Birds of prey, or raptors, are among the most charismatic of animals, evoking a sense of awe, excitement and respect for their vital role as predators in the food web.
Admired for their grace, strength, speed and hunting prowess, hawks and owls range widely across North America. Most of the Sierra Nevada and Central Valley species familiar to foothill residents inhabit a number of other areas as well. A red-tailed hawk or a great horned owl, for example, is just as recognizable and populous in, say, the Rocky Mountains as in California, while other species differ in population density or may not occur at all in one setting or the other.
The April program of the Yosemite Area Audubon Society will feature birds and other wildlife of the Rocky Mountains in New Mexico, Colorado and Utah in a multimedia presentation, "Wings of the Rocky Mountains: A Photographic Essay," by professional wildlife photographer Ed McKerrow. The program will be held at 7:00 p.m. Thursday, April 10, at the Mariposa Methodist Church parish hall at 6th and Bullion streets in downtown Mariposa.
McKerrow specializes in photographing birds in flight, particularly raptors, the central focus of his slide show. Boreal owls and Mexican spotted owls living at high elevations are of special interest to him. After the slide presentation he will discuss his research on these mountain owls. His research goal is to measure how climate impacts are affecting those populations in the "Sky Island" mountain ranges of New Mexico and Colorado.
"Mountain photography is my passion. Growing up in northern California, the Sierra Nevada inspired me to photograph the wilderness. For the past 20 years I have lived in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico. The light in New Mexico has a whimsical nature that I hope to communicate via my photography," McKerrow said.
McKerrow has a Ph.D. in physics, and his research studies complex adaptive systems, which he is applying to wildlife populations.
Like all YAAS programs, McKerrow's presentation is open and free to the public, although donations to defray program costs and to support Audubon's local activities are welcome.
The YAAS will also offer its monthly field trip Saturday, April 19, down White Rock Road, perhaps the best birding route in Mariposa County. Participants will meet at 8:00 a.m. at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds to carpool. The trip is free, open to the public and suitable for beginners. Bring binoculars, field guides, lunch, snacks and beverages. Call (209) 742-5579 or visit www.yosemiteaudubon.org for more information about the program or the field trip.
The mission of the National Audubon Society, the namesake of noted 19th-century naturalist and bird painter John James Audubon; its state affiliate, Audubon California; and local chapters such as the Yosemite Area Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity.
Len McKenzie, Yosemite Area Audubon Society