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.

7 thoughts on “I Brake for Wildlife Refuges”

  1. Last Christmas my sister got me the book All Things Reconsidered by Roger Peterson, of Peterson Field Guide fame. He never got tired of seeing birds, even common birds, and he wasn’t just a birder, he was the birder!

  2. I don’t think I’ll live long enough not to be excited by seeing birds, but there’s still an extra edge to seeing a totally new bird for the first time. That’s the feeling I was referring to, Thomas. I never even knew a “Black-Necked Stilt” existed before this encounter.

  3. I loved the wing detail on all the birds in flight! I’ve never had much interest in all the “real” birders. The few I’ve been around want to race to the next locale after they spot a few. I’m more sedentary, I guess. If there’s something to see, I like to hang around or, at most, move to the other side of a location! It’s why I can’t hang out with “successful” birders. I’m sure they’d think I was dead in the water or something.

    Loved the Osprey! I live vicariously through your camera capturings!

  4. If you needed any more proof that I’m not really a “birder,” you can see today’s post and what I ended up focusing on, Ron. I’m a a “naturer” not a a “birder.” I get as thrilled by having a raccoon run up my leg, as spotting a new bird.

  5. great shots. have seen the pelicans often in the river down near sunnyside. amazed at the color of the osprey underwing. kjm

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