Mission Statement

Bearing Witness to Local Natural History-- from the wildness of Indiana

Friday, December 21, 2012

Eagles Fly In Indiana--Morgan County

Eagles fly. . . and nest in Indiana. It is not unusual to see these magnificent raptors in most areas of Indiana. Before the recovery program began in 1985 in Indiana, these birds had not nested in the state since 1897. 

Between 1870 and 1970, over-hunting, habitat loss, and the now banned pesticide, DDT, were largely to blame for the eagle's rapidly declining population. Nesting Bald Eagles were extirpated by 1900. In 1985 Indiana's efforts to restore them began when 73 young bald eagles were reintroduced at Lake Monroe within a four year span. In 1991, the first successful nest was documented.
In 2007, the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalous) was removed from the state's endangered species list Today 100 pairs have been documented. 

What I believe was the last helicopter survey done by Division of Fish & Wildlife in 2010, documented active nests at four areas in Morgan County.
Reports of immature and adult bald eagles are frequent within Morgan County, Indiana. A couple of months ago I was driving near downtown Martinsville and pulled over to watch an adult with its white head & tail reflecting the sunlight, soaring low overhead.

You can access my Facebook Page to view photos I took recently of one of the nesting pairs near my home perched in a tree. I was able to photograph it from the road. This pair has nested five consecutive years in the same location.

The eagles in these images were photographed from the road as I was driving on Burton Lane near Indian Creek. I have to thank one of my nieces for alerting me to their presence.

The Bald Eagle has five recognizable different plumages: 
Juvenile: First Year
Basic I: Second Year
Basic II: Third Year
Basic III: Fourth Year
Adult: Its fifth plumage when four years old
(Raptors of Eastern North America: Brian K. Wheeler)

You can find out more about Bald Eagles at Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

One Leaf: Forever Go In Search Of Myself

Let me forever go in search of myself--never for a moment think that I have found myself--be as a stranger to myself, never a familiar, seeking acquaintance still.
                                             -- Henry David Thoreau ( July 16, 1851--Journal Vol.3, p. 312)

One Leaf--Search for Myself

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Blemishes of Imperfection

Many nature photographers would choose to clone out the blemish on the red maple leaf. But there is a beauty in this lack of perfection. It is a reminder that Life is not perfect and many times those "blemishes" that make Life less than perfect possess a beauty and blessing all their own-- not to be realized right away.

Autumn Maple Leaves

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Saturday, December 1, 2012


“The true harvest of my life is intangible - a little star dust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched”

-- Henry David Thoreau

Double Rainbow                                                                                                                                                     Joni L. James

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sandhill Cranes: First Visit

I heard them coming last night. I could hear them even in the house. The sun set only a few moments before. I rushed outside with camera and scope. The platoons arrived from the north, circled, and landed in the shallow "lake" next to my property. They began feeding-- probing in the mud for fine arthropods and more.

This is why we must preserve habitat. Migrating birds depend upon areas in which they can safely stopover on their journeys for food, shelter, and water. Various species require various habitats. Some may require wetlands, others forests, prairies, grasslands, etc. 

The first group had 71, the second group 65, and the third group was 25. 
161 Sandhill Cranes migrating southward spent the night to rest. 

Sandhill Cranes Arrive in Morgan County, Indiana

Sandhill Cranes Prepare to Spend the Night

I awoke at 6:00 am and prepared to venture out to photograph the cranes. Based on past experience with Sandhills, they wait until the sunlight illuminates them and then they take flight. It was chilly this morning-- 28 degrees. I carefully walked to where I would have a clear view and sat down in the frosty grass between a cedar and a sapling. It was 7:15 am. I photographed occasionally in the dim light awaiting the sun. It was scheduled to rise at 7:59 am. Finally it began to break through the trees, slowly illuminating the cranes which were more northerly along the water's edge. It crept. The cranes were awakening-- shaking feathers and exercising their wings. At 9:10 am, I left my spot and walked slowly around the bend to get a closer view. I kept myself between the cranes and the sun so the light was in their eyes. Better for hiding my movements. 

I set the tripod down and began photographing. The cranes began talking to each other and the conversation became louder. I knew it was time. In a flash they began taking off in groups-- gaining altitude, circling, and then winging to the south. Many miles awaited them. Safe traveling my friends. 

Sandhill Cranes Waking Up in Sunlight

Sandhill Cranes Before Taking Flight-Morgan County, Indiana

Sandhill Cranes Taking Flight-- Morgan County, Indiana

Sandhill Crane Flying Overhead--Morgan County, Indiana

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Who Is Watching Who? Happy Thanksgiving!


White-tailed Deer                                                                                                               www.flickr.com/photos/jonijames


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Black and White Photos vs. Color Photos I

I do not usually shoot black and white photos but have begun converting some of my color shots into black and white. I find the images below to be more dramatic in black and white, although I like the color images because of the touch of color from the beech leaves.

I am currently using Photo Elements (I have Photoshop but find PE does just as well since I do not process my photos all that much) and the plug-in Viveza 2. I go to "Enhance" and then "Convert to black and white and use the RGB and contrast sliders to make adjustments. This is much better than simply removing all Saturation from the image.

So occasionally I will post color images with their black and white counterparts. Please feel free to leave a comment as to which you prefer. It will be interesting to know if there is a definite preference-- tell me why too!

Which do you prefer? Color or Black and White?

Fog Shrouded Forest-Morgan Monroe State Forest- Color 1                              www.flickr.com/photos/jonijames

Fog Shrouded Forest-Morgan-Monroe State Forest- Black and White 1                     www.flickr.com/photos/jonijames


Fog Shrouded Forest-Morgan-Monroe State Forest- Color 2                                         www.flickr.com/photos/jonijames

Fog Shrouded Forest-Morgan-Monroe State Forest- Black and White 2             www.flickr.com/photos/jonijames


Fog Shrouded Forest- Morgan-Monroe State Forest- Color 3                                     www.flickr.com/photos/jonijames

Fog Shrouded Forest-Morgan-Monroe State Forest- Black and White 3                www.flickr.com/photos/jonijames

Don't forget to leave a comment-- comments section is under this post.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Light I Seek

The Light I Seek

The Light I seek.
     Is that not the journey?
The Light. 
Light that seeks to erase the dark?
 Light that splits open the night?

                                                         It bursts upon my landscape. 
                                                                It is the primal dawn.
                                                  Sweet Light flows within and without
It  illuminates.
   It spreads its rays in an atmospheric dance
To reveal that which I can not see.
It is the Revealer.

I awaken.
Wash over me
Illumine me
Until I am the dawn breaking.

--Joni James 

"Let nothing come between you and the light."
-- Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Colors of Autumn

Autumn is gone. The colors this year were unexpectedly spectacular after the drought this summer. I noticed the last leaves on many of my trees at home have fallen after today's wind.

I thought I would share autumn scenes from October since today was a warm reminder (60+ degrees) of just a few weeks ago. 

It is fascinating how leaves change color. There are three types of pigments present in leaves. Chlorophyll gives leaves their basic green color. It is necessary for photosynthesis. This is the chemical reaction that enables plants to use sunlight to manufacture sugars for their food. Trees in the temperate zones store these sugars for their winter dormant period. Carotenoids produces yellow, orange, and brown colors in such things as corn, carrots, and daffodils, and bananas. Anthocyanins, which give color to such familiar things as red apples, blueberries, cherries, and strawberries. These are water soluble and appear in the watery liquid of leaf cells.
Both chlorophyll and carotenoids are present in the chloroplasts of leaf cells throughout the growing season. Most anthocyanins are produced in the fall, in response to bright light and excess plant sugars within the leaf.  During the growing season, chlorophyll is continually being produced and broken down and leaves appear green. As length of night increases in the autumn,  the production of chlorophyll slows down and then halts. The carotenoids and anthocyanins present in the leaf are then revealed to show their colors.

A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. During these days, lots of sugars are produced in the leaf but the cool nights and the gradual closing of veins going into the leaf prevent these sugars from moving out. These conditions-lots of sugar and lots of light-spur production of the brilliant anthocyanin pigments, which tint reds, purples, and crimson. Because carotenoids are always present in leaves, the yellow and gold colors remain fairly constant from year to year. The amount of moisture in the soil also affects autumn colors

Certain colors are characteristic of specific species.

Oaks > red, brown, or russet

Hickories > golden bronze
Aspen & Yellow-Poplar > golden yellow
Dogwood > purplish red
Beech >  light tan
Sourwood > crimson 
Black Tupelo > crimson

Maples differ species by species.
Red Maple > brillian scarlet
Sugar Maple > orange red

Elms shrivel up and fall showing little color but dull brown.

When the leaves fall they are not wasted. They decompose and restock the soil with nutrients. Fallen leaves become food for many soil organisms vital to the forest ecosystem and the ecosystem of your yard and land! You can benefit your yard by not raking all the leaves that fall and allowing them to enrich your soil.

The seasons change and beauty of each one enriches my life. Adventures await with the coming of winter-- the cycle continues.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

River Otters: Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge

I recently visited Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge at Seymour, Indiana. It is one of my favorite places to photograph and nature watch. On this trip in late October, I observed a River Otter playing/foraging a distance away. It was in a waterway along the auto tour searching for fish, amphibians, turtles, crayfish or small mammals. I pulled off and sneaked down to where I anticipated it would swim.

Trying to be small (getting low) and placing my tripod/camera in proper arrangement, I was suddenly surprised as the otter popped up several yards away from me. It immediately sensed my presence and rose out of the water looking at me (second image). It was wary yet curious. As it swam closer and eventually back and forth near me, it kept exhaling and making snuffling sounds-- likely a warning communication. 
To my disappointment, the vegetation along the levee was high and wide enough to be in the way of a clear photo. Soon several otters popped out of vegetation and slid down the side of the levee into the water.

By 1942, there were no breeding pairs of River Otters were left in Indiana. Between 1995 and 1999, more than 300 River Otters from Louisiana were transplanted into Muscatatuck, Patoka, south-central Ohio, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe and Upper Wabash waterways to help restore this species to the state. The project was so successful that in 2005 River Otters were de-listed as state endangered. They are now a species of special concern. This means that River Otters are no longer listed as in danger of disappearing from the state. Biologists will continue to monitor the species to ensure the population continues to grow. 

Otters are protected from both intentional and accidental trapping during the fur harvest season. It is illegal to take or possess the pelts of otters or of any other protected species.

The River Otter’s fur consists of two layers - a coarse, waterproof outer coat and a softer, finer layer that keeps the animal warm. When in the water air bubbles cling to the outer hairs, covering the otter in what appears to be a silvery sheen. Otters are part of the weasel family which includes minks, skunks and badgers. Although happy to play, river otters are solitary animals. Males do not associate with females until mating season. Only then will you see pairs chasing, diving and cork-screwing through the water as a sort of mating ritual. The otter loves to swim and can hold its breath for up to 8 minutes. Its eyes are even adapted for underwater vision, leaving them nearsighted when out of water. On land, otters rely on their sense of smell, hearing and touch to get around. River Otters are territorial and will mark their territory with feces (or spraint) as a warning to others. Length: 30-50 inches  Weight: 11-30 lbs. 

(The image below is the waterway where I found the otters.)

It is satisfying to know that River Otters are found in most of Indiana now, thanks to many people who had the foresight and made the efforts to re-establish this captivating mammal. Just another species who enriches the biodiversity of our ecosystems and our lives.
Visit Muscatatuck NWR and drive the auto tour loop or walk the trails--you are sure to see plenty of wildlife--plus they have the best nature bookstore!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Pain of Beauty

“I HAVE felt the pain that arises from a recognition of beauty . . .” wrote Terry Tempest Williams in An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field. It was an epiphany when I read this phrase and I began to ponder it. Something I had felt many times had been given words. In my life I have had many experiences of recognizing beauty. I have seen it, heard it, and felt it. Each time that I experienced true piercing beauty, it had been accompanied by a momentary twinge of pain.

   That moment. In that moment, I am overwhelmed with the sensation of beauty and it evokes a sense of ecstasy. But it is paradoxical. The joyful moment is coupled with a melancholy pain.  The joy is there and then it is gone.

WHAT CREATES this pain of beauty? I speculate that it is when we feel the oneness with all creation. It is the unity with The-Spirit-Who-Moves-Through-All-Things. It washes over us in a fleeting, yet ecstatic, moment of being One with it all. The peace and love is felt deep within a part of ourselves we don’t often contact. But it is a glorious sensation that is difficult to express in ordinary language. The pain begins when we feel the ecstasy dissipating. It does not last but we desperately want it to remain.

   In the depths of the ecstasy and pain, I am a very elemental part of creation. I am the frog basking on the log. The leaf that is dancing in the breeze. The collision of hot and cold air. The rain droplet feeding the earth. The loping coyote sifting scents. It is a suspension of time. The moment of truly being.

   And yet, as a human, I am part of it—but we forget.  We are never separate. Perhaps it is how open we allow ourselves to be with the natural world. Are we in the moment? Do we allow ourselves to be transparent to nature?

   And still the beauty unfolds . . .

(Excerpt from my book: Dancing With Herons: Bearing Witness to Local Natural History)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

If a Man Walk in the Woods . . .

If a man walk in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.

--- Henry David Thoreau (Life Without Principle)

Monday, October 22, 2012



Walk beyond
Abandon your cares
Embrace this ephemeral moment
Open your mind and spirit
For here is where you belong
Among your relations of sacred unity--Home.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Enough Said

Enough Said

I WALKED to the lake to photograph the brilliant autumn color. The landscape was on fire with color and I could smell it in the air. The air was clear, crisp, and the sun was yet to rise. I anticipated the revelation to come as the sun rose to begin the illumination. What color would the light be? Would clouds form? How would the leaves reflect the light? What reflections would be revealed? I love the quiet anticipation and the solitude.

   It was extraordinary. The sun began to light the northeastern edge of the lake. It spread an exquisite light, which crept across the tree line. The leaves became a luminous paint palette. And there in the reflection of the lake surface was a very unusual shade of salmon. The lake surface was glass. It mirrored the color of the trees hundreds of feet away. I noticed a spent lotus pad and stem bent in an arc on the water’s surface. I focused my lens and composed the shot. How could the beauty have been even more extraordinary in the viewfinder?

   I thought about what I had just viewed. I contemplated the question and began to realize the answer was that within the rectangular viewfinder, I was able to hold and, yes, possess that magnificent scene. The ephemeral beauty was mine. It would not last. It was fleeting. The color. The light. The stillness. The serenity. I could visually touch it through the viewfinder. It was my form of intimacy with beauty.

   I encountered another person. He was also present to photograph the autumn. We quietly spoke of lenses, tripods, and geese that flew back and forth across the lake. I do not know if he was aware of the remarkable color and scenes in the middle of the lake inlet. I pointed out several birds to him—the grebes, the red-breasted nuthatch call—and the clouds. However, I did not share the single lotus plant or the deep salmon light. These moments are sacred and they cannot be placed into words. The extraordinary cannot be explained by the ordinary.

   Soon the dialogue ceased. We enjoyed talking and sharing the same passion, but the solitude took over again. After all, that is why we had come here. We were both drawn to the quiet and the beauty. Enough said.

(Excerpt from my book: Dancing With Herons: Bearing Witness to Local Natural History)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Kodachrome 64 Series II

Observing the light. Observing the seasons. This is what a naturalist does. It is what a nature photographer must do.
A few images from Kodachrome days when I observed and photographed a tree on a lake point at Lake Edgewood. Recording the moods through light, season, sky, and wind. 
The tree no longer exists and the point is unrecognizable. Bearing witness to the beauty of local wildness--to that which no longer exists.

Lake Edgewood Lake Point          ©Joni L. James

Lake Edgewood Lake Point          ©Joni L. James
Lake Edgewood Lake Point          ©Joni L. James

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fungi: Jewels of the Forest


I am a mushroom on whom the dew of heaven drops now and then. --John Ford

The Mycology Net

                                                    © Joni L. James

                                                        © Joni L. James

Friday, September 28, 2012

Luminous Full Moon

A luminous moon rising tonight.

Moon Rising                                                                          © Joni L. James

Many men walk by day, few walk by night. It is a very different season.

--Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Autumnal Equinox: Blessings Await

Autumnal Equinox

Autumn Lake                                                                           ©Joni L. James

Autumn blooms amid the waning light and cooling temperatures. Fog rises from the warmth of land and water to greet the cool air. The sun will dissipate the fog and the brilliance of fall foliage will paint the landscape. Autumnal blessings await.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kodachrome 64 Series

 I revel in Nature. I revel in the beauty of Nature. To preserve the experience. To preserve that moment of beauty and bear witness to it,  is why I photograph. I hope if my image is seen by someone, they will experience that moment. Perhaps they will be grateful, inspired, more aware, more knowledgeable, or be in awe of the Earth.

At the very core of my nature photography and my study of Nature is my spirituality. It is my connection to  the Great Mystery. The vehicle to my deepest self. The manifestation of All That Is. It is a deep connection in which my Self cannot be separated.

Nature photography is what I do.I have photographed for 32 years. For the first 25 years, I shot Kodachrome 64 slide film with Pentax K1000, Pentax MX, and Pentax LX. I studied, I read, I photographed, and I experienced. In 2005, I switched to digital cameras.

So to pay homage to my early visions in nature photography, I will be sharing images from my early days before digital photography. They will be simply titled, Kodachrome 64 Series. Not many of my slides have been scanned to digital but they will appear in posts from time to time.

Grateful for where I have been and grateful for where I am. And always blessed by the beauty.

A Serendipitous Moment                                                        ©Joni L. James

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Touch of Autumn Color

A touch of autumn color at Burkhart Creek County Park early this morning. 

A Touch of Autumn Color              ©Joni L. James

"The leaves fall, the wind blows, and the farm country slowly
changes from the summer cottons into its winter wools."
-   Henry Beston, Northern Farm

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Perch-- Paying Homage to a Fallen Neighbor

A stalwart neighbor fell on September 10, 2012. In the twenty years I have lived at my home, a Tulip Tree, has stood through all seasons on a point at the lake. I named it The Perch. All through the years, it persevered as the soil around its roots eroded away. Its posture changed as more and more soil disappeared through ice, snow, waves, and yes, the 2008 Flood. After 2007 (and likely the result of the flood), instead of standing rather upright on the lake point, it began to lean outward over the water.

From 1993 (and I am sure before), to September 9, 2012, the tree provided a safe and efficient location to perch for many birds. The birds used its branches for resting, preening, safety, and hunting. Bald Eagles, Double-crested Cormorants, Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, Ospreys, American Crows, owls, and numerous species of songbirds enjoyed its branches for an unobstructed view of the lake. 

Each time I looked out my window, I always checked The Perch for the presence of interesting bird species. The majority of the time I was rewarded with a view of an eagle, heron, or hawk. The tree was most beautiful in the early morning as fog would hover magically throughout the lake. As the sun would crest the treeline, The Perch would be backlit by sunlight resulting in silhouettes of perching birds.

I already miss The Perch. When one lives close to Nature and attends to the seasons, the land, and its creatures, you appreciate the presence of non-human neighbors.They are a part of my home. Once again, bearing witness to my local wildness. 

The Perch before leaning              ©Joni L. James             

Bald Eagle Flying from The Perch                                     ©Joni L. James

Two Great Blue Herons Perched                                               ©Joni L. James

Great Blue Heron on The Perch       ©Joni L. James
The Perch-- Fallen (on right)                                                ©Joni L. James
The Perch-- Fallen                                                                         ©Joni L. James