I’ve been lucky to go to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge a few times in the last couple of weeks. I took a friend who is moving to Kentucky soon for her first visit to the refuge. It was an overcast but dry day and the temperatures were reasonable. I had told KT that I never really know what to expect at Ridgefield. Almost always a heron (or several) but sometimes there is a surprise. Our trip was one of “those”.
We approached the corner at the Hunter’s Gate and I saw a kestrel sitting on a refuge sign. I stopped at a distance and took a few “insurance” shots and then moved slowly closer. When I got to what I thought was a safe distance I stopped and we both took several more shots. The bird was calm so I moved even closer… watching to see if it spooked or showed signs that we were really disturbing it. We crept to within about 10 feet of the sign and I was about at the minimum focus distance for the lens. I really could not believe the bird just sat there as we shot and shot. I may be the car that Dennis Davenport reports being so close to the bird in his nice blog entry about the same day and bird. At one point the bird flew off and I figured it was all over. To my surprise it flew only a few feet, landed on the ground and picked up a grub and then flew back to the same sign. It held the grub and looked at me asking “see what I have?” or “can you do that?” I just smiled and shot some more. When I realized that there were other cars behind us I started the engine and drove off. My apologies to those who were waiting patiently for us.
KT and I drove the rest of the loop and headed back to town since we both had obligations that afternoon. She got to photograph a heron on the side of the road and was thrilled with the extreme closeup that the bird provided. Having the heron on the edge of the road has been a regular experience for me on my last several visits and I’m glad she got the chance to capture this wonderful bird with such detail.
Yesterday I went back to the refuge with my friend Deigh from Eugene. We had hoped that our freind Dave would join us but he had an important doctor appointment that kept him in Eugene. Deigh and I set off around the loop and I quickly paused to see if I could capture some golden-crown sparrows in a roadside bush. Now, believe me, I’ve never been one to try to photograph these small and very quick birds. Both Dave and Dennis Davenport have posted images of sparrows and other small birds and they inspired me to see if I could even begin to do the right thing to capture these birds. I think Deigh probably doubted my sanity as I stopped but he patiently accepted that it could be awhile before we moved on and joined me in photographing the sparrows. I’ll probably spend more time trying to get nicer shots but this one is the best from this pioneering effort.
We drove on around the loop and ran into nothing that inspired us to stop. It was nice to just drive slowly and visit about a multitude of topics. I saw a a Jeep parked by the side of the road as we came out of the woods and made the turn going south between two lakes. I moved in behind the Jeep and started looking for what ever had the driver’s attention. She sat for a minute and then pointed out the window to an area just below her car. Then she nicely moved away so we could approach. Much to my surprise we saw a bittern moving around. I’m still new enough at this game to get excited and shoot without really trying to plan a shot. I’ve had so many birds fly away before I get ready that my natural instinct is to pull the trigger first and plan after that. The bittern moved around and occasionally sat still for us. We repositioned the car two times to keep decent framing of the bird. We got to witness some of the bird’s behavior such as the neck extension and waving back and forth. What a thrill for us to watch the bird work the water’s edge. We moved on to allow another car into position. Both of us felt really fortunate to have been able to be there for the day, to catch up with each other during the holiday season and to see such a cool and unusual bird so close to us. I guess that might be Ridgefield’s gift to us for the season. I’m grateful.