|By: BriarCraft, 6:02 AM GMT on October 24, 2013||+4|
Impressive Sandhill Cranes stop at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge during their spring and fall migrations. I've never managed to time it right to see them here. In fact, the only Sandhill Cranes I've managed to see in person were at Burns in southeastern Oregon. Until today. They must have been a quarter mile away and, at first, I thought they were deer. Until one raised it's head. They stand 4 feet tall. Even at full 30X zoom through my camera's lens I wasn't able to see much detail. I saw enough to know what I was looking at, but not enough to be please with the photo, which is why I included the one above, taken by someone with permission to get out of their car and get closer to these magnificent birds.
After record September rainfall and a tedious October temperature inversion that made lingering fog and cool, clammy temperatures seem neverending, this afternoon was particularly glorious. It was a perfect day to take the 4.2 mile auto tour through the wetlands of Ridgefield.
I have made it a habit to go to Ridgefield at different times of the year to enjoy the diversity of birds that pass through on their way elsewhere, as well as the year-round residents. I've never been disappointed. Until today. Where were the birds? For the first hour, I saw exactly 2 Northern Shovelers, 1 female duck I couldn't identify, a small flock of Pied-billed Grebes, and about a dozen white blobs in the distance that I think were napping Swans. Not a single Mallard or Canada Goose, both of which stay there year-round. Or so I thought. I did see the family of Western Painted Turtles hanging out in their usual spot, so I knew I was in the right place.
I was seriously disappointed at the lack of birds until I was on the final mile of the auto tour, when I spotted a Great Blue Heron posing at water's edge.
Then a Great Egret flew by.
And then I saw the Sandhill Cranes providing the grand finale to my afternoon at Ridgefield NWR.
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