in April. The last to leave are sows with new cubs. They will be awake by mid May but she will probably stay in very close proximity to her den until as late as mid June. The rest of the bears will leave between the 2 extremes.
You may find it interesting that bears all over the world, including black bears as far south as Mexico will go into and exit their dens about the same time as brown bears in Alaska or Kamchatka. This certainly indicates a genetic component to it.
Where do bears den in Alaska, and what do dens look like?
Generally, coastal brown bears will den in the higher elevations on steep slopes just off the coast. They will dig a fairly substantial hole with somewhat of a tunnel and a "main sleeping room". The primary concern with den placement for a bear is to keep moisture out. If water does get in, they may have to leave and dig another.
In their dens, they build a nest. Studies done in Alaska found dens lined with alder and willow branches along with dried grass. You may think a bear den as a smelly musty area with all kinds of bones over in the corner, but it's quite the opposite. Since bears don't urinate or defecate when they hibernate they have a nice nest with dried vegetation and it can actually be quite nice. Although no one has been crazy enough to crawl into a brown bear den while occupied, it's frequently done by black bear biologists to check reproduction. In the 30 odd black bear dens I entered during my research I was always amazed how sweet they smelled and how clean they were.
Do they reuse the same den?
No, surprisingly not given the amount of work that goes into it. They do however have a strong fidelity to den in the same area each year and the new den will not be far from last year's.
Why do bears hibernate?
The fact that bears spend the winter hibernating is known by all school kids. But "skipping" the winter is not unique to bears. In fact all animals that are dependent on a seasonal food source, be it vegetation covered by snow, salmon that are no longer available, or insects that die must do something to survive a season of no food. Birds and some large mammals migrate to find their food. Bears don't have that option; there is nothing to eat during winter so they hibernate. They don't hibernate to skip the cold, although it probably helps. They have advanced hair that keeps them warm and a good layer of fat (blubber) that maintains their temperature. In good food seasons male polar bears are known not to hibernate, and in wet years black bears in Mexico skip hibernation because berries are available all year.
What happens to the bear physiologically when they hibernate?
Well, if you were to ask a hibernation specialist they would tell you that bears don't actually hibernate. So what you thought you knew from grade school is not entirely true. A specialist would tell you that bears go into long term torpor. In contrast, the arctic ground squirrel, a neighbor and food source for brown bears, is what they would consider a true hibernator. The difference being that bears don't allow their body temperature to drop but 6 to 8 degrees below normal (100 F, 38 C). Bears slow their heart rate from an average of 40 beats per minute (bpm) to 8 to 10, and there is a general slowing of all other the body functions. But the definition of a true hibernator is one that allows it's body temperature to drop to the temperature in the den. So in an arctic ground squirrel den, if the temperature drops to 34 degrees F, then that's the body temperature of the animal. They are" totally out of it", so much so that you can pick a true hibernator up, hold it, twirl it, anything you want as long as its humane and the animal is never aware of it. A torpid animal however does not allow its body temperature to drop that low, and one of the advantages, specifically for that of a bear, is that it can wake up quicker when it finds itself in danger and protect itself. When I visited those 30 odd occupied black bear dens I would have liked the bear to be totally out, they never were. In fact each and every one of them was looking right at me and was probably as aware as I was that there was nothing but 4 feet of solid air in between us. Yes they could move, and fast if they wanted to.
Another reason to maintain temperature is that pregnant bears have to keep their body temperature warmer. Remember, that the cubs don't start growing beyond the 300 cell stage until the female enters the den. If the female allowed her body temperature to drop to the just above freezing temperature in her den, then the young 1) would not be able to develop fast enough, and 2) they would likely freeze to death after birth since the mother's warmth and fur keeps them insulated against the cold temperature in the den.
Why would bears need to be aware when hibernating?
What the heck is going to crawl into the den, especially of North America's largest carnivore? Well, it does happen, much rarer today than probably historically, but more on that slight chance later (Can you guess what animal [not humans] might crawl into a brown bear den, kill it and eat it?) But behaviors we see today are a product of the species evolution, in other words their past. So from 500,000 to just 20,000 years ago brown (and black) shared their habitat with other large carnivores, larger wolves, large hyena like animals, a stronger cave bear, and large cats such as the sabre toothed tiger. These formidable creatures probably had the ability to take a brown bear while it was not hibernating, and certainly would have been able to when it was incapacitated. A bears ability to waken quickly and flee or try and defend itself would have an advantage over those that didn’t. And that's how natural selection works, those with traits that let them live longer and reproduce successfully have traits that become more and more common and end up "fixed" in the population. How often bears were killed in their dens historically is difficult to determine, but some bone remains found in caves do indicate it happened. And as humans became more advanced with better weapons (> 10,000 ya), indigenous people would take advantage of bears while hibernating as that was the easiest time to kill them, even with their ability to recover from torpor quickly. So today, bears do have an advantage by going "torpid" instead of hibernating as well as historically. OK, so what did you guess that is a current brown bear predator in its' circumpolar distribution from northern NA through Asia, all the way to Europe? As I said, it doesn't happen often because this predator is endangered, but in a recent brown bear study in Kamchatka, 3 radio collared female bears were killed and eaten in their dens by Siberian tigers. A 700 lb cat is just unfair! No animal has a chance against that.
Are you wondering why arctic ground squirrels don't do what bears do, keep their body temperature higher "in case of emergency". Then simple answer is they can't. Only animals as large as a bear can carry enough fat for the energy to stay at a warmer temperature all winter, a small ground squirrel can't. A bear can lose 25% of it's weight over the winter, a pregnant female may lose 40%, a true hibernator can't or won't. So ground squirrels have the advantage of not having to put so much weight on, but the disadvantage is if a weasel finds a way into their den, they are dinner.
What are some of the mysteries scientist may be able to solve by knowing more about bears hibernation?
Medical Doctors, endocrinologists, biomedical engineers, and others are all studying bears in hopes of learning more of their physiological adaptations. Understanding how bears survive and thrive in hibernation could have huge benefits for our species. They are particularly intrigued by how bears maintain their muscular and bone strength while immobile; the processes their kidneys, liver, and endocrine glands utilize to actually recycle waste products, and what substance or compound causes the bear to start the less dramatic form of hibernation.
Bear bone density does not decline while in the den, when in humans or most animals periods of disuse result in the lack of strength commonly known as osteoporosis. The recovery period needed in humans for the bone to regain strength is often 2 to 3 times the length of disuse. So spinal injuries, disease, or even space travel can result in reduced bone strength and increase in fractures, particularly in the large femur (leg) or humerus (arm). Bear bones do not lose their strength. Researchers know that during hibernation that the Parathyroid Hormone is higher, and that is an important part of bone rebuilding in mammals. They also know that one of the benefits of not urinating is that calcium is not lost, which is the principle building block of bones. Humans, or other mammals of course continue to urinate when bed ridden, and the elevated calcium ions due to bone disuse leave the body that way. Somehow the bear has a trigger that recycles the calcium, and triggers bone "rebuilding" just as if it were active.
Another key difference is that bears don't lose the muscle strength that you or I would when they are immobile. If you don't use a muscle, for a series of reasons it begins to break down and is known as muscle atrophy. If you or I were bed ridden for 6 months, the average human would lose 80% of their strength. Both brown and black bears have been tested for strength both pre and post hibernation and at most they lose an average of 10%. Imagine the benefits to us, or other animals if researchers could find how they retain strength during long bouts of inactivity.
At present they know 2 things are going on that reduce muscle atrophy. It does not matter if an animal is active or resting, the proteins in the muscle are slowly breaking down and need to be replaced, and movement helps the formation of the key muscle proteins. A byproduct of protein break down is ammonia, a toxic substance, which mammals quickly break down to urea. Urea is one of the key constituents of a mammal's urine because even though it's much less toxic than ammonia, it still can create problems if levels get to high in the blood. Since bears are not urinating, scientists were first interested in how high the levels of urea were and how much they could endure. From blood samples taken from hibernating bears, it was actually found that urea levels were slightly less than those of active bears which had researchers totally perplexed. It has since been hypothesized that bears use the waste urea and to build back proteins in the muscles. So as the muscle breaks down, it is rebuilt from a normal waste product that is not urinated. How exactly bears do this is not known, and the mechanism is of real interest to medical researchers.
A more recent discovery was made with miniature temperature sensors that were surgically implanted in wild bears before they hibernated. Sensors planted near the central body cavity showed the temperature dropped the initial 8 degrees in early hibernation, but never varied by more than one degree the rest of the hibernation period. Sensors planted near the skin however showed that temperatures varied from near freezing (the temperature of the den) but then would frequently rise again to the central body temperature. Although this may sound strange, you need to realize that not all parts of your body are 98.6. When you are outside and it's cold, your hands and feet and even muscles directly below the exposed skin are much cooler. This is normal until they get too cold and then the pain/numbness will force you to try and do something about it from putting on gloves to going inside to shivering. Hopefully that's possible for you, but for sleeping bear it's not. Researchers wanted to see how cool bear extremities (feet, exposed skin) could cool. From further study is was determined that on average of 4 times a day hibernating bears go through a shivering period where the muscles near the skin would move so much that they would produce enough heat for the body surface to warm back up to the body core temperature. Then they would stop shivering, cool down, and then warm up again. These bouts of shivering serve 3 purposes in a bear. They help the bear maintain it's whole body temperature from getting to cool, they keep the outer surface of the bear warm enough that there is no tissue damage during extremely cold periods, and they work the muscles enough that the atrophy is discontinued and the movement helps the rebuilding of key muscle proteins with waste urea. So by frequent shivering that does not cause them to wake and mystically using a waste product to rebuild muscles bears are able to maintain strength while hibernating.
The search for the compound that circulates throughout the bears body to slow it down, yet not completely, is an important and ongoing research project as well. In their search, researchers have dubbed the still unknown compound as Hibernation Induction Trigger, known as HIT. Their hopes are that if they can find this substance, it could be crucial in slowing down the decay of organs used in transplants. At present, an organ lasts about 16 hours before tissue deterioration makes them unusable. It is hoped that HIT might increase the life of an organ threefold, so we could all benefit from the physiological secrets of a hibernating bear.
In my Animal Physiology class, I have several Pre - Med students that at first just can't seem to understand why we have not learned more from the bears. Why with such possible human benefits has bear hibernation been more well studied, causes identified, and cures for humans developed? The answer is relatively simple, bears just don't make good laboratory subjects and are not easy to get to in the field. A wild bear will not allow you to visit several times to take the samples that are necessary to solve such complex questions. They have tried with captive bears as well, but they are still large and powerful, and not really tame in the sense of a dog. Plus captive bears often change their physiological status due to continued interruptions, and captive bears often go through a much lighter torpid or hibernation phase, or if well fed, don't go into hibernation. As more sophisticated micro electronic sensors that can be implanted in animals are developed, researchers may be able to learn much more about how bears can do things that other animals, including humans, can't.
So there is literally a wealth of information to be gleaned from even a torpid or hibernating bear.
I went for a scouting trip to Bosque del Apache in December for just a couple days but was very happy with the images I took in such a short time. It was crowded as the week before Christmas is a popular time for many of the tours but my fellow photographer and long time friend Bruce Taubert had an excellent time. Birds are back at the major roosting pond for the evenings and the magnificent fly outs, not in huge numbers as they are roosting in other ponds as well, but it still made for a nice fly out. The sunrises were spectacular as you can see below. The colors there never cease to amaze me and I slightly desaturated the images below as the red was overwhelming. There were approximately 65,000 geese there, 7,000 sandhills, and over 40,000 ducks of various species. As usual the northern pintails were the most numerous. The fly in to the major roosting pond by the sandhills was different than I have ever seen it before and it provided some great opportunities for flying birds. They were coming in from the east so you could set up on the west shore and get some excellent shots with the front of the cranes completely illuminated by the softer late afternoon light. I was dissapointed I only had one afternoon to shoot them in this light, but I still have many photos to process so I should not complain. Bruce and I headed to Albuquerque where he met his tour group and we all went to the zoo to shoot wood ducks, many to choose from at quite close distances as usual. The next morning I skipped the zoo in search of an area I might be able to photograph flying wood ducks and was lucky enough to find a few. Shooting flying birds is always tough and these little guys average around 45 miles per hour. I was able to get a few landing that I'm happy with but just didn't have the time to get a side view. I had to get back to work and make a Christmas shopping stop in Gallup which both my wife and son appreciated less than a week later.
In this new year I have many exciting photo trips lined up including south Florida, High Island in Texas, a few more trips to Bosque, my annual brown bear shoots in AK, back to Colorado for leaf color changes and elk again, and the pinnacle, 6 weeks in South Africa as I design a study abroad class on Wildlife Biology for ASU. I'll also have several local trips lined up. This late winter, early spring I hope to center on waterfowl, smaller predators through calling, and the desert breeding birds as the season is just around the corner. Happy New Year and Happy shooting to you all. I hope you feel as blessed as I do!
Here is the press release from the Boyce Thompson Arboretum:
Marvels of Migration Photography-Lecture By Stan Cunningham Dec. 9 Last winter Arizona birders and photographers were surprised when a wayward Common Goldeneye spent a few days at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, near the scenic copper-mining town of Superior, about 45-minutes drive due East of Mesa. Would you believe that of the 850 bird species in North America, more than 300 leave the continent and spend the winter in Central and South America and the Caribbean? In preparation, some transform themselves into “super birds”: gorging until they accumulate fat reserves that almost double their body weight in order to have the energy for transcontinental flight? Others take an opposite approach - flying just a few hours each day. And how do they find their way? An internal magnetic compass, eyes that can see polarized light or even magnetic directions, memorized celestial maps along with many other methods have all have been hypothesized and some convincing data collected. Research biologist and ASU Polytechnic Wildlife Professor Stan Cunningham will share these and more insights into avian migration during a lecture Dec. 9 at Boyce Thompson Arboretum accompanied by his impressive photography of birds on the wing. The presentation begins at 1:30 p.m. in the lecture room of the Smith Building and is open to the public, included with Arboretum daily admission of $9, and no pre-registration required. For the past three decades Cunningham has lived an adventurous life you'd expect to see depicted on film: crawling into black bear dens during wintertime as a wildlife biologist for the Arizona Game & Fish Department and spening a month each summer in Alaska as a professional photographer, shooting vivid pictures of Brown bears for magazines, tourist lodges and leading Alaskan photo safaris and ecotourism trips. A professor of wildlife biology at Arizona State University Polytechnic since 2006, Cunningham is known for his decades of research about bears, mountain lions, and the ecological effects of wildfire. On Sunday, Dec. 9, he will share some of the secrets scientists have learned on migration and navigation along with some of his most breathtaking avian photography.
I also will be talking about photographing migrating birds. I hope to see you there.
My passion for wildlife is so great I rarely make the time to get out and photograph the beautiful scenery here in AZ. I've made a pact with myself to change that this year and I've joined a couple landscape oriented photo groups for encouragement. A couple weeks ago I found myself in the Westfork of Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona to try and capture the colors and reflections of the turning maple trees. It was a wonderful day with bright colors every where. I found myself frustrated however as there was so much beauty over such a wide area I found it difficult to capture it with a camera. It wasn't until I got really serious with photography that I realized what a wonderful filter and exposure meter the human eye and brain is. Even with the wonders of modern digital today's cameras can't do that and I suspect never will. It was a wonderful day and I do look forward to going back next year, and I will need to bring Lori (my wife) along as she was pretty jealous of my opportunity. I also think she often has a better eye for color, light and landscape shots than I.
One of favorite things to do in the fall is to head to the high country when the elk are in rut. The sounds of the bugles reverberating through the mountains all night long is music to sleep by. And to have the opportunity to chase and "talk" to them with my selection of calls is as exciting as anything I do with a camera.
This year my scouting over the past few years in Arizona paid off with some great photos. And additional trip in northern Colorado to the Rocky Mountain National Park paid even bigger dividends. For 4 1/2 days I hiked and drove through the park in search of elk. They were not hard to find, especially if you were willing to walk a little. I did realize it had been a while since I've worked at 9,000 feet though. I had to delete a few nice video snips I took because of my hard breathing that was recorded when filming the video.
But I've posted a couple on You Tube and you can see one of them just below.
I was also hoping to hit the aspen turning at the same time but I was about a week late. It still was beautiful and I've posted some of my elk and landscape photos from this fall below. I hope you enjoy them. I sure enjoyed taking them.
And in case you are wondering I'm already working on finding good accomodations for taking a photo natural history tour to Estes starting in either 2013 or 2014 at the latest.