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The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and the Return of the Rufous

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We finally took our first visit to the popular Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and were welcomed by many Rufous Hummingbirds who have migrated north for the season! Ridgefield is just north of Vancouver (Washington not BC), and is nestled next to the Columbia River where a broad wetland area exists both on the Washington and Oregon side of the river. The city of Ridgefield has a wonderful little historic downtown with shops and restaurants worth checking out. It is clearly a growing area being not far from Vancouver and Portland but with more affordable housing. We enjoyed a nice dinner on a Friday night before heading into the refuge early Saturday to see the birds. We ended our day having a late lunch in their little food truck court, I recommend the excellent torta from the Little Cantina food truck!

For places to stay here you could opt for a hotel closer to Vancouver, or the ilani Resort and Casino sits just off the freeway just north of Ridgefield, you can’t miss this giant blue glass building. We opted for neither and took Birdie the Scamp down to stay at Paradise Point State Park just north of the ilani and Ridgefield but also right off the freeway. Unfortunately being right off the freeway you’ve probably already made the correct assumption that it is quite noisy! Staying in a trailer certainly helped but I’m not sure I’d recommend tent camping here. It does however have a nice drive down below the freeway that lets you access some trails on the Lewis River.

On our morning visit to Ridgefield we chose to head to the Carty Unit – the northern part of the refuge. We hiked the Oaks to Wetland Trail, which is a simple short loop but with many opportunities to view wildlife. It is connected to the Carty Lake trail but unfortunately just across a small creek the trail was closed so you could not hike along Carty Lake. There is also two other entrances that we did not visit, including the Kiwa trail which we’d like to do next time we visit. There was plenty to see on just our short loop hike and we only had the morning so we were quite satisfied with our visit!

I think we were most excited to see the Rufous Hummingbirds, mostly because one posed for nice pictures but also because we just love hummingbirds and their stunning colors! While the Anna’s Hummingbirds stay year round in Western Washington, the Rufous just come during migration. Some see them more commonly this time of year but they don’t visit my yard in Edmonds! They are known to be aggressive towards the Anna’s so maybe I’m ok with that. Check out our article on Washington State Hummingbirds if you haven’t already.

Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow
There were of course plenty of Chickadee’s both Black-capped and Chestnut-backed, plenty of Junco’s, and some Gold-crowned and Song Sparrows. There were Yellow-rumped Warblers and Common Yellowthroat, the latter of which we don’t see quite as often. Common Yellowthroats migrate north to nest and then winter in Mexico and Central America. They are found all across North America in the summer time, we usually only find them near wetland areas such as Ridgefield. We also saw California Scrub-jays which only come as far north as Southwest Washington, otherwise you have to see them in California and Oregon.
Another great day of birding at one of the best spots in Washington to see a lot of birds in one place! Go check out Ridgefield, enjoy some wildlife, and visit their wonderful downtown area!

Useful Links and Info:

  • Read our last post about a Migrating Visitor to the Puget Sound.
  • Check out all our other birding and nature adventures here.
  • Another way to visit the wetlands here is from the Oregon side of the river at the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area.
  • We recommend a good long sleeve hiking shirt to protect against the sun that stays dry. Here are men’s and women’s options.
  • Please help us out by clicking our Amazon Affiliate Link, while we recommend useful items for hiking, photography, travel, and birding any purchase through our link helps us out! if Also use for your travel! Thanks for your support.
  • Most of these shots were taken with the Sony a7 along with the Sony FE 200-600mm lens.
  • Always bring bug spray and sun screen when birding!


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