I arrived at the refuge too early for pictures as it was still dark. I started out around the auto tour anyway and saw and heard wildlife but there was little point in photographing it….until I got to post 8 at the Kiwa Trail parking area.
There I was greeted by 3 coyotes walking down the road toward me. I quickly swung my truck a little to the right and stopped cross-wise in the road to get shots out my driver’s window. It was still too dark and required flash but I had to post a shot or two of this. Two of the animals walked past the rear of my truck, one of these catching a vole just off the road and the third passed my truck in front. I left the glowing eyes in the shots for “effect.”
I don’t believe I’ve ever seen this next coyote with the darker chest coat. Very cool!
I tried some shots of Sandhill Cranes flying overhead but there was just not enough light for flight shots. But I did get a couple of cranes way out in a field just walking around. I left the shot dark like it really was at the time. Also, please excuse the excessive image noise in some of today’s low-light shots!
As I complete the first loop and was back at the main parking area, this Scrub Jay was foraging on the ground by the little office building. This is a high ISO shot with flash (1250)—nothing to write home about. The bird was busy starting off his day gathering food off the ground.
Here’s what I believe is an immature Snow Goose. It was out foraging with the Canada Geese far from the road at post #2.
Between posts #5 & 6, on the right, I spot several Robins busy devouring the berries about 30 feet off the road. Again, high ISO flash shots but better than nothing.
Just around post #10 now where I’m exiting the woods, there’s a Double-crested Cormorant on a perch over the water where I usually see these birds. I lowered the ISO to 800 as the light was getting a little better, but I still needed flash here. I had to shoot between some branches to get this cropped shot of the neck and head.
Just past post #8 on the right, a group of Goldfinches were working the teasel there. Still at ISO 800 on these with flash. These guys are great seed extractors!
In the woods I spot a nice plump Red-tailed Hawk.
By Rest Lake, a Tundra Swan comes in for a landing.
As I was shooting swans, I noticed a raccoon down in the canal pawing through the long grass near the shore, working its way toward me. It was very busy looking for food –so much so that it hardly lifted its head or turn my way to give me a decent pose. After watching for a while and not getting much in the way of pictures, I noticed a coyote up on top of the dike (which is about 8 ft above the water) walking toward me while occasionally doing some pouncing and catching of voles. I then realized that with all the noise and grass movement the raccoon was making pawing at the grass at the water’s edge, the coyote was going to certainly pick up on this from the top of the dike when it got close enough.
Sure enough when the coyote approached within about 20 feet of the raccoon, it stopped and perked its ears up not knowing yet what was making the noise in the tall grass down the bank. Here I am with a 400mm prime lens which, at my close distance, barely gets the raccoon in the frame from where I am sitting in my truck. This is one of those times when I wished I’d brought a wider lens to catch this action either in stills or on video.
In curiosity, the coyote slowly makes its way down the bank, through the tall grass and gets to about 4 feet from the raccoon. Both animals make eye contact and the coyote jumps back like an excited puppy and soon realizes that it doesn’t want to take on this animal with sharp claws and teeth. I shot some stills of the coyote as it noticed the noise from above and then I switched to video hoping to get the interaction between the two animals. But of course, with the prime lens I found it difficult to keep either animal in the frame—especially the coyote, which was jumping around.
This not-so-great video, was shot just as the coyote sees the raccoon. I obviously needed a wider lens to get all the action but it was still great having a front row seat to this wild encounter.
This video was shot just a few minutes after the coyote had approached the raccoon. You can see the raccoon was not too concerned about the possibility of the coyote’s return.
I finish this loop around the tour and start another loop. As I get to around post #2, there’s a Red-tailed Hawk in a tree off to the right with some nice green leaves behind it. The hawk is standing on one foot and just taking it easy.
Here’s a video of the hawk taking off.
Further around between posts #9 & 10, I catch a Wood Duck that didn’t make it easy to get a shot.
Now I’m just approaching post #12 and there is another coyote on the road in front of me, hunting the grass along the road edges. I cautiously keep up with the coyote and occasionally stop sideways on the road to try to get some shots. After two or three repetitions of this, the animal turns right, into the field. I’m sure it got tired of keeping an eye on this truck following him/her while hunting. Here is a series of shots from this encounter, showing the pounce sequence, which will bring this photo shoot to an end.
I did want to say that I looked for the ‘accidental’ Vermilion Flycatcher that several Ridgefield shooters have been spotting and shooting, but I had no luck with it. Since I’m behind, and posting this after I’ve already done my next shoot, I can say that I was successful in the hunt for this little bird and I will share the shots as soon as I can get the next blog post done. Be looking for my Nov. 15th photo shoot report!
Thanks for visiting this week! See you next time!