Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey


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The Love and Pain of Loving Living Things

Today, my heart aches. It feels full of love and full of pain, in thinking of animals, their lives, and how they are negatively impacted by us. This was caused by the juxtaposition of my day yesterday watching the Palomino Buttes wild horses and seeing a video about animal abuses in an “organic” manufacturing plant on Twitter today.

blog 3 groupYesterday I visited the wild horses over near Burns. I just did a day trip with the drive being 4 hours each way, so I only had time to visit the Palomino Buttes Herd. What I have come to love about visiting this herd, is that there are a few individual horses that I follow. Each time, I see just a day in their life and it may be 2 or 6 months since I saw them last. Sometimes, a family member is missing. Sometimes a new foal has been born. Sometimes bands have interchanged mares and foals – that is the way of the herd. It is different than watching a wild animal in a national park, because the chances are that in a national park, I will never see that individual animal again. Also, with many of the wild horse herds, they are somewhat used to having people watch them. They are still wild, still feral, but more habituated to people. Some bands are more at ease and will tolerate people at smaller distances. I’m not going to discuss the cons of that, though there are many, but for me, as an observer it is a blessing, as I’m able to watch these fascinating social animals without them immediately running away, although some still will, especially if they have a newborn foal. I don’t try to interact with them and for the most part I stay some distance away, although they can go by me, or I them, where the distance becomes closer to my exhilaration. They are aware of me, they tolerate me, but even that in itself can change their behavior, and if I feel they are too hyper alert I will pull back. Often they become acclimated and just ignore me.

Blog 1Photographing horses and wildlife in general, is a far different cry than photographing landscapes. It is imperfect. It is split second decisions, continuous shooting, trying to remember to adjust ISO to get the best exposure while keeping a high enough shutter speed to capture movement. In landscape photography, I compose my scene, set my settings, wait for the right light. The light may fail me or not, but the components of the scene are not constantly shifting before my eyes. When I am photographing wild horses, versus a wild animal in a national park or wilderness, I have multiple potential subjects. Some are drinking at the waterhole, while one is rolling in the dust, and in the background a foal runs in circles around its mother (this example taken from yesterday). Great photographs opportunities if I can capture them in the maybe 3-5 minutes that the horses are near me. Also, often I am in my car since the car acts as a blind , so I am stretching and contorting myself to get the best composition I can. Sometimes I do stealthily approach by foot but many times the horses will allow a closer proximity when I’m in the car. Once I come out of the car, the animals are more aware of me and my presence may startle them.

blog 4 lrg groupOften I will continue to photograph even though I know the horses are too far away or the composition isn’t that great. I do this, because with the horses, I am interested in have the photographs as a record to learn from; later I will review the band make-up and if it’s a band I’m familiar with, the differences in the band make-up or to try an identify certain horses since I saw them last. Later review also often brings about behavioral observances that can be overlooked in the moment. There are also periods when I’m just watching the horses and enjoying their presence and feeling a bit left out as part of me would relish being part of their camaraderie and really being able to know how they feel.

Traveler with his Bachelor BandI was pleased to see my favorite horse of this herd, Traveler, yesterday. (These horses are sometimes named by locals).  In May, Traveler was still with his family although his elder brother, Pallaton, had been kicked out from the herd, but later this past summer I read Traveler too was kicked out. Yesterday I did see Traveler with his new bachelor band yesterday. I read a blog where the writer had watched the eviction of a colt from its family herd, a natural event, take place. First the band stallion started chasing the colt away (usually 2 or 3 years old). The colt was surprised and kept wanting to return. Then the mares also started to chase him away until he got the message. It is a part of the natural world that is difficult and breaks one heart, but it is needed for the colt to gain independence and necessary for the stallion to maintain his band from possible competition from the colts whose hormones are kicking in. Perhaps in the future, the estranged colt will have his own band. It is what I hope for Traveler. Usually these colts join bachelor bands until they are mature enough to challenge another stallion for its band or a mare. Nevertheless, it is hard to witness the real love and affection between the parent horses and their offspring and to see the joy and energy of a young horse, and then to see that horse have to go out on its own and take on the responsibilities of fending for itself.

Blog foal 2a

Another thing that I saw yesterday that filled me with love and pain, was a very young tiny foal for this time of year. This was the one that was running circles around its mother. For October, the foal was very small and I worry that this little one might not be sturdy enough to make it through the winter. Foals born later in the season are more at risk as they have less of a chance to gain the weight and strength they need for winter.

Blog foal 2bEach morning on most days, I have a twitter routine, in which I retweet fellow photographers and artists’ work who I follow and try to respond to some of those who have tweeted to me. I often try to retweet things about issues to do with protecting our animals and natural places. This morning I saw yet another video about factory farming in which workers were intentionally and sadistically bringing more pain to animals in what is already a torturous process. Why do we have to be so inhumane? When I say we, it is because we are complicit if we eat meat whose source we don’t know. I count myself among the guilty. Why can’t we have laws that require our food manufacturing to be done in a way that respects each and every life. Many animals kill for their food, but generally they don’t go out of their way to make it more horrifying than it has to be. Seeing videos like this always affect me deeply. On one hand I don’t want to see them, but on the other hand I feel I need to as it reminds me to try not to eat meat, and to be more conscious about what practices I may be unconsciously supporting.

ThirstAnyway observing the joys and hardships of the horses yesterday and my feelings after watching this video this morning put me into a very thoughtful and sad mood full of conflicting emotions, and I felt like writing about it. I haven’t felt like writing in a while being so overwhelmed by what has been happening lately in this country politically. And there is so much is at stake. More and more animals species are threatened by loss of habitat, and though some would deny it, we are beginning to see the impact of changes to our climate. Wild horses have been mismanaged for a long time, but there has been a recent push by this congress to kill the horses that are in the holding pens and to lower the numbers of wild horses in the interest of ranchers and other powerful monied interests that want the use of our public lands. While many in any government (past and present) are not usually there for love of animals or ethics, this current administration and congress are even more blatantly for profit at the expense of animals, natural places and even safety to humans (e.g. getting rid of regulations, allowing drilling or mining, etc). So much so, they are willing to cut science out of all deliberations concerning climate change and environment protections. Most Americans profess to love our wild horses. I doubt anyone would say that it is okay to allow pesticides that we know are harmful to children, or to our water, or that end up in our food. Most of use even believe in climate change, but what I find horrifying and incomprehensible is why many can find this current administration acceptable in light of their appointments of people who seek to dismantle years of work to create laws that protect that environment. We cannot count on corporations to self-monitor.

CompanionsOne new Twitter follower commented that since many of my photographs are horses, I guess you love horses, or something like that. This struck me in a wrong way. As if it was the same as liking ice cream.  I know that wasn’t that his intention. In a way it has nothing to do with my love. My animal photographs are striving to show that animal as a living, conscious, feeling, experiencing being. Yes. I have always loved animals, but I love them even more deeply now that I’ve come to more fully realize their aliveness which I feel is the same as mine. What do I mean by that? I don’t even know fully what I mean myself or at least not in a way to put into words. I don’t profess to know their consciousness or to understand as much about them as say, Jane Goodall understands about chimpanzees, but when I watch and photograph animals I feel them as living beings, I feel their life force. And I respect it as much as my own. Sometimes they are joyful, at times they look worn out, at times they are tender and at other times fierce. They have love and they have pain. Life is not easy for them in the wild. In many respects it is harder, but it does seem to be a life more fully lived.  And I feel that for us, as human beings to dismiss their life as a thing that can be tortured for convenience’s or profit’s sake is a desecration of a sacred thing. For us or our elected, therefore chosen, representatives to trade their freedom, to monetize animals or just think of them as as a menu item, to threaten their future as an individual life, let alone as a species because we don’t like the inconvenience of actually having to share the planet, or because someone needs a campaign contribution from a special interest party, or because we’re promised a fucking tax break and are willing to overlook the price of that (because the drive behind doing away with regulations and so called “hand-outs” is really all about money, isn’t it?) is profane. I want to live in a world where love will help to heal the pain of life and where it is extended to all living creatures. That nearly half of this country wants to avert its eyes from the not so nice things that are being done in the name of progress and can accept politicians who are willing to sacrifice our environment and the living creatures who dwell there to the highest bidder, well, that indeed is sad.

To learn more about protecting Wild Horses: https://americanwildhorsecampaign.org/

Recommended books: Rachel Carson – Silent Spring

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Back to Burns, Malheur and the Wild Horses

If I had the time and money, I’d make the trip to Burns at least once a month.  My heart is so attached to the wild horses that I see out there, in addition to the wide variety of birds to be sighted around Burns and at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  It’s not a huge trip for me, four hours, but long enough to require at least one night’s stay, and better with two, since once you get out there, the driving doesn’t stop.  South Steens Mountain is about 50 miles south of Burns which will take you through Malheur NWR and the small historical town of Frenchglen.  To really see all the area has to offer is to take forays down gravel roads and I have even ventured at times onto deeply rutted dirt roads where I prayed that my car had the clearance to pass over boulders and ridges.  This last May trip, I also did a bit of walking by foot to reach the wild horses as the dirt road became impassable by my passenger car.  One note: I do try and stay at a respectable distance.  The horses will be aware of me from quite a distance, but I don’t want them to be uncomfortable with my presence.

This Spring the area looked generally much more lush than last year.  I stopped first to see the Palomino Buttes horses which are west of Burns.  I was looking forward especially to see a favorite, more approachable band, that as of Fall last year, consisted of the Palomino Stallion (some locals call him a Dunalino), his primary mare, Bella, two of her sons, Pallaton and Traveler, from prior years, and a filly from last year.  Also there was a bay mare and her colt, and another bay mare that had joined them sometime during the Summer or Fall.  (Some of the horses are named by the locals.)  I didn’t see any horses initially.  Then I spotted white spots on a very distant hill (both Pallaton and Traveler were white/light colored palominos).  When I walked out, I saw it was my favorite band with some significant changes.  Pallaton was not with the band.  This isn’t such a big surprise, since as a three year old, he would start to have conflicts with his father.  I was surprised this hadn’t started happening last year, since Pallaton had already started chasing fillies in other bands.  Instead, he and his father seemed to work as a team, protecting their band from another stallion on the couple of occasions I observed.  I also observed that when the band was on the move, Pallaton would the lead while the stallion brought up the rear; this year Traveler took the front spot.  Though Pallaton’s absence was expected, it was still a blow, as the bonds between the family, especially he and his mother, and he and Traveler, were affectionate and playful.  Even the bond with his father had been a special one.  I still don’t know whether the bay mare and her colt were with the band. I think so, but the horses coats change so much from season to season and this time I wasn’t in close enough to compare other markings from my earlier picture.  There were also two new foals and at least one other horse I don’t recognize at all.

Though I hadn’t made it over to Burns until May, I did see some Sandhill Cranes still in the area, one pair with two colts (what the “chicks” are called because of their long legs), along with various other birds.  I didn’t even see the colts until I reviewed the images on my computer.  The birds weren’t as plentiful as they would have been a few weeks earlier but they were much more plentiful than they had been last May.

While in the vicinity of Malheur I was excited to capture a couple mammals I had not photographed before in the area, including, not one, but two hares.  Last year the ones I saw had proven too quick for my reflexes.  I also saw the first marmot I had seen in Oregon as well – a yellow-bellied marmot.  These critters spend most of their time in their burrows (80%) hibernating or otherwise, so I was lucky to capture this one.  I had seen a flash of one about an hour earlier than this, so apparently the beautiful Spring day was too enticing to pass up.

I also saw the usual suspects, mule deer and pronghorn antelope.  Mule deer are distinguished from white-tailed deer as their tales are black, their ears are larger, and antlers fork rather than branch on the males.

Just past Malheur NWR, is the small historic town, Frenchglen, population 12, and continuing on Hwy. 205 you will find the south entrance to Steen Loop, a gravel road that loops around the mountain.  The road will usually be blocked at some point during Spring due to snow as the mountain rises over 9000 feet, although it does it in a fairly non-dramatic way.  If you’re lucky you will be able to view some of the wild horses in South Steens herd.  I’ve been lucky to see multiple bands together on two occasions and on other occasions, a small band by itself.  This time, I was not exceptionally close to them but it was wonderful to observe them – some playing, the more mature grazing or resting along with the foals.

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Is it hard to see why I’m in love with this place?  If you travel out there, don’t expect luxury. You will get the most basic of accommodations and a very limited assortment of restaurants.  In fact, you will need to be sure that you fill up on gas before you leave Burns to go exploring.  During summer, the temperatures can get quite high, so it would be advisable to carry water for both you and your car.

I’ve hoped you’ve enjoyed this post.  To see more of my work, please visit Belinda Greb Photography for all of my published work.  My next post will be on some of the beautiful Oregon waterfalls I’ve visited in mainly Silver Falls State Park.

 


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Remember Who You Are

This piece was inspired by my recent fretting about our public lands and the wildlife that inhabit them at threat from “short-sighted” men who would seek to sacrifice land and species for immediate gain. First, I feel a defiant and courageous spirit is needed by those willing to fight on behalf of our environment and to protect the other sacred life forms we share Earth with, and secondly, there is my belief that there must be some eternal aspect of what is wild and free and God-formed that will not be bound by the small petty materialistic greed of those who would seek to dominate nature. I call upon that spirit to help us preserve what can be owned by none and should be shared by all, including the future generations that follow.

Do you believe you are a spirit who has a purpose more meaningful than amassing material goods and living in gold plated houses? Or are you here to think only about yourself? Do you respect life in all its forms? If so, join the resistance.


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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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Revisiting the Past in Present Time

Last month I traveled back to New York and Washington DC to see family and friends.  For me, it is hard to go back to a place that holds so many memories and emotions. I loved seeing my aunt and friends again, but all the while there was a bittersweet feeling knowing that I will miss them soon again. It’s as if each moment contains not only the current joy of being together, but also the past memories and the future absences. Time is more precious and, on these types of trips, it is not abundant. There will never be the time to really catch up or to have the leisure of being able to relax into the moments spent together as if we were just hanging out together on a rainy afternoon, and could see each other easily the week afterwards, and the week after that.

I met one friend down at the September 11 memorial. I hadn’t been since the tower and pools were completed, and neither had she.  It was disorienting to try and find our old places (mine – the World Financial Center that housed Lehman Brothers) when the connecting structures are missing. I used to come up from the WTC subway and then take the Vesey Street Bridge over to the WFC, and there is a similar bridge down there still, which confused me, but the old one is gone.

I hadn’t wanted to spend a lot of time down there, too heavy, so we headed to the Metropolitan Museum which I had wanted to revisit. Throughout the visit, there were parts of the city that seemed as familiar as yesterday, and other parts that were new.  New York constantly seems to reinvent  itself- for instance the High Line walk between 14th and 33rd and all the new buildings that have  either replaced or have been built on top of the old buildings. Yet there are other spots that surprise you by still being there, like Zabar’s (in my old neighborhood) or the corner pizza restaurant I used to go, or the  hall in the Museum where one of my favorite paintings, Joan of Arc by LePage hangs.

However, this visit was easier than the first few visits after I moved where the feeling of displacement had been intense. I was reminded how tiring and distracting it can be to meet friends in the city as there are logistics, timelines, subways to work out. At least now we have cell phones.  I remember how one friend and I who had made plans to see a movie had ended up at different theaters on a very cold winter’s night.  And yet, it is hard to explain this, I was also reminded of that feeling of cosiness or sense of belonging (to the city?) when seeing a friend’s or friends’ face(s) when meeting up in that big city, walking around the crowded streets together, and then parting to go our separate ways.

The second part of the trip was visiting my niece, who lives in DC. I have been to DC before but I really never spent a lot of time there.  This time I was newly impressed by the subway system which is clean and easy to use.  I loved my niece’s neighborhood, Cleveland Park, that reminded me of city living. My niece showed me the memorials by late night (we started out at 11:30), which I thought was a brilliant idea.  It was a wonderful two or so hours walking around the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, and the campus of Georgetown University as well without having to worry about parking or crowds. It reminded me of when I worked graveyard in NYC midtown and got to see a completely different side to the city than most see.

I had suggested to my niece, when planning the trip, that we go down to Chincoteague Island for the weekend, and both of us really loved it.  The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge has over 300 varieties of birds and of course the wild ponies, AKA Chincoteague Ponies and Assateague Horses.  They are really horses, rather than ponies, whose size has been dwarfed by the low nutritional value of their food. We saw some of the ponies during our visit to the Refuge, and then more later by boat. I used and highly recommend Captain Dan’s Around the Island Tours.

I couldn’t help but compare my Chincoteague Wild Ponies to the Pryor Mustangs experience. Both herds have been in a more or less confined area for probably hundreds of years, and so unlike some other wild herds, there is a lot known about the lineage of the herds, the horses are named, etc, and they are closely followed.  Because I had spent the whole day with the Pryor Mustang Herd, I definitely feel more connected to that herd.  Also I feel their “wildness” and “independence” comes at the harsher price of living in a much more perilous environment. The Chincoteague Wild Ponies (pertains to the horses in Virigina only) have two vet visits per year and people who can check up on them year round. Regarding photographing them, I had more access to the Pryor Mustangs, since I was walking around versus being either further away (in the refuge) or on a moving boat, but I did enjoy the beautiful backdrop of habitat of the Assateague Islands.  I do want to go back to Pryor Mountains in the Spring when the habitat is less dry.

Flock of Snowy Egrets from Chincoteague No. 1

The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, as mentioned, has a lot more going for it then its ponies.  Coming from Oregon on the West Coast, it was a delight to see many birds that I haven’t encountered in person before, including the little blue heron, the green heron, the cattle egret, and, my favorite, the glossy ibis in breeding plumage.

We had walked more than 9 miles in one day around the Refuge, and this was a great way to encounter the wildlife, although the Loop is open to cars after 3pm.  My favorite encounter and one of my favorite captures was seeing a Red-Winged Blackbird start to harass a Great Egret who came into its territory. It may have been defending a nest, but the blackbird looked absolutely enraged by the Egret.  It darted so quickly the Egret couldn’t keep up.  I have several exposures, and in many, the Egret has twisted around to look at a spot where the blackbird had been two seconds before! The two Ibis, in this particular shot, went about tending to the daily need of foraging for food.

I really loved my trip and my only regret was that I couldn’t have quadruple the time I had to hang out with friends and for exploring city and nature in a more leisurely manner.  However I am so grateful for the experience and being able to see old friends as well as both old and new places. And yes, I miss it all, already.