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Geocaching competition begins Friday

At noon Friday an annual treasure hunt will begin in Kansas’ state parks and a few wildlife areas.

That’s when the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism website will post details on their annual geocaching competition.

Whoever finds all 31 caches will win a first prize of an annual camping permit for 2012 valued at up to about $250.

Kathy Pritchett, state parks trail coordinator, said a number of other prizes will be given away.

Geocaching is a sport where participants use GPS units to follow provided coordinates and clues to find hidden caches. Most caches contain a log book to be signed and trade one trinket they’ve brought for another in the cache.

“It’s one more fun thing they can do while they’re in a state park,” Pritchett said. “Evidently  it’s real habit-forming. People really like looking for the things.

A beauty that never gets old

Yesterday I was in a hurry to get home after a day of “working” at Council Grove Lake. There were photos be sorted and readied and fish to be cleaned.

But I took a scenic route through the Flint Hills because of the way scattered clouds were coming in from the west. As hoped all lined up for a pretty sunset.

Sure, I’ve seen hundreds of sunsets that are better but last night’s certainly warranted slowing down and watching the colors build and then fade.

I wonder how many other people even noticed the sunset at all? Several times I’ve sat in the newsroom and watched as a colorful sunset developed and nobody else seemed to notice. (OK, that most work areas face away from our west windows probably contribute  some to that.)

It’s been the same when a great sunset is building or showing and shoppers hustle across parking lots with not a look westward.

Interestingly enough, I seem to get more comments about Kansas sunsets from those who’ve moved here from other states. Most have said it’s one of the things they like best about living on the prairie.

I’m glad at least a few others are looking.

Most excellent eagle watching

To most people it’s still a pretty big deal to see a bald eagle in Kansas.

Imagine seeing more than 200 in one day.

It happened Tuesday to a crew of birders doing the annual Christmas Bird Count at the Quivira National Wildlife refuge.

The birds are stacked up at the refuge making good use of  a major kill on carp at the refuge’s Big Salt Marsh. The fish died when water levels dropped at the marsh.

Everything from tiny turtles to bald eagles are feasting on dead carp at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

Everything from tiny turtles to bald eagles are feasting on dead carp at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

About a month ago I photographed two whooping cranes picking at the carcasses.

Who knows how much longer the carp-fest will continue. No doubt 200 bald eagles can eat a lot in a hurry.

People wanting to enjoy the sight of so many eagles probably better get it done this weekend. Be sure to take good binoculars and be ready to use them scanning trees across the Big Salt Marsh.

But hey, if you can’t go this weekend go the next or the one after that. There should be eagles and clouds of waterfowl around for weeks to come.

Drive slowly down Q’s road’s, too. You don’t want to miss seeing any wildlife…especially a deer getting ready to jump in front of your car or truck.

Missing – one nice island

Something was missing when I took Hank for some exercise north of Newton Sunday morning.

I had the whistle, one of Hank’s retrieving dummies, some biodegradable shampoo for his bath and my cup of coffee.

But our island wasn’t there.

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Junior achievement of the wiggly kind

Much of Sunday was a tense time for people in the region. Heavy rains had many creeks and rivers brim-full or flooding.

In Newton many basements were taking water and the staff at Sand Creek Station found about half of the noted golf course under as much as four feet of water. All through the area  people kept worrisome eyes on dark clouds to the west and fretted a forecast of more to come through the night.

And while out photographing the most water I’ve seen in Sand Creek in my 17 years in the area I came across a pair of entrepreneurs making the best of it.

No, Shealee and James Rine weren’t stumping sump-pumps or sandbags. They were our filling a bucket full of some of the biggest nightcrawlers I’ve ever seen.

James Rine, left, and his sister, Shealee, spent part of Sunday morning gathering nightcrawlers washed ashore by high waters. Some were more than a foot-long. They sold the worms to relatives to use for fish bait.

James Rine, left, and his sister, Shealee, spent part of Sunday morning gathering nightcrawlers washed ashore by high waters. Some were more than a foot-long. They sold the worms to relatives to use for fish bait.

Seriously, some of the worms stretched 12-inches or more.

The kids and family were picking the worms from the banks of Sand Creek near Fifth Street.

High waters from the creek and water rushing down the street had piled the nightcrawlers. They were sold to relatives who will use them as great bait for catfish.

Meatless in Kansas?

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm got herself in the middle of a great debate when she signed a proclamation dedicating March 20 as a day for going meatless in Michigan.

Somehow I don’t think we need to worry about such a proclamation in Kansas. Our ag-based lobbies and legislators from ag areas would raise such a ruckus no governor could work legislation from then on – or get re-elected. Hunting and fishing groups would also pitch as many fits.

Still, Michigan annually is at or near the top of the nation for the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. Much of southern Michigan is pretty serious farm country, too.

Gov. Granholm’s staff said she made the proclamation as a way for residents to save money from their tightening family budgets. Anti-meat groups and animal rights groups say it’s a clear endorsement of a healthier lifestyle and a kinder, gentler society in the making.

Reading the proclamation sure makes it looks like she’s endorsing the anti-meat and animal rights groups. Our last five governors have hunted and taken animals, let alone enjoyed eating meat.

You can click here to see a copy of the proclamation.

Google “Meatless Michigan Governor” and you’ll  have more than enough reading material on the topic.

Notes from Jan. 7 commission meeting

Notes from Thursday’s Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission meeting at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center at Cheyenne Bottoms.

More details will be available on Sunday’s outdooors page in The Eagle and at www.kansas.com/outdoors.

-Kansas deer hunters could eventually be using an online system to register harvested deer. Biologist Lloyd Fox mentioned a possible system where hunters send photos of their filled permit and deer to Pratt headquarters. Hunters would immediately be given a confirmation number.

Such a process would eliminate the need for deer heads to remain attached during transportation. That’s required in Kansas but other states won’t allow deer with heads and bones from states with CWD within their borders.

Ultimately it could also provide research information for biologists.

-The department is considering issuing, by drawing, a limited number of elk permits for management units 17 and 18 to help control growing elk populations along the Arkansas River in western Kansas.

- The commission asked the department to start proceedings to change a current regulation that does not allow archery deer hunters to carry practice or blunt points on arrows in their quivers. Currently only broadheads may be carried.

- Locally, the Cowley County Friends of the NRA and Ducks Unlimited of Valley Center were two of seven groups that drew commissioners’ big game permits. The deer permits can now be sold to sportsmen at substantial profit. Such money is used for conservation projects and to provide funding for the groups that drew the permits.

Zebra mussels found in Milford Lake

This morning wildlife officials announced zebra mussels have been found in Milford Lake.

Jason Goeckler, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks aquatic nuisance species coordinator, confirmed the invasive species was found in the 16,200 acre lake near Junction City.

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Silhouette simplicity

It was because I had to squint to watch the dog go out on the retrieve that I reached for my camera early this morning.

Silhouettes photos are some of the easiest shots to get. Shooting them of  something moving across water adds action to the shot. This was taken this morning in western Reno County.

Silhouettes photos are some of the simplest shots to get. Shooting them of something moving across water adds action to the shot. This was taken this morning in western Reno County.

When the dog trotted back through the sun’s glare on the water I let the camera automatically focus and set the light meter on the blackened Lab.

Getting good silhouette photography is often that easy.

All it takes is a subject against a much lighter background.

Sometimes that’s the sky or the light coming through a window. It’s also easy to silhouette a subject against a broad surface of smooth water, like a pond or lake.

The main thing is to have the entire subject against the lighter background. If, for instance, you’re photographing a birder against a sunrise with the horizon going through his or her mid-section all you’ll see is the upper half of their body.

Often you have to raise or lower the camera to get a full silhouette. I’ve had to stand on top the cabs of pick-ups or be totally flat on my belly to get some shots in the past.

But thanks to today’s digital cameras you can see your successes and failures while still in the field.

Returning from a youth deer hunt the previous evening I'd seen a herd of bison along this ridge. I was back before daylight and blocked the rising sun with this young cow. It was a very simple photo go get.

Returning from a youth deer hunt the previous evening I'd seen a herd of bison along this ridge. I was back before daylight and blocked the rising sun with this young cow.

The neat thing about silhouettes is that about anything looks good darkened against a sunrise or sunset.

People can practice about anywhere and anytime the sun is rising or setting.

There’s no simpler shot to get, in my opinion.

The Wow Tour

KAUAI, Hawaii

They begin their rise where island meets sea, blunt cliffs that climb hundreds of yards to narrow plateaus even wild goats may never reach because of the steepness.

Nearby are rows of tall and thin mountains reaching peaks as sharp as shark teeth.

And in between these often cloud-shrowded ridges, long and deep valleys snake their way inland to places so rugged that man’s hand can’t change them.

Seeing the Na Pali Coast by boat, about all I could come up with was a few hundred wows.

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