Visitors of all ages are fascinated by stars of annual Birdfest

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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photoAristophanes, a common raven, was among the stars at Birdfest.

(/The Columbian)

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RIDGEFIELD — The federal shutdown couldn't spoil Birdfest as an estimated 3,000 took in the weekend event under glorious skies.

While the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge was closed, Davis and Abrams parks were alive with activities on Sunday.

"How do they catch their prey? They're so big," 8-year-old Gavin Meyer said as he studied Aristophanes, a common raven held by Portland Audubon Society volunteer Scott Salzwedel, 50, of Portland.

"They really like using their beak," Salzwedel said. "They know how to get food without trying very hard. … They love berries."

Gavin, dressed in his Cub Scout uniform, was at the park with Liam Rapp, 8, and Ronan Blanchard, 8. The boys attend Union Ridge Elementary School in Ridgefield.

"This is our first year (at Birdfest)," said Steve Rapp, 36. "It's pretty neat." He's an engineer for a medical equipment manufacturer and Scout den leader and was there with his wife, Sinead, 34, and Liam.

Children and adults seemed taken with birds brought to Davis Park by Audubon volunteers.

Sherie Salzwedel, 48, was tethered to Ruby, a turkey vulture.

"People are so surprised how majestic they are up

close," she said. "Lots of people think they are ugly, but they're really not."

"I've been getting pretty good questions. This is a good group," Salzwedel added.

It takes about $10,000 to stage Birdfest, Russ Roseberry said. He is a board member of the Friends of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and Birdfest coordinator. He said six Ridgefield businesses contributed $700 to bring the Audubon volunteers to the event, which had many other sponsors.

Roseberry said the closure of the refuge altered aspects of the weekend festival, "but it was made up by the great weather." Temperatures were in the low 70s.

He said attendance was about the same as last year.

Children's activities included making cone bird feeders, and there were about 50 vendors, selling everything from jewelry to photography and birdhouses to metal artwork.

Marit Ernst, 52, of Battle Ground took a break from a bike ride to roll into Birdfest.

"This stopped me in my tracks. These glass necklaces are just beautiful," she said, gazing at the work of vendor K. Howard Piper of Eugene, Ore.

"I made quite a lot of sales yesterday," Piper said of her ornamental fused glass artwork.

Members of the Chinook Indian Nation and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde offered baked salmon at no charge in Abrams Park. Sam Robinson of the Chinook Nation performed a welcoming song and talked of keeping Native American traditions alive.

At Davis Park, Lillie, an American kestrel, was getting love from young and old. She was perched on the arm of Audubon volunteer Candy Plant, 63, of Wilsonville, Ore. "She is the smallest of five species of falcons who live in Washington and Oregon," Plant told onlookers.

She said Lillie was captured illegally and later given to the Audubon Society. The bird has rickets, a bone disorder, Plant said.

Audubon's Deanna Sawtelle said her chapter takes in 3,000 birds a year at its Northwest Portland headquarters.

Of Birdfest, Sawtelle said, "We love it. It's one of our favorite events."

And it will return to Ridgefield in October 2014, Roseberry said.