Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why did the swan cross the road?

All loss of life is just that, a loss. Sometimes it fits neatly into the circle of life, and sometimes it stands out like a tear in the fabric.

A freshly killed mute swan, only a hundred yards down the road from my house, makes you wonder where it fits into that equation. Clearly a tragic fate for a grand and beautiful bird, but if you're familiar with the problem with mute swans as an invasive species, muscling out the more timid, native, trumpeter swan, I found myself thinking of it as a tipping of the scale, even though I realize road-killed mute swans have absolutely no bearing on the real balance of populations.

It's funny how our feelings towards a species change when we have backstory about their character and role in ecology. People who know nothing about mute swans adore the animal, where as people who are ecologically informed often despise them. It's kind of like discovering a well loved sports figure beats and kills dogs in his spare time.

Perhaps the most telling fact to come out of my discovery of the dead swan was how motorists responded to the situation. First of all, it was a motorist who hit, and killed, the swan, and didn't stop to remove the animal from the road. Secondly, the whole time I was laying on the ground filming the swan, not a single car stopped to pull the swan out of the road. The only person to stop, did so because they thought I was injured on the side of the road. Like human road kill.

It took a 911 call to usher in a Kalamazoo Township officer who arrived on the scene and finally dragged the carcass off the road. The caller reported seeing a "suspicious looking package" in the middle of the road.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


With the blanket of snow now dissolved into the earth, another white now stands out against the dull browns of late winter: the bone white of antlers on the ground. It's shed season.

In that spirit, I'm posting a deleted scene from ANIMALS AMONG US of a family that shares their first, exciting encounter with antler sheds right in their backyard.

I deleted this and a number of other scenes involving people's thoughts and stories involving urban wildlife. I opted to go with my own personal journey of discovery in the film for thematic simplicity. It was a tough decision, but now I have a chance to finally share some of those scenes with you. Enjoy.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Star of the Show

I want to thank all the people who came down to the Nature Connection last Friday to see me and the animals. It was a never ending stream of people and conversation, with wildlife and the environment dominating the airwaves. Just the way we like it.

I had a great time and am grateful for old friends showing up, as well as many new friends introducing themselves and sharing some kind of affinity for animals, photography or the environment.

My greatest joy was being able to explain exactly where and how the photographs were taken, especially since most people knew the exact locations. People were dumbfounded to find out that the buck pictured above was photographed at WMU's Research Park, and that the church in the background was a couple hundred yards away, with Highway 131 running between the two. That fact elicited a number of "aha's". And from now on, I bet they'll see that spot on the highway in a completely different light.

Based on feedback from people, as well as sales, the clear favorite for the night was the gray fox photo, which didn't surprise me since it was probably my favorite as well. I love that photo because it's the quintessential "urban animal" (although playgrounds are just as easily sub-urban or even rural). And with the fox so small in relation to the bars of the jungle gym, it perfectly represents that "little piece of the wild".