Saving the prairie grouse, one photo at a time

Posted December 6, 2012 at 11:00 am

A decade ago, Noppadol Paothong began photographing the grassland-residing birds of the grouse family, from endangered greater prairie chickens in Missouri to Gunnison sage grouse of the West. The beauty and grace of these unique birds are captured in his recently published book: Save the Last Dance – A story of North American Grassland Grouse, produced along with noted outdoor writer Joel M. Vance.

Paothong will talk about the book and his photographic journey from 7 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at the Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center, 4750 Troost Ave., in Kansas City.

Last Dance, he hopes, “will be a window for people to glimpse the life and beauty of these extraordinary species.”

His goal is also to help save these birds. Most species of grassland grouse are dwindling, highly threatened or even endangered due to habitat losses in their native ranges. Paothong spent countless hours on prairies and plains to create dazzling photos of these colorful birds. An exception was the heath hen of the East, where he relied on history because that grassland grouse is already extinct. Among his photo subjects are greater prairie chicken, lessor prairie chicken, Attwater’s prairie chicken, sharp-tailed grouse, greater sage grouse and Gunnison sage grouse.

A native of Thailand, Paothong is recognized as one of America’s finest professional outdoor photographers.

“I believe and hope if a person like me, who grew up in a city on a continent 10,000 miles away, can fall in love with these birds, anybody can if only they get to know them,” Paothong said.

For more information, go to http://mdc.mo.gov/node/281 or call 816-759-7300. Information on the book is also available at http://www.savethelastdancebook.com/.

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SAVING THE PRAIRIE CHICKEN – A Greater prairie chicken struts in a male courtship dance on a Missouri prairie. Missouri Department of Conservation photo

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THE PHOTOGRAPHER – Noppadol Paothong is a Columbia, Mo., resident who during an 18-year career has produced dazzling photographs of nature in the Midwest and the West. Photo courtesy of Noppadol Paothong