Greetings! This is one of the very few weeks I have visited the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge twice in the same week. But the forecast was for some clear, sunny weather and I thought I’d take advantage of it in the midst of all the dark rainy days we’ve been having this fall. Of course, bright sun doesn’t guarantee great lighting in all photographic situations, and in some situations it can down right mess up a shot (some of which I’ll demonstrate here today). As I’ve mentioned in earlier postings, my all-around favorite lighting is bright overcast where shadows are almost obliterated and there is no specific direction from which light is coming.
As I pull into the parking lot the scene is of a shallow layer of fog stretching all across the refuge. What a beautiful sight it is! This tells me wind is zero which will help keep me a little warmer in the cab of the pickup and make for more stationary branches where birds might light.
I get my gear set up to go and head out along the auto tour. The sun is still not up completely over the ridge so it’s not super bright yet. I’m surprised to see the fog is not really a factor for short distance shots even though it looked like it might be when I first laid eyes on the refuge.
I approach the Ducks Unlimited sign between posts #7 & 8, and note some sparrow activity by the metal gate there. There is often small bird activity at this location. I pull into the little ‘driveway’ there facing the gate and get a few shots.
I think this next little guy is a Fox Sparrow, with the white eye ring and yellow beak. There were actually two of them perched here this morning and were quite content to let me take their pictures. I like the frost in these shots. Update: this has been identified as a Fox Sparrow and is a lifer for me!
Here’s a Song Sparrow in the same location
Along the Rest Lake stretch between #12 and #13 I see this lone duck in the morning light.
While I’m in this area, some Cacklers come in for a landing to join the group already on the ground.
I also can’t resist taking a shot or two of this beautiful Red-winged Blackbird on teasel.
Out on Rest Lake, there are many Tundra Swans, some of which are not far from the shoreline. Here is a pair in the morning light.
On my second loop of the auto tour, approaching post #10, off to the right I see a Double-crested Cormorant basking in the sun. My view of the bird isn’t great and I have some grass in the way, not to mention a strong backlight. Here’s the best I could muster under the conditions.
I drive on around the big curve prior to post #14 and see my first of three coyotes today. This one has much too strong of a backlight. None of the three coyotes were very close and none did a lot of pouncing while I was watching.
Heading out around the loop again I see a lone Pied-billed Grebe in the slough off to the right at about post #2.
A little further up the road and here’s a Great Blue Heron seemingly asking, “What are YOU looking at?”
Here’s coyote #2.
Just after post #6, a huge immature bald eagle flies into the top of a tree in front of me. Here is another example where the harsh sun really played havoc on the image. Shadows from branches and uneven lighting doesn’t really do the eagle justice here. Hoping to get a better look at this species on a future trip.
On around to south Rest Lake where the bluish sky is reflecting off the water and I see some American Coots. Waiting for the closest one to turn so the light shows off its detail the best. I love their red eyes!
Driving over to the home stretch I’m treated to an in-flight dance by two juvenile Bald Eagles. Here’s a glimpse of them.
When they were finished they flew off.
Starting another loop and I get around to near post 11 and see this group of pintails take flight. Such good-looking ducks!
In the same location, a gull gracefully flies over, giving me more needed flight shot practice.
Then I came across a group or river otters hunting in the water. One had caught a fish and let me shoot the scene while eating it. The harsh sun from the side didn’t do me any favors here, either. But I wanted to show you at least one shot of the sequence.
An American Robin flies up from the road in front of me and lands on a branch. I used some fill flash on this one.
Further down the road there’s a beautiful hawk in a tree to my left.
Turning the corner at post 11 another hawk lands on a tree a ways off. Not as close as I would like but I waited there until it flew to try to get a take-off shot.
As I continue around the loop on my last round, I see an American Bittern obscured by too much grass and a Northern Harrier on the ground. I also saw a Red-tailed Hawk on the ground hoping it would fly toward me when it took off, but no luck. Then it flew over to a refuge sign past post 14 on the home stretch. The hawk let me drive right up to it (keeping in mind my 11.5 feet min. focusing distance!).
After all the shots of the hawk I needed, I drove on and spotted my 3rd coyote out in the field. Here he calmly walks by a Great Blue Heron hunting for the same thing he is.
I’m finishing this post up after Christmas and I want to report that my kids gave me some great photo accessory gifts which I’ll be trying out on my next trip–hopefully, this week if the road conditions hold up. I’ll be putting into service the following items next time out:
Better Beamer, Kinesis Flat Bean Bag, and a Storm Jacket Camera Cover (if it rains).
The bean bag will replace the homemade one I made from a JC Penney bed sheet container (which worked in a pinch but just wasn’t large enough for my needs. It’ll be interesting to see if my flash performs better with the Better Beamer attached, too. Thanks, Kimi, Scott & Bud for the great gifts!
That about wraps it up for this episode of my refuge ramblings. I appreciate you stopping by to read and view my latest endeavors at Ridgefield. I hope you saw something you liked!