A Columbian white-tailed fawn enjoys its breakfast while sitting in a meadow on a rainy spring morning at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. I got some 4K video of it too, it’s hard to see the rain in the video with the slower shutter speed but you can certainly hear it pounding down, and you can see the deer’s eating motion as it occasionally stops eating to listen. I’ll post the video once I learn how to edit it.
I left early this morning to hike in one of my favorite spots, the short trail in the Columbia River Gorge from Horsetail Falls to Upper Horsetail Falls and on to Oneonta Falls. I was mostly interested in shooting video of the waterfalls, with some photos too, but stopped to shoot this moss-covered rock in a talus field. My heart filled with joy when I noticed a familiar face looking back at me, an American pika that I hadn’t seen when I stopped (it’s on the far left edge of the frame in the middle, looking straight at me). The location might seem surprising if you know much about pikas, as I was close to sea level and pikas normally live high in the mountains. But there is a population here in the Gorge, they live at the lowest elevation of any pikas in the United States.
I had seen them in the Gorge several times before, once near Multnomah Falls and a couple of times on the way to Angel’s Rest, but I had passed by this spot a number of times and never seen (or heard) them. I always look when I pass a talus field, I can’t help myself, pikas are always a treat to watch. I hadn’t even brought my 100-400mm lens on this hike as I don’t usually see much wildlife on this trail and I was just taking a quick hike while it was still cool (it was unusually hot today and is going to bake tomorrow). I wouldn’t have had time to get out the lens anyway, I didn’t see the pika for long, but I did hear it calling out several times as it moved about invisibly under the rocks.
The water levels at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge are managed to mimic the seasonal flooding from the Columbia River in the days before the dams. But this flooded field comes courtesy of an unusually wet winter, even for the Pacific Northwest. The fawn is a Columbian whitetail, born to one of the does that was transplanted in the third wave of relocations.
The green tags in this rain-soaked doe’s ears suggest she was part of the third wave of Columbian white-tailed deer that were captured at Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge and brought to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. She was hanging out with a group of other does from that transfer, and more importantly, their fawns, part of the reason their status has improved from endangered to threatened.
This fall the status of the Columbian white-tailed deer was improved from endangered to threatened. I’d guess this young buck, eating in a meadow beside Long Lake, is one of the offspring of deer that were captured and moved to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge as a part of the recovery efforts. I saw him in late December, one of his antlers had already fallen off but the other was not yet ready to let go.
This pair of mountain goats reminds me of a pair of Kiwis (or were they Aussies?) that I met at the lookout on the top of Mount Washburn. They were young and touring a bunch of national parks in my homeland and asked my opinions on my favorite parks. They were lovely folks and although I headed back down the trail before them, they later came running past, saying the ranger had told them there were mountain goats near the trail. I kept my walking pace and arrived a short time after them, but the goats were already all the way down the hill and moving off. I got a quick picture but a better memory, meeting nice people on the trails is one of the joys of our national parks.
The goats aren’t native to Yellowstone but they were perfectly adapted to this part of the park, I was astounded at how quickly and easily they covered the steep slopes below the trail. I was even more impressed by the time I arrived back at the car, huffing and puffing, and unconvincingly consoled myself that they’d probably be equally slow and tired if they were carrying a heavy camera and lens.