18th Annual BirdFest and Bluegrass Celebration


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Become a BirdFest & Bluegrass Volunteer!

A group of volunteers has been making a difference for the Community of Ridgefield and its National Wildlife Refuge during BirdFest. This festival is renowned region wide and welcomes Sandhill cranes and other migratory birds back to southwest Washington every year. Join the fun and help the community. Just 2-4 hours of volunteering at the event is an easy way to make a difference and still have time to enjoy all the activities of the weekend!

BirdFest & Bluegrass 2017 Schedule of Events


(There is lots to do and see, and some things require pre-registration and payment, please read descriptions carefully)

BirdFest activities occur at these three locations:

1. Refuge Carty Unit & Cathlapotle Plankhouse:
• Carty Unit: 28908 NW Main Ave
• Plankhouse: Carty Unit, over pedestrian bridge.
The Carty Unit is north of town .75 mile.

2. Refuge River ‘S’ Unit & Kiwa Trail:
• River ‘S’ Visitor Contact Station. The River ‘S’ Unit is shttps://ridgefieldfriends.org/events/birdfest-bluegrass/outh of town. Turn onto S. 9th Ave. off Pioneer St.
• The River ‘S’ Unit’s Auto Tour Route will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday dawn to dusk.
• The Kiwa Trail parking lot and trail head is located 1/2 way through the auto tour route and will be open all weekend for walkers for the last time this season.

3. Downtown Ridgefield:
• Union Ridge Elementary School: 330 N. 5th Ave.
• Birders’ Marketplace is in the Ridgefield Community Center: 210 N. Main Ave. Also tented booths on Mill St. next to Davis Park.
• Davis Park: 212 N. Main Ave.
• Public Boat Launch: 5 Mill St.
• Old Liberty Theater: 115 N. Main Ave.
• Overlook Park: 113-131 S. Main Ave.

Printable Schedule

Click the photos below for a downloadable PDF of the schedule:

BFBG Schedule of Events 2017 Oct pg1 BFBG Schedule of Events 2017 Oct pg2

Schedule by Location

(There is lots to do and see, and some things require pre-registration and payment, please read descriptions carefully)

Downtown Ridgefield

Birders’ Marketplace
Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Sunday 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Arts & Crafts galore! Located in the Ridgefield Community Center. Fabulous photographs, garden art, jewelry, wood carving, books, bird supplies, glass, ceramics, and much more. See the Photo Contest winners. Come learn, explore, and even get a head start on holiday gifts!

Food Vendors
Saturday 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Sunday 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. In Overlook Park and Mill Street.

Movie — Love Thy Nature
Friday 7:00 pm at the Old Liberty Theater. $5-10 Donation. An award winning film narrated by Liam Neeson, the movie shows how deeply we’ve lost touch with nature and takes viewers on a cinematic journey through the beauty and intimacy of our relationship with the natural world. The movie shows that a renewed connection with nature is key not only to our well being, but also to solving our environmental and climate crises.

Family-Friendly Activities at Overlook Park
Saturday 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Farmer’s Market vendors, Family Zone activities (construct an instrument for your own bluegrass band and jam on the stage, make a birdfeeder, enjoy interactive art activities with the Ridgefield Art Association), Turkey Vulture scavenger hunt Bingo, Turkey Vulture sound making and dance contests, as well as a scarecrow performing group dancing three Bluegrass numbers and doing face painting and animal balloons. Throughout the weekend you’ll find Bluegrass jamming, food vendors, beer garden, and free ice cream at Zebrun’s Starliner – donations go to the Friends of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge!

Kayak Tours – Guided Interpretive Paddle
Saturday (2 trips) 10:30 am to 12:30 pm and 1:30 to 3:30 pm.
Sunday (2 trips) 10:30 am to 12:30 pm and 1:30 to 3:30 pm.
Cost: $30. Children free when accompanied by an adult in a double kayak. Limit 40 people in each trip. All experience levels welcome. Single and double kayaks available. Join our experienced guides and naturalists from the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge for a 2.5 mile paddle on Lake River. This natural history tour of the wildlife refuge will meander along the scenic Lewis and Clark trail. Bring your own lunch, water, binocs, rain gear always, and a dry set of clothes for the car. Cancellations and refunds are not an option. Meet at the Ridgefield Marina, 5 Mill Street.
Registration and more information at https://aldercreek.com/search/details/77778/ridgefield-birdfest-bluegrass-paddle/

Ridgefield Garden Club Dedication
Saturday 10:00 At Davis Park. Re-dedication ceremony, and unveiling a Garden Club monument at the park. Celebrating the Club’s 75th Anniversary.

Story Time at the Ridgefield Library
Saturday 10:00 to 11:00 am & 11:00 am to 12:00 pm. Head over to the Ridgefield Library for a story featuring some of our favorite wildlife tales.

Audubon Live Bird Show
Saturday 1:00 pm at Union Ridge Elementary School. Come meet an owl, a turkey vulture, and a raven from the Audubon Society of Portland. Learn about the amazing abilities of and adaptations that help them survive in the wild. You will also learn about ways Audubon “inspires people to love and protect nature”. This intimate presentation will allow you to get up close to some of the birds you might see on the Refuge! This show is sponsored by the Ridgefield Business Association.

Photography Contest Winners
Saturday 2:00 pm. Located in the main tent in Davis Park. Photography winners will be announced by ProPhoto Supply and awards given.

ZAP Oregon Zoo Animal Display
Saturday 12:00 to 2:00 pm. In Overlook Park. ZAP Teens will be on hand with a chance to discover some amazing animal skulls and pelts.

Audubon Live Birds Up-Close on Display
Saturday 3:30 to 4:30 pm. Sunday 1:00 to 3:00 pm at Davis Park. You can get a close-up look at these magnificent birds, and learn about their habitats.

Youth Art Show and Sculpture Dedication
Saturday 1:00 to 3:00 pm at Union Ridge Elementary School. Celebrate the installation of Ridgefield’s newest work of public art! This outdoor sculpture was created by artist Garth Edwards and funded by the Washington State Arts Commission. Learn about the artwork, meet the artist, and create your own artwork to take home.

Big Canoe Paddle
Saturday 4:30 to 6:30 pm. Join the Estuary Partnership for a family friendly canoe paddle through the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Participants paddle 14-passenger 29’ canoes to experience Lake River from a unique on-water perspective. Estuary Partnership staff will be on each canoe to steer and share information about the river and surrounding ecosystem. A suggested $10 per adult (children ages 5 and up are free with an adult) donation supports the Friends of RNWR. Volunteers will collect cash or check donations.
Registration: Required and opens 3 weeks in advance (Sept. 16th) at 7:00 am.

Keynote Presentation – Dan Varland, Coastal Raptors and Tony Starlight
Saturday 5:00 to 6:30 pm at the Old Liberty Theater. $5 button purchase or donation suggested. See an in-depth description above under “Bluegrass Music Schedule”

Refuge Carty Unit & Cathlapotle Plankhouse

Cathlapotle Plankhouse Tours, Family Grove, Flintknapping, and Community Partner Booths
Saturday and Sunday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Visit the Family Grove by the Plankhouse and enjoy activites designed to inspire stewardship and learn about Chinookan Culture. Visit our Community Partner Booths for information about nature, culture, ecology, and the history of our region, including a USFWS Wildlife Trafficking booth!

Night Hike
Friday 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Explore the Refuge as the sun sets with this guided twilight hike on the Oaks to Wetlands Trail. Participants should be prepared for a two mile hike over uneven terrain. Please bring a LOW-LEVEL light source for the walk. Meet at the tent across the sidewalk from the Plankhouse. Registration required at http://bit.ly/2hoD13E. (Sign up by Oct. 4th)

Beginning Bird Walk
Saturday 8:00 to 10:00 am. Family Friendly. Join one of our Refuge Birders on a walk on the Oaks to Wetlands Trail. Gain some insights on how to ‘bird’ by sight and ear. Learn to identify some basic bird calls and other great wildlife observation tips. Great for fledgling birders and those newer to birding. Meet at the tent across the sidewalk from the Plankhouse.

Hands-on Birding Photography
Saturday 8:30 to 10:00
am at Carty Lake, $15 per person. Join staff from Pro Photo Supply and technical representative Steve Ball from Olympus on a walk around the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. This event is great for avid birders or anyone interested in learning more about bird photography and how to utilize everything Olympus has to offer. Olympus will provide a limited number of camera bodies and lenses for people to borrow during this exploration of the Refuge. Meet at the tent across the sidewalk from the Plankhouse. A limited number of spots are available, please register early. Registration required at http://bit.ly/2hoD13E. (Sign up by Oct. 4th)

Geology Walk
Saturday 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. Join a Refuge Naturalist for a walk around the Carty Unit exploring fun and entertaining facts about how the Missoula Floods influenced the land that we now call the Ridgefield NWR. Meet at the foot of the pedestrian bridge.

Beginner Watercolor Workshop
Saturday 11:00 am to 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm. Carty Unit, Old house front porch. In this workshop, participants will be guided step-by step through basic watercolor techniques: how to apply a wash, how to apply details with light and shadow, and the effect of distance on colors as they paint a landscape scene to take home. This workshop will be led by skilled artist and Refuge volunteer Ron Ward and is appropriate for upper elementary students to adults. Registration required at http://bit.
ly/2hoD13E. (Sign up by Oct. 4th)

Pacific Northwest Ethnobotany Hike
Saturday 12:30 to 2:00 pm. Join one of our Refuge Naturalists for an in-depth exploration of the native flora of the Refuge. Since Time Immemorial the lives of local indigenous peoples, wildlife, and oaks have been deeply interconnected. This hike highlights several of the major points on the Oaks to Wetlands Trail, including a massive ancestral oak, a cedar grove, Boot Lake, and the oak balds. Hikers should come prepared for an extended hike on moderately uneven terrain. Meet at the tent across the sidewalk from the Plankhouse.

Chinook Culture Talk
Saturday 1:00 to 3:00 pm in the Plankhouse. Please join us for a special presentation by Dr. Jon Daehnke (University of California Santa Cruz) and Sam Robinson (Vice-Chair of the Chinook Indian Nation) for a talk exploring the politics of cultural heritage and public representations of the past, especially within the context of Native American identity and the legacies of colonialism. The discussion will focus on a collaborative book project between Daehnke and the Chinook Indian Nation that explores the challenges and successes of their efforts to reaffirm control of their own heritage.

A Stroll Through the Oaks
Saturday 2:30 to 3:30 pm.
Family Friendly. Join one of our Refuge Naturalists for a leisurely stroll on the Oaks to Wetlands Trail. Learn how people, place, plants, and animals are interconnected at the Refuge. Families and little ones can enjoy a Nature Hunt along the way and will get to meet an enormous ancestral oak at the end of the walk. Meet at the tent across the sidewalk from the Plankhouse.

Bird Language Hike for Adults
Sunday 8:00 to 10:30 am.
Join one of our Refuge Birders on an extended hike on the Oaks to Wetlands Trail. Learn techniques for reading the environment in order to open your ears to the multitude of ways that birds communicate through calls and movement. This hike goes beyond spotting a fantastic bird to learning how to understand these animals’ relationship to each other and their environment. Great for experienced birders. Meet at the tent across the sidewalk from the Plankhouse. Registration required at http://bit.ly/2hoD13E. (Sign up by Oct. 4th)

Cathlapotle Village Hike
Sunday 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Join an archaeologist for an overview of the history of the Cathlapotle Village, and a walk out to the archaeological site. Cathlapotle is the Chinookan village that stood for hundreds of years on what is today Refuge property. Participants should come prepared for the weather and a three mile hike on uneven terrain. Meet at the tent across the sidewalk from the Plankhouse.

Traditional Salmon Bake
Sunday 3:30 pm. Join us for a blessing of the food, including drumming by members of the Chinook Indian Nation and Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and taste the traditionally baked salmon and seafood stew. Sponsored by Columbia Credit Union.

Refuge River 'S' Unit & Kiwa Trail

Sandhill Crane Tours
(5 tours available) $30 per person.
Friday 5:00 pm, Saturday 6:00 am & 5:00 pm, Sunday 6:00 am & 5:00 pm.
The most unique wildlife viewing experience BirdFest has to offer, this is a once in a lifetime chance to hear and see the magnificent flight of hundreds of sandhill cranes as they visit their night roost. Join expert staff to learn about cranes and wildlife. Meet at the Visitors Contact Station on the River ‘S’ Refuge Unit 15 minutes before the tour time and wear weather appropriate footwear and clothing in muted, neutral colors. Participants will be required to walk approximately 500 yards over rough, uneven terrain to get to a viewing blind. Please assess your own abilities for this event. Bring your own water. Registration required at http://bit.ly/2hoD13E. (Sign up by Oct. 4th)

Audubon Naturalist-Guided Bird Walk on the Kiwa Trail
Saturday 8:30 to 11:00. Bird the Kiwa Trail with guides from Vancouver Audubon Society. This is an excellent opportunity to sharpen your birding skills with experienced local birders. Meet at the Kiwa Trailhead. Bring binoculars. You will need at least 15 minutes to get from the entry of River ‘S’ to the Kiwa trail. Sponsored by Vancouver Audubon.

Bird Language Workshop
Saturday 9:00 to 1:00. If you have ever listened to birds sing, you may have noticed that they use different sounds at different times. By picking up on what the birds are telling each other, you can begin to get a bigger picture of what is happening in the ecosystem you are in. In this free workshop, participants will learn the five voices birds use to communicate, learn the shapes of bird alarms, and do a bird listening sit, and debrief session. This workshop will give participants a foundational knowledge and resources to go further into the study of Bird Language and aims to foster a deeper connection to nature and wildlife. Additional information and location details provided at registration. Registration required at http://bit.ly/2hoD13E. (Sign up by Oct. 4th)

Hands-on Birding Photography
Sunday 8:30 to 10:00 am at the Kiwa Trail. $15 per person. Join staff from Pro Photo Supply and technical representative Steve Ball from Olympus on a walk around the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. The Kiwa Trail offers great bird watching opportunities, so this event is great for avid birders or anyone interested in learning more about bird photography and how to utilize everything Olympus has to offer when it comes to their camera gear. Olympus will provide a limited number of camera bodies and lenses for people to borrow during this exploration of the refuge. Join in on the fun and collaboration! A limited number of spots are available, please register early. We will be meeting at the River ‘S’ Unit- Kiwa Hiking Trail head. The Kiwa is an easy 1.5-mile loop. Allow at least 15 minutes to drive from the River ‘S’ entrance to the Kiwa Trail. Registration required at http://bit.ly/2hoD13E. (Sign up by Oct. 4th)

Audubon Naturalist-Staffed Spotting Scopes
Saturday and Sunday 9:00 to 3:00. On your trip around the River ‘S’ unit, stop at the Hunt Gate to visit with Vancouver Audubon Society birders staffing the scoping station overlooking the wetlands of the hunt zone, an area not usually open for public access. We hope to view dancing Sandhill Cranes again this year. Parking is inside the gate. Audio CD for Tour Route available Saturday and Sunday and all throughout the year. Enjoy the discovery audio interpretive tour of the River ‘S’ Unit. You can download the free podcast at: www.RidgefieldFriends.org or on iTunes.® Or borrow an Audio CD at the Visitor Contact Station, and follow the markers around the auto-tour route.

Bluegrass Music Schedule

At Old Liberty Theater, Sportsman Steakhouse & Saloon and at various locations in downtown Ridgefield.

Thanks to our generous sponsors this year:

Keynote Presentation – Dan Varland, Coastal Raptors, and Tony Starlight
Saturday 5:00 to 6:30 pm at the Old Liberty Theater. $5 button purchase or donation suggested.
Dan Varland, founder/director of Coastal Raptors, professional ornithologist, and amateur entertainer will give a keynote presentation entitled “The Turkey Vulture: Love at Second Sight”, followed by a joint presentation and performance by Dan Varland and Tony Starlight, professional entertainer and amateur ornithologist. Dan and Tony will discuss how a tagged Turkey Vulture brought them together, and how they are now working on an educational campaign to encourage people to report banded and tagged birds. Their presentation will include some original music, Tony’s discovery of the joys of birding, and some photography and comic commentary on birding.

Picker’s Festival
Saturday 10:00 am to 7:00 pm
at locations around town. $5 suggested donation or Bluegrass button. The much loved BirdFest and Bluegrass of the past has returned! Enjoy bluegrass music throughout Ridgefield, with picker’s jamming in businesses, venues, and parks around town!

A featured bluegrass performance at Overlook Park midday on Saturday is sponsored by God’s Word Baptist Church.


In addition to the Birders’ Marketplace and food vendors, please visit local businesses in Ridgefield: Sportsman’s Steakhouse & Saloon, Old Liberty Theater – Season’s Coffee Shop, Buckets Restaurant, End of the Road Cafe, El Rancho Viejo, Vinnie’s Pizza, Ridgefield Pioneers Market, Starliner Deli, Lily Wiggans Antiques, Ridgefield Floral & Gifts, and Ridgefield Hardware.

Need a place to stay? Visit: www.LewisRiver.com.

The 2017 Bird Of The Year is the Turkey Vulture- Cathartes aura

Turkey Vulture, latin Cathartes aura, translates to purifying breeze- ridgefield_NWR_turkey_vulture_wings_08-11-07_LynTopinkaperhaps relating to their role in riding the wind and cleaning the landscape of dead things. They are one of the largest raptors, smaller only than Eagles and Condors. They hold their wings slightly raised during flight, giving them a ‘V’ appearance when seen head on. A slightly wobbly flyer, they ride the thermals up to higher vantage points when not gliding close to the ground sniffing for food.

ridgefield_NWR_turkey_vulture_adult_09-21-07_LynTopinkaTurkey Vultures are the only scavenger that cannot also kill its prey, as its feet are shaped more like a chickens than an eagle or hawks, making their feet useless for tearing up flesh. Their beaks do all the work, tearing through even the toughest cow hide.

Turkey Vultures have some interesting habits; they are known to defecate on their own feet to cool down in the hotter seasons, and their excrement is sterile so it helps their feet stay clean (after standing in dead things all day) as well as cool, since they can’t sweat.

If a Turkey Vulture is disturbed ridgefield_NWR_turkey_vulture_wings_lower_08-11-07_LynTopinkaor harassed it will vomit on the offending party, even the fledglings will vomit on intruders. They can project their vomit up to 10 feet!

Turkey vultures have a great sense of smell, being able to smell carrion over a mile away- proving their olfactory system is the largest of any bird.

Turkey Vultures are migratory, and generally arrive in Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in February or March and leave in October. They can be seen most often on the River ‘S’ Auto Tour route and the Kiwa Trail during the summer.

RNWR_turkey_vulture_08-24-12 Lyn TopinkaLastly… there is evidence that their efficient digestive system can consume anthrax, botulism, and hantavirus with no trace of these toxins in their waste.  They literally can eat toxins that kill humans and other mammals.

Photos by: Lyn Topinka


For rules and guidelines concerning birding, hikes, workshops, and regular visits to the refuge:



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