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).