Little Mister Sunshine

Our cat Sam rests on the hardwood floor in the sunlight in February 2008. Original: _MG_9858.cr2

Little Sam hasn’t seen too much sunshine in his young life with us (I mean that literally, not figuratively) but last week we had a spate of sunny days and he discovered the joy of sleeping in sunbeams.


A female juvenile northern harrier sits in a frosty meadow

I arrived at Ridgefield at sunrise but only had an hour before needing to head home to take our cats Sam and Emma to the vet. I thought the refuge would be fogged in given the heavy fog when I crossed the Columbia, but the refuge was clear and a lovely frost coated the meadows. I wanted to take advantage of the frost since it is not typical here, so I continued around the refuge until I found a good subject.

This female juvenile northern harrier was sitting in the large meadow at the end of the auto tour. I’d never gotten harrier pictures I’ve been happy with, so since she was a ways off I put the 2X teleconverter on my biggest lens and hoped for the best. She’s all puffed out in the cold looking a little larger than she is, and you can see the ring around her face that helps give harriers an owlish look. As she grows older, she will develop streaking down her chest and her eyes will turn from dark brown to yellow.

Creature of the Shadows

Our cat Sam's shadow, cast on the living room wall by the rising sun as he watched from the cat seat in the picture window

Friday as we were about to leave for work, the rising sun created this shadow on our living room wall of Sam sitting on the window seat. I grabbed the camera for a few quick shots before heading out the door.

He and Emma had a good visit to the vet today, he charmed them right up until it was time for his vaccination and then he let out a pretty good howl. Emma has recovered nicely from her bumps, she had some darkened spots on her skin that we were afraid might be the phage but which turned out to be a harmless reaction to the bumps. Whew!

Scout is still struggling a bit with a respiratory infection that she got from the newcomers, her left eye started bothering her so she went to the vet last week. The drops have cleared up the eye nicely and hopefully she’ll beat the virus for good pretty soon. Fortunately she never learned how to take her medicine from Templeton, she’s not happy about it but she takes it pretty readily most of the time.

And despite the germ warfare waged against her, Scout has really warmed up to Sam and Emma. She actually instigated some roughhousing with Sam today, she’s snuggled with him for a while but this is the first we’ve seen her initiate play. All three of them were crammed into my window in the afternoon when I opened it up to enjoy the warm weather, the birds and squirrels provided good entertainment for the trio, who all got along happily despite the cramped quarters.

Is It Morning Already?

A rough-legged hawk yawns at sunrise

I had the chance to photograph this rough-legged hawk over several weeks as she was often hanging out near the auto tour at Ridgefield, but I wasn’t happy with the close-up shots as the skies were always a dull gray overcast. I arrived at sunrise on Saturday morning specifically with the hope of photographing her under clear skies, so I ignored all of the other animals at the refuge and headed straight to where I had seen her last. Thankfully not only did I get my blue sky but she was waiting on a sign post near the road. There was little traffic at the refuge at that hour so I had the chance to watch her for some time. She eventually let out a large yawn in the beautiful morning light, and I was very lucky that she turned back towards the sun when she yawned so that the sun illuminated her mouth.

I laughed to myself thinking that I wasn’t the only one who thought it was awfully early in the morning to be out and about.

Hawk On A Stick

A close-up view of a young red-tailed hawk raising its head high while preening on the auto tour at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Ridgefield, Washington in February 2008

It’s not uncommon to see hawks perched at close range on the many signposts around the auto tour at Ridgefield — what I like to call hawks on a stick. I loved the pose when this preening redtail stretched its neck out to an unusually tall height. Young birds like this one often have pale brown eyes that will darken with age.

The Lineup

Our cat Sam sitting in his heated cat bed

When I woke up this morning, pressed up to my side were Sam, Scout, and Emma. As I scratched the heads of Sam and Scout (Emma was out of reach), a cacophony of purrs reached my ears. As I rolled onto my back, Sam curled up between my knees and Scout lay down on my chest. I had only a few minutes before the alarm was set to go off, but it was a lovely few minutes. Sam is growing like a weed — a long skinny weed with sharp claws. I trimmed his nails tonight and got a nice cut on my finger for my efforts, this one can’t be blamed on invisible wolverines. I probably shouldn’t have done it right after I got him all riled up by playing with him, a lesson for next time.

Emma is also growing like a weed, but since she’s full grown we’ll need to cut back on the wet food she likes so much. She did need to put on weight when we first brought her home as she was too thin, but she’s filled out nicely now and we’d like to keep her that way. Her bumps have mostly disappeared so she won’t have to wear the bib any longer. She only had to wear the bib for short durations at the end, and she’d tolerate it just fine for a while but when she decided it needed to come off, she got it off. I’ll have to take a picture of it some day, it’s badly shredded and on its last legs. Some of that is Sam’s fault for when they roughhouse, but Emma certainly knew how to get out of it when the time came.

The Reason I Keep Band-aids in My Camera Bag

Saturday afternoon as soon as I got to Ridgefield, I cut my finger getting the big lens out of its case. There isn’t anything sharp in there so I’m not sure how I did it, but fortunately I keep a bag of band-aids in the front of my camera bag. It wasn’t a deep cut but was bleeding bright red blood, so I cleaned myself up before bleeding all over the lens.

I learned to keep the bandages in my camera bag a few years ago during my first visit to Yellowstone. On my first day on the first trail, as I got out of the car I reached into my camera bag and cut my finger. There wasn’t anything sharp in there so I’m not sure how I did it, but I had some band-aids in my first aid kit in my backpack. That night I bought a box of band-aids and have kept some in my camera bag ever since.

The thing is, I’ve not been able to figure out how I keep slicing my finger when there are no sharp objects to be seen. But on the way home from the refuge, it suddenly dawned on me. It’s so obvious I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.

Invisible wolverines.


Categorized as General

I’m Going To Have a Lot of These

Our cat Emma plays with a string in her mouth in January 2008. Original: _MG_6859.cr2

Emma’s black fur throws my camera’s autofocus for a loop — something I expected given how many mis-focused bear pictures I’ve taken in Wyoming. I certainly don’t expect the camera to be able to lock on dark fur, but I thought it would be able to pick up the line between her dark pupils and her green eyes. In strong light it seems to do okay, but in low light it does poorly, even with the focus assist light of the flash.

In this shot, I preset the focus on the chair and waited for her to pop up after the string. She caught the string and stayed for several seconds with the string hanging from her mouth, but the camera couldn’t find focus. Emma’s eyes are out of focus, which is the part of the image I really wanted in focus. In the image below, her eyes are in decent focus, but that’s because she moved and her eyes are near the plane of focus along the chair’s edge.

I’m going to end up with a lot of out-of-focus shots of Emma, on top of the number I’ve deleted already.

Our cat Emma looks over the back of the chair in January 2008. Original: _MG_6862.cr2

I suspect Canon’s pro line of cameras would do a better job here (not perfect, but better). I’ve long thought about upgrading, but to my dismay Canon has only put their pro autofocus in large, heavy bodies. I’ve been trying to lighten my load on long hikes, so perhaps I’ll end up with a heavy body for normal use and a lightweight camera like the new Rebel for hiking.

Nikon makes a body I like but switching would be expensive. Still, watching the bald eagles last week in low light and seeing how many pictures were not sharply focused, it makes me wonder just how much better the pro bodies would be.

Six Weeks

Our cat Sam as a kitten looking over the edge of the window seat

Sam and Emma have been with us for six weeks now. It’s been fun to get to know their personalities as they get more and more adjusted to their new home, I think we really lucked out with these two. And I say that even though I have a cut across my forehead thanks to waking up this morning to Sam chewing on my head. Normally Emma has been the target of his head biting, hopefully this phase will pass quickly. I seem to recall it not lasting long with Scout, but then again that’s easy for me to say since I wasn’t the target of her affections.

Hopefully Emma’s bib will come off on Monday, she does okay with it most of the time but it does drive her crazy when she wants to clean herself. She manages to get out of it on her own at times — I told you she was an escape artist — but even when she does, she doesn’t seem to go after her shaved patch, so that’s a good sign. We should know more about what was causing the bumps on her skin early in the week.

Both she and Scout are recovered from their respiratory infections and don’t need oral antibiotics any more, to the relief of everyone. My wife handled the majority of medicine time. Scout was pretty easy to medicate actually, she never went to the Templeton School Of How To Not Take Your Medicine. Emma wasn’t too bad either, although the first time I ended up with more medicine on me than down her throat. Sam is getting his last dose of ear medicine, we think his ears are all cleared up so this is just to be sure.

The three cats are getting along well, Sam and Emma play well together (which is fortunate, as they burn off a lot of energy chasing each other all over the house). Sam and Scout sleep together at times, and lately they’ve all been joining us in bed. Every time I shift my position I hear murmurs from the peanut gallery, Sam and Scout are usually on or next to me and Emma’s usually at the foot of the bed, so I have to carefully adjust my legs to avoid kicking anyone.

Today’s picture of Sam is from a couple of weeks ago, it was the first time he used the window perch on his own. I took a really cute picture of him looking down at me, but it was hopelessly blurred since the camera missed the focus in the low light, but I’ve ranted about that enough for one evening.