Story by Tammy Kokjohn
I was born and raised in a small town, Ft. Madison, Iowa, right on the Mississippi River. From a very young age, being outdoors was just what we did as kids, from the time the sun came up, till the porch lights came on at night. My Dad helped develop my love of nature, spending time in the woods, fishing, drives out on the country roads, and taking me to spend time on my Grandparents farm.
I married my high school sweetheart, almost 45 years ago. We had two children, a son and a daughter, and spent the next years raising our kids, and traveling throughout the country for my husband’s work.
We are now blessed with six grandchildren, three boys and three girls, ages 8-18. The only thing I knew about photography back then, well, was taking many pictures of my grandchildren. It wasn’t until about seven or eight years ago, a dear friend of mine sparked my interest in doing wildlife photography. I bought my first camera, and quickly fell in love with capturing moments in nature.
One thing that was always important to me was sharing my love of nature with my grandchildren. I started Grandmother’s For Nature, photography by Tammy Kokjohn, to use my passion for photography to help all children have a better love for the natural world we live in. They naturally yearn to explore the outdoors, and to see the simple beauty in nature one image at a time, whether it’s a beautiful butterfly, an amazing landscape, or just a child observing animals. I feel that wildlife photography has power; it can inspire people to want to do more to protect all wildlife. As parents and grandparents, spending time in nature with our children will continue to benefit us all.
My winning photo was taken in a San Bernadino County field frequented by burrowing owls—small, sandy-colored, long-legged avians with bright yellow eyes. They nest on the ground in burrows they dig themselves or take over from prairie dogs, ground squirrels or other animals. Unlike nocturnal owls, they hunt during the day, mostly for rodents, some of which they stash in their holes to save for brooding season. This photo was taken with the camera on a tripod, although honestly, I would say 90 percent of the time I handhold. Birds are fast moving and you want to be able to move with them.
Either way, with burrowing owls you watch, listen and learn their behavior. When they go out to hunt, they’ll perch somewhere to look around, then take off very fast. If you’ve watched them long enough, you can anticipate that moment. For this particular photograph, it was a matter of learning their behavior and waiting.
Celebrating its 10th year, the California Watchable Wildlife Photo of the Year contest 2021 is currently underway. Photographers can register and submit photos online here.
This story submitted by California Watchable Wildlife administrator and OWAC Board member, Barbara Steinberg.