More Shots from Ridgefield

Fortunately, Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge has more to offer than just shorebirds. Although most of the places you can walk are off-limits for another month or two, in the short walk to the duck blind I managed to catch sight of a Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

foraging for insects.

It didn’t take long to sight this pair of Greater Scaup,

Greater Scaup

which I rarely see.

Unfortunately, I can’t really share the most interesting moment of the morning. I had been standing in the duck blind for nearly half an hour enjoying a quiet, peaceful morning when suddenly every animal in the refuge started making noises, like this female Mallard.

female Mallard

From the racket I thought there had to be a predator nearby, but despite another fifteen minutes waiting I didn’t see a thing.

I finally gave up, got back in the car, and started driving again. I couldn’t figure why the car in front of me was going so slowly, until I spotted the predator walking calmly down the center of the road right in front of it.

Coyote beside Car

When the driver pulled over I got a better shot of the coyote, and he didn’t even turn around when I clicked the lens.

Coyote

The driver told me the coyote seemed totally unconcerned and, in fact, had paused long enough to snack on a mouse beside the road.

It’s probably not a good thing that the coyote is so indifferent to people, particularly since the refuge is slowly but surely being surrounded by houses, but it is a great feeling experiencing nature this immediately.

Ridgefield Wilflife Refuge

Sadly, the best day I’ve had in quite a while was last Wednesday’s trek to my dentist in Vancouver. Even though the skies were heavily overcast, I stopped at Ridgefield National Wildlife before my lunch and dental appointment. Although I didn’t see anything notable and the pictures aren’t “great,” I got to see birds that I haven’t seen regularly since they revised Nisqually.

The highlight of the morning would have to be this shot of a Wilson’s Snipe.

Snipe With Gadwall

I was taking pictures of the male Gadwall when this Snipe landed right next to it. This is the first time I’ve ever recognized a Snipe when I first saw it, though I discovered awhile back that I had captured shots of a small flock of Snipes the previous year when I visited Ridgefield. I was surprised at how small Snipes are; I realized I’ve spent much of the last five years looking for a larger bird than it actually is.

I also saw a couple of Yellowlegs, a bird I used to see regularly at Nisqually,

Yellowlegs

but see rarely at Theler Wetlands.

I also saw a single Great Egret,

Great Egret

a bird seldom seen as far north as Seattle-Tacoma but one I regularly see when I visit California.

It was a nice break after a two and half hour drive on the Freeway, one that got me in the proper mood for lunch with Klaras and Terry.

Barnacle Goose at Ridgefield

Yesterday was my semi-annual tooth-cleaning appointment in Vancouver, and, as usual, I left at 6:00 to get some birding in before my lunch with old friends and my dental appointment.

Unfortunately it was dark and cold, but I was still enjoying rather common birds like this unusually aggressive Red-Winged Blackbird.

I loved this pose; hopefully the next time I see it it will be brighter so I can get a sharper image.

Red-Winged Blackbird

Luckily it seemed a little brighter when I sighted this pair of Green-Winged Teal,

pair of Green-Winged Teal

and these personal favorites, Northern Pintails,

two male Northern Pintails

sporting their two-toned bills, their subtle, pin-striping, and those long, elegant tails they’re named after.

I wasn’t ready, though, for this bird, the one with the solid white face:

Barnacle Goose

In fact, I didn’t recognize it, not surprising since it’s not in a single one of my small collection of bird books.

I stopped and asked the ranger if he knew what it was, and when I showed it to him he acted surprised and asked if I had really taken the picture there. He knew immediately it was a Barnacle Goose, commoner in the Norh East but rare here. In fact, he thought it was the first one ever sighted at Ridgefield. He jumped in his truck, drove the wrong way down the one-way road, and came back to confirm that was, indeed, a Barnacle Goose.

Cool. Nice way to start a long day.

Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

Last Wednesday’s trip to Vancouver was not the trip I’d hoped for. First, the sunshine that dominated the week chose to disappear for a day. So, though I got to Vancouver around 8:00 AM, the sun was hidden behind a deep layer of clouds and the best birds, like the Egrets, were so far out that I couldn’t manage to get a respectable shot even with my 500mm lens with a doubler on it.

This shot of a Great Blue Heron standing, I guess, in tall grass was one of the few shots I really liked:

Great Blue Heron

The clouds still hadn’t dispersed by the time I had to leave for lunch with former colleagues though it was hard to complain because the company and conversation was delightful as always.

Things really took a turn for the worse at the dentist’s office, though, and a 1 1/2 hour cleaning and filling turned into a 3 1/2 hour appointment with two crowns instead of a filling, not to mention a $1,000 bill instead of a$100 bill. Needless to say, I was pretty exhausted by the time I left and wasn’t ready to immediately drive all the way home.

Instead, I returned to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge where I was greeted by what appeared to be an immature Red-Tailed Hawk:

juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

The contrast with the Great Blue Heron shot taken earlier in the morning suggests just how fickle lighting can be. This one was taken in full sunshine, albeit with the sun already sinking in the horizon, and the white feathers are washed out, despite adjustments in Aperture and Photoshop.

Generally, though, the pictures I took at the end of the day in full sunshine turned out better than those taken earlier in the day under cloudy skies, even if I had to mute some elements of the picture, as I did to the very greenish water in this shot of a Lesser Yellowlegs.

Lesser Yellowlegs

The most dramatic effect of the light, though, shows up in the shots of this American Bittern, taken just before it turned dark. Here the orange cast of the late sunshine actually made the American Bittern appear more dramatic,

American Bittern

and in a few of the shots I was still able to capture the bird’s movement,

American Bittern

though the ISO in my favorite shots was so high that the noise level seemed unacceptable to me.

Thank goodness birding was good enough that I nearly forgot the dental episode because the drive home on I-5 was a virtual nightmare, with roadwork and road closures doubling the time it had taken me to get there in the morning. Fixing highways may be a good thing in the long run, but so far this year driving for any distance at all has been a real pain in the posterior.