My favorite coyote picture, taken over a year ago in January of 2012.
Coyotes have a complicated and controversial relationship with our modern world, and I’m not sure how this pack will fare now that subdivisions have replaced the meadows on the hills above the refuge. I seen them near the road sometimes as I drive into town before sunrise, but I see them as roadkill too. And there will be conflicts with barbed-wire fences and dogs and cats.
But on this morning, as it hunted for voles with its mate, and as a few snowflakes began to fall, all was peaceful. Only the three of us were around, and since I stayed quiet in my car, they let me watch at my leisure as they worked the the length of the dike.
This is one of my favorite bittern pictures as it shows the way I often wind down a day at Ridgefield, watching bitterns near the end of the auto tour before I have to leave to beat the closing of the automated gate. This picture was taken almost a year to the day after the pictures in the previous post, the setting sun leaving the bittern to hunt in shadow.
These last moments always make me wonder — what do bitterns do in the dark?
Our Subaru Outback is reflected in most of the wildlife pictures I take, in this case in the eye of an American bittern along Ridgefield’s auto tour. Its appearance is usually not so literal, however, but rather that it’s the car I take when I go hiking near or far, and is the car I’m usually sitting in at Ridgefield.
But perhaps no picture reflects my love for our Subaru more than a picture not taken from it. A few years ago it was in the shop for repairs after getting hit by a red light runner, and all the rental car agency had on hand was a low end Kia. Not much to speak of but it got the job done, or so I thought. I headed out to Ridgefield knowing it was going to rain off and on but was caught off guard late in the day by a surprise snowstorm. At the end of the auto tour I snapped a few quick pictures of this young heron hunting in the snow and then headed out for a white-knuckled drive home.
The little Kia did get me home but I almost hugged the mechanic a few days later when the repairs were done and he handed me the keys to the Subaru.
Nutria are by far the most commonly seen of the aquatic rodents at Ridgefield, with muskrats being relatively common, beavers not common at all. There are enough clues in this picture to identify which of these rodents this is. The tail is the most obvious indicator, but the rear foot all by itself holds enough clues.
A muskrat has white claws while those of a nutria and beaver are dark. Both beavers and nutria have heavily webbed rear feet, but all five of the beaver’s toes are webbed, on a nutria only the inner four.
Which begs the question: why?
I don’t know why the outer toe isn’t webbed, but I do know this is a nutria.