Trixie Wins Her Freedom

Our kitten Trixie looks up the stairs at our oldest cat Sam

This weekend we finally gave Trixie free reign of the house. She joined me in bed last night and is asleep in my lap at the moment. This picture is from a week ago when we were giving her limited time outside the guest room, you can see in her wide eyes that she was a little too hopped up to be let loose on the other cats full time. That’s Sam beside me on the stairs, trying to decide just what to make of his new little sister.

Lunch for One

A female hooded merganser swallows a fish

A hooded merganser swallows a fish she just caught in the shallows of Long Lake. She’s swimming away not from me but rather the other mergansers in her group who would be more than happy at the chance for a free meal. Once she surfaces with the fish she’s got to get it oriented head-first, lengthwise down her long thin bill, and toss it back and swallow it. The still squirming fish sometimes gets dropped even when alone, much less in a crowd, so a little private space is always welcome.

A Closer Look

A close-up view of a great egret

Not only was I fortunate to be able to photograph great egrets numerous times in December, but even on this day I had several opportunities, including full-body portraits as one caught numerous bullfrogs. There were times I saw egrets very close to the road but in each case someone else had stopped and, rather than risk spooking the bird, I continued past.

Late in the day I got my chance at a close look when I came across this egret at Rest Lake. It was mostly watching the water for frogs but occasionally if another car came past it would gently turn its head in my direction. That rarely happened as there was a sudden lull in traffic, but I spent a lovely twenty minutes watching it at close range before it finally took flight to chase off another egret that had flown in a ways down the shore.

Turning Frogs into Katydids

A Mormon cricket in a meadow in Grand Teton National Park

My visit to the Tetons in 2011 got off to a slow start. I hadn’t seen much wildlife and while the scenery was beautiful as always, the light and weather weren’t cooperating. In the mood to try something new, I hiked a trail I hadn’t been on before, the Two Ocean Lake Trail. In the meadows I was startled multiple times by creatures moving in the grass that reminded me in size and mass of frogs, but they looked like giant grasshoppers. I had no idea such things even existed, not having seen them before (or since), but they were Mormon crickets. They’re actually katydids, not crickets, and lack the ability to fly.

Calm

Calm

I photographed this mountain stream on the trail above Wahkeena Falls in the fall and realized when I got home that I had photographed these same rocks a few years earlier. I love the look and sound and smell of mountain streams and the Columbia River Gorge never disappoints. While I find the picture calming, the trail is popular and I had to keep moving the camera when people approached to avoid blocking the trail with my tripod.

Trixie Gets Comfortable

Our tortoiseshell cat Trixie sleeps stretched out on her back

Trixie’s introduction to the rest of the family is proceeding apace but she’s not yet been given free reign of the house, we’re still keeping her in the guest bedroom at night and while we’re away. Boo is still rather uneasy around her but he is making progress and in the past couple of days has been willing to play when she’s around. Trixie, for her part, seems quite comfortable in her new home, as you can see when she stretched out on my legs a few days ago. You can see where they shaved her belly for the surgery when she was spayed.

An End to Hibernation

End of Hibernation: The Dunk

Bullfrogs hibernate during the winter so their metabolism slows significantly and they aren’t very active but they don’t bury themselves in the mud the way a turtle might. Many bullfrogs at Ridgefield found their hibernation cut short this winter by the herons and egrets and bitterns that worked the shallow channels and ponds of the refuge.

This egret in particular was just walking up and down one such channel, avoiding a great blue heron doing the same, striking at bullfrog after bullfrog, following a familiar process between catching the frog and eating it. First, the frog would be dunked quickly into the water, as shown above. Next, the egret would spin the frog rapidly, presumably causing massive internal injuries to the frog, as shown in the following two pictures. In the first picture, the egret has closed the nictitating membrane in its eyes, a transparent third eyelid that protects the eye from damage while still allowing the egret to see, as water spins off the frog and its clawed feet flail about, while in the second picture the membrane has been retracted.

End of Hibernation: Spin Cycle No. 1

End of Hibernation: Spin Cycle No. 2

Then the egret would toss the frog into the air, catching it in a different place on its body, and either repeat the process again if it caught it by a leg, or perhaps crush it in its beak if it caught it by the body. This would happen multiple times until I gather the frog had died or given up fighting, although with the egret constantly keeping the frog moving it was hard to tell exactly when or if the frog itself stopped moving.

End of Hibernation: Throw & Catch

The final step was to position the frog head first in its beak and swallow it whole. Bullfrogs are voracious predators and, as they aren’t native to the area, have had a big impact on some of the other small creatures in the ponds and sloughs. However I’ve seen the bullfrogs themselves become prey for the larger predators of the refuge, including not just egrets and herons and bitterns but otters, raccoons, and grebes.

End of Hibernation: The End

Accomplishing Much By Doing Nothing

Despite being off work for two days, when looking at my task list I didn’t get much done, although it feels like I’ve accomplished a lot, helping the pets work through the stress of Trixie’s arrival.

I was most concerned about Boo given his recent stress reaction so I was pleasantly surprised yesterday morning when he climbed into my lap while I was having breakfast. He settled in for a long nap which concerned me as I still had to get up to walk Ellie, so I waited as long as I could then gently placed him back on the couch when I got up. Perhaps he’s been learning from Sam, as he got up and took my nicely warmed spot.

He was still there when I got back from our walk so I sat down and put him in my lap and he fell back asleep. Later when I had to get up I came back to find him right back in my spot, so this time I let him be and sat next to him. Sam came in and curled up in my lap and that’s how the three of us spent the morning, until I at last got up for some lunch and came back to see Sam had taken my new spot.

I left the brothers curled up beside each other and Ellie and I went up to join Trixie for some quiet time in her room. She curled up in my lap and that’s how we spent the afternoon. A lazy day, but a good one.

Allow Me to Introduce Yourself

Our tortoiseshell kitten rests on a dog bed

My wife left town on Wednesday and I was to take over spending the night with Trixie, plus getting up early to feed the pets, and walking Ellie in the morning as well as the evening. Already exhausted, it just seemed a little too much to manage to make it to work on time and get a reasonable amount of sleep, but thankfully Thursday and Friday were fairly open in my schedule so I took them off. Combined with a holiday on Monday I’m home for five straight days.

I’m thankful for that, as the introductions have begun.

My first task was to figure out sleeping arrangements for Wednesday night. Ellie usually sleeps in our bedroom on the dog bed or our bed, and since she had already met Trixie without eating her, I brought her dog bed into the guest bedroom and Ellie, Trixie, and I spent the night there. It all went well at first, I don’t know if she’ll grow out of it but Trixie is a snuggler when she sleeps, sometimes even curling up under your chin. Ellie took to her dog bed and we all drifted off to sleep.

At about 3:30 a.m. I woke to a tiny, snuggly orc chewing on my face and poking me with her claws. I petted her and explained in my best orc tongue that this was not the time for playing. She finally calmed down and we fell asleep until 5 a.m. when a loud and angry goblin began caterwauling outside our door. I assured him that feeding time wasn’t until 6 a.m. and would he please let me get some sleep, but my goblin speech is not as good as my orc, and he persisted.

At 6 a.m. I got up to feed Ellie and Sam and Boo and give Ellie and Trixie their pills and scoop the litter boxes and then snuggled up with Trixie to try and go back to sleep. Unfortunately I was wide awake but I did finally fall back asleep, getting up at 9 a.m. for some breakfast and to take Ellie on our walk.

This all repeated verbatim last night, except that Ellie joined us in the bed, so I’m especially thankful that I was able to be off work. I’ve been letting Trixie explore the house more and more, but she still greets the other cats with too much enthusiasm so there hasn’t been much progress there. She did eventually get pretty tired, it’s a stressful business exploring a new home, so I put her at the top of the cat tree and she settled in for a nap while Boo and Sam came up to watch the squirrels at the suet feeder. Trixie was tired enough that she just lay there and let the other cats sit inches away from her, so while it’s a very small start, it’s still a start.

After a while she was overwhelmed and came back to the guest room on her own, so I grabbed my laptop and came up with her, she’s asleep on my legs at the moment. She’s also taken to napping in the dog bed that I brought in from the bedroom, as you can see in the picture above.

Sorry Ellie.