As much as I love getting out to explore new places, there are a few I have discovered which call me back to revisit over and over. There’s a definite benefit to having a level of familiarity with an area; you learn the lay of the land, what birds can be regularly found, and what their behaviors are in that particular space. One of my favorites is Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, located on the east end of Washougal, Washington. This easily-accessible refuge has a great variety of habitats which provide great photographic settings, and more importantly draws in a variety of wildlife all year round. In particular, the predatory birds are highly reliable to make an appearance each visit as they hunt the fields and ponds.
On this particular trip at the end of November, I did not even have to leave my car to begin my birding. A flock of pine siskins was in the alders growing at the parking lot, searching for breakfast. I spent several minutes sitting with my camera held out the window.
Starting down the trail through the open fields, a female harrier was putting on quite the display as she cruised the high winds looking for a meal of her own.
The creek leading through this part of the refuge towards Steigerwald Lake was attracting other early visitors. A male belted kingfisher wasn’t quiet about his presence, hovering overhead briefly.
Several waterfowl were in the area, making their way towards the lake and nearby ponds. Their flight paths along the creek provided some nice photo ops.
One branch of the trail here is off-limits during the winter migration months, to protect the birds staying through early spring. From the closest vantage point, it was easy to see that Scaup Pond was very much in use by several duck species mingling together.
There is a stand of Oregon white oaks along Gibbons Creek, which provided a welcome windbreak not just for me but for a red-tailed hawk seeking a moment’s respite.
A smaller American kestrel also found itself a perch out of the winds among the tall trees. A brown creeper was found on the thick trunks, searching for insects.
The high winds were a photographer’s friend on this day. A pair of bald eagles was among the predators soaring overhead, and often seemed to hover as they moved against the air currents.
Braving the strong winds myself, I ventured out along Captain William Clark Park Trail (or the Columbia River Dike Trail, depending on what map you look at). This provides a view across Red Tail Pond, where several great blue herons were standing among the grasses. These tall birds are almost guaranteed with each visit to the refuge.
Although the strong winds made the cold nearly unbearable at times, I still would call this a very fruitful trip to the refuge. To learn more and plan your own visit, visit the website.
For more images from my birding trips to this location, be sure to visit my Flickr site. Comments are always welcome!