I headed up to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge yesterday for the first time in nearly a year, wondering what changes I might see, but the most unexpected change was one I saw in my rear view mirror. I had stopped along Rest Lake to photograph a couple of bitterns that were hunting near the road, but I kept having to move up to let traffic behind me through, before backing up to resume my watch.
The bitterns were soon gone but a great blue heron was slowly working its way in my direction, so I settled in to see how close it would come. I frequently checked my rear view mirror to watch for approaching cars but none came. But then in the mirror there was a slow movement of brown from one side of the road to the other, and when I swiveled my head around to look got my first glimpse of a Columbian white-tailed deer. Two of them actually, a doe and her fawn.
The doe had bright yellow tags in each ear and a large radio collar around each neck, she was one of thirty-seven that were emergency translocated earlier this year from another refuge in Washington (and one of twenty-nine that survived). Her fawn, though, belongs to the first generation born at Ridgefield. It and the other deer will be closely watched to see how they survive in their new home, as the Columbian whitetail was only recently downlisted from endangered to threatened status.
But at the moment, it was just the two of us watching each other, each seemingly as surprised as the other by the encounter.