August 7th, 2009

Birds As Art Bulletin #295


  • Birds of Southern California: Opening Reception Sunday August 9, 2009

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Snow Geese/Blizzard in Blue, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Bosque is an internationally beloved photographic destination; please take a moment to send an e-mail in support of the refuge as requested in item 1 below. This was the first of my seven BBB Wildlife Photographer of the Year-honoured images. For technical details, please see page 96 of the original “The Art of Bird Photography” now available in soft cover.


I received the following from Leigh Ann Vradenburg, Executive Director, Friends of the Bosque del Apache NWR:

The Friends of the Bosque, Bosque del Apache NWR, private citizens, conservation groups, and other federal, state and local agencies, are concerned about 2 proposed high capacity 500 kilovolt (kV) transmission lines through south and central New Mexico. The lines will transfer energy produced through wind and solar generators east of here, to areas in southern Arizona. It is clear that there is every intent to expand use of the corridor once it is established. The transmission route requires crossing the Rio Grande, and the proposed corridor follows Highway 380 through San Antonio just north of the Refuge. This proposal transects the flight path used by migratory birds including the sandhill cranes, snow geese, and ducks that travel up and down the river valley. Bird strikes and impacts to the rural farming community are of great concern, not to mention the degradation of the viewscape of the refuge and Socorro valley (an important resource to the ecotourism of the area). Alternate routes take the power lines across the river between the Refuge and Hatch, New Mexico and along the boundary of White Sands Missile Range. These routes go through Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wilderness Study Areas. Although one of these southern routes may be preferred due to the apparent lesser impact on the birds, there is not enough data available to make such an important statement at this time.

Comments should be submitted by email to For more information please go to or call the BLM Project Manager Adrian Garcia at (505)438-7424

(To learn more about Friends of Bosque, visit their web site at Do consider supporting the group by joining. You can learn of the membership options here: BIRDS AS ART has been a member for several years.)

We hope that you will exercise your right to comment under the National Environmental Policy Act. The comment period closes on August 28, 2008.

Below is a suggested comment letter. Feel free to add your personal thoughts and comments.

On behalf of the Friends of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, I would like to express strong opposition to the proposed route of the SunZia 500kV transmission lines through San Antonio, and request that you extend the comment period until August 31st. Following the public meeting in Socorro and the subsequent meeting with Bosque del Apache staff, it is obvious that there are many unanswered questions as to the effect that these power lines will have on migratory birds, specifically the sandhill cranes. As a former resident of the San Luis Valley, I have witnessed the devastation that power lines can cause to flocks of cranes under adverse weather conditions, and how they hastened the demise of the reintroduced whooping crane population. Running two 500kV lines (and countless ones to follow) perpendicular to the daily flight path of many over-wintering cranes is further complicating an already obstructed path for this struggling population.

There are alternate routes to the south that appear to be better for this purpose since they do not intersect a daily flight path and may be in a location where many birds are flying higher on a longer migration jump; however, there is not enough data or time at this point to determine the best route. Bosque del Apache biologists have given Tom Wray the name of Rod Drewien, a retired researcher and expert on cranes, and we expect that Rod will be consulted before a route is finalized. Additionally the Friends would like SunZia to consider avoiding the Wilderness Study Areas on the alternate routes by gaining access on White Sands Missile Range in the far northwest corner of the range. This minimal use of military lands would be the most environmentally sensitive to the Refuge, the Wilderness Study Areas, and the local Rio Grande wildlife corridor, and preferred by the community of San Antonio.

Socorro is the second poorest county in New Mexico, and the Festival of the Cranes, held annually at Bosque del Apache NWR is the single greatest income generating event. The Refuge has an estimated economic impact of $4.3 million for the region. Ecotourism for the county is directly linked to the Refuge, and anything that harms the wildlife or mars the view of this rural setting is going to have a negative impact on visitation. Since there is no obvious economic benefit of this project to the area, there is no excuse to compromise our community with this project.

The Friends of the Bosque are 1,000 members strong, and undoubtedly you have heard from many of our members following my urgent email to a subset of them after the public meeting. Many more Friends, as well as the largely uninformed citizens of San Antonio and Socorro, would oppose this route if they only knew about it. The Friends support our country’s efforts to supply renewable energy, and we support the Refuge working with BLM and SunZia to ensure that the corridor chosen for this project has limited negative environmental impacts. The only way that the best route can be chosen is if there is adequate time to involve the biologists and the White Sands Missile Range in the evaluation. This is a monumental project when the impacts of this and future lines are considered, and hasty decisions are not in the best interest of the wildlife, the community, Bosque del Apache NWR, BLM, or SunZia. Please make the time to do this right.

Please write Leigh Ann with any questions:

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Sandhill Crane braking in flight, Bosque del Apache NWR, San Antonio, NM
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 800mm f/56L IS lens with the EOS-1D MIII. ISO 1000. Evaluative metering +2 stops off the light grey sky: 1/500 sec. at f/5.6.

The thought of a crane striking a power line is not a pleasant one. Bosque is a wonderful teaching laboratory and holds a special place in my heart. The thought of photographers being restricted to their vehicles there is not a pleasant one.


The following is an e-mail exchange that I had last month with Officer Shawn Gillette, Supervisory Outdoor Recreation Planner, Bosque del Apache NWR:

AM: Howdy Officer Shawn, Is there any truth to the persistent rumors that visitors to the refuge will be restricted to their vehicles on the refuge tour roads?

SG: No. That is only a rumor. As I have said on several occasions in the past, this is only one of a range of options that we are looking into as part of our CP process to deal with the issue of harassment of the birds during the busy winter. Other options may include No Action (or current policy), or something a little more stringent than the No Action alternative, but far less stringent than restricting visitation during the winter months to Stay-in-Your-Car only. We have to explore all options before deciding which one to adapt. So far, the rumors have only addressed one of the options, but have said nothing about the other possibilities.

AM: That is good to know. As I have said to you many times before, in 15 years of extensive Bosque visits I have seen intentional harassment of the ducks or geese only once, that when a 10 year old un-supervised child ran at some Snow Geese resting on the shore of the Pay-booth Pond right across from the Visitor Center. And incidences of disturbances of geese have been virtually nonexistent. Same with the ducks unless you count their swimming slowly away from the tour loop roads upon the approach of a vehicle…. All of the above not counting the disturbance of flocks of ducks and geese by refuge/government vehicles either speeding or traveling on the inside roads or both. I have witnessed this type of disturbance on at least two dozen occasions over the year.

SG: The problem with rumors is that almost always they are either incorrect or incomplete. Thanks for taking this one to the source. Please share this with your Bulletin subscribers as we would welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.

AM: I shall do just that. If my memory is correct, I first heard the rumor from Officer Patty at a photographer’s orientation meeting that my group attended in 2008. Do you know if there will be any chance for the public to comment before the fact?

SG: Yes, there will be a period of public comment when the draft comes out. That is tentatively scheduled for late 2010 (I think). Since we are at the beginning of the process, we are still in the period of formulating approaches and strategies for dealing with disturbance issues. I’ll take your comments into consideration when discussing this issue. You bring up a good point about government vehicles; last year, the problem government vehicle wasn’t one of ours, but rather a Bureau of Recreation vehicle that had access to our service roads. This operator was digitally photographed and we took it to the Bureau of Recreation as proof that their vehicles were disturbing the birds. Please consider doing the same when you return. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words (or a $1000.00 fine); last year was certainly proof of that!

AM: Will do. Thanks again for getting back to me. If keeping folks in their cars is part of the plan, I look forward to having a chance to comment. Please therefore keep me in the loop. Thanks and later and love, artie

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Sandhill Crane with chicks, Indian Lake Estates, FL
Image Copyright 2009: Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART
Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens with the EOS-1Ds MII. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/30 sec. at f/4 set manually. Fill flash with Better Beamer at -1 stop.

This is a heads up: thanks to the generosity of Canon USA and the Explorers of Light program, there will be an exhibit of my work at Bok Tower here in Lake Wales in early 2010. This is one of the two signature images. Details to follow.

Birds of Southern California: Opening Reception Sunday August 9, 2009

Hi received the following e-mail from Blake Shaw:

Hi Artie, In January 2003 I attended a weekend photography seminar that you did in San Diego. Prior to this workshop I had spent very little time photographing birds. I have gradually become more interested in bird photography. During the past two years I have spent a great deal of time photographing the birds of southern California, mostly in San Diego. I have always kept in mind what I learned during your workshop while applying my own artistic sensibilities. (You admonished me for not keeping the sun at my back during our Sunday In-the-Field session.) I would greatly appreciate it if you might publicize my upcoming one-person show of bird photography at San Diego’s Mission Trails Park Visitor Center Gallery. It is entitled Birds of Southern California and will run from August 8-September 4. The reception is on August 9 from 1-4 p.m. I would look forward to meeting some of southern California’s many bird photographers.

I have enclosed the publicity post-card, as well as a link to a gallery of selected images from the show:

Thank you again for jump-starting my interest in bird photography and for helping to improve my techniques. Sincerely, Blake Shaw

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Great news: I just learned that this image will be one of eighteen honored images in this year’s National Wildlife Federation’s contest. More great news: I just learned that this image is in the finals of the Nature’s Best contest.

BIRDS AS ART proudly announces the limited sale of another classic Arthur Morris image, “Gannets in Love.”

This endearing image was created at Bonaventure Island, Perce, Quebec, Canada. The thick gallery wrap (1 ½ inches) canvas is hand-made in the US under the supervision of the artist and is available only through BIRDS AS ART.

This is the second in a series of Arthur Morris’ digitally signed, numbered, limited edition gallery-wrapped canvas prints. The canvas is stretched over custom-made wood supports. The canvas has no frame and appears to float on the wall. There’s no need for a frame for stability since the structure is inside the art. These fine canvas limited edition prints are covered with a rear black dust cover. The hanging wire is neatly attached and a courtesy package with two clear bump-ons, a nickel plated hanger and nail are included.

This edition will be limited to 100 pieces of any size. Once the final print is sold the edition will be permanently closed making each Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART print a valuable collectible. Each 16 x 24 inch print is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

The first fifty prints will sell for only $349 plus $20 shipping and handling to all US addresses. Once 50 prints are sold, the price will rise to $424. The last five prints will sell for $499. (Please e-mail for prices on other sizes and for framing options.)

Prints ordered before September 30, 2009 may apply a $50 discount. These prints are in stock and ready to ship now.

Shipping and handling to Canada will require an additional $35 handling fee. (Canadian orders may be subject to Customs delays and duties and require payment via personal check or money order in US funds.)

Each image will be professionally packed to avoid damage during transit. All fees are due and payable in advance in US funds. (We cannot be responsible for delays at customs.)

Payment may be by check or money order mailed to Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855, by Paypal to, or by credit card. Please call 863-692-0906 for credit card orders.

We offer a 100% money back guarantee. If for any reason you are not completely satisfied we will gladly accept a return for exchange or refund provided that the item is returned within seven days of receipt and is in saleable condition. We refund only the purchase price plus the shipping and handling. Return shipping is the responsibility of the customer. This guarantee does not include prints that you damage or that are damaged in shipping. If your print is damaged in shipping, please let us know and we will arrange to have a replacement sent. Please allow 14 days for your check to clear.

We are 100% positive that ”Gannets in Love” will join “Fire in the Mist” and become a treasured collector’s item; thank you for your support of my work.

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