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Welcome to the Pine River Review. Our sight is dedicated to our little homestead located along the Pine River tucked inside the Chippewa Nature Center's 1400 Acres of wild in Michigan's lower penninsula. We love to share our pictures, video, comment, and our own homespun music. Step inside our world as we celebrate this beautiful nook!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Raptors Conundrum

What am I to do. As a freshman nature photographer I am puzzled by a thorny conundrum. I am surrounded by woods, farmlands, and rivers that flow into the worlds greatest fresh water lakes. I am blessed with photorgasmic opportunity. However, in my neck of the woods, there are two small lakes, reservoirs really, that are the property of Dow Chemical Company. They are protected by a ten foot fence topped with barbed wire. The inside parimeter is a flat gravel road that gives way to a bald shore. Way across the water is a world renowned chemical manufacturing and research facility. It is a massive tangle of pipes, smokestacks, holding tanks, and nameless brown brick buildings. It scares me. Trouble is, as I trudge the secret places looking for snaps and finding none, I know where I can go. I can go to those damn reservoirs and see a brilliant collection of wild birds and the most entrancing of these for me are the raptors.

Two monster Ospreys use this Poplar tree as a launching pad for their fishing forays into the industrial reservoirs. Yes, I wish there were mountains in the background and so the question begs to be answered, "Is a picture of an Osprey taken by a wilderness lake surrounded by trees more legitimate than one encircled in chain link and barbed wire?"                  

This Red Tailed Hawk is gazing at the ducks and gulls that crowd the nameless reservoirs. I tell myself, when I'm visiting the site, that I am paying my dues, learning to control my emotions by letting my fumbling fingers experience the rush of having a bird such as this within reach of my 400mm lens. But is it wildlife photography? And while we're talking about it what's with the "so called" Wild Life? Why don't these icons hang around scenic places that are more in tune with REAL nature? It's like they say,"If you want a Bear picture go to the dump, if you want a picture of a drunk go to the bar!" 
When I first moved to the Pine River, Nature introduced herself to me and I began to understand the diversity that She seems to prefer. More better birds! I was told in those heady days that Eagles were beginning to make there way back into our slowly healing ecosystem and I watched it happen.  One day, way up in the blue sky, a white dot followed by a brown dot followed by a white dot when viewed through binoculars turned into a Bald Eagle! I was ecstatic. Now the excitement is muddled by the nagging conundrums. Are these birds traitors to a higher calling? Or are they pawns?  Am I complicit in this treachery by aiming my lens at them and not the smokestacks? IS MAN NATURE? Or is Man Natures war on itself?

Oh yeah, Big Daddy Bald Eagle hangs out at Dow too. This is what stings.
"Et tu Brute? Then die Caesar"
   It is useless for me to struggle in the arms of so beautiful a lover, and I hardly feel the blade as it pierces my heart.
       I fear, though, that industry will coop a picture of this Eagle soaring over the smokestacks and let the image shout, "We, the wild creatures have though it over and we want in the house! We will purchase our nests instead of building them for ourselves and we will buy our fish by the pound wrapped in newsprint."
And where am I in this bargain? I walk the barbed wire fence between freedom and surrender. Occasionally I sneak down the forbidden roads, when the sun is setting with perfect light, to get a few hurried chances before the corporate police spot me trespassing and hustle over in their funny uniforms to throw me out. Then I go home, where the Pine River flows with a simple predictability and look at the pretty pixels that industrial technology has made so reasonably priced that even a fool like me might dabble in this forgery.
With a cold chill it dawns on me, that like the Raptors, I am just another tool in their corporate shed.   



                       "And the first rude sketch the world had seen was a joy to his mighty heart,
                        till the Devil whispered behind the leaves,"It's pretty, but is it Art?"
                                                               Rudyard Kipling



  1. A very provocative and insightful post for the day. Your photos are absolutely superb, breathtaking -- of the birds! Dow Chemical is a whole other story. As usual, I have lots of questions and very few solid answers!

    I love Kipling's words!


  2. You photos are amazing- as always! And I love the way you write as well. Very well put. Eons ago, while in college, I sat on a jury. A property owner vs Duke Power. One statement the Duke Power attorney made was, "People never even notice power lines anymore. There just a part of the landscape." For me, that's the statement that hung him. What an idiot...I always notice power lines and every darn thing else that's out there to make people's lives easier with no regard to wildlife whatsoever. Hubs and I are trying to become self sufficient and go off the grid...which will be interesting living in town as we do. However, people have done it living in cities way bigger than ours...

  3. If you keep writing like that, John Muir, Henry Thoreau, Edward Abbey, Jean-Jacques Audubon, and John Bartram are going to sit up in their graves and take serious notice...

    Dow Chemical. What a horrible name. It certainly conjures up images of horror, in any case. Agent Orange...

    Oh, and didn't Dow Chemical buy out Union Carbide, thus inheriting the grim legacy of Bhopal ?

    I'm not sure I'd want them for neighbors. That chain link fence doesn't look like it would stop any noxious clouds of gas from getting out. Heaven help those birds living there when the next "accident" happens. Sorcerers apprentices are everywhere...

    You have raised a lot of hard questions here, I'm afraid there are no easy answers. More birds and less people is my general feeling.

    Go in peace... may your wild birds be plentiful, even when roosting in the shadow of human spawned catastrophy waiting to happen.

  4. Interesting and thought provoking post.
    My opinion; it's natures way of claiming back the parts of the world the human race destroys and scars in its greed to exploit the planet.

    I hope mother nature wins the battle in the end.

  5. I'm with "holdingmoments" on this. Nature has a way of fighting back and reclaiming despite our worst efforts.

  6. A very interesting post. Fortunately wildlife doesn't respect any boundaries erected by man so hopefully they will continue to recolonise and thrive in all the areas man has despoiled. FAB.

  7. Springman, great photos!! You paint a truly depressing picture. But I look at it differently; our relationship with them can't be corrupted, as long as they free to fly where they want. Instead you might think of the bald eagles taking advantage of man-made structures, not the other way around. I think of birds as living in a parallel universe that fortunately infrequently intersects with ours. And as birders we need to do everything that keeps it that way.

  8. As usual, your comments are more insightful than the post. I think Hilke's concept of a "parallel" bird universe has the ring of truth to it and it would be a good way for me to make peace with my conundrums. In fact I consider her idea groundbreaking. I hope one day Hilke will elaborate on her fascinating ideas. As Humankind leaves a greater and greater footprint on the Earth it is only 'natural' that our structures will impact on natural selection. If A equals A then I should be elated with the situation at Dow. Chemical plants can be good for birding? I would like to hear from birders on the Gulf Coast about industries impact there. Remember a certain oil spill incident that happened this summer?
    I echo Hilke's words here: "I think of birds as living in a parallel universe that fortunately infrequently intersects with ours. And as birders we need to do everything that keeps it that way."

  9. Great shots. You don't want to get near those separation ponds, or even that property. From my experience with mining up here, those guys only do what the government forces them to do in terms of clean-up.And furthermore that chemical plant will contaminate everything around it including the ground water and the Great Lakes. Regards Boom & Gary.

  10. It's amazing that the raptors seem to be thriving around those ponds. Your post gives us a lot to think about as well as absolutely stunning pictures. I do agree with the one comment that the birds ARE still wild and your photography is amazing.

  11. Hi Springman, I saw your name with the Porter reference listed on Owen's blog so I thought I'd fly on over and check out the view. Your bird photos are amazing. I know how hard they are to do and how much practice it must take to get down the technique. Your writing is very beautiful as well. It is amazing how adaptable birds are. They do seem to have a secret wisdom that transcends our own.

  12. Beautiful photography.