Back to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

I am seeing my dentist too often lately, but a small consolation is I get to visit the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge, a place I used to walk regularly when I taught at Battle Ground. Sometimes I visit in the morning AND in the evening before returning home if birding is good in the morning.

This visit I was greeted by large flocks of American Goldfinches, though I was only able to capture shots of a few intrepid individuals that didn’t fly off as my car slowly crept up the road. I’m so used to getting shots looking UP at Goldfinches I like this shot of a female


and male Goldfinch.


Even though I didn’t see many birds in the first half of the auto tour, I decided to walk the loop trail that’s closed most of the year. I ended up seeing lots and lots of very tall grass


that should make good feed for the ducks once it’s flooded. Right now, though, it makes it difficult to see and identify all the small birds hiding there.

Luckily, Great Blue Herons


never make any pretense at hiding, unlike this American Bittern which was, as usual, hiding in plain sight


or I would never have seen him.

Birding Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

I made my semi-annual dentist visit to Vancouver last Wednesday. As usual, I left a little after 6:00 AM so I could stop at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge before having lunch with a group of retired school teachers.

Since I only visit there two or three times per year, I never quite know what to expect, though I wasn’t surprised to find the male Red-Winged Blackbirds


were in full song, though I didn’t spot too many females.

I was pleasantly surprised to see several Ring-Necked Ducks, including this female,


since I seldom see them in places where I commonly bird.

I even enjoyed seeing birds that I commonly see, like this Canada Goose in the foreground


and the Northern Pintail in the background in new settings.


I suspect the Pintails were less shy than usual because the Canada Goose alerted them to my presence but didn’t bolt.

Not unexpectedly, this male Hooded Merganser


came drifting out of the shadows on the far side of the refuge.

A good start to a long day. I wish the day had ended with a delightful reunion at lunch, but unfortunately I was later told by my dentist that the tooth she had tried to save the year before had split and was abscessed and needed to be pulled. Then I had to decide if I wanted a bridge or an implant; tough decision since I didn’t want either. I knew I wanted the tooth out as soon as possible, though. So I had it pulled yesterday. I decided to go with the implant, which takes nearly 9 months to complete but is supposed to be superior to the bridge (or, at the very least, more expensive).

Back to Ridgefield

It was time for my semi-annual teeth cleaning recently, and, as usual, I combined my dental appointment with a lunch out with fellow retired teachers and a quick trip to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge. I only managed to get shots of the wildlife refuge, though.

While it’s no Malheur or Bear River, I seldom visit without finding something that peaks my interest. On this visit, this seemed like the most interesting sight.


I have never seen this many Great Egrets in one place, certainly not in Vancouver. In fact, until recently it was rare to see a single Egret at Ridgefield though they’ve become a familiar visitor in the last few years. That doesn’t explain why there were so many gathered in this relatively small pool of water. I wondered if there was an abundance of food because the drought has forced all the fish into a much smaller body of water or if the drought has dried up so many small lakes and wetlands that this is one of the areas to still have water.

It’s certainly not rare to sight a Red-Tailed Hawk, but I rarely get as close to one as I did to this one that glared at me as I took a shot.


Closeups have a magical way of forcing us to see common sights in a new light.

The morning visit was capped by a sighting of a pair of American Bitterns.


I used to see American Bitterns regularly at Nisqually until they took out the dike, but I don’t think I’ve seen one for over a year now.

It was a delightful way to start a long day, though it was nearly 80 degrees already by the time I left the refuge at 10:30. Originally I’d planned on returning in the evening after my dental appointment, but with smoke in the air and temperatures hovering at nearly 100 degrees I decided instead I would cap off my day with a visit to Burgerville for a real ice cream Shake, a Pepper-Tillamook Cheese Burger, and Walla Walla Onion Rings.

Who knew dental appointments could be this much fun?!

A Very Quick Trip to Vancouver, Washington

A few weeks ago Elaine Frankonis posted a recipe for caramels made in the microwave and I commented I would have to try the recipe since I love caramels. Before I could do so, Dave Rogers warned to beware of crowns. Although I replied I didn’t think it would bother my crowns, it wasn’t more than a few days later that a crown came off as I was flossing my teeth. It might have been more coincidence, but since I haven’t lost a crown in over 15 years, I have some doubts on whether Dave jinxed me or not.

Luckily, when I called my dentist in Vancouver the next day, they said that they had an afternoon cancellation due to the flu that was going around. They also managed to move another patient’s appointment and I ended up not only getting a crown but getting my teeth cleaned the same day. It was totally unexpected, but really I appreciated their efforts to accommodate me since it’s nearly a 150 mile drive one way.

I got there at noon and was in the dentist’s chair until nearly 4:30 PM, too late to make it home for dinner, so I decided to make a quick trip through the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge. Although I didn’t see anything I haven’t seen several times before, it was a nice way to end a stressful day. It’s been a while since I’ve spotted a Ring-Necked Duck,


and even longer since I’ve seen a pair of them together. If it hadn’t been for the black and white male, I doubt I would have spotted the female.

I think these are the first Dowitchers I have seen since the Fall migration.


If I hadn’t been in California a few weeks before, I would probably have been thrilled to see this Great Egret right beside the road,


and right after pointing out how thrilled I was to see Swans in Santa Rosa because I never get to see them, there was a small flock of Swans obviously beginning to migrate northward.


At the end of the day I felt blessed to have a dentist like Dr. Angell, and even more blessed to be able to visit a magical place like The Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge every time I have a dental appointment.

Ev’rything is Satisfactch’l

It’s easy to get excited at the sight of a flock of rarely-seen Sand Hill Cranes flying overhead, but if you’re going to enjoy birding on a regular basis you need to continue to find beauty and joy in seeing the everyday residents of the wetlands and woodlands.

You need to spend fifteen minutes watching a Great Blue Heron stalking his prey,

Great Blue Heron

knowing full well you already have 250+ shots residing on your hard drive at home and that, more than likely, you’ll end up deleting these images shortly after you get home.

You still have to be thrilled upon hearing the male Red-wing Blackbird’s brilliant conk-la-ree,

 male Red-wing Blackbird

charmed by the female Red-Wing Blackbird’s quieter charms,

female Red-Wing Blackbird

or fascinated by her efforts to gather nesting materials.

female Red-Wing Blackbird

It doesn’t hurt if you still can manage to love the iridescent-green head of the all-too-common Mallard.

male Mallard

When you’re able to do that, any sunny Spring day becomes a Zip de Doo Dah kinda day (and life doesn’t get much better than that).

Sand Hill Cranes at Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

I had my semiannual dentist appointment in Vancouver last Tuesday, and, as usual, I left early so I could spend the morning at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge before going to lunch with my fellow retired schoolteachers. I was beginning to question whether it had really been worth getting up at 5:30 just to visit the wildlife refuge when I noticed that the flocks of birds taking off from the southern end of the refuge didn’t quite look like the large number of Canada Geese I’d seen repeatedly taking flight.

As I got closer I realized that the large birds I’d observed taking off were Sand Hill Cranes, more Sand Hill Cranes than I had ever seen at one place before. Although many had already left, others were still feeding or preening themselves, apparently waiting their turn to take off.

 Sand Hill Cranes browsing

And take off they did, in flight after flight, most of them flying directly south,

Sand Hill Cranes in flight

banking to the right,

 Sand Hill Cranes in flight

and heading directly over my head as they turned northward.

 Sand Hill Cranes in flight

I’ll have to admit that though I’ve seen several Sand Hill Cranes in the past few years I’ve been birding I’ve never been too impressed with them. They’ve never struck me as particularly elegant birds. So, I was more than a little surprised when I was suddenly awestruck when a large flock of them, far too large of a flock to capture in a single shot flew directly over me. I must have sat there for fifteen minutes letting flight after flight pass over. I was so impressed that I returned after my dental appointment, hoping to capture them in better light, but, of course, they, like most special moments in life, were no longer to be found. Such moments seem only to occur unexpectedly.

More Shots from Ridgefield

Fortunately, Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge has more to offer than just shorebirds. Although most of the places you can walk are off-limits for another month or two, in the short walk to the duck blind I managed to catch sight of a Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

foraging for insects.

It didn’t take long to sight this pair of Greater Scaup,

Greater Scaup

which I rarely see.

Unfortunately, I can’t really share the most interesting moment of the morning. I had been standing in the duck blind for nearly half an hour enjoying a quiet, peaceful morning when suddenly every animal in the refuge started making noises, like this female Mallard.

female Mallard

From the racket I thought there had to be a predator nearby, but despite another fifteen minutes waiting I didn’t see a thing.

I finally gave up, got back in the car, and started driving again. I couldn’t figure why the car in front of me was going so slowly, until I spotted the predator walking calmly down the center of the road right in front of it.

Coyote beside Car

When the driver pulled over I got a better shot of the coyote, and he didn’t even turn around when I clicked the lens.


The driver told me the coyote seemed totally unconcerned and, in fact, had paused long enough to snack on a mouse beside the road.

It’s probably not a good thing that the coyote is so indifferent to people, particularly since the refuge is slowly but surely being surrounded by houses, but it is a great feeling experiencing nature this immediately.