Monday, November 08, 2010

Road Trip

Going someplace new, Day 1. The goal was to see the sandhill cranes staging at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. The ones that come down the coast, fly over Hansen Island in Johnstone Strait, fly over Neah Bay, and end up in California (see Ivey's map)... The weather was variable, sun breaks and stupendous rainshowers and fogs and drizzles. As a quest, it failed. Three cranes grazing the edge of a small cornfield on the far side of a grassy meadow, and the sound of others but no clue in what direction or where. At Ridgefield you stay in your car, ponds are few and there are no moats. Great blue herons, great egrets, lots of mallards and pintails (any day with pintails in it is a good day). Coyotes stalking the fields. The only bird that came really close was a greater yellowlegs. Made me happy: if it has long legs and a long beak, I'm for it.

Ridgefield signage. We're in Lewis and Clark country. (Click for larger image.)
A Great Blue Heron, Ridgefield NWR. (Click for larger image.)

This was Saturday. The explanation came in Monday's mail, a description of the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society's expedition to Ridgefield in the middle of last month. They drive the loop in the evening, they drive the loop the next morning, they produce a modest list of interesting birds sightings. Then a US Fish and Wildlife officer escorts them into a non-public area where they can hike a bit, and at sunset they are in a blind by a lake where they see 1000 cranes fly in. Ecstasy. (Something like a tenth of the ecstasy you can expect with the New Mexico Bosque del Apache's 8000 or 13,000 cranes coming in to roost right there at the viewing platform—only 2000 as of this weekend, but it's very early in the Bosque season.) There are roosts in the Ridgefield refuge, but not where visitors can see them.

Once around the loop, then lost for a while in the town of Ridgefield looking for the Refuge headquarters, to ask questions. Arrived about 10 minutes after their 3:30 closing time. And it was starting to rain more seriously, no more variable-weather nonsense. Sat in a parking lot conferring with the weather app on the iPad (about which I have said nothing yet) via the Mifi unit. Decided to check into the motel and then regroup, maybe go east along the Columbia River. By then it was pouring rain, and getting dark. I stayed in the motel. Heard both gulls and geese in the night, the lodging was very close to the river. It was my birthday. Happy birthday, me.

A Yellowlegs Wading By. (Click for larger image.)

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