Many Thanks to Our Visitors, Sponsors, and Volunteers for Making the 2015 BirdFest & Bluegrass Event a Success!

We will release the 2016 Schedule of events in early August. Keep your eye out for more special tours, hikes, and presentations.

The festival over October 2, 3, and 4 drew thousands of people to celebrate the Refuge’s 50th anniversary, the Cathlapotle Plankhouse’s 10th, dedicate a new pedestrian bridge, and unveil our plans for building a new visitor’s center (with lots of help from the community). The Columbian wrote several articles covering the event, so check them out if you weren’t able to make it!

Curious about what happens during BirdFest?
Click Here to Download the Entire 2015 Event Schedule


The 2015 Bird Of The Year is the American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

Our BirdFest Bird of the Year is the majestic American White Pelican, one of the largest birds in North America and one of the heaviest flying birds in the world. As of this writing, at least three flocks have flown into the Refuge. Generally, white pelicans gather on lakes inland during the summer and move out to the coastlines in the winter. Despite their size, they are efficient flyers and can soar very long distances. Mature birds are white with black flight feathers that only show when their wings are spread, while immature pelicans are white with dusky backs, heads and necks. Their legs and bills are yellow-orange. Adults grow a distinctive horn near the upper tip of their bill during breeding season.
White pelicans have some interesting eating habits. In addition to scooping up fish with their bill pouches while soaring, they sometimes float and dabble bottoms-up like a giant duck. They may also work together as a flock to force fish into shallow waters for a pelican feast. Pelicans can overheat due to their body size, so you may see them turn their back to the sun and flutter their bill pouches on a warm day. The pouch is rich in blood vessels that transfer body heat and keep the pelican more comfortable. Another strategy for cooling in nesting season is to stretch out their wings like a cormorant.

Did you know: 
From birth to independence, an American White Pelican chick will demand about 150 pounds of food from its parents. Amazingly, embryos can squawk inside the egg to let their parents know if they are too hot or cold. The oldest known American White Pelican at least 23 years old.For More Pelican Info, check out their page on the Cornell Ornithology Lab’s Website:

Biographies of 2015 Speakers & Refuge Staff

JN pr head shot Skye Richendrfer 2014.jpgJack Nisbet
Spokane-based author Jack Nisbet writes about the human and natural history of the Pacific Northwest. His books include award-winning biographies of fur agent David Thompson and naturalist David Douglas, as well as essays about the flora, fauna, and people that have shaped our landscape over time. His most recent effort is called Ancient Places. See Jack on Saturday as he presents “The Once and Future Columbia River Condor” at the Viewridge Middle School Library Saturday at 12:00.

092014-KLU-9671eKaren Ulvested
Karen Ulvestad teaches photography workshops in Washington and Oregon, including Basic Camera Skills, Birds, Landscape, and Travel. She speaks and/or teaches bird festivals, including the Concrete Eagle Festival and Pacific City Birding & Blues Festival. Her work is represented by Photographer’s Direct, Alamy, and Corbis. To see her work, visit or her blog at


Dennis Torresdal
Dennis Torresdal is a past President of the Oregon Archaeological Society, a local non profit association that works with professional archaeologists in advancement of knowledge and educating the public about local archaeology. He is also a renowned flintknapper. Flintknapping is the process by which traditional tools such as arrowheads and spear points were made.


Jim Maul

Jim Maul is a professional geologist and hydrogeologist with over 30 years of experience providing technical and strategic consulting advice to private industrial and municipal clients. He is an expert in the area of environmental clean-up and property restoration in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Jim is a founding board member of the Friends of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and Ridgefield resident. Jim has a lifelong relationship with the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and Columbia River lowlands. Jim has developed a unique perspective on the geomorphology of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and will give an overview of the role the late-Pleistocene ice-age floods had on the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and its adjoining landscape. Jim is currently serving as the President of the Friends board of directors.

Sam Robinson
Sam Robinson was born in South Bend, Washington, on the Willapa Bay (the home of many of my Ancestors). I’m currently serving as Vice Chairman of the Chinook Tribe. I am also a member of our Chinook Canoe Family, which allows me to spend many hours on the waters traveling with our Ancestors. I also enjoy the drumming of our songs as we travel. My involvement with the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge became much stronger after the discovery of the location of Cathlapotle. I serve on the U of W Native American Advisory Board, and I have worked with Clark College in preparation for their celebration of Native American month. I’m also a member of the board for the Title Seven program (Indian Education) at the Evergreen School District.

Jim Danzenbaker
I have been a birder since I was 6 years old in New Jersey and have birded across the U.S. and many countries since then. However, I call Ridgefield NWR my home turf and visit every chance I get. I have led birding tours to many different South and Central American countries and, currently, I lead natural history trips to Panama. Also, I’m a Staff Naturalist on a Falklands-South Georgia-Antarctic eco-tourism cruise. My birding history has allowed me to experience the full range of optics from my first cheap binoculars to high end optics that allow crystal clear views without eye strain. Digiscoping has opened up a whole new area of interest and I am happy to share my knowledge of this marriage of a spotting scope and camera. I am currently the Sales Manager for the Americas at Kowa Sports Optics and I live in Battle Ground, WA.
Gail Alexander
After raising my son and spending 30 privileged, wonderful yrs. as a provider in health care, I moved to my home on Lake River, Ridgefield Wa. in 2003. Inspired to connect people to the RNWR and water trails, I established Ridgefield Kayak in 2005.

Refuge Manager – Chris Lapp
Chris Lapp has worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in North Dakota, California, Minnesota, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, and now Washington the past 20 years as a biologist and manager. Starting out as a research biologist for the Service’s Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center working on breeding and wintering studies on waterfowl, Chris has gone onto implementing numerous studies and managing a variety of habitats on wildlife refuges to support waterfowl, waterbirds, shorebirds, and neotropical landbirds. He has implemented countless habitat restoration projects with budgets in excess of $1,000,000 and was part of the initial development and construction of visitor service facilities at Tualatin River NWR in Oregon. Chris currently serves as overall manager of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Mr. Lapp received his BS degree in Wildlife Management in 1988 from Evergreen State University in Washington.

Eric Anderson, Ridgefield NWR Deputy Refuge Manager.
Between terms at Western Oregon State College, I held both seasonal fire fighter jobs and volunteer positions with Malheur NWR. Upon graduation I volunteered at Imperial NWR, leading recreation programs. These experiences parlayed into employment with the National Biological Survey, studying flycatchers in OR and CO. In 1994 I was thrilled to find seasonal employment near home at Ridgefield NWR, which has turned into a career. I’m fascinated with sandhill cranes, songbirds, dusky Canada geese, and amphibians. In my own small way, I’m proud to have contributed to the appreciation of and conservation of these species.

Sarah Hill is the Plankhouse Coordinator for the Friends of RNWR. Born and raised in Ridgefield, the refuge holds a special place in Sarah’s heart. Though she is currently the Plankhouse Coordinator, she began her work here as the refuge Americorps member, coordinating habitat restoration events and leading nature hikes during school field trips. She is passionate about teaching and the cultural and natural history of the Refuge. In her spare time she donates her time volunteering with many local non-profits and agencies such as the Intertwine Alliance, Vancouver Watershed Stewards, The Portland Fruit Tree Project, and is a volunteer instructor and naturalist with Rewild Portland.

Russ Roseberry was an educator for 36 years. 24 of those years in the science classroom, 9 years as a high school administrator and 3 years in human resources. He has served for 10 years on the Friends board. The Ridgefield Refuge was part of his science classroom resource when he was teaching Biology.



Rewild Portland (Peter Bauer) is an environmental education focused non-profit organization serving Portland, Oregon and the surrounding wid and rural communities. Our purpose is to create cultural and environmental resilience through the education of earth-based arts, traditions and technologies. We look to the animistic, regenerative relationships that indigenous cultures have with the land as our model for sustainability. Our mission comes to life in the form of educational workshops and programs, community-building events, art shows, ecological restoration, and the production of art work and media.

English Ivy is an invasive species that has damaged many native ecosystems throughout the Northwest. Rewild Portland removes this nuisance of a vine from the land and uses it to weave artful, utilitarian baskets. Join us in restoring the habitat of the refuge and create your own basket with instructor Peter Bauer and the Rewild Portland crew.

Ron Escano was a Forest Service wildlife biologist for 30 years and has been a life long birder. After retiring in 2001, he has been leading bird walks for Portland Audubon Society and US Fish and Wildlife Service. On an average, he leads 50 bird walks a year in the Portland and Vancouver area.


Dr. Cameron M. Smith was educated in Africa, England, the USA and Canada, Dr. Cameron M. Smith
teaches archaeology and human evolution at Portland State University and Linfield College. He has been with the Wapato Valley Archaeology project since 1991 and he is currently completing analysis of thousands of artifacts excavated on the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge since that time. He has published in peer-reviewed research journals, written features for magazines including ‘Scientific American MIND’ and ‘Archaeology’, as well as several books on evolution. His award-winning travel writing has appeared in both magazines and anthologies. At Portland State he teaches a wide variety of classes, from Northwest Coast Prehistory to Neanderthal Europe.

We look forward to seeing you at Birdfest this year!