Sunday, June 03, 2007


(See my previous post for a quick introduction to this series)

Adam arrived at about 2:00 on Saturday afternoon, so there wasn't time to do much until Sunday afternoon. Following Mom's suggestion we visited Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, where I enjoy shooting ducks year round :) It is a 15,000+ acre refuge which hosts a wide variety of birds, including one of the only known nesting colonies of Yellow-headed Blackbirds west of the Cascades in WA. Zach and Matthew tagged along.

The refuge has a convenient 4.5 mile auto-loop for birders and nature photographers, but before we got on that Adam and I stopped before the railroad tracks to listen for Bullock's Orioles. There was no sign of them so we continued on. The younger boys got their first looks at a beautiful little Savannah Sparrow singing from the top of a small sign near the entrance kiosk, and after that we enjoyed great views of several male Cinnamon Teal swimming in the ponds and ditches along both sides of the road.

Cinnamon Teal

Tree, Barn and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, along with a few Vaux's Swifts cruised over the cattails in which we saw a male Yellow-headed Blackbird chattering. Those birds sound bizarre! A huge flock of American Goldfinches was feasting on the thistle across the slough, more than I'd ever seen at one time. Adam spotted a lone American Bittern flying low over the marsh in the distance, and we saw a few Greater White-fronted Geese feeding in the reeds. Several Common Yellowthroats and Yellow Warblers later we arrived at the observation blind located on Rest Lake, where we observed a family of Mallards, more Cinnamon Teal (they were everywhere) Ring-necked Ducks, Ruddy Ducks, American Coots with chicks (UGLY!!), my first Redhead, and a pair of Barn Swallow that posed for photos close to the blind.

Barn Swallows


Adam helped me identify several Marsh Wrens concealed in the reeds. We were just leaving the blind's parking lot when we noticed a berry bush being attacked by several Cedar Waxwings.

Cedar Waxwing

The lighting wasn't too good for photos, but they were neat to watch, and things got even better when a male Western Tanager flew in to grab some lunch. It was cool that he matched the color of the berries so well.

Western Tanager

Normally the hawks and harriers would be quite active in the surrounding fields and woodlands, but I guess they're too busy nesting this time of year, so we continued on to hike the 1.5 mile Kiwa Trail that loops through several acres of wetlands near the hunting area. Zach insisted on bringing Adam's 80mm spotting scope, so we just let him lug it along. We were already burdened with all our camera gear. The trail wasn't too exciting, but we heard lots of Sora, Pie-Billed Grebes, American Bitterns (whose strange "gugulumping" sounds kinda' like a 2-liter bottle being emptied), saw more Cinnamon Teal, a few Wood Ducks and a Pileated Woodpecker. The fields along the home stretch back to the entrance were pretty much deserted, save for a few Savannah Sparrows which posed in the beautiful evening light.

Savannah Sparrow

Zach and Matthew had a fun time, even though they wouldn't be convinced to stay inside the truck as we drove. I guess they thought they would have a better view if they hung out the windows and held on to the roof! But it was pretty much their first time birding so we gave them some grace.

All photos © Benjamin Berkompas, taken at Ridgefield NWR, 2007

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