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Spotting Wildlife and Wintering Birds at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

Swans at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Wash. | Rick Browne
Swans at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Wash. | Rick Browne

Near the southwestern border of Washington State, you’ll find Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. This 5,218 acre refuge, containing a mixture of wetlands, grasslands, riparian corridors and forests, lies along a lower section of the Columbia River. Wildlife in these habitats include wintering migratory waterfowl and 23 species of mammals ranging in size from moles to mountain lions.

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1965 to provide a winter home for a dusky subspecies of the Canada goose. Visit during the autumn and winter seasons to view thousands of geese in various shades of gray and brown flying overhead, flocking together on walking paths and feeding on the nutrient-rich grasses.

In addition to serving as a winter habitat for six subspecies of Canada geese, Ridgefield is also known for having spectacular concentrations of ducks, swans and other migratory birds resting here during the cold months. Birds are definitely most abundant during autumn and winter, but you can also view some during other times of the year. Songbirds migrate in early spring and the summer breeding season brings goslings and ducklings playing under the watchful eye of their parents. Bald eagles, herons, owls, ducks and sparrows also nest in this section of Washington.

Unlike birds, the mammals species on this refuge are shyer and not as easy to see. But around sunset or sunrise, keep a quiet presence and take a pair of binoculars to spot an endangered Columbia white-tailed deer in the forest, a red fox scampering in the grasses, a coyote hunting food and chipmunks scampering on the ground.

Columbian white-tailed deer have been re-introduced to Ridgefield to support their recovery. Refuge staff is actively working with the Friends of Ridgefield to increase habitat for the deer. Friends and community volunteers are planting native trees and shrubs to provide cover and forage for the deer and other wildlife. Join in the effort on Wednesdays and Saturdays from now until March 5, and help them reach their goal of adding 30,000 plants. To date, 345 volunteers have amassed 595 volunteer visits and planted 11,845 plants.

Canada geese goslings peak out from the nest just an hour after hatching at a pond in Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (Wash.) | Rick Browne

Beyond bird viewing, additional visitor activities include walking trails, an auto tour route and an interpretation center, the Cathlapotle Plankhouse. Built thanks to the help of more than 200 volunteers, the replica plankhouse is modeled after findings from an archaeological sites on the Columbia River. The Plankhouse, open to visitors on weekends in spring and summer, offers the opportunity to learn about the area’s culture and history. Here, refuge staff and special guests hold informational talks, provide hands-on demonstrations and offer children’s activities.

Learn more about Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge at: fws.gov/refuge/Ridgefield.

If you’d like to see your refuge highlighted, please contact Tracey Adams at tadams@refugeassociation.org or (202) 577-3396. We’d love to speak with you!

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2016/02/spotting-wildlife-and-wintering-birds-at-ridgefield-national-wildlife-refuge/

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