No Shelter From the Rain

A close-up view of the feathers of a red-tailed hawk with water drops beading up during a heavy rain

A downpour on Christmas morning left this young red-tailed hawk, sitting on a signpost beside the auto tour, drenched from head to toe with water drops beading up on the feathers on its back. The heavy rain and the holiday morning also meant that I had the refuge pretty much to myself and I was able to observe this tolerant hawk at my leisure without having to worry about blocking the road.

Dry Feathers

A close-up view of a female northern flicker

A very similar picture to another female flicker photo (that one with wet feathers), taken a couple of weeks later. There was a family of flickers that used to visit our suet feeder but I haven’t noticed them as much lately. Maybe I’ve just missed them, I lost my early warning system when our birdwatcher-in-residence died early this year.

Suet for Starlings

A close-up view of a European starling

We used to get a lot of starlings coming to our suet feeder, and especially in the spring when they were raising young, they could go through the suet rather quickly. Sometimes I’d still put the suet out regardless as Emma loved watching them and listening to the racket they made. Not sure why but I rarely see starlings at our feeder these days.

Sam at the Window

Our cat Sam looks out the window in my office while sitting in the cat tree

Sam in the cat tree, looking out of the window in my office, taken on the day after we adopted Boo in 2013. My mirrorless camera had just arrived so I was able to set it on the window sill and take the picture, I really like the freedom of camera placement that mirrorless cameras offer.


Our black lab Ellie

Watching my favorite show, Adventure Time, with my sweet pup.

On our walk this evening a little boy up the block asked if he could pet Ellie and I said yes, she’s a pretty gentle soul. He was squealing in delight and couldn’t stop hugging her until his mom eventually pulled him away so we could continue on our walk.

Across the street we could see Yum Yum, a sweet puppy who may be Ellie’s biggest fan, she just desperately wants to come say hi to Ellie whenever she sees us. She used to pretend she had to go the bathroom so her owners would let her outside, and then she’d run over and mob Ellie with licks to the face, but they eventually got wise to her little deception. I can’t blame you Yum Yum, Ellie is pretty great.

A couple of years ago at the dog park we met a woman for the first time and as Ellie went up to her (surreptitiously sniffing her pockets to see if she was carrying treats) the woman started petting Ellie and crying, she said Ellie reminded her of her dog who had died earlier in the year. I understood all too well, the death of our cat Scout was still fresh in my mind, and I started to offer to take Ellie to a different part of the park when I noticed she was smiling through her tears and wanted to pet Ellie for a while longer.

On two occasions I’ve had teenagers, after watching Ellie and I play in the park, separate from their friends to come over to tell me what a wonderful dog Ellie is. I don’t have kids of my own so I don’t normally get to see teens in such unguarded moments, but it’s very sweet.

It’s a little funny how someone as painfully shy as I am ended up with a gregarious dog that spreads happiness wherever she goes. I sometimes wonder if she gets a gray hair for every moment of joy she brings into the world, the price she pays for being such a great dog, it would certainly explain the many gray hairs. If so, I hope she gets many more.


An American bittern scans the water for food

One benefit to earning an animal’s trust is that you can often watch it for a long period of time. The downside is that it often has its back to you as it doesn’t consider you a threat. I had been watching this bittern hunt on the far bank for over an hour when it swam over and sat down right in front of me. It turned around to scan the water and I loved the geometry formed by its body and beak, its two round eyes sticking out from the side of its head.

Late Flight

A tundra swan flies near sunset

After spending a sunny fall day at Ridgefield, I found myself near sunset photographing ducks and coots feeding in Rest Lake. Suddenly a few tundra swans took off from a distant part of the lake and kept coming in my direction until they flew by my car. Sadly I didn’t have time to change settings on the camera so some things weren’t set up the way I would like, besides which I don’t normally shoot birds in flight so it’s not something with which I have much practice.

Nevertheless it was a nice ending to the day. I took a few more pictures of ruddy ducks and then headed for home.

At the Edge of the Ice

A female bufflehead surfaces next to the ice in a rapidly thawing Horse Lake

A female bufflehead surfaces next to the ice in a rapidly thawing Horse Lake. I felt bad for her, she had been feeding on her own, the only bufflehead on the lake, when a male/female pair flew in and started harassing her. She’d move off on her own, minding her own business, but the other two would still frequently swim over and chase her away. She was the first bird I photographed that morning but this picture is from an hour and a half later near the end of my time watching her.

The Pintails

Six pintails stand on the melting ice in Horse Lake

Six pintails stand amidst the melting ice of Horse Lake. They reminded me of teenagers lined up along a wall at a dance, a little too nervous to take to the dance floor, especially the males who looked like they were decked out in formal attire. In truth they were a little ill at ease and anxious for the ice to finish melting, as they are as awkward on the ice as they are graceful in the water.

Sunny Day, Cloudy Day, Same Day

Sunny Days

On a sunny afternoon, this seemingly happy wood duck raised his head to stretch before resuming preening some of the hard-to-reach areas. I don’t often see wood ducks in this part of Long Lake so it was a treat to watch him. Five minutes later the clouds rolled in and changed the lighting as he paused during his preening ritual. I love shooting on both sunny and cloudy days and on this day got to do both frequently, but the constantly changing light levels made it challenging to correctly meter the scene and I often didn’t keep up fast enough.

Cloudy Days