Ridgefield NWR (Jan 19, 2013)

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ridgefield_nwr_coverConditions: Birding trip, auto tour
Gear: lots of camera gear
Map: none needed
Area: greater Vancouver, WA
Reference: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Stats: loop drive driven 4 times, about 1 hour per loop


Dang, still got a bum foot. Where to go and what to do when I need to give the foot a break... Hmmm...Ridgefield NWR? Yeah it's a bit of a drive (3hr from the house) but it's pretty much a sure bet for birding. It has been, at least, every time I've been there. Better yet, it's a driving tour. I pinged a couple of others. Most had plans already so looks like it was time for a solo road trip.

I was up early (5am) and by 6am I was on the road. Yikes. This inversion has had freezing temps and fog for over a week now. Black ice on the roads. Time to take it easy. I knew, from the weather forecasts, that as soon as I was out of the Puget Sound region, the conditions would improve.

Getting to Ridgefield NWR is pretty straightforward. I-5 south for a long ways...all the way to exit 14 which was clearly marked for Ridgefield and Ridgefield NWR. Head east on 501, through a couple of traffic circle (501 resigns to Pioneer at some point), and after entering old town Ridgefield, a left on S. Hillhurst. The road heads up a bit of a rise/bluff and then shortly afterward, on the right, is the turnoff to the refuge. Then down a step dirt road, over the railroad tracks, over a single lane wood bridge and then the entrance to the refuge.

It's a $3.00/day entrance fee. Pretty reasonable fee I think.

The loop is one way, counter clockwise, so I took off slowly, taking my time. No need to rush.

I ended up doing the loop four times each time the loop taking about an hour to drive. I saw quite a bit. I'd never been down to the refuge this time of year. More waterfowl than I've seen on previous trips. Lots of hawks as well.

Let's see...the full listing of birds is: American coots, northern shovelers, hooded mergansers, red shouldered hawk, American kestrel, bald eagle, tundra swans, great blue herons, nutria (an introduced rodent species from South America), red winged blackbird, stilt sandpipers, harrier hawk, northern pintails...

I arrived at 9am and was back on the road north by about 1:15pm. Four hours spent viewing wildlife seemed a perfect way to spend the morning.

There are a couple of short trails for hiking but most are closed during the winter which I think coincides with hunting season. It was a bit weird to hear shots fired so close and I know I wasn't the only one spooked by the sound. When the shorts were close, the waterfowl would jolt from the sound.

There are a couple of blinds you can visit. I've done that but I find just staying in the car was about as productive. Besides...with the inversion, it was cold. Temps at the refuge were low 30's and the heavy frost gave all the vegetation a frosty glow.

By the way, if you are interested in going, no pets allowed, no bicycles, no fires, no camping, no off road driving.

Ridgefield NWR Slideshow

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Copyright 2013 Janet M. Putz
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