For six days did he search for an American bittern, and for six days was he disappointed. And he was sorely vexed, for one year and one day had passed since his last sighting. But lo on the seventh day was a bittern revealed to him, and great was his pleasure for deep was his love, and he left rejoicing.
On December 30th I was at Ridgefield photographing a heron and egret as the sun began to set. They were both down in a channel slightly below the road so they fell into shadow before the surrounding area. I drove to the start of Bull Lake and watched a bufflehead diving for food until he too was no longer lit by the setting sun. I was about to call it a day when I noticed one section of the lake was a brilliant orange, a reflection from a house high on the hill above the refuge that was still lit by the rays of the sun.
I decided to use the reflections to play around with some abstracts, starting with a completely de-focused image, but got no further as when I went to adjust the focus the colors faded. When I looked up I saw that even the hills were no longer lit so I drove the short distance to the parking lot and packed up my gear and headed home. I was sick on New Year’s Eve and didn’t head out, so this inadvertently ended up being my last picture of 2015.
The rain here in the Northwest is frequent during the cooler months but it’s usually more drizzle than downpour, yet it has absolutely poured at times this month. I love photographing in the rain and am always a little disappointed when there’s a good strong shower but nothing to shoot. Fortunately I was already watching a group of shovelers feeding in Long Lake when a sudden deluge of large raindrops pounded the surface of the water. The ducks of course are built for wet weather and fed unabated, and soon enough the rain softened in intensity.
We set a record for the wettest December ever when we were only three weeks into the month, and it has often rained since then, so it is no surprise that the water levels at Ridgefield are a little high. But not nearly so much as this picture would suggest, that sign is back near a hunter’s blind near the shore of Bull Lake, which itself is managed to mimic the flood plains of the Columbia before the dams went in. An unusually hot and dry summer left us with little snowpack in the mountains and we haven’t seen the widespread flooding we got when I moved here almost twenty years ago.
I took advantage of a two week vacation from work to return to Ridgefield (and going out to do photography in general) after a year’s absence. I’ve been up there six times so far and will probably go a few more times before it is time to head back to work. I’ve had a lot of fun and mostly photographed animals I’ve photographed many times before, biggest surprise was finding a short-eared owl up close, but I’ve been more surprised by what I haven’t seen: mammals apart from the ever-present nutria, and more importantly, my beloved bitterns.
I knew I was going to be hard-pressed to find bitterns when I drove by Rest Lake, which has by far been my best spot to find them the past few years, and saw that the way the water and the plants are in that area, the bitterns would be a lot more exposed than they like to be. I looked for them on every visit but didn’t see a single one. I still have a lot of old pictures to edit and get back online so regardless bittern pictures will be coming.
It was good to be back, the key will be to keep the momentum going and keep heading out once I’m back at work, as it is going to be a hectic month or two.
When we adopted Trixie in late January, we kept her in isolation in the guest bedroom for the first couple of weeks, then slowly began her introductions to the rest of the household. We took her introduction slowly not for her sake but rather for Sam and especially Boo, who were not happy with the arrival of their new sister. On the other hand, and despite the appearances in the top picture, Trixie wasn’t afraid of our dog Ellie, and Ellie gave her no reason to be.
We put a baby gate at the door to the bedroom so the cats could greet each other without the stress of being in the same room, but the scrawny little Trixie could slip right through the bars. It did slow her down, so we could mostly keep her in the room, but it served best at keeping the other pets out and making sure Trixie always had a sanctuary she could retreat to.
When I think of those weeks I think of this scene as much as anything, Ellie snuggling beside my legs. Not because that is unusual, as it isn’t, but because of what was happening on the other side of my legs …
I’ve loved Ellie since the day we adopted her, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of her than during Trixie’s first few weeks with us. She was extremely patient with the young cat, even when Trixie tried to initiate play by swatting her on the nose. She’d chomp her jaws together when Trixie was upsetting her and, even though they started out speaking different languages, Trixie soon learned what Ellie did and didn’t like. Sometimes in her excitement she’d forget her lessons but these two got along right from the get go, a relief since my wife was out of town for a week and I had to manage time with all the pets. She willingly put up with kitten mania as long as she could be by my side and befriended the kitten long before the other cats did.
And how did Trixie adapt to having a dog inches away from her? It didn’t keep her up at night. Or at all.