Unexpected Pleasures

I went to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge expecting to see Sandhill Cranes and would have been disappointed not to have seen them, but I saw other species that I didn’t expect to see and those sightings were more exciting than seeing the cranes.

I was nearing the end of the morning, mile-long walk on the refuge when I encountered a couple of experienced birders intensely staring at a tree.  They told me they had been watching two different birds.  I never did see one, but a few minutes after standing there a Brown Creeper emerged from the back of the tree and went about its business of catching a meal, totally ignoring us.  He was so close that I had to photo-merge two shots to keep him in the frame.

The other big treat of the morning was sighting this American Bittern, a large bird that is remarkably hard to spot.  I was looking across the pond to see if there were birds along the edge of the pond when I spotted it right next to the road, so close I couldn’t see the lower part of his body and had to take two close-ups to make this shot.

I used to see American Bittern regularly at Nisqually before they removed the dikes, but I haven’t seen one in several years now.  So, it, too, was even more of a treat than seeing the Sandhill Cranes.

I had to wait until my afternoon walk to see this American Kestrel, a bird I see semi-regularly, though they’re considered an “uncommon resident” in the Puget Sound area.  I’m most apt to see them in Colorado, but I didn’t see one on our last visit.  This one was a long way away, so far away that I didn’t realize it was eating a Dragonfly until I saw it on my computer screen.

I sighted another (or the same one) Kestrel further down the trail and was able to get a much closer shot, though the clouds were getting thicker and the light was quickly fading.

Sometimes small, unexpected pleasures can make a day memorable.

Ridgefield Sandhill Cranes

I had my semi-annual dental check-up recently.  Usually Leslie would accompany me and we would meet up with some old colleagues, but Leslie was isolating for an upcoming surgery so I went by myself.  So, I got a really early start, oh dark thirty, and went to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge early because I had seen some shots of migrating Sand Hill Cranes and I wanted to see them, too.  

The booth at the entrance said that 60+ cranes had been spotted the day before, but I didn’t see a single crane until the very end of the tour, and the small flock I saw was a long way away. 

They weren’t very good pictures, but at least I had proof that I had seen them.  My favorite shot, which is heavily cropped, was of these two vocalizing.

Knowing the morning pictures weren’t going to be very good, I decided to return after my dental appointment to try again.  Unfortunately, even though it wasn’t very late, the clouds had moved in and the light wasn’t as good as it was in the morning.  It didn’t help that I didn’t see a single Sandhill Crane until I reached the end of the tour, where I had seen them on my morning visit.

At least they were considerably closer this time, making for a somewhat better shot.

In the end, the shots don’t compare very favorably with shots of Sandhill Cranes that I took in Merced several years ago where conditions were more ideal, but it was still exciting seeing birds I seldom see.

As it turns out, though, my favorite shots of the day weren’t of Sandhill Cranes at all, but that will have to wait for another day.


Even on the worst day, and my recent trip to Vancouver for my semi-annual dental checkup seemed like a “worst day,” we can find something to make our day a little better. Usually when I visit Vancouver I meet up with fellow teachers, but that wasn’t possible with Covid-19 restrictions, the second time that has happened this year.  To make matters worse, it poured most of the 120 mile I drove; there were cars off the road and rescue vehicles blocking lanes, not to mention idiot drivers who didn’t seem to believe you don’t have to drive the speed limit on flooded roads, though it was clear to me after the RAV hydroplaned twice.

Thankfully, by the time I got to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge the rain had slowed to a drizzle, and I was able to get in a three mile walk before sitting in the dentist’s chair for an hour and another three hours to drive home.

Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of birds on the refuge because they hadn’t flooded most of the fields yet.  I did manage to see some birds I don’t see in Tacoma.  In fact, I was greeted at the entrance by a Great White Egret.

I probably wouldn’t have taken a picture of it since it refused to pose for me and if I had been in California where they are as common as crows,  but, since I haven’t been to California much this year,  I took several shots.

I also managed to get several shots of White Pelicans flying overhead, another bird I seldom see in the Puget Sound area.

Red-Shafted Flickers are common in Tacoma, but this was still my favorite shot of the day.


He may have been posing for me because he knew I was having a tough day.

Birding Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

On our recent visit to Ridgefield NWR, we saw two small flocks of Ring-Necked Ducks, a duck I used to see a lot at the pond at Nisqually NWR but haven’t seen often since I quit visiting there regularly.

For some reason, it’s one of those ducks that I always have trouble identifying, perhaps because the male Ring-Necked

looks an awful lot like a Scaup and because it seems misnamed. Shouldn’t that be a Ringed-Beak duck? I’ve never been able to see the ring around it’s neck.

Luckily, the female Ring-Necked duck

is quite distinctive and is not easily mistaken for other female ducks.

We also saw several Gadwall, like this male.

Though the male is an easily recognizable duck I often struggle to remember its name because I seldom see them and I have a tendency to confuse its name with Gander.