Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon

Dec. 2, 2011- Fri. – Ridgefield NWR

I headed over to Ridgefield NWR and arrived at around sun up.  Had the usual cloudy weather in the early morning giving way to nice sunshine around mid-morning.  Temperature was hovering around freezing early on.

As a reminder to readers around the USA and the world who can’t be here to visit this wildlife refuge, I normally shoot at what is called the River ‘S’ Unit, which has a 4-mile auto tour route for visitors to drive on.  The route takes visitors through several distinct kinds of habitat including, marshes, woods, and open fields, with waterways on either side of the road for the majority of the tour.

For the seven coolest months of the year, visitors are required to stay in their vehicles except at the main parking area and at a smaller parking area/restroom area located about half way around the loop.  So for this time of the year, all my shooting is done from inside my pickup truck, out of either of its two windows.  While this presents some limitations to a photographer, being inside your “hide” on wheels can get you pretty close to some wild creatures, not to mention keeping you dry in a downpour (which I was fortunate today not to have to endure).

The first two photos for today I took in the wooded area of the refuge, just prior to post #9.  It was still quite dark at 8:15 a.m. when I came across this little wren clinging to a tree.  I couldn’t help but be surprised by its small size–even smaller than most wrens I have seen and photographed.  In checking my bird guide, it’s my belief I have a Winter Wren here based on its size and distinctive barring on the wings and flanks.  I was hoping for nicer photos where it was up off of a surface but no luck.  The low light situation required a healthy dose of flash to light the subject.  I believe this is a lifer for me.

Update:  On Dec. 14, Jen commented on this post that I most likely have a Pacific Wren here, and not a Winter Wren.  In 2010, the Winter Wrens were split into two species, one of which is the Pacific Wren (the western version).  So not only is is a lifer for me but a bird I’ve never even heard of before now.  Thanks Jen!

A little further into the woods brought me to this Song Sparrow, quite easily spotted this time of year.

I drove past post #9 and around the left hand curve when I spotted this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk perched on a branch above and to the left of my vehicle.  It was a relatively easy shot from the driver’s side window pointing the lens upward to where the hawk was not more than 15-20 feet away.  I shot some flash shots of the bird as well as some non-flash shots, giving me a better choice during post-processing.  In this case, I liked one of each type of shot.  The first shot below was taken with a ‘lite’ flash, while the close up of the bird was taken with no flash.

In this shot, it appears the bird might be vocalizing but it isn’t.  For some reason it would open its beak for a second and then close it.  It did this several times while I was watching and I was hoping to catch a frame with the mouth open.

There are a lot of Coots on the refuge right now.  The sound of a hundred Coots “walking on water” all at the same time to avoid a perceived danger is unmistakable as their feet pound the water’s surface and their wings keep them up over the surface of the water.  Below is a Coot I saw between posts #11 & 12, and one of the few that was not part of a large flock.

My next sighting was of a Red-tailed Hawk perched on top of a tree just off the left of the road just prior to post #7.  The distance up and away from the road is just a little further than I like for a good shot.  But the sky was blue and the light not bad with nothing obstructing the view of the bird, so I took a bunch of shots.  Luck would have it that the bird decided to fly while I was there pointing my lens at it.  Here’s the series of shots.

Here’s a video of the hawk before he took flight.

Now I’ve exited the woods and am approaching the marsh area on the left side of the road just prior to post #11.  This is a great place to catch a wren or a sparrow on the cattails.  Here I captured another Song Sparrow.

A short video of the wren telling me what he thinks!


The next shot is nothing to write home about but I liked the exact same poses both of the Scrub Jays had, perched in this tree.

I’m back in the woods again and came across this White-breasted Nuthatch while I was searching for Kinglets.

The nuthatch will bring this episode of my shooting adventures to a close.  Thanks for visiting and I’ll see you next time at The Blog.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 at 2:51 am and is filed under The Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Dec. 2, 2011- Fri. – Ridgefield NWR”

  1. jen says:

    Nice wren! The Winter Wren was actually split last year into Pacific and Winter Wrens- so what we have here are the Pacific Wrens. Definitely one of the more difficult wrens to lure out into the open, so nice job!

    • Dennis says:

      Wow Jen! That is great information and thanks for the update! I almost didn’t post the shots but decided to beings I thought I had a lifer. The amazingly small size is what really stood out while I was shooting it. Almost thought at the time that it was a juvenile but knew it was the wrong time of year for that. I will update my post with your new information. Thank you!

  2. jen says:

    Glad I could help and congrats on the lifer!!

Leave a Reply