Ridgefield NWR is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River between Vancouver and Woodland. Unlike most other refuges, this one is a drive-through wild area. With few exceptions, visitors are required to stay in their cars and drive a 4.2 mile loop through grassland, woodland, and marshland. The refuge utilizes dikes, canals, and pumps to simulate the seasonal water level changes that used to happen before dams changed the Columbia River.
Ridgefield has thousands of migratory bird visitors as well as many year-round residents. Because of that, and the seasonal water level changes, there is always something different to see. I make a point of visiting there three or four times a year, so you can expect to see more photoshoot blogs starring the birds of Ridgefield in the future.
My e-friends know that I have been on a quest to “shoot” a Sandhill Crane for the longest time. Last fall, I could get no closer than a quarter mile. Early this spring, I sought them in east-central Washington, where there are several breeding pairs, but again, no luck. Finally, I was in the right place at the right time. It would have been nice to be a bit closer than 50 feet, but I was finally able to capture a recognizable image.
Early on my auto tour, as the gravel road passed a series of inter-connected ponds, I was able to get quite close to this little lady. I do not know for a fact that she is female, but she looks feminine and that is good enough for me.
Then, as the road paralleled a canal, I almost drove past these wood ducks resting in the shadows. As nearly as I can tell, the one on the left is a juvenile male and I think the one on the right is likely a female because of the solid white ring around her eye.
This big fellow came gliding across my field of view as woodland gave way to grassland. By the time I stopped the car at an angle so I would not have to shoot through the windshield, he was accomodatingly perched in a tree some distance away.
Coming to a marshy area, I spied this odd couple who truly did look and act as if they were together. Where one went, the other followed.
And not far from the odd couple was this Nutria grooming himself. For those unfamiliar with these River Rats, they are native to South America. Fur ranchers introduced them to many other parts of the world and, in places like the Pacific Northwest, they have naturalized quite successfully. So, invasive species or no, they are here now and likely to stay, and can be interesting to watch.
This little fellow greeted me as I came around a curve in the road. I slowed the car to a crawl and approached within about 25 feet of him. Then, I leaned out the open window and managed just this one shot before he flew into the tall grasses. Even with the help of an excellent bird book, it is difficult for me to tell one sparrow from another, but I think this one is called Savannah.
It is not apparent here, but I actually made two circuits of the auto tour and spent over three hours in this wonderful refuge. Sometimes, there is the temptation to leap out of the car to get a better shot, but I behaved myself and still managed to take 438 photos. Once home, I kept 36 and deleted the rest. Here you see a few of my favorites.
Eventually, it was time to head home after a long, but enjoyable afternoon. Thanks for coming along with me.