NARRATIVES ON THE PAINTINGS
CONATA BASIN, in South Dakota, is a portrait of the ailing Great Plains in microcosm. Adjacent to Badlands National Park, the basin is the site of a black-footed ferret reintroduction program. The critically endangered ferret attacks a black-tailed prairie dog, its exclusive food source. The prairie dog itself has been the target of relentless poisoning and shooting campaigns for many decades. Bison skulls litter the badlands, a testament to the recently extirpated herds.. An endangered American burying beetle makes an appearance. A prairie falcon, its population formerly threatened by DDT, hovers.
YOLO is named for a wintering ground of the sandhill crane in the Sacramento Delta of California. A species that has rebounded after decades of market hunting, it is still subject to regulated sport hunting. The intrusion of man on the landscape is indicated by the leg hold trap, which may have been set for furbearers such as muskrat, otter or coyote.
ADMONITION is what Western scrub jays fiercely communicate to a barn owl, which has made the mistake of showing itself by day in the branches of a valley oak.
The title, PREDECESSORS, refers to the countless communal generations of acorn woodpeckers, which inhabited the Western landscape before the coming of man.
The distant view is of the new settlement of Kelseyville circa 1868, in what is now Lake County, California.
THE ROSEVILLE SALMON depicts a Chinook salmon making the final ascent to its gravel spawning beds in a tributary of the Sacramento River. Sensing an opportunity,
a bald eagle and a common raven attend the great fish.
KELSEYVILLE, MAY shows the flaring reaction of a California thrasher to the sight of a gopher snake. It is a scene most likely observed in Spring, when the ambient temperature is just right for serpent mobility and birds are nesting.
REGENERATION shows the relentless cycle of life and death, which is evident everyday in the Lamar Valley of the Upper Yellowstone River country of Wyoming.
After being extirpated from the American West, gray wolves were reintroduced from Canada in the 1990s. They have subsequently reduced local elk numbers by 60%, helping reestablish a balanced ecosystem.
In BLOODY ISLAND, an American white pelican retrieves evidence from the murky waters of Clear Lake, California of a recent massacre of Pomo Indians by the U.S. Army.
A Pomo village burns onshore. A red-winged blackbird flares its military epaulettes.
JUDICIAL PROCEEDING pictures a sample of nine crows from the annual late summer gathering of crow tribes in a valley oak canopy in California. Each bird recognizes its colleagues by their individual utterances, tonalities of voice and beak clicking. A family of feral swine files through the meadow below.
HOPE ARKANSAS is a birder’s fond dream of the abundant return from extinction of the “Lord-God Bird”, the ivory-billed woodpecker. Wishful thinking springs eternal with regard to this bird, an icon of the Southern cypress swamps. The old cypresses have all been cut down during the past century and the swamps turned into soybean fields, ensuring the ivory-bill’s doom. Nonetheless, every decade or so, some true believer claims to have seen one of these birds risen from the dead.
KONOCTI erupts in the distance, while a California condor mantles a recently deceased pronghorn antelope. The scene could date from Mount Konocti’s last eruption thousands of years ago, or it could be a picture of a future in which these two species have reclaimed their former territory.
TARANGIRI in Northern Tanzania is a dry season refuge for elephants and plains game.
Along the banks of the inches deep Tarangiri River, a saddle-billed stork probes for prey accompanied by an opportunistic Nile monitor. The lizard often seizes any small animal the stork flushes. Between them they tug a brown house snake.
FARALLON is a vital example of recovery through stewardship of a formerly heavily exploited habitat. Market egg hunters in the early 20th Century almost succeeded in destroying the sea bird colonies on these austere islands off the Golden Gate. Their nesting grounds now protected, tufted puffins and many other species are now recovering.
LOOMERY is a nesting colony of common murres on the Farallon Islands. Eggers from San Francisco break every egg they find, ensuring that the birds will lay fresh replacements, which are then piled up and carted off to the marketplace.
GENET & COCTEAU is a portrait inspired by author Edmund White’s reference in his biography of Jean Genet to the resemblance of Genet to a molting bantam rooster and Cocteau to an aging cockatoo. Here, the two friends visit the gardens of Versailles.
KLAMATH, a river/marsh/lake complex that is an icon of the West’s destruction by the Bureau of Reclamation, still supports diminished bird populations, but its salmon run has dried up. These birds seem to be in some alarm and doubt about the pesticide-contaminated fish held by the kingfisher.
SAN JOAQUIN, the Central Valley of California, is a place carpeted by industrial agriculture. The result is that all its inflowing rivers have been dammed, and its soils, aquifers and air have been thoroughly contaminated by herbicides, pesticides, methane and hydrocarbon emissions. Even the San Joaquin River itself, the mother-river of the valley has been drained bone dry for decades. Now a token water flow has been released from an upstream dam. Endemic yellow-billed magpies hover questioningly over a cloud layer of fecal dust and methane above an industrial feed lot.