Today, I decided to hit the refuge in the late morning, hoping some sun breaks would continue throughout the afternoon. But I think I guessed wrong as heavy, dark clouds rolled in by about 2:30 in the afternoon, leaving little light to work with. So I only got about 3 hours of shooting in today.
Greetings friends and welcome to The Blog – my forum for discussing my wildlife shoots as they happen. This will be a short report today, so you may not need that beverage when you sit down to read. 🙂 Is it just me or has this winter been unusually dark, cloudy and rainy around the pacific northwest? It has been tough to find even one day a week to go out and shoot pictures because almost every day seems forecasted to be dark and cloudy. Ok, I’ll stop complaining about the weather–I know a lot of folks around the world have had terrible natural disasters to deal with and I do count my blessings.
I get my gear ready, hop in the truck and head out around the 4.2 mile auto tour at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. I don’t see much of anything photographable (is that a word?) until I get to the Ash tree forest between posts 9&10. Across the water to my right is a lone raccoon walking the water’s edge. I make some kind of sound to cause him to look up and I take some shots. He doesn’t stay long though and ends up running away along the shoreline. Here’s the shot.
[Some of these shots look better large. Please click on these thumbnails to view large].
Just a minute more down the road along the same waterway is our resident Ring-necked Duck, which is likely the same duck I posted a picture of in my Feb. 25th report. Here’s a shot of this good looking fellow.
Continuing along the same waterway, the algae now turns to the hot pink color that has been around for so long. Some American Coots are paddling around in the water. I try to wait for the bird to turn its head just right to get the best sunlight on it. It’s amazing what the difference of just a fraction of an inch movement in the bird’s head can make to the shot. Coot’s are a difficult bird to expose correctly. This one came out okay but there is certainly room for improvement in lighting.
I was now driving down the home stretch past post #14 and I see a small coyote on the road hundreds of feet in front of me. I took a shot from way back here but the little guy didn’t give me a chance to approach him. He ran up the bank on the right and disappeared over the top. Here’s the shot full frame at 400mm to give you an idea of his distance from me.
On my second loop and there’s still not much activity within camera range. I’m back in the forest and spot a Brown Creeper on a tree trunk too far away for a quality shot but I try anyway. Using flash in the shade of the dark forest, I come up with this frame. He never did give me a profile pose at the edge of the trunk.
Moving along through the forest, I approached the large turnout not far from post #10. To the left on a branch about 15 feet up, an immature Bald Eagle was chowing down on his recent catch. I used some fill flash but the backlit sky was just too bright.
As I approach post #11, to my left, at a very close range is a Shoveler pair.
I’m now along the small body of water by post #12 where off to my left is an American Bittern. I just got my camera ready to shoot and he strikes at something in the water. Here is one of the shots showing him just pulling his small catch from the water. It must be a minnow or a tadpole I’m guessing.
Here’s a shot of the bittern a little later on where he has turned his body in a better angle to the light.
In the canal along Rest Lake, there’s a Coot.
Third time around the loop and I’m between posts #5&6 at the slight right turn where a culvert runs under the road. Here’s a Great Horned Owl perched on an unobstructed limb facing right at the road. Of course, he’s not anywhere near as close as I would have liked. This could be one of the year-old bird’s that we watched grow up in the Ash tree forest last year.
Near the end of the Ash tree forest I see a Great Blue Heron which has captured a snake. The bird carries its catch off the road to the right and toward the water. At this angle the light is really bad so I use some flash fill. The shot itself is not something I would normally post except for the interesting situation it was taken under. You can see how stretched out the snake is and that is due to the snake wrapping its tail around a branch below it. It doesn’t take long and the bird overpowers the snake and easily makes the snake an afternoon snack. No shots of the swallow as the bird walked away with his back toward me.
That’s it for a short day at the refuge. Can’t say this was my most fruitful day here but it was still fun trying. Glad you could stop by and check out this episode of The Blog! See you next time!