Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Saturday October 6, 2012 Ridgefield NWR +

There would only be one more weekend that Rudy and I could share together before his trip and my surgery so we had to make the most of it. Ever since we had been to Ridgefield NWR earlier in the year I had wanted to go back to see the sandhill cranes. I'd been watching the reported sightings and I had a good feeling that this time we'd get to see them. It's about 2 1/2 hours down there so we got a somewhat early start. We checked in at the "S" unit for the driving tour-no getting out of your vehicle once you start except for one spot. While we were there we heard a very unusual sound coming from a short distance away. It was kind of a rattling squawk. We looked over and got a very brief glimpse of what we were sure were a couple of sandhill cranes (#158). Quickly into the car to try to see them as they had vanished behind a grove of firs but we didn't find them. What we did see was very different than the last time we had been to the area. Where once there had been water on both sides of the road filled with all manner of fowl was either dry or muddy ground. There were a few small pools that had coots and mallards and in the muddier section it looked like a yellowlegs, great blue herons and such. We continued on hoping for a better view of the cranes. We got out at the one spot allowed and went to the blind with our scope. There were some back-capped chickadees, cedar waxwings, starlings, and northern flickers in the area along with some coyotes. We set up the scope in the blind and were able to get a better view of some sandhill cranes across the field. Huge birds with that distinctive red on the top of their head. We thought we might get even closer to them when we came around the other side of the drive but before we even left the blind a fast moving pickup-going the wrong way-cruised by them and scared them off. Nuts. Back in the car we saw pied-billed grebes, cinnamon teals, northern pintails, killdeer, red tailed hawks and some really nice views of wood ducks. Yes, more wood ducks-we were seeing them everywhere!

When we came around to a more open field we saw more cranes and this time we got to see some of them "dance". Here's a video to show-they were a ways off so it's not too crisp but you'll get the drift.

Over the field we also saw 18 American white pelicans flying over in formation-that was quite rare and oh so beautiful. Before we left we also saw a peregrine falcon, kingfisher and a great egret and about a thousand cackling geese. Only one new species to add to the list but it was a very good bird day.

We also went further south to try some new areas like Vancouver Lake Park, Columbia River Lowlands and quite a few other places listed in the Audubon guide but it had gotten very windy and we really didn't see anything else except a pond by the road that was sheltered and there were 17 great blue herons and 13 great egrets hunkered down to get away from the wind. We did stop at an overlook at Franz Lake and saw some river otters. We came back home via the back side of Mt. St. Helens but it was getting dark so not much to see. We would have done better just coming back up I-5 but it was good to check out the new areas. In better weather they might be good to go back to.

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