The Rippers

A close-up view of a juvenile red-tailed hawk

At Ridgefield, many creatures prey on the Townsend’s voles that live in the meadows and marshes. Some predators like herons, bitterns, egrets, and coyotes swallow the voles whole. Others like this red-tailed hawk (above) and rough-legged hawk (below) have beaks designed to let them rip apart their prey and eat only the parts they desire. If you watch them on a fresh kill you’ll see them pull out parts like intestines they don’t want and cast them aside so they can get to the muscles and organs they prefer. It’s a bit gruesome and I always feel for the little voles but at least they die quickly, this is how these beautiful but deadly birds have evolved to survive.

I photographed both hawks on the same day, and in nearly the same spot, the rough-leg right as the sun was cresting the hill and the red-tail over an hour later in direct sunlight.

A close-up view of a rough-legged hawk

How Animals Behave Before They See the Camera (and After)

How Animals Behave Before They See the Camera

These Canada geese (or cacklers? I can’t tell the difference between small Canadas and large cacklers) were eating at Rest Lake in a heavy rain when they tilted their heads back to swallow, but the difference in the poses reminded me of people acting naturally before they see a camera but posing when they realize they’re being photographed.

How Animals Behave After They See the Camera

Doesn’t Mind the Rain

A common muskrat swims in the rain

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.

Home on the Road

Four killdeer eggs in a gravel nest

Killdeer nest on the ground in a shallow depression, often in gravel or sand, which is a bit of an issue at a place like Ridgefield where a gravel auto tour runs beside the many small ponds. A killdeer had laid four eggs in this nest at the edge of the road near the end of the auto tour, where the camouflage of the eggs will work against the likelihood of them not getting run over when the parents aren’t on the nest.