[Tweeters] Snowy Egret at Post Office Lake - Vancouver, WA

Blair Bernson blair at washingtonadvisorygroup.com
Wed Nov 12 08:30:48 PST 2014

Yesterday I took off early with the intent of
finding the Snowy Egret that had been reported by
Randy Hill, Lyn Topinka, Doug Schurman and maybe
others at Post Office Lake in the Vancouver River
Bottoms continuing to Portland for some personal
business. I exchanged emails with Jim Danzenbaker
to see if maybe he had further info and learned he
and Randy were off to Oregon chasing birds even
more exotic. He did warn, however, of expected
high winds in the area. Wow was he correct!!

Bottom line is that I did find the bird - poor
glimpses only as explained below - but the wind
gusts were incredible and a limitation on birding
options and enjoyment. I believe gusts exceeded
50 mph and at times even on the freeway the car
was pushed dangerously. Power outages were
prevalent and leaves and even branches were flying
around. Wind aside it was beautiful sunshine. It
was a new area and I would love to return without
the wind.

About the birds. Post Office Lake is literally at
the end of the road as you navigate through the
Port of Vancouver and the Columbia River bottoms.
you arrive at the parking area and there is no
further access across a large grassy area which is
part of the Ridgefield NWR and closed to public
access. The lake is perhaps 3/4 mile long and
fairly narrow. It was full of birds including one
egret that was immediately visible on the far
bank - brilliant white in the sunshine. Randy and
Doug had reported numerous egrets before so I was
encouraged and concerned at the same time as there
was only the one. It was immediately apparent
that photos were going to be unlikely because of
the distance except possibly for an ID shot if the
Snowy came onto the far bank like the other.
About 15 minutes later as I was scanning with my
scope, two egrets flew out from behind the near
bank. I tacked them with the scope only hoping
for a far bank landing but both returned to a
sheltered spot on and behind the near bank. One
was smaller with a clearly black bill and legs and
was the Snowy. I continued to watch the area
where they had landed and somewhat later both flew
out again - only quickly perhaps because of the
wind - to land again. One on the far bank near
another Great Egret and the other back on the near
bank side. Unfortunately it was the Great Egret
that landed on the far and thus distantly visible
bank. Another hour of waiting produced no
movement or views. AAARGH!!! If there had been
access, good views would have been available.

As I said there were many ducks. I did not even
try a count but believe there were more than 500
in all. Predominantly American Widgeon (I looked
for and did not see any Eurasians). Other species
were Mallard, Gadwall, Canvasback, Scaup,
Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Pintails, at least 2
Redheads and 2 Ruddy Ducks. Elsewhere during the
day I had all three Merganser species - so a good
day for ducks. There were also many Sandhill
Cranes, Cackling and Canada Geese, Great Blue
Herons, coots and of course the egrets (at least 4
Great Egrets there and two others elsewhere).
When I am in this area I am always struck by the
prevalence of Western Scrub Jays. I remember many
(MANY) years ago when I first birded in Washington
how rare they were. No longer.

So a successful day to "check off" a bird but not
at all satisfying and very frustrating because of
the seemingly pointless limited access. The lake
is clearly a great area but not easy to bird with
any really good visibility. Thanks to all who
posted about the bird and details.

Blair Bernson

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