Red Rocks

An American pika sits in red rocks in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park

I came across this pika in red rocks somewhere in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park during my trip in 2008. I say somewhere because for whatever reason I didn’t edit the original picture back then, so it never got added to my now defunct photo site and thus I never wrote about it. While the complete old site will never return, even in the blog there are 915 posts still offline, waiting for pictures to be re-edited and uploaded to Flickr. I’m keenly aware how dependent I am on Flickr for hosting my images and how even the rebuilt blog will go away if something happens to them. Over the years I’ve tried to think of a better solution where I’d be less dependent on the whims of other companies, on things outside my control, but I haven’t thought of one. Flickr doesn’t replicate my old site but it is better in many ways and provides a lot of functionality I can’t easily provide here.

Cone on the Cob

A Douglas' squirrel eats a cone in a forest in Leadbetter Point State Park on the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington

A Douglas’ squirrel chews through the outer part of the cone to get to the seed underneath, like we would eat corn on the cob except that we are interested in the corn not the cob. A lovely little squirrel, and native too. Taken at Leadbetter Point State Park on the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington.

A Christmas Tradition Broken

A juvenile red-tailed hawk looks down while perched on a blackberry vine at Rest Lake at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

I normally go to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge on Christmas morning, as I don’t have kids and usually don’t travel to see family. If it’s pouring rain I might have the refuge to myself, or nearly so, and it’s a contemplative time until mid-morning when the crowds show up. But this Christmas brought ice that kept me from going up, as it would not just be risky to drive there but they often close the auto tour entirely when the roads are bad. But I can at least post a picture from Ridgefield, a juvenile red-tailed hawk in February 2008, listening for breakfast from its perch on a blackberry vine. It’s the juvenile redtails (that don’t yet have their red tails) that hang out close to the road and allow the tight close ups of some of my other pictures, although I saw them like this a lot more back then than now.

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