Well, it’s been at least three weeks since I have made a trip out to Ridgefield NWR for a wildlife photo shoot, but I finally got a day I could get away and again visit this beautiful place.
In fact, the day is July 11 and this is our oldest grandkid’s 13th birthday. Tayler is a teenager and we still remember the day she was born as if it were yesterday. What a happy time it was for the whole family! She is now an aspiring, young artist, and while she is not necessarily a bird enthusiast, I still would like to dedicate today’s shoot to our beautiful Tayler (Heck, maybe she’ll like the bunny shot!). What joy she has brought to our family. My other three grandkids–Tayler’s siblings–are just as precious: Liam, Max, and Abby. We all celebrated Tay’s birthday together and she said it was her best birthday ever. Happy Birthday Tayler!
Okay, back to the photo shoot! I arrived at the refuge about 5:40 a.m. and again, I had to wait at the entrance gate until a little after 6 before it opened on the timer. I thought for sure they would have it set to open at 5:30 at this time of the year. So, I used the time getting my gear ready to go.
The weather is somewhat cloudy but it’s fairly warm and I left some of my heavier layers of clothing at home since I knew I wouldn’t need them. I did wear my new bug shirt but it turned out I did not need the hood part zipped. I ran across a few mosquitoes today but not to the point where they were attacking me. I’m really surprised as I recall last year about this time I was getting eaten alive.
I start driving the 4.2 mile auto tour and just past post #1, I see this cute rabbit nibbling on breakfast that is too close to get all in the frame. If you look close, you can see the reflection of my truck silhouette in his eye.
[To see larger versions of these photos, please click on the thumbnails.]
A couple hundred feet ahead on the gravel road are lots of Yellow-headed Blackbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds feeding. Many are juveniles. It’s wonderful to see all the new life springing up across the refuge. Here’s a male and a female.
One of the juvenile male YHBB’s flew off to the side of the road into the reeds.
Bird activity is pretty quiet until I get past post #11 where off to the right there is a large gull circling for a landing in the damp, but almost dry, wetlands. After looking the bird up in a field guide, I’ve determined this bird to be a Ring-billed Gull, a lifer for me. It is quite large with a wide black band on its bill. Its wingspan can reach 5 feet.
As I’m taking flight shots of the gull, I spot numerous pelicans landing nearby, circling around as they descend to the ground. But I am lucky to witness this as the tall grass and reeds next to the road almost obscure my view. I stop my truck and park at the side of the road and stand in the truck bed to see over the tall grass. The Pelicans are the American White variety and I decide to call my brother Gary, (Garebear400 on Flickr), who is at another area of the auto tour, and advise him of the flock of pelicans that just landed. He drives around the loop to where I am and we wait together for the birds to fly. The flock is at least 200-250 feet away from us, so my 400mm lens isn’t going to get a great shot of the birds on the ground. We wanted them to fly, and hopefully, toward us!
After quite a while, Gary was about to bring his camera inside his car and head on around the rest of the loop. I then noticed 5 of the birds taking flight and we both grabbed our cameras. The birds slowly ascended in a circular pattern and to our delight, they crossed right over the road we were parked on as they ascended. Here are a few flight shots.
These last two are of the birds making short, low, flights in the vicinity of the flock. Picture quality is challenged due to the distance from the road.
The airborne birds fairly quickly ascended out of the range of my lens against a blue sky to the point where I could barely see them with my naked eye. Pelicans circling and soaring at over a thousand feet above Rest Lake is quite a sight! After about 20 minutes, they decided to descend some and four of them flew in a southwest direction out of sight. The fifth bird actually returned to the flock on the ground. We were really fortunate to have them fly and allow us opportunities for some photos.
During the time I was waiting for the pelicans to take flight, some duck flight opportunities came along. Here are some of these shots, the first two depict the birds “whiffling” as they descend for a landing.
I also had some Blue Heron flight opportunities as I was watching the pelicans. Here are a couple shots.
I went around the loop several times stopping for various pelican shots each time. I understand the flock is still at the refuge days later, so they have offered some great opportunities for many Ridgefield photographers. Gary went back a couple days later and got a spectacular shot of a pelican landing while it was flying right at him. Here’s the link to this fine shot: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shotsbygary/5938068185/in/photostream
As mentioned earlier, the bird activity was relatively low today but the appearance of the American White Pelicans made it a great shooting day for me. I’ve seen pelicans at Ridgefield before, several times, but never this ‘close.’ So Tayler’s birthday turned out to be a double-happy day for me!