I Brake for Wildlife Refuges

If you didn’t already know.

I haven’t told you yet, though, that I stopped at the Toppenish Wildlife Refuge on the way home from my two-day dental trip, resulting in the best bird pictures of the trip, even though I wasn’t looking for bird pictures.

I was more than a little surprised to discover a wildlife refuge in the area, particularly one with wetlands. When I think of Eastern Washington, I think of broad expanses of dry, grassland, not wetlands. Heck, I’ve driven by this same spot repeatedlly, and never noticed the refuge before.

I was even more surprised when this Osprey swooped overhead as I got out of my car.


I’m still not sure where it was going to find fish, but I do know that the Redwing Blackbirds took off in force to drive him away from their nesting grounds. If it hadn’t circled several times, I might have thought it was Red-Tailed Hawk or other bird of prey, but there was not doubt that it was an osprey.

I saw four large birds circling in the distance and thought that they were Osprey, too, but was amazed when I blew up the negative to discover that they were actually American White Pelican,

American White Pelican
the first time I’ve ever sighted one

More exciting, though, was the sighting of this elegant Black-Necked Stilt,

Black-Necked Stilt

another first, and one that was much closer than the Pelicans, as it circled me, crying a warning to its mate.

It wasn’t a first for me, but I don’t think I’ve ever managed to get a picture of a Black-Headed Grosbeak before, and this one seemed unfazed by my presence, landing right in front of me:

Black-Headed Grosbeak

I’m sure most “birders” would be unimpressed by my sightings, and perhaps even I will be a few years from now, but my unexpected sightings of birds in an unexpected place more than compensated for my later disappointment in the day when I discovered that the California haze made it impossible to get decent pictures in Mt. Rainier National Park, the main reason I decided to take this route home in the first place.