Dense fog filled the lowlands on the day of my most recent visit to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. The scenery was ghostly, cold, and calm.
The refuge encompasses a complex of wetlands, grasslands, and oak forests along the eastern banks of the Columbia River in Washington.
I drove the 4.2 mile auto tour of the ‘S Unit’ for the first time. I rolled along slowly in my car, in the middle of a procession of cars, looking out the windows at the plethora of wintering waterfowl and other wildlife.
Interestingly, birds and other critters generally aren’t as afraid of cars as they are of people. So my car was my photo blind.
I have never been on an African safari, but I imagine it must be something like the auto tour at Ridgefield NWR. There were hundreds of birds, representing many species: ducks, swans, geese, songbirds, herons, and raptors.
I also saw a family of raccoons and three coyotes at fairly close range. The coyote in the photo below was stalking a nutria.
There were several big nutria grazing in the green grass bordering the lakes. At one place, three young nutria were happily munching grass on the side of the road, seemingly oblivious to my car only a few feet away.
Nutria are large rodents that look vaguely like beavers. They aren’t native to North America– they were introduced from South America and are considered invasive in the Pacific Northwest.
The most exciting moment of my day at Ridgefield was when a Peregrine Falcon swooped through the mists and landed near the roadside. I got a good look at the graceful bird before it took off again. I had never seen a wild Peregrine Falcon before. Very cool. I didn’t manage to get any photos of the falcon.
I hope to get back to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge soon, to see how things change through the seasons.