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"GREAT BLUE HERON Mating at Tamarac" by Rodney Ludwig.

Taking (scenic) refuge

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Rodney Ludwig of Fargo took top honors in Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge's 10th Annual Photography Contest. His photo, Great Blue Heron, Mating at Tamarac Rookery, was chosen out of a record number of 163 entries.

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In addition to first, second and third place awards in each category, three special awards were presented. Manager's Choice, selected by refuge manager Neil Powers, went to Justin Lehman for his photo of a golden-winged warbler called Showing off His Bling. The Friends of Tamarac selected Ludwig's grand prize winning photo as their favorite. The public was invited to vote for their favorite at Tamarac's Fall Festival and at the Washington Square Mall during National Wildlife Refuge Week. That People's Choice Award went to Diane Turcotte for her photo called Pelican Reflection.

This year's judges were Brian Basham, photographer for Detroit Lakes Newspapers; Gale Kaas, publisher of the Frazee Forum, and Joe Allen, Native American professional photographer.

The contest consisted of five categories including Plant Life, Scenic, Nature's Abstract, Recreation and Wildlife. There were two youth categories as well. There were 54 participants.

The annual photo contest provides Tamarac the opportunity to increase its photo collection used to promote the refuge and its mission. Photography is a great way for people to connect with nature. All photos may be used in public presentations at the refuge and for community organization presentations. Photos may also be utilized in brochures, exhibits and newspaper.

Visitors may view all entries at the visitor center located nine miles north of Highway 34 at the junction of county highways 26 and 29. Visitor Center hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Photos may also be viewed on the Friends of Tamarac website at www.tamaracfriends.org .

The annual photo contest is sponsored by the Friends, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to facilitate activities and programs that interpret, protect and restore the natural and cultural resources of the refuge.

The winning shot

Rodney Ludwig's interest in photography began in 2004, when he purchased a tract of wooded land adjacent to the refuge. The land, riddled with bogs, streams and forests, offered a great variety of photographic opportunities. From there, he wandered into Tamarac. Because dragonflies were everywhere, they became his first subject. He learned patience and proper technique photographing these tiny jewels.

It was his neighbor who told him of a heron rookery on Tamarac, which is less than a mile from their cabin. The mating photos were taken over two weekends. He spent full days completely hidden under a bush next to a beaver dam. The best photos were all taken late one afternoon.

Ludwig said it was fascinating to spend the many hours observing mating. He witnessed one heron stealing twigs from surrounding nests. Occasionally, a great "ruckus" would break out as one or two herons would swoop in to interrupt a mating pair.

Ludwig and his wife visit Tamarac each time they go to their cabin in the woods. He now particularly enjoys winter scenic photography. According to Ludwig, "Although I went on a winter photography trip to Yellowstone and some trips to the North Shore, I need to go no further than Tamarac to find great photo opportunities."

List of winners

• Wildife:

First -- Great Blue Heron Mating at Tamarac Rookery by Rodney Ludwig of Fargo

Second -- Great Blue Heron Mating Plumage at Tamarac Rookery by Rodney Ludwig

Third -- March of the Geese by Chelsea Henderson of Fargo

• Plant Life:

First -- Silken Butterfly Dreams by Ria Young of Lake Park

Second -- Copper Colored Leaves by Denise Morris of Fargo

Third -- Susan's Eye by Alyssa Olson of Bejou

• Scenic:

First -- Twisted Sunset by John Dermody of Frazee

Second -- Color Trail by Doug Bellefeuille of Detroit Lakes

Third -- Ablaze with Color by Carolyn Wenger of Detroit Lakes

• Nature's Abstracts:

First -- Spider's Web on Wild Grass by Denise Morris of Fargo

Second -- Tangled by Claudine Grove of Alexandria

Third -- Water in Motion by Dannon Yliniemi of Detroit Lakes

• Recreation:

First -- Time Remembered by Jessica Bolland of Brownton

Second -- Carol by Diane Turcotte of Detroit Lakes

Third -- Reflections of Tamarac by Gail Marshall of Detroit Lakes

• Youth 12 years old and younger:

First -- Clear Water and a Leaf by Meya Rojas of White Earth

Second -- Things are Looking Up by Tessa Zima of Waubun

Third -- Pearly Everlasting Fuzz by Anna Donner of Ogema

• Youth 13-17 years old:

First -- Compare and Contrast by Bailey Yliniemi of Detroit Lakes

Second -- Susan's Eye by Alyssa Olson of Bejou

Third -- Just Hanging Out by Justine Haugo of Mahnomen

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the National Wildlife Refuge System that includes more than 540 refuges nationwide.

Within Becker County, the Service is represented by the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge, and the Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District. Becker County enjoys an impressive diversity of both plants and wildlife as a result of its location where the eastern deciduous forest meets the prairie.

Plan a visit to experience Tamarac, Hamden Slough, or one of the many Waterfowl Production Areas and enjoy your public lands.

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