I love this time of year. New life is sprouting all over the place and wildlife is wonderfully abundant. My own life is far from "a walk in the park" but seeing all this natural beauty breathes light and energy into me. I shot most of these images yesterday and today.
How can anyone not experience some sense of hope and appreciation for life when in the presence of nature? It's always an anecdote for my weary heart or on days when darkness outweighs the light. I feel extraordinarily lucky that animals, birds, and all life are so special to me. Every sighting is a gift.
Wow .. This was such a well done documentary. I lived in Nepal in 2006 and took a harrowing bus ride from Kathmandu almost to the Tibet border. As risky as it was, it pales in comparison to the Karnali Highway. Kudos to all involved in the making of this superb film.
This film runs nearly 22 minutes. Bookmark and save to watch if you don't have time right now. It's worth it if you're interested in learning about other cultures and life in the outback of Nepal.
"The Karnali Highway in northwest Nepal is the most dangerous stretch of road in the country. Cut out of the mountains, the 250 km road ascends 3,000 metres into the Himalayans. It's the sole lifeline supplying vital supplies to inhabitants of the poorest region of Nepal. We follow the fortunes of those who, willingly or not, have to use this 'impossible' road. Drivers, travellers and merchants, the highway remains the fastest, if not the safest, way to get around in this mountainous region." Source: youtube
I came by both of these videos from a newsletter about the brick kilns and donkey abuse/child labor. This video is a bit long for my liking, but it's clever and worth seeing -- at least some of it.
"Watch a historic flashmob by "concerned citizens" and residents of Kathmandu valley. Why "concerned"? Children as young as six can be found working full time in the brick factories around Kathmandu. Working in the brick factories exposes all workers especially children to irreparable health damage including acute respiratory infections, back injuries, lung cancers. Black carbon released by the chimneys is a mass killer and is highly toxic. It is estimated that air pollution results in 1600 premature deaths per year in Kathmandu alone. Every year 837'600 tons of carbon dyoxide are released by the Valley's brick kilns. Workers are exploited and animal abuse is prevalent. You can change this situation by using and promoting the use of clean and green bricks." More information here: www.brickclean.net
It was a good week photographing Egrets, Double-crested Cormorants, a coyote, turtles, honeybees and a Pelican! Best of all is my brown goose story ...
My Brown Goose Story
by Betsy Seeton
I had the most amazing thing happen today. First of all, I was having a good time photographing egrets and a coyote. I didn't even know egrets were in Colorado, so this was a special treat. The last time I photographed one was in California over a year ago when I was cat sitting in San Diego. Just as the egrets took flight, I saw a brown bird way off in the distance in the middle of the lake. It was too far away to see what kind of bird it was so I snapped a few pictures figuring I would examine the photo when I got home. Just at that moment a Canada goose waddled onto the shore and came right up to me. And I mean inches from me. I started talking to her like I always do when I meet wildlife. I wondered if she knew me from last winter when I spent part of each day walking and photographing geese in the area. I made regular friends with some of the geese last winter without feeding them. (I fed a couple of very injured geese two or three times, but that was all.)
After talking to the goose, who stayed close by me, I turned to examine the brown bird in the distance and then something startling happened. It looked right at me and started swimming toward me. I snapped a series of pictures as it made a bee line for me and soon realized it looked like my favorite brown goose from last winter. I've seen her once this year and when I did she immediately got out of the water and came to me. It’s hard to believe she remembered me, but it was amazing to see her come to me when I talked to her. I was with a photographer friend when that happened and he witnessed it. I was as surprised as he was. Maybe she knew my voice. Or maybe it was just coincidental. I still really don't know. Today, she swam half way across the lake and came right to me -- again. It was surreal!
I wonder if she heard the camera clicking (I clicked a lot of pictures last year) and perhaps heard my voice when I spoke to the other goose? Could it be possible that she recognized these sounds and remembered the many times I sat with her and took her picture? Birds are remarkable in many ways and certainly being able to remember how to fly thousands of miles back to the same nesting area is at the top of the marveling I do about them.
Anyway, my brown goose came to shore a few feet from me and just started grooming her feathers and feet and then curled up for some shut eye. She never moved away from me. I sat with her for half an hour. Maybe it's all a coincidence ... I don't know. But it was amazing nonetheless. It was definitely a wow moment and made my day.
Pictured below is my brown goose in a photo I took last year. I posted this picture with a blog called ON BEING DIFFERENT.
The photos that follow were taken over the past few days.
"The Double-crested Cormorant's numbers decreased in the 1960s due to the effects of DDT. Colonies have also been persecuted from time to time in areas where they are thought to compete with human fishing.
Recently the population of Double-crested Cormorants has increased. Some studies have concluded that the recovery was allowed by the decrease of contaminants, particularly the discontinued use of DDT. The population may have also increased because of aquaculture ponds in its southern wintering grounds. The ponds favor good over-winter survival and growth." Source: Wikipedia
Cormorants surprisingly have webbed feet. They also need to get out of the water and dry off their feathers because they aren't 'water proof' like ducks and geese. I watched one a couple of days ago with outstretched wings sitting high up on a tree branch drying his feathers under the warm sun. (See photo above.) They primarily feed off fish, which puts them on the sh%$ list for some humans who find them too competitive. I get tired of the attitude that the earth's bounty is only for humans....
"Great and snowy egrets, some of the most beautiful and bizarre birds found in America,
were stalked by hunters for their long, soft breeding feathers to satisfy a nineteenth century
fashion trend. In the 1890’s, outraged by the resultant destruction of the egret hunts, a
group of Boston society women began gathering over tea to discuss what steps should be
taken to save the birds and their habitat. From these talks the modern Audubon Society was
born." Source: http://www.farallones.org/e_newsletter/2006-05/egrets.htm
"Coyotes have long been one of the most controversial of all non-game animals. Agricultural interests have urged its control by whatever means necessary so that actual and potential livestock losses may be eliminated. Since 1891, when the first programs aimed at control were begun in California, nearly 500,000 coyotes have been reported destroyed at a cost of an estimated $30 million of the taxpayers' money.
Environmentalists firmly believe that the coyotes are necessary to preserve the balance of nature. Some sportsmen feel the coyote is responsible for the declines in game species. Biologists agree that individual animals preying on livestock and poultry should be destroyed but that the species as a whole is not necessarily harmful, because much of its diet is made up of destructive rodents. Biologists also agree that coyote populations have no lasting effects on other wildlife populations. So the controversy rages on.
Coyotes have recently been classified as non-game animals in California and may be killed throughout the year under the authority of a hunting license." Source: http://www.trailsafe.org/coyotefacts.htm READ MORE AT: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sequoia/maps/brochures/coyotes.pdf
This was my first sighting (above) of a pelican in Colorado. I don't typically frequent the suburban parks and lakes this time of year because I'm usually heading to the mountains where I spend several months. There are no pelicans at 10,000 in the Rocky Mountains. I look forward to getting much better pelican pictures in the future. These are such beautiful birds -- something right out of a story book to me.
"It might seem to be impossible for birds of their size to float on top of the water, but the American White Pelican has the advantage of air-filled bones and air sacs that are located in their bodies. In contrast to other pelican species that dive from great heights to catch food, the White Pelican simply glides around, scooping fish out the water with its immense pouch. As the pelican is bound to scoop as much water as he does fish, the pouch is able to hold about 3 gallons of water. And instead of swallowing gallons of water with his meal, he bends his bill downward to drain the water, and then lifts his head up, to let his catch slide down his throat. An adult American White Pelican can eat approximately four pounds of fish a day, with preferred choices being that of jackfish, shiners, catfish, carp and yellow perch." Source: http://www.birds.com/species/a-b/american-white-pelican/
"As the name might suggest, the American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) is predominantly white in color with black plumage on its wings, and is approximately 60 inches in length with a 110 inch wingspan. They have very long, orange bills with pouches on their lower mandibles, and short legs with large webbed feet. Another very unique characteristic of the American White Pelican’s beak is that males develop a fibrous plate on the upper part of their beaks during the mating season. (You can barely see it in the photo above. I was wondering what that was when I took the picture!)
The American White Pelican is an extremely social bird, and is always found in colonies, or in the company of a friend. They are also family orientated, and therefore they will breed and rear their families in the safety of the colony. They tend to nest on islands and quiet areas, where the female can lay two to four white eggs, with a one month incubation period. Nests are built on the ground, using grass, reeds and sticks. Both parents take an active role in the rearing of their young, as both male and female pelicans will participate in feeding. The adult birds are very quiet, with the exception of the occasional grunt. The young however, will make themselves heard by squealing noisily." Source: http://www.birds.com/species/a-b/american-white-pelican/
Here's an excerpt: "We're all interconnected on this planet. I believe it's important to understand what that means and how all life matters. I cherish learning about the life that surrounds me in my own 'backyard'." READ MORE
A lover of nature once said,
"Happy he who, resting in the grass in
the evening close to an apiary, in the company of his
dog, heard the song of the bees blending itself
with the chirping of the crickets, with the sound
of the wind in the trees, the twinkling of the
stars and the slow march of the clouds!"
Beekeeping For All by Abbe Warre
How well I relate to that quote. Below are my bees on April 11, 2011. This is a wild beehive that I've been photographing since I first discovered it back in February.
The bees were so busy! It was great to see them again after all the cold and windy weather of late. I stood in the pathway to the hive - they know me so well by now -- and flew around me like they would a branch. Some would land on me to groom themselves. I just let them the way you would a cat that wants to rub against you. It didn't make me nervous. A couple landed on my camera. I hear the color black draws them in. Mostly they were busy carrying pollen back and forth to the hive.
At times there were stampedes like this (above) at the entrance to the hive where they were impatiently crawling over one another. It's cute to watch. I have no doubt that I could teach almost anyone to be not only fearless around bees, but to end up finding them adorable and fascinating. (The exception would be if you're allergic to bees.)
The bright yellow pollen is abundant, while this bright orange (below) is much more rare. I love seeing all the different earth tones of the pollen coming into the hive. It's what will determine the flavor the honey.
The photo below gives you a good shot of the entrance to the beehive inside this tree.
To see a lot more bee photos and to learn about honey bees and why they make honey and all kinds of cool bee facts visit MY LATEST BUZZ
"All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on."
Take some slow, deep breaths ....
Things that help when life gets tough ...
Taking time and making time to read a good book...
Faces that make me smile ...
Remembering good times like the children in a
Nepal orphanage who were so strong ....
This photo of the adorable little orphan always
makes me smile; his spirit was/is so inspiring...
I was lucky. I had a happy childhood with parents who
stayed together and loved me very much.
I'm glad for my time with wild 'pets' ....
Meditating is life-saving these days; it helps me let go.
And letting go of what I cannot change is needed
throughout each and every day. Sometimes
I get very tired of the amount
o f 'letting go' I
must do. It
change that either!
One thing I'll share here,
that is number one in my top ten of life's immediate
challenges, is that my dear, dear daughter
needs a liver transplant. She was on the list but
was removed recently because she's too sick to make
it through surgery. We're trying to get her nourished
enough and strong enough to get back on the list.
Add to that, some dark hearted souls around me
(this is the gentlest way I can put it),
who are so un-evolved and unaware.
Their actions are hurting those I love,
as well as me, yet circumstances
prevent me from stopping
I cannot change others, but I can change how I react to unjust
behavior and unfair circumstances. Attitude is a powerful tool.
The basics are key too. Getting enough sleep. Eating
the right things with a focus on getting all the
needed nutrition and not seeking
it's not the
time for deprivation either. I
make room for the occasional ice cream treat
or something special in small amounts.
It's just especially important to work
on creating and maintaining
balance at this time.
Some days are
A hot bath does wonders. And massages! Oh, wow! How I would love one
every single day! I did my first ever chair massage at Wild Oats
the other day. It was entirely impromptu. I could only
afford 15 minutes, but OMGosh ... it was so good.
I let myself get lost as the knots
It also helps to hear from family and friends. And knowing tomorrow is another day,
another chance for things to change, is helpful. I will not allow
anger to become a part of my life. It takes way too much
energy and it doesn't do any good.
I just go straight to the pain
and try working through it.
The sooner I do, the better.
It's not a cake walk, but
it keeps me moving.
I think I'm moving
One last thing, and it's a biggie, is how important my passions are in helping me push through these tough times. I indulge in one or more of my passions almost daily. For the past few months, I've been getting out most days (weather permitting) to walk and capture life through a lens. It's very soul feeding to me and I sure need a healthy soul to give me the strength to endure as my beautiful daughter struggles to live. I also need a tremendous amount of strength to accept the waves of injustice that constantly flow in my direction from a couple of seriously damaged people. (Sometimes I can go a couple days without the tears flowing.) Another passion is this website and the vehicle it is for my activism. It gives me a sense of purpose when so much around me doesn't make sense and seems to have no rhyme or reason.
I'm sending peace and acceptance out into the world today. Email me if you're going through some turbulent times and need encouragement: betsy at livehonestly dot com or if you want to send some positive thoughts my way, I would welcome that.
I don't feel like thinking deeply today. But the idea of "Walk Your Talk" has been on my mind lately so I wanted to at least mention how dear it is to me. I include the photo just to make you smile. I love her expression. I took this pic a couple of days ago when I had a chance encounter with this adorable goat. She loved attention and I was happy to give it to her. The wind was blowing like crazy that day, which is why you see her flying ear!
The title of this post - Walk Your Talk - is, in my proverbial book of life, one of the most inspiring and admirable qualities a human can have. And when the talk is real, where the motivation and agenda behind it are down to earth and pure, coming from a place without fear, human relationships have the best chance of thriving. Here's to all those who Walk Your Talk.
My mother is certainly among them. She has always led by example and is always unconditional with her love. Mom, I love you dearly and thank you every day for all that you have given and continue to give me. You make the world such a better place; you've clearly made my world a better place.
When I put this collage together I was thinking about all the ways animals communicate. As I researched the subject I came upon the infamous story of Koko and decided it was the perfect time to post an article about the marvelous wealth of information humans have learned from this incredible gorilla.
By Victoria Hendel De La O
Photos by Ron Cohn of The Gorilla Foundation
It’s only noon, but senior Tierra Wilson is already having a very good day. Tierra works at The Gorilla Foundation and she has spent the morning preparing meals for two very special individuals, who also happen to be lowland gorillas. With afternoon approaching, Tierra is heading into her favorite part of the day, when she gets to spend time with Koko, arguably the world’s most famous gorilla, and more importantly, one of Tierra’s best friends.
With her small frame, light blonde hair, and unassuming demeanor, Tierra is an unlikely playmate and friend for a 330-pound gorilla. Be that as it may, the 21-year-old, who has been working with the foundation since last spring, wouldn’t have it any other way.
Co-founded by Ron Cohn and Francine “Penny” Patterson, a former adjunct professor at SCU, the foundation promotes the “protection, preservation, and propagation” of gorillas. One of the primary projects at the foundation involves teaching a modified form of American Sign Language to two gorillas—Koko and Michael (who passed away in 2000).
Tierra says she had been watching television programs about Koko since she was a child, and she had always admired Penny Patterson. When she realized that The Gorilla Foundation was located in Woodside, just 45 minutes from SCU, Tierra knew she had to make something happen.
“I sent about three résumés each week for two months. I also called them every few days. Finally, I got through to someone,” she says. Because the foundation typically accepts only doctoral candidates for their program, Tierra had to convince them to grant her an interview. She told them that if they interviewed her, she would stop calling.
Tierra’s efforts paid off and she was accepted as a volunteer. On only her second day, Tierra made first contact with someone she had wanted to meet for a very long time. Koko had spotted her from afar and was signing “Love you visit hurry.” After getting clearance from Patterson, Tierra introduced herself to Koko and the pair immediately hit it off.
“Koko understands spoken English perfectly, but I didn’t know much sign language when I started, so she had to be patient with me at first,” she says. When Koko wanted to play chase and Tierra couldn’t understand her signs, Koko would resort to charades, acting out the game of chase. “She’ll dumb down her abilities to your level, which is a very humbling experience, but the more sign you know, the more she’ll talk to you.”
Part of the Team
After volunteering in the spring of 2004, Tierra became a more permanent member of the team when she was selected to be a paid research assistant and gorilla caregiver. Most mornings, this means preparing elaborate meals for Koko and Ndume, the foundation’s male gorilla. Ndume gets peanut butter and tortillas for breakfast, while Koko prefers gourmet fruit and vegetable platters. “She probably eats healthier than I do,” Tierra says. In the afternoons, she sets up activities for the gorillas and spends time with Koko, watching videos, playing games, and talking.
Tierra says that, despite Koko’s size, she is remarkably gentle. “Koko likes very innocent activities. She loves playing with dolls and watching movies. She usually makes you watch the same movie over and over until she’ s tired of it. I think we watched ‘Pretty Woman’ 20 times,” Tierra says.
Over time, Tierra found that she was talking more and more to Koko about her own life. “I tell her all kinds of things about myself, or even just about how my day’s going. She really has become one of my best friends,” she says.
At Koko’s 33rd birthday party, Tierra even brought her own kitten, Araña, as a special treat so Koko could play. “Koko is between kittens right now, but she loves them. She just lit up when she saw Araña,” Tierra says.
But like all friends, Koko and Tierra have their off days, too. One afternoon, after trying unsuccessfully to get Koko to go back into her house (“You can’t make a 330-pound gorilla do anything she doesn’t want to do,” Tierra explains), Tierra enlisted Ron Cohn’s help. Cohn, who is an authority figure to Koko, came out and insisted that Koko go inside. “She knew I had told on her and, as she was walking into her house, Koko turned around and signed to me that I was a ‘toilet’,” Tierra says.
Having grown up on a farm in Grass Valley, Calif., where she says there were “lambs running around the house in diapers,” Tierra is no stranger to bonding with animals. (Her first name even means “earth” in Spanish.) Still, Tierra says that most days she is thrilled and surprised by what takes place at the foundation.
“I’m as much in awe of Penny as I am of the experience of working with Koko and Ndume. Each day I learn something new from all of them,” she says.
In fact, Tierra thinks that most people could learn something from Koko. “She’s so open with her feelings,” Tierra explains. “Humans tend to taint everything as they get older and they have ulterior motives, but with gorillas, there is no clouding of emotions. If Koko loves you, you’ll know it, and if she’s sad, you’ll know that, too.”
Tierra says that Koko is very empathetic, as well. Once, after spraining her wrist, Tierra came to the foundation wearing a brace. Koko, who usually insists on having everything explained to her in detail, wanted to hear the story. “She made signs of ‘hurt’ and ‘sad’ and really cared about my pain,” she says. “But that’s typical of her.”
Koko now knows more than 1,000 signs. She expresses her feelings and thoughts on almost any subject, including her own suffering. When Koko recently began complaining about pain in her tooth, Patterson gave Koko a chart with a scale from one to 10 so she could rate her discomfort. Eventually, Koko indicated that the pain was severe enough to warrant a surgical procedure. In fact, she asked for one.
Since it’s potentially dangerous to put a gorilla under anesthesia, a team of doctors was brought in to take care of Koko’s medical needs during the surgery. In addition to having her tooth pulled, Koko received a complete physical examination, presided over by 12 specialists.
For Tierra, the surgery was packed with mixed emotions of both concern and scientific fascination. “It was a very stressful situation to see our friend in such a vulnerable state, but I got to hold her hand and comfort her during the surgery. I kissed her nose and gave her a big hug,” she says.
Tierra is equally proud of the inroads she has made with Ndume, Koko’s partner. “As a free-living silverback, he’d be protecting a whole group of gorillas, so he’s naturally more suspicious of others. Each time he shows a little more trust toward me, I feel like it’s a huge accomplishment,” Tierra says. “Koko throws her affection around pretty willingly, but you have to really win Ndume over.”
Beyond gorilla care, Tierra also works on the foundation’s behalf with the Santa Clara Community Action Program (SCCAP), SCU’s student volunteer organization. She and other members of SCCAP visit elementary schools and educate children about gorillas and their status as an endangered species. They also provide curricula to teachers so they can continue the conversation in the classroom.
“There is little room left for gorillas. They are being poached and eaten and they may be functionally extinct in as little as five years,” Tierra says. “They won’t make it in the long run unless there’s a change in our mindset, and that means there needs to be awareness among our youth.”
Tierra herself is a living testament to this philosophy, as well as to the foundation’s commitment to educating and inspiring the next generation. “Working with Tierra and her friends from the university has helped to re-energize our project,” Patterson says. “She brings fresh perspectives and boundless enthusiasm to everything she does. Everyone, from Koko to the folks in the business office, appreciates her talents and hard work. We consider ourselves extremely lucky to have such a dedicated group of individuals contributing their ambitious new ideas.”
Tierra, who is a double major in combined sciences and studio art, shudders a bit when she thinks about graduating and making her way in what she calls the “real world.” But she knows she has already been given an incredible gift by The Gorilla Foundation, as it has set her on a life path—a path that some might say is a calling. She hopes to keep working for the foundation for the next couple of years, possibly even going to Cameroon where the foundation funds educational programs to teach local people about the value of conserving wildlife.
The foundation also helped fund the creation of the Michael Sanctuary near Yaounde, Cameroon, which is currently home to 11 orphaned gorillas. And it is these orphans that seem to be the true inspiration behind Tierra’s interest: “There are babies there,” she says almost in a whisper, with a gleam in her eye.
Tierra would also like to apply her artistic talents to help illustrate a book being written about African legends. Proceeds from the book will go directly to helping the orphaned gorillas in Cameroon.
Eventually, Tierra would like to go to veterinary school. But for now she is content to explore what’s just beyond the doors that have been opened for her—or rather the doors she has kicked open for herself.
“I used to be so close-minded about what was possible in life. This has really expanded my horizons because now I see that you can do anything,” Tierra says.
—Victoria Hendel De La O is a Santa Clara University writer/editor. ORIGINAL SOURCE OF THIS ARTICLE: http://www.scu.edu/scm/spring2005/koko.cfm
When Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson began teaching Koko sign language, it soon became apparent that gorilla hands were shaping the language in a unique way. But as A CONVERSATION WITH KOKO dramatically shows, the difference wasn't surprising, for gorilla hands are shaped quite differently than a person's. In particular, gorilla thumbs are smaller than ours, meaning the apes can't make some signs the way a person would. As a result, Koko has developed what Patterson calls Gorilla Sign Language, or GSL.
Koko grasped ASL quickly.GSL isn't the first new sign language. People in Europe, Asia, and the Americas have all developed their own sign languages, just as they have created their own spoken and written languages. And just as written English is built from an alphabet of 26 letters, ASL is built from a collection of fluid, expressive gestures. The meanings of some signs are clear even to those who don't speak ASL. Putting fingers to your mouth, for instance, refers to eating, while a pantomime of fluttering fingers means rain. Other signs, however, are much more abstract and may have no obvious relationship to their meaning. There is no obvious reason, for instance, why a particular finger twisted at the cheek should mean "candy." But just as poets mold English into surprising new combinations and creative kids invent entire new slang vocabularies every year, ASL users are constantly evolving their language, developing new signs or stringing old ones together in startling new ways.
That people can teach each other new ASL signs isn't surprising. But the idea that people could teach a gorilla to sign surprised many. Koko's quick grasp of ASL, however, may have been aided by the fact that wild gorillas already appear to have their own form of sign language. Researchers have detected a whole suite of hand gestures and body postures the animals use to communicate; to Koko, learning ASL may seem like learning a dialect of her own existing language. And just as humans often adapt foreign words to their own language, Koko appears to have adapted ASL signs to fit her own needs -- and the shape of her hands. Just as bilingual speakers have created mixed languages like "Spanglish" (Spanish and English), Koko apparently has created GSL, a mixture of ASL and her own gestures.
It's a full time job learning what foods offer the best nutrition and what foods to avoid due to contaminants. This blog post is about
I'm an artist, writer, photographer, private investigator and an activist in small ways.
"Turning indifference into making a difference."
A labor of love website devoted to animal and human rights, and better living. A place to be inspired ...
My LADYBUG book is filled with beautiful images & inspiring quotes. Click here for more info.
I visited the Tiger Temple in Thailand & later found out it is under investigation for tiger trafficking and animal abuse. Read full story. In 2015 it was raided. More than 100 tigers and protected bird species in Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua, popularly known as the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province were impounded by authorities following complaints that the temple was alleged to engage in illegal wildlife trading.
"The moment one gives close attention to anything,
even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious,
awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself."
~ Henry Miller
DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS helps people worldwide where the need is greatest, delivering emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters or exclusion from healthcare.
Read about life in the woods with Chippy & the crew...