Twelve years ago on a cloudy spring morning at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge I came across this muskrat eating the grasses at the edge of one of the lakes or ponds. I don’t remember where exactly and my notes back then were rather sparse and don’t provide any clues.
When I bought the Canon 20D in March of 2005, after taking test shots of the cats I went up to Ridgefield to test the camera before going on a trip to Japan. A light drizzle turned into a heavier rain when I came across this muskrat swimming near North Quigley Lake. As I was in the car the camera wasn’t fully exposed to the rain, and I did my best to keep it dry, but I was still a little nervous as it was its first time outside and it didn’t have any weather sealing. Most of the pictures were blurry as the autofocus was still pretty limited, but I enjoyed the improved speed of the camera itself. I used the camera for years and the rain never did it in, even though eventually it would get partially smashed on rocks and have a gaping hole at the top.
I saw my first muskrat at the Virginia Tech Duck Pond back when I was first getting into photography. Sadly I found it dead not much later, but my fascination with these rodents was born. So I was particularly pleased when we moved to the Northwest to find them here as well. Over the years I’ve seen one in most of the ponds and lakes around the auto tour at Ridgefield, although surprisingly I seem to be the only one who is excited to see these adorable creatures.
While the face of the muskrat is unique compared to the other aquatic rodents at the refuge, its distinctive white claws are also an important clue, visible here on the front paws of this hungry muskrat. While I have seen muskrats many times, they are shy creatures and my glimpses are usually brief. Thankfully though this one let me photograph from close range to my heart’s content as it dined on plants at the edge of Canvasback Lake.
This is why I can’t stop going to Ridgefield.