Tuesday night, Sep. 27, I was checking the Ridgefield NWR website for updates on the re-opening after road construction. The site said the refuge had opened on the 27th so I decided to get up early on Wednesday and head up there.
I got there at sun up and noticed a new gravel covering on the auto tour route. The gravel size is much smaller than what was previously there. Right off the bat I noticed the pot holes were repaired–very nice. All the new turnouts are leveled and smoothed out, too. The new road that shaves off a half mile of the old road between posts 13 and 14 is finished.
While it was still relatively dark and foggy near post #4, I noticed this young Western Meadowlark hiding in the grass off to my left. The bird didn’t move for several minutes and I could have gotten closer but I likely would have flushed him if I moved the truck. I had to use flash here to get any shot at all.
[Larger views can be seen by clicking on the thumbnails].
Onward toward the stretch between posts 11 and 12, I took a 400mm shot of the three tree area just for the heck of it. This gives you an idea of the fog situation.
As I round the turn at post #12, there’s a Red-winged Blackbird hanging out on a cattail.
I then notice a small flock of Sandhill cranes in the field fly from south of me to the area just past post #14. I get over there as quickly as possible and I’m kind of surprised they didn’t fly as I pulled up. It’s still kind of dark and foggy and I knew any shots from this distance would be questionable but I took them anyway. The birds were jumping around, flapping their wings. Here are some shots that depict the birds’ mating dance.
The next loop around I’m at the new road just past post #13, and there is an American Kestrel hovering not very high above me. Unfortunately, the bird crossed the road and had his tail toward me.
On my next loop I was making the turn at post #12 and noticed something on one of the refuge signs. Closer inspection revealed that it is a partially eaten dead rodent. Don’t click this photo for a larger view if you are squeamish! It was probably left there by a kestrel but why?
Rest Lake seemed to be abnormally busy today. Many different kinds of ducks, geese, and wader birds were in the lake as well as what seemed like hundreds of swallows zipping around over the surface of the water. I took some video of the action so you could get a sense of what I was seeing.
While driving the new road I noticed a larger raptor hovering. He began to fly north and I moved as quickly as I could to a point just a short ways past post #14 where he was hovering over the field. I don’t see the larger raptors hover very often so seeing this Red-tailed Hawk was quite a treat for me.
As with the hawk shot, here’s a low-quality flight shot of a harrier hunting over the field in about the same spot the hawk was hovering.
Between posts #6 & 7 I spotted a female Northern Shoveler enjoying the sun, which had just come out through the fog at around 10:30 a.m. This first shot is of the duck flapping its wings.
This second shot catches another visitor in front of the duck. Enlarge the photo to see it!
I think I drove the loop about six times today. Although I’m still not encountering as much wildlife activity to photograph as I’d like, I had a fun time trying. On my way back over the bridge to exit the refuge, a juvenile Western Scrub Jay landed on the railing of the bridge. I grabbed the camera and took a few frames. When I checked the shots in Lightroom, I was surprised to see the bird had a bill deformity. Check this out.
The bird appears to be doing fine despite this abnormality. And while I had the camera out I took a shot of the sinking abandoned house boat north of the bridge.
Always a good time at the Ridgefield NWR! Thanks for stopping by!