In the Shadows

A coyote pauses in front of a blackberry thicket at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington

A coyote pauses in the shadow of a dense thicket of blackberries, invasives that are widespread across parts of the Pacific Northwest including Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington. The coyote was next to the parking lot at the trailhead for the Kiwa Trail, I got to see and hear it howl in the sunlight before it sauntered up to the blackberries and started down the trail (which was closed to humans, I watched the coyote from my car).


A coyote howls at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

I first met this coyote when we surprised each other on the short trail to the observation blind at Ridgefield. When I got back to the car I moved on to the Kiwa Trail parking lot and discovered the coyote had as well. I drove to the far side of the lot to get a better angle on the sunlight then gently swung the car into place. The coyote didn’t pay me much heed and hunted in the meadow for a while, then surprised me once more by howling a few times (unanswered). It then slipped through the gate and disappeared up the trail.

I’ve heard coyotes howl many times but it was fun to finally get to see it.

On the Trail of the Boolie


My wife recently picked up car chargers for our iPhones so last weekend I used the MotionX-GPS app on the iPhone to record GPS data of my movements during a day at Ridgefield. This takes a hard toll on the battery, and since I was there for 13 hours I couldn’t have pulled it off without the charger.

What I want is to merge the data with my pictures so that I can get a visual map of where I took my pictures, an idea I first had many years ago during visits to both Ridgefield and Yellowstone. The pieces are all falling into place now although I haven’t yet learned how to tie it all together. Next I need to learn how to merge the GPS data with the pictures, then I can use Apple’s Aperture to display the locations for each picture on a map.

The picture above is the GPS data overlaid on a satellite image of Ridgefield and shows how I spent 13 hours on June 19, 2011. I’ve annotated it with the names of lakes and marshes at Ridgefield. I’m not exactly sure where Bower Slough starts and ends as there is a series of dikes and canals, but this is my best guess. Google Maps only labeled one lake and they got it wrong, they have Long Lake incorrectly named as Quigley Lake.

At first I was a little confused by the satellite photo as there didn’t appear to be much water visible, but this would make sense if the picture was snapped during the summer. Many of the lakes are seasonal and even during the spring the shallower lakes fill with vegetation.

The GPS trace shows two main loops with the green and red dots showing where I started and stopped the recording. The larger loop on the right is the auto tour where I spend so much of my free time, the smaller loop on the left is the Kiwa Trail, a short hiking trail that opens up during the summer. Traffic flows counter-clockwise around the auto tour, most of it is one-way but the first stretch does allow for two-way traffic.

Many of the lakes to my eye are really ponds, or even large puddles, but what does it matter? Some of my favorite places to sit and watch are some of the smallest lakes. Some like South Quigley Lake and Rest Lake were favorite spots from my very first visit, while others like Horse Lake and Long Lake took me a while to learn their rhythms and charms and only recently have become favorites.

From Water to Earth

A red-legged frog sits on a rock beside duckweed-filled water

This red-legged frog had been sitting in the duckweed before hopping up onto a small rock. I wanted to convey a sense of the frog emerging from one world to another, so I placed it at the bottom of the frame with the top third green water, the middle third transitioning from water to earth, the bottom third solid ground.

Shadow of a Hunter

A great blue heron casts a long shadow as it perches above Bower Slough near the Kiwa Trail at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

A great blue heron perches on a downed tree as its shadow is cast over the green water. Even though it was actively scanning and listening for movement in the water below, its perch seemed too high to have a chance at capturing any frogs or fish, so it may have been in reconnaissance mode. It eventually started hunting closer to the water.