A Christmas Miracle

A close-up view of a short-eared owl

Perhaps miracle is a bit strong, but I was delighted to find this short-eared owl on Christmas along Ridgefield’s auto tour, it had been almost a decade since I had last seen one. I didn’t have much time for pictures as there was a car approaching from behind and I wanted them to see the owl too. Since I already had my big telephoto mounted I took some quick head-and-shoulders shots. I was shooting out of my car’s window, so to get a slightly different look from the top picture I lowered the window to get more of the distant trees as a green background to go along with the brown grasses around Rest Lake. I then moved on and in my rear-view mirror I saw the folks behind me got a nice look too.

A close-up view of a short-eared owl

A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall

A ring-necked duck swims in a heavy rain on Bull Lake

I was sitting next to Bull Lake for a while, watching a male bufflehead diving for food and photographing him whenever he swam close. I’ve been wanting to take more environmental portraits so when he moved a ways off I turned my lens to this distant ring-necked duck as the rain moved in. I was happy enough with the early pics but then the rain turned heavy and pounded the water in large drops. Ducks are built for the wet of course but even so I felt a bit sorry for him as the water exploded around him. The hard rain lasted only seconds, then he and the other ducks resumed their feeding.

If you’d like a closer view of what a ring-necked duck looks like, I took this picture almost a year earlier just one lake over. It was also raining, but only lightly.

Thanksgiving

Our black lab Ellie sits under a large tree

We had a sunny day on the weekend after Thanksgiving so I brought my camera along on Ellie’s morning walk to take some pictures in Irving Park. I had in previous weeks hoped to take some fall pictures with her but the groundskeepers had been too efficient at removing the fallen leaves (not to mention Ellie’s beloved acorns). I noticed a clump of leaves under the canopy of this old tree so I took Ellie’s leash off and made her pose for me.

I’m extremely thankful for this sweet pup who has blessed our lives for seven years, and also for this nice little park just a few blocks from our house where we can walk her (the dog park is a little ways over to the left). And I’m thankful too for people many decades ago who decided not to chop down some of the old trees in the park, I never get tired of seeing them on our walks.

“I’m not tired. What makes you think I’m tired?”

Our cat Sam squints his eyes while curled up in my lap

Oh, I don’t know Sam, let’s call it a hunch.

It had been a long day for Sam, he spent the day at the vet getting his teeth cleaned and a tooth removed. We kept him in isolation for the night since he had to be fed in stages and we wanted to keep an eye on him and make sure he didn’t throw up. It wasn’t easy at first as he made several (successful) escape attempts, but I finally got him settled in and he snuggled up in my lap and started purring loudly.

A while later to my great surprise Trixie came sauntering out from under the bed so I had to put her outside the room without letting Sam out. After he finished his food I let Ellie in as she had been patiently waiting on the other side of the door (patiently waiting apart from the occasional loud sigh or tapping of toes) and then Sam and Ellie both took a nap.

He earned his freedom and at the moment is curled up in his usual spot on my legs.

In Memory of Harper Lee

Our black-and-white cat Boo perches atop my bookcase

My wife texted me at work this morning to let me know Harper Lee died. I had mixed feelings, given her reported health it seemed like it was her time, but I was still sad at the loss of someone who gave me something so beautiful. Her novel To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book, and my wife loves it too, so when we adopted a little black-and-white kitten in 2001 we decided to keep with the literary names that started with our cat Templeton and named our new kitten after the wonderful Scout Finch. An amazing bond formed between my beloved Scout and I for the next twelve years until cancer took her life. We then adopted another black-and-white kitten, a terrified little thing who shook with fear when we met him, and named him after another character from the book, Boo Radley (this is Boo perched on top of my bookcase).

When we adopted a kitten last year after Emma died, while casting about for a name we considered naming her Finch, both as a nod to the Finches in Mockingbird and to my love of birds, before settling on Trixie. Hopefully we won’t need to name a new pet for a long time to come.

Goodbye Harper, and thank you.

Almost Bald

A young bald eagle soars above Rest Lake

A bald eagle soars above Rest Lake on a cold winter morning. Next winter it should have the full white head from which the bald eagle’s name is derived, and I suspect it will attract much more attention from the resident adults as well. For now, though, its competition seemed to be the other young eagles on the refuge.

The Submerged Crosstrek

The shadow of my Subaru Crosstrek falls on a frozen Rest Lake at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

I spent the second-to-last day of my Christmas break at Ridgefield, arriving before sunrise and leaving after sunset. The bald eagles had been pretty active and the sunny day brought out many visitors to admire them, so late in the afternoon I parked a ways away so I could watch the day end in a more peaceful and relaxed state. When I saw the setting sun cast a shadow of my little Subaru on a frozen Rest Lake, I couldn’t resist a self-portrait as an homage to a picture I had taken almost exactly a year earlier (but around the bend and at sunrise instead of sunset).

But it was even more of a nod to the recurring nightmare I used to have, of me visiting Ridgefield and driving my car into the lake, as the angle of the sun made the the car look like it was submerged. Thankfully I haven’t had the dream in a while so I was in a rather whimsical mood when I took the picture.

The white birds on the distant part of the lake are tundra swans, most are sitting on the ice, but there was a small section of open water where a large number of ducks and geese had concentrated. This is also one of the last places I photographed coyotes (these pictures from January 2012 were taken near this spot).

Submerged also describes how I’ve felt most of the past couple of months, as a hectic work schedule had me working many nights and weekends. Thankfully things are returning to normal as the stress had worn me down, but I was able to not work for our three day holiday weekend and spent the days drifting in and out of sleep as my body and mind began to recover.