Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey


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A Day Spent Along the Columbia River Gorge

My niece and I drove straight to Multnomah Falls in the morning to try to grab a parking spot before the crowds -Success! However, the trail was closed due to icy conditions. We were able to view this most stunning falls from the bottom.  This is the highest falls in Oregon and 2nd highest in the nation, totaling 611 feet in two steps.

We next headed to Latourell Falls. I loved the basalt rocks that surround the falls (lower). The hike is lovely and fairly easy and will take you to the upper Falls and then loops back to the parking lot, passing some lovely views along the way. The best view of the (lower) Latourell Falls is accessed from a path that leads to the base of the falls. Beware if you are photographing, there is a lot of spray. Keep your lens away from the direction of the spray until you are ready to shoot and bring a wipe. Once the water level has receded, the spray level is probably not as bad.

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After the hike, we had a delicious lunch at Edgefields in Troutdale and then went back to Triple Falls for another short hike. However, after about 1/2 mile up the  Triple Falls Trail, perhaps as a result of the meal, we proved to have less motivation to deal with the steep, snowy and narrow trail and decided to leave that hike for another day.

To see more of my photography, please visit me at http://belindagrebphotography.com/ or one of my other sites!

Bridge over Sky

Bridge Over Sky – Along the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway

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Seeing the Whole Picture

This last trip to Harney County, I dropped my friend off at French Glen so she could take a break from the car and dust (after about 6 hours, many on gravel roads), and I went on to South Steens mountain. Last time there were about 20 horses on the side of the mountain but too far to get any good pictures.

This time I followed my instincts and drove my car past an open gate on BLM land and went slowly up a deeply rutted dirt road. I reached a flat area on the side of the mountain and the horses were there. It was a panoramic scene, 180 degrees. I had left the car and was moving slowly forward. There were multiple bands of horses, cows, and even five pronghorn laying down. The horses to the front of me were probably 500 yards away (I’m pretty bad at gauging distances) while the horses to my left or 9 o’clock where probably twice that distance.

I was just trying to taken in the scene and decide how to proceed without causing any alarm to the horses. They knew I was there, but I was too far away to be of concern. Looking to my left I suddenly saw some movement. There was a coyote, then another (later I saw a third). One saw me and that I was watching it, and the two coyotes started to run in a northeasterly direction.Reviewing my photos, I saw they had been eyeing a foal that was at some distance from its mother. They had gone about 500 yards moving past the pronghorn and a couple of bands, when a stallion saw them and started to give chase until the two disappeared to the east. The third coyote that had been left behind disappeared over the ridge to the west.

Almost immediately my eye was drawn by another movement. Two stallions were engaging in some sort of dispute. It was over in a minute or two, but very exciting to watch. I was almost out of range, so I only got one sharp image, with a couple good enough to apply a painterly technique to convey the story.

I don’t know why they stopped, but a third stallion had come near them and they both started running westward, the Palomino herding a mare while the other followed at a distance and then stopped. During spring is when a lot of the stallions will try to steal mares from another band.

Next I watched the third stallion suddenly decide to move closer to what was his very large band. Snaking them together – head low and extended – he herded them together an moved them north over the ridge.

All of these little happenings were like ripple effects. The coyotes, one stallion perhaps moving too close to another’s mare, the two stallions moving too close to the third, and the third stallion, also aware of me, then moving his band over the ridge. Despite the fact I wanted to move closer, I didn’t want to cause any alarm, and hanging back allowed me to survey the scene and see all of these singular episodes.

I decided I had better get back to my friend, and started in my car down that road. My car has about 230,000 miles on it, so I was trying to be as tender as possible with it. It did occur to me I might encounter some of the horses I had seen in the distance to the west as I was coming down, and sure enough, there was suddenly this beautiful stallion appearing like a specter on a hill to my right. I had to stop, let the dust settle, then roll down the windows to get a shot of him. I later saw he was so interesting to look at because he had blue eyes (he kind of reminded me of the white walkers in Game of Thrones).

A bay mare was behind him. He moved off again, and as I inched the car down, I saw the rest of his band. In the second photo of this group, the foal looks nothing like its mother or him. Sometimes a stallion will steal a mare that is already pregnant. Of course, I don’t know if this was the case or not!

In the next photo, one of my favorite of the South Steens herd, some other members of the band wait for the stallion. I love the sight of the valley below them in the distance. Another interesting note – in looking at multiple sequential photographs on my computer, I saw that the foal in this image was the same foal in Danger Point. He has a distinctive wide blaze and very high stockings on his back legs. After the stallion joined them, they moved over the ridge and out of sight.


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Another Wild Horse Family from the Palomino Buttes Herd in Oregon

I have to admit something – before I started really observing animals for my photography, I never really thought in depth about family in terms of what it means for other species. Growing up, we did have four generations of Irish setter dogs – the first three generations females and the last generation, two brothers, but I was young, so I didn’t think about that.

To humans, family is sacred. Nothing should come between parent or child. Siblings should be close. But when I think of what our domestication of animals does, I see we do not honor those same bonds. While even in the wild, the animal young will eventually separate from the parent (in some species much sooner than others) there are emotional bonds, and for our own purposes and conveniences, we think nothing of breaking those bonds because we are not thinking of animals as sentient beings. For that matter, many do not value their lives. Think of all the celebrities that millions idolize (especially pop icons) who wear the skins of dead animals as a fashion accessory. But let me get back to the idea of family and emotional bonds. There are bonds, easily observable, and if we observe these, then maybe we can start to think of animals in a different way, more like ourselves, and maybe we can start respect the lives and the emotional bonds of animals more. I think we would be better humans for it.

Caption (Starting from Upper Left and going clockwise) 1) Bella mother of Traveler and Pallaton. 2) Traveler, colt born in 2015. 3) Band Stallion (name unknown) and father to Traveler and Pallaton. 4) The two brothers. 5) Pallaton. 6) Fun and games between the brothers. For more wild horse photography, please visit my horse gallery: http://bit.ly/1QoDBaW.


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Wild Horse Family from the South Steens Herd

I love horses. I have ever since I was a little girl. I didn’t have Barbies, I had model horses and stuffed animals. But although I rode horses occasionally, I’m not a rider and have never had the opportunity to own horses.

When I played horses as a little girl, playacting with a friend with our numerous model horses and speaking for them in faux horse language, (English with a neigh sound), we played them as wild horses, always escaping the clutches of man. So here I am, gobs of years later, and I’ve had the opportunity to watch and photograph wild horses, and it is a dream come true.

On my recent trip to Harney County, I saw horses from both the Palomino Buttes Herd and the South Steens Herd in Eastern Oregon. Another blog will  be done about the Palomino Buttes herd.  On the day I saw this family, I had been up Steens Mountain to the point where the road was closed due to snow and I had seen about 19 horses grazing in the far distance. As I came down the mountain and started to drive back to Burns on Hwy. 205, I saw another herd, about 7, including a foal, also in the distance.  Well, I thought, that’s about as close as I’m going to get. But in the next five minutes, I saw two horses quite close. I stopped the car. The first was a beautiful Palomino stallion and behind him, or north of me was a gorgeous pinto mare.

The mare was so striking, that I decided to work my way to another position to catch another angle. I moved slowly until I was parallel with her, and then moved beyond that to get a clearer view. Both horses watched me.

Imagine my delight when I saw what a sagebrush had hidden, a foal lying at her feet. I took a few shots of it, though it still was largely hidden by the sagebrush.

However at that point, its mother decided it was time to move her foal further away. She put her nose down to it, then started walking slowly away. The foal got to its feet and followed.

Once the foal was following her, they broke into a trot and then a lope. The stallion waited until they moved past him and began to circle around. Then he ran to join, As they slowed, he fell back and let the mare and her foal move ahead where they stopped at a distance that was about 20-30 yards further but parallel to where they had been initially.

When they came to a rest, the foal started to nurse.

The bonds between a horse family are very strong, but within the larger herd, stallions can lose their mares to other stallions. Colts will be kicked out of a band after a year or two, and fillies will eventually join another stallion’s band. But should they meet again, the affection and bonds last. When horses are domesticated, you don’t often get to see the families together.  Even horse breeders often separate the foals after a certain time from the mares.

What a joy it was to watch this family running together, and to see the protectiveness of both the mare and the stallion.  I could have sat and watched them the rest of the day, but I decided to leave them in peace.

My complete photography catalog can be found on my main website through Fine Art America http://bit.ly/BelindaGreb and more wild horse images can be seen here: Wild Horses Gallery. I also have at more limited numbers of my work at Photo4Me (UK), Crated, Society 6 , Redbubble and Zazzle. My Etsy shop is currently undergoing a revamping, but look for availability of signed work up to 16×24 prints in the near future here: RadiancePhotos


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Sandhill Cranes

I’ve been away for a long while due to slogging through the winter blues and a more recent family medical emergency. I’m going to be doing some short photo posts from my recent trip back to Harney County. My spirit is rebounding due to Spring’s appearance and the family member is recovering!

It was my first time seeing Sandhill Cranes and I was not disappointed by their beauty and gracefulness.

Craning X 2

Craning X 2

Sandhill cranes arrive in early Spring in Harney County from California. Many of the cranes I saw were in pairs, and this is normal as well as family units as the chicks or colts stay with the parents until 1-2 months before the new eggs are laid. During winter, migratory Sandhill Cranes will forage and roost in larger numbers called survivor groups.

Working in Pairs

Working in Pairs

An interesting fact I read about the cranes is that fossils of Sandhill Cranes have been found that date back to 2.5 million years, and there is one 10 million year old fossil that probably was a predecessor of the Sandhill Cranes.

Looking Both Ways

Looking Both Ways

I will be processing more of my recent photographs of the Sandhill Cranes as well as some beautiful wild horses that I photographed in Harney County.

More of my photography can be found at belindagrebphotography.com and these in particular at my bird gallery.

 

 

 

 

 


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The Need for Public Lands

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and
a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools. – John Muir

Two American White Pelicans

Two American White Pelicans at Malheur NWR (©Belinda Greb)

Lately my heart and mind have been in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a wild gem of Oregon taken over in early January by armed militia. This takeover was in response to the arrest of Hammonds, two ranchers who intentionally set two fires that spread to public lands endangering lives, (in 2001 of the young relative who was instructed to set the fire and  in 2006 of firefighters who were in the area). Bundy and his followers purported to take over the refuge for the purpose of returning the land to the people – a ridiculous proposition since the land already belongs to the people, as in “We, the People”. They didn’t want the government to manage the land and instead unilaterally decided that they would be the ones to do so. Malheur NWR is one of numerous  public lands that have been set aside by our forefathers who wisely saw the need to preserve natural habitat and wildlife for future generations. I suspect most of us consider this a blessing, but sadly there are those that consider it an overreach of the government.

Falling Light on the Marsh

Fern Ridge Wildlife Area (Falling Light on the Marsh ©Belinda Greb)

Public Lands

In 1864, Abraham Lincoln ceded land around Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove Area to California for use as a state park in response to Galen Clark and Senator John Conness who argued that with the increased tourism since since the mid 1850s, unregulated commercial interests were becoming a threat to the area. This would set a precedent for establishing Yellowstone as the nation’s first national park, Meanwhile after 11 years of trying, Ferdinand Hayden, was finally able to put together a geological survey in to the Yellowstone Area. This resulted in an influential report, that included pictures by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Thomas Moran, and in 1872, Ulysses Grant signed the Act of Dedication which made Yellowstone a national park. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_National_Park)

Waiting for Wolves in Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park (Waiting for Wolves ©Belinda Greb)

There was opposition at that time to the establishment of the park. Local settlers in Montana worried that the economy would suffer from federal prohibitions and so numerous bills were put forth to reduce land-use restrictions. There were those that wanted the land for logging, mining, and hunting. Sound familiar?

The entities in charge of public lands need to balance the needs of interested parties while protecting the land. While hunting is not allowed in National Parks and many Wildlife Refuges, on other public lands, hunting is allowed. There are guidelines for the logging that takes place on public lands, and there will always be controversy about whether these guidelines are too strict or not strict enough. Ranchers were allowed to continue grazing their cattle on public lands and charged a nominal fee. Grazing fees per AUM (animal unit per month) was raised in 2015 to $1.69. Of course fees for grazing on private or state lands is much higher. In Oregon, the state fee is $5.60 in 2016. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grazing_fee) How many of you can feed your pet dog or cat for that $1.69 for even a couple of days?

William Finley Refuge

William L Finley NWR (William Finley Refuge ©Belinda Greb)

In addition, as opposed to owning the land, the ranchers are not responsible for the financial cost of purchasing the land, maintaining or paying taxes on it like other property owners would be. But apparently some of these occupiers, like Cliven Bundy, feel that they should not have to pay any fees at all, and for years he has gotten away from this, refusing to pay the fees or remove his cattle from federal lands. After a court order allowed officials to remove his livestock from federal lands in 2014, armed supporters advanced on collectors resulting in a standoff. The cattle were not removed by BLM due to their concern that employees might be harmed or shot. So now Cliven Bundy owes the people over $1 million dollars and continues to graze his cattle on public lands. If our society continues to give in to this type of behavior, we will have anarchy.

Flight of the Great Blue Heron No. 2

Seen at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area (Flight of the Great Blue Heron ©Belinda Greb)

There’s certainly a right to question how the land is being managed, but trying to bully your opinion across via intimidation and guns is not it. The government entities that regulate these lands are not above reproach, but they are trying to balance the rights of the community along with the special interests of ranchers along with the wildlife advocates and environmentalists. How can this be an easy task? And of course the administrators are also going to be have their own personal opinions and beliefs. But dissenters should take any issue with that management to our legal system or the media.

Pete French Long Barn No. 2

Malheur NWR (Pete French Long Barn No. 2 ©Belinda Greb)

Malheur NWR

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1908.  The land was initially occupied by the Paiute Indians. Settlers then came in and took over much of it, relegating the natives to a reservation. How ironic is the world view that rages against the government but really isn’t talking about returning the land to the original inhabitants.

One settler amassed with his employer, Dr Hugh Glen, over 140,000 acres.  He also restricted access to water to other fellow settlers and in fact was murdered in 1883 by one settler whose access to water he denied. Not a pretty story.  Some of the land was sold to pay of company debts, and after being resold, nearly 65,000 acres was incorporated into the refuge in 1935. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P_Ranch)

Great-Egret

Great White Egret seen at Malheur NWR (Great Egret ©Belinda Greb)

In the late 1880’s bird populations were being decimated by plume hunters who used their feathers for hats or  vanity wear, as I like to say in regards to fur coats. In 1908, photographers, William L Finley and Herman Bohlman noticed both the diversity of birds and the horrible effects of plume hunting. Finley successfully personally lobbied President Theodore Roosevelt for federal protection for the area. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malheur_National_Wildlife_Refuge) The William L Finley National Wildlife Refuge, also in Oregon, was named after him in 1964.

I find myself getting so upset and angry by the Malheur occupation. First I’m angry at the nerve of other people coming from out-of-state with their guns, taking over the buildings, government vehicles, blocking roads, and causing so much damage, not least of which is the emotional damage done to the community around Burns. This is an invasion. There were threats to people and their families who worked for BLM or USFWS, and there has been a huge financial cost to the county.  I am also angered at this threat to a beautiful refuge and the wildlife that is there.

Private vs Public

If these protections were not in place, we would not have our system of: 58 national parks; 560 National Wildlife Refuges and 38 wetland management districts; 155 national forests and 20 grassland areas; and other state managed wildlife areas. These are open to people to enjoy, but more importantly to conserve natural resources and habitat for wildlife. How would these lands have fared had they not been under federal protection? Look around – how well have mining, privately owned logging companies, corporate farms served the land or the interests of the general population? In addition, there’s a wealth of information and recent discussion about how cattle grazing impacts environment and climate. Google it.

Cows

Cattle on Public Lands in Harney County (©Belinda Greb)

“Why should we protect this lands? How will it benefits humans, or really me?” some may ask.

  • Deforestation results in global warming. Trees absorb greenhouse gases and return moisture to the air. Once they are cut, the land will dries out quickly.  Clear cutting results in loss of habitat for many species – 70% of animals and plants live in forests. (http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation-overview/0).
  • Loss of habitat results in loss of species. Just think what would happen if there were no birds and how that would affect the insect population. How would that affect crops or the spread of insect transmittable diseases…and so on? What about the disappearance of a predator that helped keep the rat population in control? It’s all about balance. The loss of one species can result in the overpopulation of another. There is a fine balance between prey and predator. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver is a novel that clearly explains this issue.
  • If there were no regulations, there would be no limitations on the type of chemicals that are used or other safety regulations that exist for a reason. Even with regulations, there are not enough controls and we’ve seen the impact of the chemicals on bees which are so important pollination and agriculture.
Surveil

Red Shouldered Hawk seen at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area (Surveil ©Belinda Greb)

If resources are not managed, there is no sustainability. This affects us directly in regards to food and shelter. Would you really trust Ammon Bundy who represents his own interests or the interest of like-minded individuals over a government department that while cumbersome is still subject to the interests of many, including: legislators, citizens, and businesses?

Those are the self-interested reasons for preservation and conservation.

Acorn Woodpecker

William L. Finley NWR (Acorn Woodpecker ©Belinda Greb)

Being a photographer, and spending a lot of time observing animals, I am on the side of the wildlife. We do not occupy this land alone. We share it with animals and flora. We have already created an environmental imbalance that threatens not only our future, but the future of all living beings. We have used our lands and water as a huge trash can that we think we can keep pouring our waste into without consequences. Those consequences are catching up, and it is the poor and the animals who will suffer first.

These public lands are also important in that for many that is the only place that many will see life in a near natural state. The beauty and understanding that come from being in nature to those that are open to it can give one a profound respect for life, its vulnerability and its resilience. Nature can make us better human beings by connecting us to the the larger natural world that contains a multitude of life outside the “me.” It can teaches us that life is not ego-centric but all-encompassing.

Love your public lands and protect them.

Resilience-w11x14

Wild Horse seen in Harney County (Resilience ©Belinda Greb)

Photographs taken at: Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Harney County, William Finley National Wildlife Refuge, Yellowstone National Park,  and Fern Ridge Wildlife Area (run by Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife). belindagrebphotography.com

 

 

 

 

 


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Leaving Room for Opportunities

This month has glided by so quickly, that I find myself thinking what have I done?  My pace in taking photographs  and processing them was definitely slower, and it was done purposefully to change up my day to day.  While I can’t resist running and getting my camera for the splendid scenes of nature that come my way, I’ve also been trying to focus on finding a new way to get my work out there.

Now That I'm up Might as Well Fish

Now that I’m up might as well Fish – Love nature scenes like this, a mother mallard tried to grab a nap, but a couple of her offspring got up and started swimming around.

Bobbing for Fish

Bobbing for Fish – A closer view of the clarity of the water and momma mallard hard at work.

I’ve joined an artist collective that has a gallery down in Eugene, Oregon, called the New Zone Gallery.  It’s great to be able to print out my work and see it hanging someplace and know that others are viewing it full size, the way it was meant to be seen, as opposed to 2-3 inches wide. It’s also wonderful, although a bit out of my comfort zone, to be able to meet new people and see how they are expressing themselves. There are many talented artists, including painters, ceramicists, basket weavers and sculptors, and you can see some of their work here: NewZoneGallery.org.  The gallery has First Fridays and they are quite well attended.  I’ve been there since early August, and just this last weekend was happy to hear that a framed and matted print of Feldspar and Ohanzee had been sold.

I’ve also been trying to get out and get more exercise.  I find I’ve been taking far fewer hikes that tend to be shorter than in years past with the unpleasant but expected results of a weight gain and stiffer joints. Part of the reason is that I was getting tired of my usual haunts that are drier than usual due to the drought we’ve been having. One day I drove out to the coast and took the Hobbit Trail down to a beach. It wasn’t that long a trail, but it has a bit of charm and my dog, Maisie, got to play with a couple of other dogs whose paths we crossed.  Afterwards, I also stopped by the Heceta Head Beach Area.

A Sandy World at Her Feet

A Sandy World at Her Feet – The beach that Hobbit Trail, complete with flora tunnels, leads to.

Convergence

Convergence – Cape Creek finds the ocean.

Two unexpected opportunities then arose back to back mid-month.  The first was an invitation to join a fellow photographer on a trip to Glacier National Park at the end of this month as circumstances had required that her husband stay at home. My initial instinct, given the short notice, was to say no, as I would need to make arrangements for my dog, make my travel arrangements, find a way to budget the expenses. But It was so enticing and a trip I had wanted to make this year, but had put on the back burner since I went to the Grand Tetons again in March. Since I am trying to change my more cautious and shy nature, and live life in the moment, I decided to say Yes and figure out a way to make this happen. I am looking forward to sharing a photographic adventure with another photographer whose work I admire and experience the beauty of the park.

The Jewel at the End of the Trail

The Jewel at the End of the Trail – the McKenzie River flows underground due to a lava block until it reemerges here. There are falls at certain times of the year; otherwise the water comes up via a spring to this pond. Gorgeous color, I believe is due to minerals/lichen.

Forest Flow

Forest Flow – The hike is not so much steep as the footing is uneven. Very popular with the University of Oregon students, it is more peaceful a hike during the late fall. This day was busy, and my dog remained leashed.

The upcoming trip, however, precipitated a desperate attempt to get into shape as some of the hiking opportunities in GNP seem to require that. I decided to hike up to Tamolitch Falls since I hadn’t been there in a few years.  Although this is listed as easy, I find the trail to have uneven footing due to rocks and can be narrow in parts, especially when you have a dog and there is traffic on the trail. The hike was about six miles, and shared by hikers and bikers. I did fine, with my one heavy lens, a tripod and having to keep my dog on the leash (probably the hardest part since the trail was pretty busy that day). The forest is beautiful, but I have to say, I enjoy it more when there are fewer people.

Peace as a Pastime

Peace as a Pastime – Seen on a five mile walk that included big hills (which I hate) and air pollution from smoke that was blowing in from the fires 100 miles away. Upon reviewing this image on my computer screen, I was surprised to find the palomino horse had a very nasty scar on its blaze. While I’m unaware of the circumstances, I am glad it now seemed to have a beautiful pastoral setting and companionship.

The second unexpected opportunity was the chance to be interviewed by Jay Gaulard of IndustryDev.com. He had seen my Twitter feed and asked to interview me.  His website explores web design and development as well photography. I enjoyed being interviewed and if you are interested, you can find the interview here: Interview.

All in all, this has been a month where my usual habits have been broken up, and that is probably a good thing, since I can sometimes get chained to my habits. Although I feel a bit “less productive” not sticking to my normal process, the slowdown has given me time to review some past archived raw material and find some gems (maybe I’ll show some in a future post); make time for some much needed exercise; and leave myself open to opportunities, both looked for (artist collective) and unexpected (GNP trip and interview).

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon

Young Raptor – formerly identified as Peregrine, now surmised to be either a Merlin Falcon or a Red Shouldered Hawk juvenile.

I’ll leave you with two unexpected photographic finds: the first is a painted lady butterfly (I hadn’t seen one before and didn’t know they were in my area) and this raptor, either a Merlin Falcon or a juvenile Red Shouldered Hawk.

One evening my dog went to investigate a rustling in the bushes and a bird flew out and perched overhead.  At first I thought it was a crow flying towards me because of its size, but the coloring confused me as did the dark eyes.  My phone app suggested a Peregrine, but a twitter follower of mine didn’t think that was right. After sending the image to the Lane County Audubon society, the helpful members were also unsure except that it’s not a Peregrine. However, whatever it is, it was to me an example of one of life’s treasures that catches you off guard and gives you one of those special moments not to be forgotten.