Welcome and thanks for stopping by!

Look around, relax and enjoy some of the natural world's marvels!
How fortunate we are to live in the time that we do. Everyday is a precious gift from our creator, who surrounds us with an abundance of wildlife to capture using the latest photographic technology.
We love sharing and talking about photography almost as much as creating the images. We hope to hear of your photo experiences, favorite shooting places, techniques that work for you as well as your own product reviews.
May the light always be perfect!
Tim and Debbie Flanigan

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Video ~ Nature Exposure on the Web

Easy and fun to create, this new marketing tool offered free by Google Search Stories, is a 35 second video you create yourself from what is already posted about you on the web. Add a choice of music from the selection and there you have it!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ticks: The Ticking Time Bomb of Disease

  Ticks are nasty and gross. Other critters that pierce our skin don't seem to conjure the degree of loathing that a tick does. Perhaps it is their length of stay and the tenacity of their grip that is creepy, or the fearful possibility of contracting Lyme disease.
   Common tick vectors are deer ticks, Lxodes scapularis and western black legged ticks, Lxodes pacificus, and their dreaded infected bite is required for humans to acquire Lyme disease; it cannot be passed from person to person. The odds of ticks you come in contact with being infected depend on the location and degree of tick infestation.The annual number of people that contract Lyme disease has doubled since 1992, making it the most prevalent vector-borne disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Close to 4,000 Lyme disease cases were reported in Pennsylvania last year, an increase of 268% since 1993. Ranked among the top five states with the highest cases of Lyme disease, PA is climbing its way to number one. Tick populations are definitely on the rise, nationally, and may be coming to a neighborhood near you.
   Avoiding tick-infested areas is the first step in preventing Lyme disease. Ticks live in weedy areas, among leaf litter and low lying vegetation, and favor field and trail edges. They prefer moist, shaded environments, especially areas in wooded, brushy, overgrown habitat, including seashores and landscaped yards. Reduce the risk of tick attachment by correctly applying insect repellents containing 20 to 30 percent DEET to pant and shirt cuffs and exposed skin, especially the back of your neck and hairline edges. Wear light-colored clothing to make ticks more visible. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants provide additional protection and pulling socks over the pant legs may help, if the sock weave is not stretched, providing holes to admit tiny ticks. A better barrier is a 3/4 - or knee-high - slick surfaced rubber boot, tucking the pants inside.
   Anglers, hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts may find tick avoidance difficult. Fallen logs in the woods, favorite seats for weary hunters, harbor nymph stage ticks. Turkey hunters commonly spend an hour or longer sitting with their backs against trees crawling with ticks, while calling birds. Hunters also harvest game that may harbor ticks, so care should be taken when handling deer and carrying small game in game bag vests. Campers and hikers increase their odds of encountering blood thirsty ticks by following deer trails and by resting on the forest floor. Exposure to ticks occurs around the home during property maintenance and while handling leaf litter and carrying wood. ALL recreation and leisure activities can be risky in tick infested habitat. Before entering your vehicle after a day afield, shake or comb your hair and run an adhesive lint roller over clothing to pick up unseen ticks.
      If an attached tick is discovered, the typical high-stepping tick dance, with body-shuddering, shoulder-shimmy will not dislodge the gross offender. The tick's cement-like saliva hardens as the tick feeds, locking it solidly into place and making it difficult to remove. For successful tick extraction, use fine-tipped tweezers or forceps. Place the tweezers as close to the skin as possible, squeeze them onto the mouthparts of the parasite, and pull firmly and steadily away from the skin until the tick is removed. Resist twisting or crushing the tick as this may cause the tick to regurgitate infected blood back into the wound. Avoid using petroleum jelly, hot match or nail polish, which may also cause the tick to spew spirochetes into the skin's opening. The Lyme spirochetes - Borrelia burgdorferi, are the cork-screw shaped bacterium culprits of this disease. Wash your hands, the bite site and implement with an anti-bacterial soap and follow up with an antiseptic.
   Save the tick for identification by immersion in a container of alcohol, which kills the tick, or seal it with tape to an index card. Watch for Lyme disease symptoms, which may appear rapidly or very innoculously. People react differently to the infection; most experience flu-like symptoms, and others may suffer severe fatigue, light-headedness, joint pain, stiff neck, poor memory and concentration, headaches, chest pain, swollen glands, anxiety and other symptoms. Lyme disease is known as the 'great imitator' because its numerous symptoms mimic many other diseases. Contacting a health care professional and the cost-effectiveness of taking preventative antibiotics after a tick bite, appears to far outweigh the danger and cost of not treating it.
   A veritable pharmacy of anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, and immunosuppressant and analgesic compounds is found in a tick's salivary glands and may explain why only about 50 percent of Lyme disease patients recall the bite. Amazingly painless to the host, these compounds flood from the tick's mouth into the skin, facilitating blood flow to the tick for up to ten days. Other than actually spotting the blood sucking critter, you may be completely unaware of your encounter, unless you are among about 30 percent of the hosts that develop a rash after the bite of an infected tick. Many rashes in body hair go indetected, and it is those invisible tick bites that really tick you off, due to the unintended delay in seeking treatment.
   Perhaps too much blame is placed upon the lowly tick, because it does not begin life infected; it is merely the middleman. Female ticks produce an egg cluster in the spring or summer that can hatch 6,500 larvae, each as small as a period at the end of a sentence, and all free from infection.  These larvae molt and grow to become nymphs, or teenage ticks, the size of  a poppy seed or a pepper grain. All ticks require a blood meal for each of the three developmental stages of their life cycle, which takes about two years to complete, and will starve to death without it. As soon as a tick completes feeding on an infected host, the little vampire drops to the ground as a potential disease vector to its next victim. Although B. burgdorferi lives in various mice species, squirrels and other small animals, it's the white-footed mouse that is considered to be the main source of Lyme disease bacteria in ticks.
   A tick positions itself to hold out two up-raised legs, with hooked feet, to snag onto a passing host on which to dine. This process, known as "questing," involves a lot of patience on the part of the tick, so ticks use various sensory cues for optimal positioning: vision to detect color and movement, along with smell to detect carbon dioxide produced by exhaling hosts. If the host happens to be a bird, the tick is happy to climb aboard the taxi, snuggle between the feathers and bury its mouthparts in the bird's tender skin. If either the bird or the tick is infected with B. burgdorferi, by the time the tick is as full as your brother-in-law after a Thanksgiving meal, both the bird and the tick will have it. Because ticks take days to feed, and birds migrate, the pair may end up miles from where they met. Birds can carry infected ticks to new places, and carry Borrelia burgdorferi to ticks in new locations, which will pass it to new birds, mice and people.
   Right now, in the fall, after 30-40 days, the nymphs are becoming adult ticks, the third stage in their life cycle. They are the size of sesame seeds and looking for their third, and last, blood meal. Larger and stronger, these tenacious freeloaders move up the forest understory and are usually found a foot or so above the ground. They begin questing again, hooking onto larger mammals: deer, bear, squirrels, opossums, groundhogs, dogs, foxes, racoons, cats and humans, to play "Snag-you're it." Like the nymphs, adult ticks also transmit Lyme disease and, while feeding, the tick becomes raisin-size, making it much easier to spot. The tick's favorite host is the white-tailed deer, a key reproductive vessel for adult female ticks; providing the blood serum necessary for egg development and vital to maintaining tick populations.
   Adult ticks may 'winter' on a white-tailed deer, or spend the winter buried in leaf litter, with snow accumulations acting like a comforting quilt. During prolonged bouts of cold weather, ticks may become inactive, but only to revive as temperatures increase to as little as 28 degrees, with hungry adults biting hosts on warmer winter days. Adult ticks will be questing and looking for hosts into November and December, depending on weather temperatures.
   The transmission of B. burgdorferi from an infected tick is less likely to occur in the initial 24 hours of a tick attachment. For this reason, daily checks for ticks and prompt removal of any attached tick will help prevent infection. Inspect your body thoroughly, especially the groin, naval, armpits, head, and behind ears and knees as ticks respect no boundaries. Use a mirror, or have a 2-legged friend check the hard-to-see areas for the 8-legged little monsters. Remember to also check 4-legged family members. Nothing propels you faster from a bed in the middle of the night than feeling a tick crawling on the back of your neck.
   In Pennsylvania, ticks, rodents, roaming deer and migrating birds have been crossing paths for a long time and are, apparently, one route by which Lyme disease has spread. The number of deer in eastern forests is extraordinarily high, supporting huge populations of deer ticks. With the less severe winters in the past, the range in which ticks survive year round has expanded to establish additional healthy breeding populations. Residents are talking and ticks are the hot topic. The dirty buggers are here, their increased numbers obvious, and tick exposure apparently something we all have to live with. Be careful, it's a jungle out there.

Written by Debbie Flanigan
Full article published in Pennsylvania Game News Magazine, June 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Award Humbly Accepted!

Photographing the Ruffed Grouse Society's 29th National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt held in Grand Rapids, MN is an honor, and to be among some of the most generous-hearted people from across the nation with such a passion for the species and habitat, is awesome. I was surprised when Mike Zagata, President and CEO of the RGS, presented me with a beautiful plaque award "in appreciation for years of outstanding photography" during last night's banquet. I am very grateful!