I used to think that “getting close to nature” was reserved for the privileged few who had the money, resources, and time to spend in the wilderness searching for an idyllic scene or an elusive critter – the kind of thing that only elite National Geographic photographers or scientists with government grants could do. I dreamed of getting close to Bald Eagles or viewing a redrock arch glowing at dawn. The raucous calls of several Western Scrub Jays haggling over hazelnuts in my backyard literally woke me up one morning to the fact that when you open your eyes, it’s not so hard to enjoy nature up close.
I find pockets of nature in the unlikeliest of urban places, such as in a pond along a busy road, the bus stop by a popular tourist attraction, the beach among the resorts on Maui, a busy hiking trail in the middle of Phoenix, or the trees in my own back yard. Many more opportunities occur in our State and National Wildlife Refuges. I’ve parked within 20 yards of a Bald Eagle perched in a tree. I’ve stood among a crowd of onlookers as tens of thousands of Snow Geese took off all at once in a noisy early morning spectacle. I’ve sat in a beach chair for an afternoon watching a field full of Sandhill Cranes just a few yards away feeding and calling to one another as huge flocks of Red-Winged Blackbirds moved from spot to spot feeding among them. I’ve watched in awe as a lone eagle or coyote causes thousands of birds to take off in terror
I’d like to make the public more aware that easily accessible wonders are close to home and they can get out to see it for themselves. When more people are made aware of the magnificence of nature that takes place in the small nooks and crannies that our civilization has not paved over, the more they will realize how important it is to preserve these places. Ultimately, I’d like to inspire people to get involved with preserving wild places by joining and volunteering for conservation organizations and support groups like the many Friend’s of the Refuge organizations at our National Wildlife Refuges. I have donated hundreds of hours of my time and thousands of images to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Sherwood, Oregon, a suburb of Portland. My images have brought national recognition to the refuge and are helping them to educate the public about issues concerning the refuge, wildlife in urban settings, and the importance of water and habitat conservation.