The coyotes were active on this winter day in 2006, using the heavy fog as cover to hunt a variety of prey. This one made a half-hearted, almost playful, attempt at a great blue heron I had been photographing, later I saw one running across the meadow with a goose in its mouth.
A great egret hunts in the last light of the day. The sun was setting but its direct rays were already blocked in this channel, leaving a nice soft light. I didn’t expect the egret to catch much but it caught three bullfrogs in quick succession. I don’t know how many more it caught before calling it quits as at that point I had to leave both because the light was gone and to get out of the refuge before the automatic gate closed for the night.
I didn’t have much exposure to great blue herons before I moved to Oregon years ago, but the ones I had seen hunted in bodies of water, so I was rather surprised when I moved here and saw herons frequently hunting on land. This young heron, as you can see from its muddy beak, was hunting for voles in a meadow. There’s a little bit of blood at the base of its beak, I’m not sure if it’s from the heron or one of its victims.
One of the stories at Ridgefield this winter has been the American bitterns which have been putting on a show at several spots around the auto tour during many of my visits. I’ve always been on the lookout for bitterns so I’m not sure why I’ve had so much success watching them hunt lately, although it may have something to do with the fact that I spent far more time at the refuge over the Christmas break than I usually do. This bittern was mostly snagging small fish as it worked the channel beside Rest Lake, but at one point it stopped and started wiggling its neck side to side and then struck into the middle of the channel, bringing up this bullfrog. Bullfrogs themselves are voracious predators and, since they aren’t native to the Northwest, have combined with habitat loss to cause problems for some of our natives. This little bittern was doing its part to turn the tables and win one for the home team.