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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring at Ridgefield NWR

It was a beautiful spring day yesterday, and there was no better place to enjoy it than at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, where my dad and I spent three hours birding along the River S Unit. We saw more than a dozen species of waterfowl, including one tundra swan that seemed reluctant to migrate. We also saw about ten ruddy ducks:

Male ruddy duck

We also saw about 15 pairs of cinnamon teal, which I thought was quite a lot!

Prints of this photo available here

It was the first day of the season that the Kiwa Trail was open, so we hiked that loop. The sounds of the marsh were impressive: marsh wrens and common yellowthroats were everywhere. Usually yellowthroats are very secretive, but we saw quite a few throughout the course of our visit, so I got a rare chance to photograph one.

Male common yellowthroat
Also along the Kiwa trail we heard several Virginia rails and soras (165), and even saw one sora fly a short distance. If I thought the yellowthroats were elusive birds, I don't know what word I would use to describe these rails! This was only my second time actually seeing a sora, and I've never seen a Virginia rail, only heard it.

In the forested part of the trail I also saw my first house wren (166) for the season. Other highlights of our walk included a white-breasted nuthatch, and all the swallows. Lots of pairs of tree swallows were flitting about their nesting holes in the trees, but we saw a single violet-green swallow perched right alongside the path. My dad pointed out that we could actually see both the violet and the green that led to the name of this bird - usually they just look dark greenish. 

Prints of this photo available here

We were also impressed by the number of Aubudon's (yellow-rumped) warblers. It seems people have been reporting impressive numbers of these guys all over the region. We probably saw at least a hundred of them. Here are a few photos:

Prints of this photo available here

Another species Ridgefield is known for is the yellow-headed blackbird, a species that tends to be seen more in eastern Washington rather than in the western part of the state. We saw at least three males throughout the day:

When we came across several cars pulled over and everyone out with cameras in hand, we knew there was something cool to be seen. It turned out to be the site of a great horned owl nest. One of the parents was perched across the creek in a tree, one of the chicks was hunkered down in the nest, but the second chick was right out in the open and didn't seem to have a care in the world. What a funny looking bird!

Prints of this photo available here

The final highlight of the day was one of the species we went to Ridgefield hoping to find: an American bittern (167). We saw one fly a short distance, and then heard it ca-chunck-a-chuncking after completely disappearing among the sedges. We ended the trip with 43 species on the day list, and we certainly enjoyed all the birds and all the sunshine!

1 comment:

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Another crackin day out Monika! I'm still 1 ahead though:)

Good description of the Am. bittern's call - remember it well we had one on the natuure reserve 20 years ago