Melissa Groo (@melissagroo) | Instagram Profile & stories,photos,videos
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Melissa Groo

@melissagroo

ILCP Fellow | Outdoor Photog writer | Audubon contrib editor | Rep’d by @natgeoimagecollection | Wild mercy is in our hands.

https://www.calamusoutfitters.com/bird-watching.html

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Greater Prairie-Chicken males face off as they battle for supremacy in the mating game. The most dominant one will win the chance to breed with the females watching on the sidelines. Yesterday was my first time seeing these beautiful birds and I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. This lek (an animal behavior term for an area where animals gather for competitive courtship displays to attract mates) is on the remarkable Switzer Ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Nestled in the heart of an Audubon Important Bird Area (the first private IBA in the state of Nebraska!), and family-owned and -operated, this working ranch has a tourism arm, Calamus Outfitters. Every spring, from mid-March to the end of April, they offer an optimal viewing and photography experience, providing an intimate view from blinds of the astounding spectacle (and sounds!) of the mating displays of Greater Prairie-Chickens and Sharp-tailed Grouse. What makes the experience even more special are the people that work here; their hospitality and their love for the land, for the birds and for conservation, are a treasure.  It’s a full-service experience, offering lodging, great food, and guides. There are also many other bird species and other wildlife around to see, including scores of Bald Eagles (a count of 150 on the ice of the Calamus Reservoir two days ago!). And the landscape, mixed-grass prairie on rolling sandhills, provides a beautiful backdrop—as well as subject of its own.
In addition, a Prairie-Chicken Festival is held here every year, which celebrates prairie grouse species, the grasslands they inhabit, and the culture that surrounds them. This year those dates are April 12-14. 
Click on the link in my bio, if you want to learn more. You can also view a video there which gives you a sense of the experience. I only had one morning session this time. I can’t wait to go back and spend a few days here someday. A big thank you to @mforsbergphoto for sharing this very special place with me..

Greater Prairie-Chicken males face off as they battle for supremacy in the mating game. The most dominant one will win the chance to breed with the females watching on the sidelines. Yesterday was my first time seeing these beautiful birds and I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. This lek (an animal behavior term for an area where animals gather for competitive courtship displays to attract mates) is on the remarkable Switzer Ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Nestled in the heart of an Audubon Important Bird Area (the first private IBA in the state of Nebraska!), and family-owned and -operated, this working ranch has a tourism arm, Calamus Outfitters. Every spring, from mid-March to the end of April, they offer an optimal viewing and photography experience, providing an intimate view from blinds of the astounding spectacle (and sounds!) of the mating displays of Greater Prairie-Chickens and Sharp-tailed Grouse. What makes the experience even more special are the people that work here; their hospitality and their love for the land, for the birds and for conservation, are a treasure.  It’s a full-service experience, offering lodging, great food, and guides. There are also many other bird species and other wildlife around to see, including scores of Bald Eagles (a count of 150 on the ice of the Calamus Reservoir two days ago!). And the landscape, mixed-grass prairie on rolling sandhills, provides a beautiful backdrop—as well as subject of its own. In addition, a Prairie-Chicken Festival is held here every year, which celebrates prairie grouse species, the grasslands they inhabit, and the culture that surrounds them. This year those dates are April 12-14.  Click on the link in my bio, if you want to learn more. You can also view a video there which gives you a sense of the experience. I only had one morning session this time. I can’t wait to go back and spend a few days here someday. A big thank you to @mforsbergphoto for sharing this very special place with me. ...

Burrowing Owl chick in a goofy resting position near his burrow. Cape Coral, Florida, one golden sunrise. Caption this?.

Burrowing Owl chick in a goofy resting position near his burrow. Cape Coral, Florida, one golden sunrise. Caption this? ...

"The Peace of Wild Things" When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. *** A couple nights ago I gave a talk for the annual dinner of the Beckham Bird Club in Louisville, Kentucky. A club member began the dinner by reading this poem, by writer Wendell Berry, who happens to live nearby on his farm and is known personally by some of the members. I was so pleased because it happens to be my favorite poem. To me it perfectly expresses the peace and solace of natural spaces, and the beings that live there. The deep-seated need many of us feel so vividly for such places and experiences has been described and given terms by writers from E.O. Wilson (biophilia) to Richard Louv (Vitamin N). Cultures give a term to the healing power of nature too, such as “forest bathing” in Japan, known as Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy; this is the medicine of simply being in the forest, and it's become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Yesterday from one of the bird club members, I learned of Park Rx America, a non-profit here in the U.S. whose mission is to "decrease the burden of chronic disease, increase health and happiness, and foster environmental stewardship, by virtue of prescribing Nature during the routine delivery of healthcare by a diverse group of health care professionals." May we recognize the gift of health, of solace, of restoration, that nature and natural spaces give us, and use it to spur our own action—namely, efforts to protect habitat that matters, even if it’s just a small pocket near where we live, that harbors plant or animal life we find of value. We can’t protect birds, or any animals, without protecting the places they require to survive. Snowy Egret hunting, Florida. ...

“Star-Crossed Lovers

“Star-Crossed Lovers" I share this photo every spring, of a Scarlet Tanager pair that I found on the ground by a neighbor’s glass door. It was spring, and he must have been chasing her (she’s yellow). They both hit the glass and died instantly. I thought about the long journey these stunning neotropical migrants had made from their wintering grounds in South America, all the challenges they’d overcome to return to their breeding grounds here in upstate NY and it just seemed heartbreaking and senseless for them to die this way. I posed them next to each other for this photo to pay tribute. In my heart I promised them I would use their story to educate myself and others. I thought, maybe in this way they won't have died in vain. It’s estimated that a billion birds die at our glass windows every year. Making windows safer for birds is a simple thing we can each do to help them. With nearly 40% of bird species throughout the world in decline, even just saving a few lives makes a difference! Go to American Bird Conservancy (ABC) for resources. https://bit.ly/2HsardW Do you have a glass window on your house where you've found an injured or dead bird before? That's a good sign it could happen again. Migration and nesting time will soon be here. Birds are returning to their territories at and near your home., as well as moving through to points north. At home we use ABC tape, and my daughter makes decals. She prints out a coloring page of a bird, colors it, cuts it out and tapes it to the window. It doesn't have to be fancy! Just something that gives a clue to birds there's a surface. If a bird hits glass at your home, and lies stunned on the ground, there are two dangers to it: freezing, if it’s cold out, or being killed by a cat or other animal. If either is a risk, pick it up gently, put it in a lightly covered box, in a quiet room, and listen. When you hear it moving around, then release it outside. If it’s not better in 1-2 hrs (usually it is), look for a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. Go to wildliferehabinfo.org, which lists rehabbers all over the world. Feel free to repost, with credit. Photo by @melissagroo. Prints available. ...

Lion cubs are ridiculously cute. It’s so easy for us to say I want to hug one, or touch one, or walk with one. And maybe even to try to seek out that experience with captive lions if we ever have the opportunity. Unfortunately the gratification of that impulse feeds a huge, cruel business in Africa—captive lion breeding, particularly in South Africa, where over 8,000 lions are currently held captive in over 200 farms. Lion farmers have reduced “the King of Beasts” to a disposable commodity. Interactions with lions are not limited to South Africa; they have become increasingly popular in other African countries and across the world. 
Visit the multilingual web site LionPetting.com, which seeks to raise awareness about this brutal industry, which consists of not just cub petting and lion walks, but canned hunting and the lion bone trade. Each lion is exploited from the day he is born, until the day he dies. Don’t give your tourist dollars to one of these traps, ever, no matter how innocent it seems. Lionpetting.com is in six different languages, and is a great resource.

I photographed this young lion (wild) in Murchison Falls, Uganda a couple years ago. His eyes look blue but I am not sure if that's because of his age (lion cubs' eyes are blue the first few weeks of their life), or it's the reflection of the sky. -- *
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#nature #wildlifephotography #wildlife #wildlife_shots #wildlifeplanet #splendid_animals #your_best_animal #featured_wildlife #wildlifeiG #discoverwildlife #natures #allnatureshots #nakedplanet #EarthCapture @BBCEarth #conservation #conservationphotography @ilcp_photographers #natgeoimagecollection @natgeoimagecollection @nikonusa #nikon #lions #lion #bigcats #savebigcats #liontrade.

Lion cubs are ridiculously cute. It’s so easy for us to say I want to hug one, or touch one, or walk with one. And maybe even to try to seek out that experience with captive lions if we ever have the opportunity. Unfortunately the gratification of that impulse feeds a huge, cruel business in Africa—captive lion breeding, particularly in South Africa, where over 8,000 lions are currently held captive in over 200 farms. Lion farmers have reduced “the King of Beasts” to a disposable commodity. Interactions with lions are not limited to South Africa; they have become increasingly popular in other African countries and across the world. Visit the multilingual web site LionPetting.com, which seeks to raise awareness about this brutal industry, which consists of not just cub petting and lion walks, but canned hunting and the lion bone trade. Each lion is exploited from the day he is born, until the day he dies. Don’t give your tourist dollars to one of these traps, ever, no matter how innocent it seems. Lionpetting.com is in six different languages, and is a great resource. I photographed this young lion (wild) in Murchison Falls, Uganda a couple years ago. His eyes look blue but I am not sure if that's because of his age (lion cubs' eyes are blue the first few weeks of their life), or it's the reflection of the sky. -- * * * * * * * #nature #wildlifephotography #wildlife #wildlife_shots #wildlifeplanet #splendid_animals #your_best_animal #featured_wildlife #wildlifeiG #discoverwildlife #natures #allnatureshots #nakedplanet #EarthCapture @BBCEarth #conservation #conservationphotography @ilcp_photographers #natgeoimagecollection @natgeoimagecollection @nikonusa #nikon #lions #lion #bigcats #savebigcats #liontrade ...

Detail of side profile of a wild Great Gray Owl, Jackson, Wyoming. I like close ups where your brain has to think for a second to figure out what you’re actually looking at.
Not baited/never baited.
#owlbaitingisforlosers.

Detail of side profile of a wild Great Gray Owl, Jackson, Wyoming. I like close ups where your brain has to think for a second to figure out what you’re actually looking at. Not baited/never baited. #owlbaitingisforlosers ...

I’ve been thinking a lot about foxes lately. Imagining kits snuggled up with their mamas in close, dark spaces. For the first month of life or so, fox kits are always next to mom in a sheltered place, nursing, while dad hunts and brings food to her. Then the kits begin to come out to explore the world, and try other foods that their parents catch for them. Foxes often use manmade structures to make their dens, as these provide shelter from rain, wind, cold. Like these 6 kits—their home was under the shed behind them. If you have a den, keep in mind it will only be for a couple months. Sometime after they emerge, the family will likely move to a new den, and then disperse by end of summer. Both parents take care of the kits. One hunts while the other stays with the young. I mostly saw the dad with these kits while mom was hunting! In spring you will see foxes more by day than usual because they are busy trying to feed up to 6 or 8 kits, and much of their prey is diurnal, like squirrels and chipmunks (foxes provide a wonderful natural form of rodent control!). Many people think if they see a fox by day, it must be rabid. Foxes do get rabies, but it's rare. They don't hurt people and rarely attack pets. They may watch your pets with concern, bark at them and even chase them away from the den. They're just trying to protect their young like good parents.

I’ve been thinking a lot about foxes lately. Imagining kits snuggled up with their mamas in close, dark spaces. For the first month of life or so, fox kits are always next to mom in a sheltered place, nursing, while dad hunts and brings food to her. Then the kits begin to come out to explore the world, and try other foods that their parents catch for them. Foxes often use manmade structures to make their dens, as these provide shelter from rain, wind, cold. Like these 6 kits—their home was under the shed behind them. If you have a den, keep in mind it will only be for a couple months. Sometime after they emerge, the family will likely move to a new den, and then disperse by end of summer. Both parents take care of the kits. One hunts while the other stays with the young. I mostly saw the dad with these kits while mom was hunting! In spring you will see foxes more by day than usual because they are busy trying to feed up to 6 or 8 kits, and much of their prey is diurnal, like squirrels and chipmunks (foxes provide a wonderful natural form of rodent control!). Many people think if they see a fox by day, it must be rabid. Foxes do get rabies, but it's rare. They don't hurt people and rarely attack pets. They may watch your pets with concern, bark at them and even chase them away from the den. They're just trying to protect their young like good parents. "A fed fox is a dead fox" is a truism. NEVER feed foxes or try to approach or pet them–this is CRUCIAL to their survival. Giving human or pet food to wild animals changes their natural diet, which can cause nutritional problems but, much worse, causes them to lose their natural fear of humans. They start hoping that all humans might feed them. Wild animals that do this come to a rough and early end. Never use rat poison in the area as the kits or parents might eat it directly, or eat a mouse or rat that has eaten the poison. If you’re not interested in co-existing, and really want the fox family to move out, please only use a humane wildlife removal service, not wildlife control, consult an org like the Humane Society of the U.S. Feel free to repost with credit. Education is key! ...

“If we want to inhabit wonder, we'd better learn as many languages as we can. We'd better meditate on light and leaves and birds and salmon and rain.

“If we want to inhabit wonder, we'd better learn as many languages as we can. We'd better meditate on light and leaves and birds and salmon and rain." ~Kim Heacox Snowy Egrets in a dance over water, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. Truth be told there was nothing romantic going on here. This was a squabble over feeding territory. Snowy Egrets often get into such tussles, and it pays off to sit and watch them for a while. I really like the side lighting here. Sometimes I find it defines so much more beautifully than front lighting. As long as it's not too harsh. Here the sun was low in the sky. I'm thinking and writing a lot about bird photography these days. I'm working with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to develop their first online course in bird photography, which I’ll be instructing. It will take much of this year to complete. We are in the writing and planning phase right now, with filming to begin next month. I believe the course will be released online in early 2020. ...

Thank you so much to everyone who appreciated and commented on my squirrel story yesterday. I can’t tell you how encouraged I feel to learn that there are so many caring and compassionate people out there who are touched by animals’ lives—Particularly the lives of common animals often considered and dismissed as “vermin.” Gives me hope. 
Today, no message, just cuteness. A baby American Flamingo, photographed on Great Inagua in the Bahamas on assignment for Audubon magazine. Full photo essay can be seen at: bit.ly/2XPLluy.

Thank you so much to everyone who appreciated and commented on my squirrel story yesterday. I can’t tell you how encouraged I feel to learn that there are so many caring and compassionate people out there who are touched by animals’ lives—Particularly the lives of common animals often considered and dismissed as “vermin.” Gives me hope. Today, no message, just cuteness. A baby American Flamingo, photographed on Great Inagua in the Bahamas on assignment for Audubon magazine. Full photo essay can be seen at: bit.ly/2XPLluy ...

“You can't really change the heart without telling a story.” ~Martha Nussbaum 
I have a story to share today, so please swipe through all 9 photos. This was inspired by an email I received from the writer of “The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife.” Nancy Lawson believes in “cultivating compassion for all creatures great, small, wild and wonderful.

“You can't really change the heart without telling a story.” ~Martha Nussbaum I have a story to share today, so please swipe through all 9 photos. This was inspired by an email I received from the writer of “The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife.” Nancy Lawson believes in “cultivating compassion for all creatures great, small, wild and wonderful." 😍 She has a web site, and social media so look for The Humane Gardener. She wanted to use a photo of mine in a presentation, one that depicts a mama Gray Squirrel moving her young from one den to another. I thought I'd share the story here, as I think it illustrates so well how if you take time to watch the animals that live around you, even in cities--you can see stories unfolding that help you gain a greater respect and appreciation for their challenges, and, even the similarities of their lives to our own. It's also a great way to develop our naturalist skills, which deepens our photography as well as simply enriching our lives. One day I noticed this mama fetching her young, one by one (and there were at least 6!), grasping them in her mouth, and then taking them along a vast network of branches to a cavity in a tree on the other side of the yard. Just before she arrived at the new home, she would brace herself and make a death-defying leap across 8 ft of air. She would then deposit the baby in the new hole, and not without great effort, for they were resistant with fear. I think the most entertaining aspect of all, and most endearing, was the way that, after successfully stuffing each youngster into the new home, she would go collapse on a branch, often with her limbs dangling. This move to a new den was obviously very taxing! After a few minutes she would get up, make her way back to the old nest, and start the process all over again. Observing her hard work and courage gave me a new respect for squirrels and their family life. And more forgiving of the mamas when they come visit my feeders. Any of us are capable of telling these kinds of stories with our photos. We each have the power to change hearts and minds. For all its negatives, that’s a great gift that social media has given us. ...

The beautiful Lappet-faced vulture (Torgos tracheliotos), Serengeti, Tanzania. With a wingspan up to 9 ft, this species is the largest vulture in Africa. Its name comes from the folds of skin on either side of its neck, called lappets. Sadly, the Red List status of this species is Endangered, with at last estimate, under 6,000 individuals remaining. 
The declines are almost entirely due to human activities. Potent newly affordable poisons are used to control predators seen as pests, such as lions or jackals. The poisons are so toxic that they can cascade through ecosystems: birds, mammals and insects are often found littering the area around these poisoned carcasses. As the predominant scavenger, vultures take the brunt of the poisoning and face the largest number of casualties. For example, an elephant carcass poisoned in Namibia in 2007 killed as many as 600 vultures. In Namibia, 86 lappet-faced vultures died after eating cattle carcasses poisoned with the vultures as the target, as the farmers mistakenly believed they were killing and eating their cattle. 
In other cases, vultures are the victims of poachers who poison carcasses so that vultures do not give away the location of killed animals. 
Additionally, domestic cattle have replaced natural prey over much of their range, and if any cattle die, they are quickly removed for sale, and cannot be consumed by vultures. In some cases the poisoning is done by poachers, who fear the presence of vultures will alert authorities to their activities, the illegal killings of protected species. 
Finally,their body parts are sold in African traditional medicine markets due to a belief that vultures have magical properties. 
The loss of vultures would have serious consequences for ecosystems and human populations alike.They play a critically important role by disposing of carrion that would otherwise be a breeding ground for disease. In conserving vultures, we save ourselves. 
Please support conservation organizations working to protect vultures. Birdlife International is one such org..

The beautiful Lappet-faced vulture (Torgos tracheliotos), Serengeti, Tanzania. With a wingspan up to 9 ft, this species is the largest vulture in Africa. Its name comes from the folds of skin on either side of its neck, called lappets. Sadly, the Red List status of this species is Endangered, with at last estimate, under 6,000 individuals remaining. The declines are almost entirely due to human activities. Potent newly affordable poisons are used to control predators seen as pests, such as lions or jackals. The poisons are so toxic that they can cascade through ecosystems: birds, mammals and insects are often found littering the area around these poisoned carcasses. As the predominant scavenger, vultures take the brunt of the poisoning and face the largest number of casualties. For example, an elephant carcass poisoned in Namibia in 2007 killed as many as 600 vultures. In Namibia, 86 lappet-faced vultures died after eating cattle carcasses poisoned with the vultures as the target, as the farmers mistakenly believed they were killing and eating their cattle. In other cases, vultures are the victims of poachers who poison carcasses so that vultures do not give away the location of killed animals. Additionally, domestic cattle have replaced natural prey over much of their range, and if any cattle die, they are quickly removed for sale, and cannot be consumed by vultures. In some cases the poisoning is done by poachers, who fear the presence of vultures will alert authorities to their activities, the illegal killings of protected species. Finally,their body parts are sold in African traditional medicine markets due to a belief that vultures have magical properties. The loss of vultures would have serious consequences for ecosystems and human populations alike.They play a critically important role by disposing of carrion that would otherwise be a breeding ground for disease. In conserving vultures, we save ourselves. Please support conservation organizations working to protect vultures. Birdlife International is one such org. ...

“We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it.” ~Wendell Berry

Happy World Wildlife Day! Here’s a Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) I photographed in Brazil. Native to Central and South America, and sometimes referred to as the “ant bear,” it’s one of four living species of anteaters, and is classified with sloths in the order Pilosa. 
Although this is obviously a terrestrial animal, the theme of this, the United Nations’ 6th Annual World Wildlife Day, is

“We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it.” ~Wendell Berry Happy World Wildlife Day! Here’s a Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) I photographed in Brazil. Native to Central and South America, and sometimes referred to as the “ant bear,” it’s one of four living species of anteaters, and is classified with sloths in the order Pilosa. Although this is obviously a terrestrial animal, the theme of this, the United Nations’ 6th Annual World Wildlife Day, is "Life below water: for people and planet.” Though I have spent much time in the ocean with marine life, photography of them is not my forte. But the conservation of marine life is of great interest to me, and I try to stay informed as best I can. A great way to do that is to follow the work of marine conservation photographers and marine conservation hubs on Instagram. Not only do you see stunning photos but by reading the informative captions, you learn so much about the threats facing these creatures and ecosystems, and you learn what you can do to help. We each have a part to play. Getting informed is the crucial first step. Please consider following the work of these people and orgs on Instagram—you will be amazed by what you see and learn. Today I am grateful for these people as well as the wildlife they seek to protect. Do you know another great IG account that is working hard to raise awareness on marine conservation? If so, please share it in comments! @aprilbencze @cristinamittermeier @jnadler @jenniferhayesig @andy_mann @brianskerry @daviddoubilet @tavishcampbell @chrislinderphoto @thomaspeschak @nickhawkinsphotography @jackjeplant @justingilligan @pacificwild @iantmcallister @paulnicklen @shawnheinrichs @jim_abernethy @shinalodon @sealegacy @raincoastconservation @mantatrust ...