Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

Tuesday I left the house at 6:25 so that I could spend time at Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge near Vancouver before my semi-annual dental appointment. I ended up spending a little over two hours there, though the conditions were less than ideal and I managed to get wet even inside my car.

I’ve been anticipating the trip since last year when I bought a window mount for my 500mm lens. The set up made it easy to get this shot, since the Red-Winged Blackbird was on the left hand side of the road.

Red-Winged Blackbird

The only problem was keeping it in the frame and in-focus since it was right on the edge of the road.

I would never have even stopped to get a picture of these Green-Winged Teal if I hadn’t had a 700mm lens attachment on the camera.

Green-Winged Teal Pair

Green-Winged Teal are notoriously shy, so being able to shoot from the car worked out beautifully.

Unfortunately, the set up probably cost me the best shot of the day, one of this coyote


who just a few minutes before this shot was taken was standing on THIS side of the fence and staring defiantly at the three cars that had just pulled up. Unfortunately, he was on the right hand side of the road, and my camera was set up to take pictures on the left side. By the time I had turned my car far enough to get this shot, he had started to move on, exiting right.

I had better luck around the next corner when I got this shot of a male Gadwall, the best I’ve ever managed to get.

Male Gadwall

Unfortunately in order to get it I actually had to dismount the lens from the window support and hand hold it as I rested it on the window, far from ideal.

It doesn’t take long to discover that nearly every tool, no matter how powerful, brings its own liabilities to the table. At least with the door mount, I have a portable blind instead of having to sit in one place and wait for birds to come to me. It also provides a rock-solid mount for my heavy lens. But like the Maginot Line, it limits you to shooting in one direction. It becomes a real liability if you need to take a photograph in the opposite direction.

Ft. Lagler

Now that I’ve returned from my Vancouver appointment and the rains have returned, I finally had the time to sort, pick, and polish my favorite shots from Sunday’s trip to Ft. Lagler, an annual event for me an Leslie.

It was glorious weather once again, as testified by the number of people on the beach, but some of that sunshine is reflected on the breast of this Pelagic Cormorant:

Pelagic Cormorants

Most people around here think these cormorants are black, not green, and understandably so because most varieties are black and seldom see Pelagic under this kind of lighting conditions.

This is also the first time I’ve seen loons this season, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a loon stand up and display like this Common Loon is doing:

Common Loon

The main reason I return to Ft. Lagler year after year, though is to see the Harlequin Ducks,

Three Harelquin Ducks

the only place I see them consistently. They weren’t in their usual place and I’d thought I’d missed seeing them until I got to the end of the spit and ran into a small flock splashing wildly in the shallow water. Of course, they started drifting away as I began to set up my tripod, but I would have felt blessed to have merely seen them if I hadn’t managed to get a photo at all.

Waiting For the Ferry

If I needed any more confirmation that birding is unpredictable, last Friday’s trip to Vashon provided more evidence that you never know what to expect. There were relatively few birds at the two places we sought out, but the ferry dock where we spent nearly an hour waiting for the next ferry became a source of many shots, perhaps just because I spent time standing quietly in one spot.

There were too many cormorants sitting around to count, but my favorite shot turned out to be this one of cormorants in the distance:

Cormorants on a log

I also spent more time than I’ve done before observing the strange behavior of this gull, watching him dunking repeatedly for something,

Gull Bobbing

for what became quite obvious with this shot:

Cull with Clam

Heck we stood around so long that we got to see a pair of eagles soaring far overhead, and this Red-Tailed Hawk,

Red-Tail Hawk

even though it seemed to be missing the distinguishing red tail.

Another Sunny Day

Mike took a vacation day Friday, and he and I went birding on Vashon Island, a place I’ve never birded before even though it’s relatively close, a ferry ride away, to be exact. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. Late Spring sunny and warm.

We started out by driving to Lisabeula. There were several birds out in the harbor, but gulls seemed to dominate the landscape. I did manage to spot a pair of Killdeer and get this shot,.


the first time I’ve ever managed to get a picture displaying its orange tail. It’s also the first Killdeer I’ve seen this year.

Looking around, I told Mike that we should see Bald Eagles here, and almost on cue one entered, entrance right:


Even though it didn’t lead to a great photo, it was still a magical moment.

Later we drove to Robinson Point, on the other side of the island. Unfortunately, a lady throwing a stick into the ocean for her barking dog seemed to have driven all the birds so far offshore that it was impossible to do much more than identify them.

Luckily, the bright sunshine made it possible to catch a few of the birds in flight, something that’s been difficult, if not impossible, the last few days. I liked this shot of a male Bufflehead flying by:

male Bufflehead in Flight

Generally I’m not too fond of gull shots, but backlit on a sunny day, even a gull can appear angelic:


As I commented to a fellow walker, you’d have to be a pretty miserable person not to have a great time on a sunny, warm day in the middle of February.

Mike and I thoroughly enjoyed the day, even the long wait at the ferry dock on the way back home.