I love the increase in wildlife activity during the fall and winter months at Ridgefield NWR but trying to find a day when it’s not overcast with a thick layer of clouds all day is really tough. Today was no exception. The good thing was it didn’t rain until I left in the afternoon. I arrived just a little past sun up but it didn’t matter because as I said, the sun was nowhere to be seen.
I am happy to say I was finally successful in spotting the ‘resident’ Vermilion Flycatcher that has been hanging around the refuge for the last month or two. I received some great ‘inside information’ about the location of the bird from my brother Gary, who had already photographed the bird a couple weeks earlier, and quite well I might add! I also learned more about the general area at the refuge in which the bird appears to reside. More about this flycatcher and some of my photos of it later as we move on through the photo shoot.
Let’s start with the photos. I didn’t get any shots worth keeping for the first hour but as I was approaching the end of the Ash tree forest, I spotted a sparrow in the brush and got one flash shot off. I didn’t realize that I had a Lincoln’s Sparrow until I got home. I don’t see these guys very often so I was happy to get a shot even though the bird is behind a big branch.
[Be sure to click on each of the thumbnails for a larger, more detailed, view.]
Not far from the sparrow is a Marsh Wren fluttering around in the brush.
As I get to South Rest Lake between posts 11 & 12, there’s a nice Great Egret hunting the water there.
I start the truck and roll slowly down toward post 12 and in the distance see that a bird is perched on the post (#12) at the turn. I roll up about as close I think I can get without flushing the Northern Harrier, and, from quite a distance, get a shot of this beautiful raptor.
On my next loop around the auto tour, I spot an area in the woods between posts 9 & 10 where all sorts of kinglets, nuthatches, creepers, sparrows, and others are congregating. Here’s a shot of a Brown Creeper, not perfect, but my first in quite a while.
From the same spot I get a White-breasted Nuthatch, a Spotted Towhee, and a Black-capped Chickadee.
I’m past the woods now and at the corner of post #11, where the Vermilion Flycatcher is supposedly hanging out, I look in the water to my right and see bubbles on the surface, signifying that something is submerged. I get the camera ready for when it surfaces and it’s a Pied-billed Grebe. I’m not crazy about the whitish-gray colored water but today, there is no other choice.
I decided to wait at the post 11 turn to see if the flycatcher wood show up. It was close to noon and that’s the time my brother told me the bird had been here for him. So I sit and wait, constantly checking post 11, the small tree to the right of it, and also the wooden refuge sign that tells folks to stay in there cars. After a little while, a fellow pulls up beside me in a pickup truck and asks if I’m waiting for the flycatcher. I say “yes” and he said that he saw it about an hour ago over on the big tree to the left of post 11.
This news gave me some hope. After about an hour and a half, I was still scouring the tops of posts, signs, trees, etc., all around the general area of post 11. I was now even looking at the posts around the turn at post 11 on the right side of the road–just past the water. There are posts there that hang a wire telling folks not to enter the service road. These posts are about 80 feet from the inside of the turn where I was parked and had been waiting. I noticed that there was some bird on one of the posts at that service road entrance. I picked up my binoculars and checked the top of the post. The flycatcher was on it!! I could not believe it.
I took a couple shots from where I was since I didn’t know if I’d get a second chance. Then I started the truck up and drove around the turn and stopped about 20 feet from the bird perched on the post. The bird didn’t fly! I pointed my lens out the passenger side window. As I took shots, the bird jumped down onto the gravel not far from the post and picked up a seed or bug, then would jump back up to the post or to the wire hung between the posts. At one point, it had a fairly large bug in its bill, of which I got a shot.
After two or three trips to the ground and back to the post, it flew south, down the service road and landed in a small, bare-branched tree, not far from the water’s edge. Now it was too far away to take pictures but I watched it until it finally flew southward out of sight.
For those who aren’t familiar with why this is such a big deal to me–spotting the Vermilion Flycatcher. The bird that has been visiting the Ridgefield NWR is about a thousand miles out of its range. Its normal range is southern Texas, Arizona, and Louisiana southward, to Central and South America. This female flycatcher is way north of its range and it is so fascinating to ask the question–why? It’s a bird I may have never seen in my life had it not been for its accidental arrival to the Pacific Northwest. I’m privileged to have seen the bird but I’m also concerned for its well-being. Spending the winter here where it is usually cooler then down south means there are probably less bugs for the bird to eat. But from what I saw today, she is doing just fine and looks nice and plump!
I’m still parked by the service road entrance when two Red-tailed Hawks land in this short tree about 100 feet off the road, not far from where the flycatcher perched earlier. Here’s a shot of the two hawks.
The bird perched higher flew away first followed by the second hawk. Here’s a shot of the second hawk taking flight. Not as sharp as I would like but I can’t expect too much at 1/500 of a second.
Another hawk was perched at the three tree area.
So now I decide to drive around the loop again to post 11 to see if I can get another glimpse of the flycatcher. Low and behold the bird lands on post 11! I have to back my rig up a little bit and stop in the inside corner of the turn. Shooting out the driver’s side window, I get these shots.
And then the bird flies up onto the “stay in your car” wooden sign.
And, a shot with the bird on a cattail, around the corner near the service road entrance on the right.
I continue driving around to the three tree area again, and this time our old friend the Peregrine Falcon is perched on its favorite branch. The good thing is, I’m only about 25 feet from this bird. The bad thing is, it’s the same exact shot that I’ve gotten many times before. So the shot is nothing new but I’m glad to see this bird again. I thought it might have left the refuge.
I also have a little video of him since he was such a good sport!
Around the turn at post #12, a Northern Harrier makes a move.
A dreary day it was but a good one! I saw and captured the Vermilion Flycatcher, a lifer for me. It was also great to see the Lincoln’s Sparrow, the creeper, and the Peregrine Falcon again!
Thanks to all my returning readers and to all newcomers to The Blog. If you liked this blog post, be sure to go back and check out previous photo shoot blog entries I’ve posted over the last year. There are over 50 entries since I began this blog in Oct. 2010. Also, check out my photo galleries for some of my favorite shots. My one year anniversary has come and gone! Thanks for being there in year number One! See you next time and be safe!