Thursday, January 29, 2015

Avian Cholera Outbreak at Walker Lake



Walker Lake's Water fowl in peril


Walker Lake, which should stand as a showcase for Nevada has certainly seen much adversity over the years.  The once thriving, natural high desert lake provided the  Agaicutta People (Paiute for Cutthroat Trout)   with food sources that were much more varied and higher in nutrition that our modern diets.   Fish, wildlife, water fowl and vegetation were plentiful and life was good.  Once the settlers started moving in, the Walker River, the main source of water that feeds Walker Lake, was diverted for agriculture usage.  Today, the Walker River is at least 130% over allocated.  As a result, not enough fresh water enters Walker Lake, which has caused the level to drop and the salinity to increase.  Presently, due to the high salt level, the lake is no longer able to support native fish. 

Walker Lake's origin dates back to the Pleistocene epoch, (Ice Age) when Lake Lahontan covered most of what is now the Great Basin Desert.  As the land dried and the climate warmed, Lake Lahontan began to recede, leaving a number of isolated lakes in closed basins, including Walker Lake. 

Not too long ago, Walker Lake was a thriving source of water out in the desert. It was known for the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout which could grow to 40 pounds in size.  Walker Lake was also a major stop-over for migratory birds. Located on the Pacific Flyway, the north-south travel route for American migratory birds, the water and shores provided essential food sources for the birds to rest and refuel.  


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Since the salty lake can no longer support the native fish, many of the seasonal visitors like the Common Loons that used to number in the hundreds no longer stop over at the lake. However a large number of shore birds still make Walker Lake their home, including the California Gull, American Coot, Long billed crulew and even the salt-loving Phalaropes.  


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The latest adversity to hit Walker Lake is an outbreak of Avian cholera that could put the remaining shore birds in great peril.


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  A number of dead birds have been spotted along the shore at Walker Lake.


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  Most of the birds appear to be American Coots. 


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 There was one Mallard that appeared to have washed up on the shore.


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Avian cholera is a disease of fowl, which has crossed over from wild birds to become most prevalent in waterfowl.  The disease is found in wetland areas all across the globe and even North America.  Most of the outbreaks occur during the cold, wet weather of winter.  


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The bodies of several American Coots are caught in the tumbleweeds that line the shore.

Unfortunately once the disease is transmitted, it is almost impossible to contain. The area becomes contaminated with body secretions from diseased birds, which can remain in the water for several weeks.  It is spread by direct contact to birds that are showing various symptoms including mucous draining from the mouth, nasal discharge and blood stained diarrhea. 


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 The bacteria is ingested from contaminated food and even spread by birds scavenging on infected carcasses.  

 
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Avian cholera is a horrible disease and has been know to kill so quickly that birds literally die while flying and fall from the sky.


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 Infected birds may suffer convulsions, disorientation where they swim in circles, throw their heads around violently and even fly upside down.  


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The only means of containment is prompt removal and proper disposal of the dead carcasses.  I am very concerned at this time how long these birds have been lying dead and how many other birds have become diseased.  Time will surely tell and I do hope with all my being that Walker Lake will not suffer another major loss in its beauty of all the remaining birds the grace her beautiful skies.

 
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For additional reading:

http://bonnierannald.blogspot.com/2012/02/inland-gulls-of-walker-lake-nevada.html
http://bonnierannald.blogspot.com/2012/08/walker-lake-water-fowl.html
http://www.walkerlakenv.org/articles%204.htm

http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/disease_information/avian_cholera/



No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.

 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.


"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"


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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Alum Creek, Mineral County's Unique Ecosystem



Photo-touring in Nevada's Back Country

 
Far off the beaten path and nestled in the rugged canyons of Central Nevada lies a unique ecosystem of Piñon and tall Ponderosa's pines, where nature seems to thrive against all odds.  A small stream flows down between trees that are so huge; they must be over 100 years old.  


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This stream is Alum Creek and is located south of Lucky Boy Pass in Mineral County, Nevada.  Around the mid 1800's when mining was in it’s hey day, a creek in the Lucky Boy area flowed from Poison Spirit to Cottonwood Creek.  The presence of alum in solution was discovered in this creek so it became known as Alum Creek.  During this time, the Lucky Boy mines that were located in the Alum Creek district were producing yearly over a million dollars of silver and lead.  


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In present times, only a small trickle of water still flows down the creek bed.  With the severe drought that has been plaguing both Nevada and California, I am very surprised the creek has not completely dried up.  Over winter, even the snow pack that replenishes the ground water has become less significant.  


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With the climate warming and drying, will the pines that have created this unusual habitat still be able to adapt?   The piñon pine, Pinus edulis, native to the Southwestern U.S. will survive on available water and is drought tolerant.  Piñon can grow to 15-35 ft (4.6-10.7 m) tall and 12-24 inches (.3-.6 m) in diameter.  They produce the edible pinyon nuts which were a staple food source for the Native Americans.


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The Ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa is found in mountainous topography at elevations 3,000 and 9,000' (914-2700m) where there is moderate rainfall.  Mature trees can reach from 60-130' (18-39 m) with a diameter of 30-60" (9-1.7 m).  


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Alum Creek which at one time was a favorite area for family outings and picnics still offers a peaceful mountain retreat from the high desert landscape. 


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 While I sit and admire the green pines that reach for the deep blue sky, two lizards come out to warm in the sun. As I watch them I ask a silent blessing on this unique pocket that time seems to have overlooked.  I hope against all odds that the unique ecosystems of Alum Creek will have the tenacity to adjust and that we will continue to enjoy its peace and oneness of nature for many generations to come.


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No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.

 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.


"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"


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Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Winter's Repose at Mono Lake



Ancient spirits, Volcano Domes and Tufa Towers



 Do you sometimes have a week where you just have to get away from technology, communications and all news media?  When I have one of those weeks, Mono Lake is one of my favorite places to retreat from the world and find peace.  

The ancient lake which is known to have an age of at least 760,000 years, might actually date back to over 1 million years and is one of the oldest lakes in North America.  With a level of 6378.9 feet asl (1,946 meters) and approximate volume of 2.6 million acre feet, Mono Lake is cradled among extinct volcano domes.  The Sierra Nevada Mountains and the gateway to Yosemite rise up in the near distance.  

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Sitting in a quiet spot and gazing out over the salty, alkaline blue water, I feel a peaceful solitude. 

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 Today, the ecosystem of the lake is composed of algae, brine shrimp and alkali flies, which is a huge draw for any number of breeding and migratory birds. However on this cold day, the shores are still and the lake quiet from the repose of winter.      

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Tufa towers accent the shoreline, reminding me of rocks that represent the souls of ancestors.

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Tufa are produced from the interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water, forming calcium-carbonate spires and knobs.  

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As I sit in my solitude and reminisce about the life and times of this primitive lake, the sun drops lower in the sky, signaling that it's time to be on my way.  On my return home, I must travel the winding road through  the 7626 feet (2324.4 m) Anchorite Pass and at night there is always the concern about hitting in to wildlife on the dark road.  

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No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.

 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.


"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"


Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.




Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Chasing Comet Lovejoy over Walker Lake



Stargazing in the the not so dark skies



After several failed attempts chasing around the night sky looking for Comet Lovejoy with my Nikon 500mm lens, I was finally able to catch the tiny green fuzzy image before it became too faint to recognize.   The New Year's comet or Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is named for the Australian comet-hunter Terry Lovejoy who first spotted it on August 17, 2014.  Passing closest to Earth on January 7, 2015, the comet was reported to be at its brightest on this evening and easily visible before moonrise.

Several years ago, the dark night skies over Walker Lake were outstanding as they glittered with stars. At this time, I would walk outside to watch the Milkey Way overhead which seemed so close that I could almost reach up and touch the stars.  Now days, people seem to need more artificial light and the wondrous stars no longer  stand out against the dark sky.  Hoping for darker skies, I went over to the camping area at Sportsman's Beach to try and catch a photo of the comet.  Unfortunately as far as I was from artificial lights, the sky that had once brought stargazers to Walker Lake was not that dark anymore. 

Carefully looking through my lens, I was finally able to catch a faint glimpse of Comet Lovejoy in the upper right quadrant of the sky, high above the Constellation Orion. 
 
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Although I did not get the hoped for clear photo of Comet Lovejoy, the evening's photography wasn't a total wash.  Soon the sky over the Gillis Mountain Range began to lighten as the remainder of January's full moon started to ascend in the east sky. 

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Changing over to my Nikon 35-70mm lens, I caught the mountains reflecting in the calm water with the stars shining in the distance.
 
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Just before the moon peeked over the mountain, I focused in on Jupiter shining brightly and glowing in the lake. 

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 Maybe if there is another clear, calm night in January, I might try my luck on an old mining trail road and see if the skies are any darker from that location. 





No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.

 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.


"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"


Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.

 
 


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Bodie and Benton Rail Road



Starting the New Year with an outing back in time.

After a very cold spell over the holidays, I was ready to stretch my legs and get my photography finger clicking.  My plan was to time my outing when the temperature warmed just enough to produce freezing fog which would accent the landscape with a surrealistic effect.

  I headed over to Lee Vining, California and Mono Lake where there is so much diversity in the terrain.  Unfortunately I was not in luck for any freezing fog dazzling the landscape this day, but the clouds were putting on a bravo performance.

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Of the many aspects that I love about nature photography, coming on an ordinary object that stands out with its own unique story is definitely my favorite.  Such was the case when I took a turn on a dirt road just down from an interesting out-cropping of layered volcanic rocks. 

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 Having just read a New Year's post from a friend regarding happy gains and missed opportunities, these words kept running through my thoughts as I started walking.

At the entrance to road 3N103 stands a monument to what remains of the Bodie and Benton Short Line Rail Road. 

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 Over looking the High Sierra's and Mono Basin, the narrow-gauge line ran between Mono Mills and Benton. 

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 Built in 1881, the 32 mile (54.49km) rail brings back reflections of a past era.  I could just envision the train loaded with ore traveling through mountains and forests to reach the mining town of Bodie which stood at 8,500 feet (2950.8 m) elevation.

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As a token of missed opportunities, tumbleweed grows in the desert sand between the railroad ties.

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 The rail line was dismantled in 1918 due to the decline of mining in Bodie around the 1910's.  Bodie now stands persevered with the California State Parks as a ghost town. 

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Across from the railroad monument, the bare trunk of a cedar tree catches my eye.  Since it is the only large tree in the area, I wonder what stories it could tell.  

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A glance at the clouds moving across the basin signaled that it was time to move on and explore other locations, plus as the sun rose higher  so was the air temperature.  Furthermore, I was very interested to find how far I could get toward Tioga Pass and the gateway to Yosemite.  Stay tuned for the next leg of my outing and a detour to Virginia Lake.

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No images on this blog are within Public Domain.






With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.

 All rights reserved, world-wide and images protected by Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All photography, graphics, text, design, and content is copyrighted by Bonnie Rannald and should not be copied, down-loaded, transferred and re-created in any way without the express consent, in writing to Bonnie Rannald. For information on Bonnie Rannald licensed, right-managed images, please submit a written request.


"Reflecting Nature's Artistry"


Follow this blog for upcoming post!
Photos Make Great Gifts!
Many of these images are available on our website.
We now offer Gift Certificates and Digital Downloads in addition to the
"Off The Wall" custom matted and framed images.