In 2016, the National Park Service will celebrate its 100th Birthday…a Centennial of preserving, exploring and sharing our nation’s greatest natural and historic treasures! As part of the Centennial, the National Park Service is encouraging Staff and volunteers to “Share Your Story” by submitting written stories, or by being interviewed.
NPS Staff visited Harpers Ferry NHP while I was here, and I was asked to also sit in on these interviews, and photograph the Staff as they were interviewed. I was so excited to hear all their stories, how the Park system has played major roles in their lives, how they have met their spouses in the Park, and so much more. Some of the folks have traveled the country in their NPS careers, while others have stayed close to home. One thing comes through in all the voices, however. These people love what they do, and they wouldn’t trade their experiences in the Park Service. They are excited about where they work, and what they do, and they want Americans to come share their Park!
Once the interviews were over, I was off to explore on my own. I made my way to the Harpers Ferry Train Station, operated by CSX Railroad. Trains run every day, going to Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Service to and from Harpers Ferry has run for over 25 years.
Remember St. John’s Church ruins? I went back there near sunset, even though it was a cloudy evening. I got a couple shots that I like, but we’ll see if I can’t do better before my “residency” is over. You can check out some of my photos on my commercial photography website, www.WVFinePhotography.com .
The next day began with a Park Staff meeting, which turned out to have the theme of “What Can We Find For Ron To Photograph?” This was great, as I not only got to meet more of the Staff (although I had met them briefly at the interviews), but I got to learn a little more about what each of them do for the Park. We discussed different ideas, checked the weather forecast (indoor work for rainy days) and roughed out a schedule for the next week. I’m going to stay busy while I’m here!
After the Staff Meeting, I got to meet Dale Nisbet, the Park’s Natural Resource Specialist. He told me that a Peregrine Falcon had been sited near the Park, and he was very excited about this. Apparently, Dale was very involved in an attempt a few years ago to restore Peregrine Falcons to this area. He explained how they were able to “hack” PF chicks from various areas, including Baltimore, Maryland. In Baltimore, the Falcons were making their nests beneath some of the city’s bridges, and many of the chicks were falling into the river before they were mature enough to fly. By bringing them to Harpers Ferry, not only did it help with restoring the birds in this habitat, but it also probably saved many of their lives!
With some clues from Dale as to where the Falcon had been sited, I carried my trusty Sigma 150-500 mounted on my Nikon. A little research told me that the Peregrine Falcon is usually more active later in the day, so I tried to be patient…and patience paid off! I was watching the turkey vultures…buzzards…and realized that one of them wasn’t flying like the rest….because it wasn’t like the rest. It was a Peregrine Falcon. I was able to catch it in mid-air for several shots. Then, as I watched, I was thrilled to see it land on what appeared to be a nest!
I made a trip to the Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library that night…but all I was able to do was send emails to Dale with photos of the Falcon! Blogs and photo uploads will have to wait!
Ron Gaskins, Artist in Residence
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
(written April 1; post delayed due to intermittent internet access)