Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon

Nov. 7, 2012 – Ridgefield NWR – 31 Photos & 1 Video

I’m back at Ridgefield NWR just after sun up and ready for my second outing with my new camera, the Canon 5DMarkIII.  I continue to be elated with the increased number of focused shots that I have to choose from using this camera body.   You’ll quickly notice with today’s photos that there isn’t a big variety of birds but instead, many images of the same species, especially Northern Harrier and Belted Kingfisher.  I tried to take advantage of some great opportunities with these two birds.

The weather was cloudy and the sun popped out a few times so lighting conditions changed all day long.  My ISO settings today ranged from 400 to 2500.  I’ll give ISO settings for each shot so you can guage the camera’s performance.

[Click on each image once to download a larger view in a separate window].

Here it is, 8 am and the sun is peaking up over the ridge to the east, creating great lighting for birds entering and leaving Rest Lake.  A couple of Tundra Swans take off and fly fairly close to me.   ISO 1250    (8:06 a.m.)

ISO 640    (8:08)


A trio of Tundra Swans glide in for a landing on Rest Lake.   ISO 400    (8:24)


The morning sun also shined its light on low flying Northern Harriers in the Rest Lake vicinity.  Here are some frames from an initial sighting of this magnificent raptor.     ISO 400   (9:19)

ISO  400    (9:19)

ISO 400     (9:19)

ISO 400   (9:19)


Driving up to the marker #13 area, an American Kestrel makes itself at home on various refuge signs along the road.  Fairly skittish, this bird didn’t let me get very close.  ISO 400    (9:38)


After shooting the Kestrel, another Northern Harrier is scouting the area so I set up for some burst shots.  All I can do is wait and hope the bird comes somewhere near my truck–on the right side of the light.

ISO 400   (9:42)

ISO 400    (9:43)

ISO 500   (9:43)

ISO 500   (9:43)

ISO 500   (9:43)

ISO 500   (9:43)

ISO 500   (9:43)

Here’s a quick shot of the photo blind across Rest Lake from the lake’s east side.     ISO 800   (11:24)

If the encounter with the Northern Harriers wasn’t cool enough, I approach the area of the refuge where there are three large trees in a clump, very close together.  It’s quite well known to seasoned refuge goers that once you just pass the last of the three trees, you can look up to the left and see several dead snag-type branches that are always bare.  This set of snags is a favorite spot for raptors to just relax or use as a spot from which to spot potential prey.  The snags are about 20 feet off the ground.

Well, today when I drove by the three trees, I looked up and immediately heard and saw a Belted Kingfisher perched on one of the bare snags.  I immediately positioned my truck so I could shoot out my passenger’s side window using my bean bag.  As I watched and shot frames, the bird was rattling off vocalizations and repeatedly diving into the water below from over 20 feet up.  I wasn’t able to get any flight shots or diving shots due to my position but the snags he was landing on were obstruction free.  The negative aspects of this location were that the bird was a good 25 feet away from me and up high.  I much prefer birds at the level of my camera but I guess we can’t have everything we want.  🙂   This was still by far, the best and longest opportunity I have had in my 6-years of bird shooting with a Belted Kingfisher.  In fact, I have never seen a Kingfisher at this location before now.  I shot hundreds of frames over about a 20-minute period.  Here are just 10 of the poses.

“What’s going on down there?”    ISO 800    (11:27)

“Hey, is there fish in these waters?”    ISO 800    (11:30)

“Gotta shake this water off!”    ISO 800    (11:31)

Just after the shake.    ISO 800    (11:31)

“This is a great place to eat!  I should come here more often.”    ISO 800    (11:31)

“Like my new hair do?”   ISO 800    (11:32)

“Howdy!”    ISO 800    (11:32)

“Aww, shucks.”    ISO 800     (11:32)

“What’s that?  A bird…a plane?”    ISO 800     (11:32)

“Blast these photographers!  Always following me around!”    ISO 800    (11:32)

Just after passing the photo blind parking area, off to the right is a Great Blue Heron on a log in the middle of the water.  This is usually quite a shady area due to the trees that line the water’s edge.  But a ray of sun was peaking through and shining right on this bird–just like he was in the spotlight.   ISO 640    (12:18)

At least he didn’t have to throw the fish back!  🙂    ISO 640    (12:19)

After just rounding the corner past marker #9, off to the left was a fantastic Great Horned Owl perched at vehicle window level, and if you stopped at the right spot, it was unobstructed.  I wondered if this might be the surviving owl from the two owlets who were raised in these woods last spring and summer.  Those two owlets seemed to consistently perch on low branches which is what this one was doing.  I’ll never know but it’s nice to think that one of the owls survived and this might be it.  This location was in dark shade with strong backlight on the right.  ISO 2500, 1/250th    (12:26)


I saw a lot of American Kestrels today and most were very skittish, as usual.  I managed to get close enough to this one to get a decent shot on a refuge sign.   ISO 1600     (12:51)

The Kestrel would have been my final shot for the day but as I was driving out the access road to go home, right at the refuge gate atop the post that holds the light, was a Red-tailed Hawk.    ISO 1000    (1:08)

This brings to a close my day at the refuge for Nov. 7.  I have to say going through and reviewing hundreds of Kingfisher shots was not a lot of fun.  I’ve never deleted so many sharp shots due to there being so many duplicate poses.  I’m not complaining though.  Also, ending up with about a dozen relatively sharp harrier flight shots in a day’s shooting has never happened to me before.  Maybe I just had a super lucky day or maybe the 5D is just that much better at focusing.  Time will tell!   Until next time–take care!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 at 1:42 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.

Leave a Reply