i visited the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, just north of vancouver, wa with my mother and aunt after thanksgiving.

first up, nutria! mother and baby:

nutria

nutria2
not long before we saw an adult bald eagle and several juveniles. these birds are huge!

baldeagle

this one was setting on a tree with a peregrine falcon (down there on the left)

baldeagleandfalcon

 

oh and we also saw this kestrel on our way to the refuge, a first for me in the wild.

kestrel

 

marsh

there were tons of ducks, mallards, a snowy egret and a merlin in this marshy bit, but too far for good pics.

flyinggeese

geese

 

redtailedhawk

so then we are passing through this scraggly forest area where there had been owl sightings of late. we crept along in the car (this refuge is one that you drive through and where for most of it you have to stay in your car) scanning everywhere. tons of hawks, no owls. then near a bend my mom spotted her sitting in a tree at some distance. looking right at us with the most beautiful orange eyes. my first wild great horned owl.

 
greathornedowl

i took a pic through the binoculars

greathornedowl2

 

there was allegedly a small eared owl in a different part of the park, but the stand of trees where it seemed most likely to be was too far away. and we had to be getting on, so we sort of skimmed over the last 1/4 of the refuge. there were lots of great blue herons and more nutria

nutria3

 

highly recommended for people interested in waterfowl and raptors.

westward expansion

October 1, 2008

here are some things i saw during my drive out to portland from ny. in chronological order:

this guy was driving a 18 wheeler

 

fast forward all the way to the BADLANDS


 

saw some tracks on the hills, then rounded a bend and saw these! almost wrecked the van pulling over.

 

my first wild prairie dog town, complete with hunting hawk

 

normally i’m not into the “jackelope”, but this one was next level. the “flying jackelope” at wall drug.

 

many many pronghorns all over the landscape.

Oregon Wild Safari

June 19, 2008

 

Two weeks ago joel andrew and i took a drive out to the oregon high desert. Joel called out of work and we hit the road early. We took rte 26 out of portland (where it’s been unseasonably chilly) and things got foresty pretty quickly, then we went up a mountain pass where it was foggy and snowing. So much moss, i loved it. 

 

foggy mountain top in oregon

 

We traversed the North Mountain Pass and came down into the open, sunny, warm prairie. Mt. Hood was right there, and you could see Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters in the distance. Joel knows his Oregon topography. We stopped for milkshakes and smoothies in Warm Springs. We saw a coyote cross the road and bound off into some tall grass. 

 

 

more driving and things got more arid. the change to sandy desert was slow and subtle. then we saw the first painted hill. bam!

 

painted hill

 

we drove over to this paleontological site and walked around the painted hills and they were really lovely and pretty mind-boggling.

 

painted hill texture

made by ancient lave flows.

 

i heard a little cheeping in a tree and saw a mom sparrow sitting on her nest. it’s hard to see, it was difficult being 2 feet away. 

 

joel made friends with a sagebrush lizard.

sagebrush lizard

 

chukar

we saw these awesome little partridge-like birds called chukar. i took my first video with my new camera. 

 

 we went to this pile of rocks that was allegedly a massive fossil deposit of ancient plant impressions, but i didn’t see any. there was a nice didactic panel with an animal called an oreodont exploring the marshy landscape of “the ancestral cascades”

 

 

we took a different path home, instead of going back up 26, which was a fine road. so we took some winding roads through high hills and rocky cliff walls. around one bend we came to a halt when a herd of cattle were being driven by this classic elderly cowboy. i wanted to stick my arm out the window and pet them, but then i saw that many of the little calves had obviously been trailing their mom’s a little too closely and had dung on their faces. no thanks. but they were cute and loud. 

 

 

 

 

 

patriotic horse

 

ok, now as great as this day has already been, it was about to get a lot better. we pass these looming, craggy rocks, sort of like smaller versions of the ones in east arizona. “these look like prime peregrine falcon nesting sites” i nerdily comment. we drive on. ten minutes later, joel points out a bird flying low on the roadside embankment ahead of us. we pull up next to it, and i see it’s small, brownish color and white belly and little black “hood”. we were less than twenty feet from a peregrine falcon! the fastest animal currently known to man! i’ve never seen one in the wild. it was amazing. it wheeled off and perched on a shrub. i didn’t move fast enough to get a picture of it in flight, but here is a pic of it perched.

 

peregrine falcon

 

totally stunning. then we continued on to a little town called Antelope. this sleepy little one road town was the scene of a pretty wild “invasion” by this cult in the 80’s called the Rajneeshee. there’s this little jailhouse,

 

 

and the cute antelope diner. while we were in there buying postcards and perusing a wall of newspaper articles about the cult, it’s hold on the town/bioterrorism plots and it’s aftermath, a local landscaper came in and asked if we wanted to see a baby deer. we said yes and he directed us to a quasi-vacant lot where he or someone had been mowing the lawn and then had to stop because they had come across a little fawn who’s mother had hid it in the tall grass next to this little shed. we got so close. we could easily have touched it but we didn’t want it to smell like us. it was so calm looking. 

 

 

as we left antelope i was trying to remember what i had read about the status of the pronghorn in the wild. “i think they are extinct in the wild.” i say. i think actually they were just hunted and pushed out by livestock and their numbers were really low in the earlier part of the century. now i guess they are pretty common. but i didn’t know that, and soon after i said that i start projecting the image of a pronghorn into the sky above the horizon, like some kitschy painting of a native american stoically staring out of frame, with his spirit animal watching over him from the heavens. i kept snapping myself out of it, there is no antelope there. we come over the top of a hill and BAM there just beyond the fence on the side of the road is unmistakably a female pronghorn. we pull over as fast as we can, and she starts to trot off but stops to look at us a couple times and i got some pictures.

 

pronghorn

 

turning around and look at this amazing view

 

 

then we saw some deer (still exciting) 

 

 

and ate some quinoa (yum!).

 

 

Oregon Wild Safari!