On the Hunt

A female red-winged blackbird holds an insect larva in her beak

There’s a spot in Long Lake where floating branches accumulate at the edge of the lake by a culvert. Both red-winged blackbirds (like this female holding what I presume is an insect larva) and song sparrows frequently hunt in this little section, looking for insects hidden in the plants and mud. The blackbird searches with its beak, as shown below, while the sparrow typically uses its feet. I’ve spent hours watching them on the hunt, as its also a good spot to watch mergansers hunt for fish just a bit further out, and a couple of times a river otter has swum up gone through the culvert to the other side of the road.

A female red-winged blackbird searches for insects by moving plants and twigs with her beak

Lunch for One

A female hooded merganser swallows a fish

A hooded merganser swallows a fish she just caught in the shallows of Long Lake. She’s swimming away not from me but rather the other mergansers in her group who would be more than happy at the chance for a free meal. Once she surfaces with the fish she’s got to get it oriented head-first, lengthwise down her long thin bill, and toss it back and swallow it. The still squirming fish sometimes gets dropped even when alone, much less in a crowd, so a little private space is always welcome.

The Fallen Perch

The Fallen Perch

A barn swallow takes a break from hunting insects over Long Lake on a rainy spring day. This was one of my favorite spots at the refuge to take pictures, the dead tree to which this branch was attached was close to the road and I spent many hours just sitting in my car watching to see what would swim or walk or fly by, but sadly the tree fell over into the lake.

Black Phoebe

Black Phoebe

I had stopped at the culvert at Long Lake to see if any mergansers or other ducks were fishing in the shallows but saw a small dark bird flitting above the flotsam instead. A song sparrow often works this area but it is looking for food in the water, not above it, so I grabbed the telephoto lens for a better look. I was surprised to find the bird was a black phoebe, only the third time I’ve seen one (the second was also at Long Lake but in a different spot and time of year). I saw my fourth later in the day at Bower Slough but it didn’t give me the repeated close looks this one did.

An Almost Car for the Ages

Bald Perch

I’m at that age where I should be having a mid-life crisis, so in addition to my practical little hatchbacks I should be looking at a mid-life crisis car. My choice would be the same as any other man’s — a Volvo.


I’ve always had a soft spot for Volvos although I don’t know why. I’ve never owned one, and while we had one while I was a kid, we sold it before I was of driving age. But I’d occasionally see a beautiful little Volvo hatchback as I drove to work, and was vexed enough to want to know more, yet I never could get a good look at its nameplate. I searched Volvo’s website for hatchbacks but nothing came up, and even looked for it at the auto show in January but didn’t see it. Perhaps we just missed it at the end of a long day. But I discovered one in the neighborhood while walking Ellie and finally identified my mysterious beauty — the Volvo C30.

Volvo doesn’t call it a hatchback, even though it has a hatch in the back, but never mind. It’s not only still being made, it’s for sale here in the States and could be mine for the asking. Both inside and out I think the C30 is one of the prettiest cars on the road, at any price, and it’s quick but not at all fuel-efficient. So I think it qualifies as a mid-life crisis car, just with a Boolish twist. Not a sports car, but nevertheless a car for my heart and not my head.

But even that’s not quite true. This along with the Lexus CT would be two of the best cars for my commute, and would be comfortable for those winter and spring days at Ridgefield when I sit in the car for hour after hour, waiting for those lucky moments like this bald eagle at Long Lake. I’ve been taking our Civic to the refuge the past couple of months, mostly to see if I could tolerate a stick shift at the refuge, but I was caught off guard but how much less comfortable I was by the end of the day in the Civic compared to our Subaru. We’ve had both cars for about 12 years so it’s not as if they are new to me, but I guess I just haven’t spent long days in the Civic before.

If the C30 was available in all-wheel drive, I think my head would follow my heart on this one, but sadly it is not. Rumor has it the C30 is being discontinued in any event, so I suppose it’s a moot point.