June 10, 2018 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Ruddy Duck Pair
Ruddy Duck Pair

A Short Stay at Malheur NWR, Oregon

Since I had to be in Bend, Oregon on the 11th for my six month progress appointment with my oncologist, I figured I would split up the drive from Jackson Hole to Bend by staying a few days at the Narrows RV Park and driving around the Malheur NWR and perhaps try to find some of the wild horse herd up on Steens Mountain.

Rainbow Over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
Rainbow Over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

As per normal, weather was in and out, mostly rainy and grey, but with a few moments of sun here and there.

Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk

Three Common Nighthawks spent the day sleeping on top of the split rail fence in the campground, right behind my campsite. I was able to approach to within five feet of them without disturbing them, probably could have reached out and touched them if I had wanted to.

Trumpeter Swan and Rainbow
Trumpeter Swan and Rainbow

There are a couple of non-migratory Trumpeter Swans that breed and spend the year here at Malheur.

Ruddy Duck Pair
Ruddy Duck Pair

The Ruddy Duck Drake is one of my favorite ducks to shoot, just love that ridiculously blue beak.

Being a little late in the spring to find much here in Malheur, and that certainly was the case, I took a drive about 20 miles up the gravel road from the south entrance to the Steens Mountain Loop, hoping to maybe spot the wild horses up there. Usually when I am here in the spring, this loop road is still closed due to snow, but at this time the southern portion of the road was open up to and a little beyond the campground. From the north, the road was only open to Gate #2.

Anyhow, I never saw any sign of the horses but I was pleasantly surprised by the condition of the road, at least as far as up to the campground. I just might try staying up there next time I come here and be able to spend more time looking for the horses.

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April 27, 2018 Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas

Cormorant with Bullhead
Down the Hatch

A Trip to Quivira NWR

With some very nice weather the last few days I have had to postpone my editing of images from my Prairie Chicken adventure in favor of getting out and exploring this part of Kansas. Quiver NWR is located forty plus miles to the south of where I am presently camped at Cheyenne Bottoms, so I took advantage of the nice weather and made two trips down there this week.

Horned Grebe
Horned Grebe

Quivira has a series of salt water ponds and marshes as well as extensive grasslands and is a major stopover point for migratory birds along the Central Flyway.

Lesser Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Killdeer
Killdeer
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

The refuge burns off it’s grassland areas with controlled burns to keep invasive plants and brush down …

Ring-necked Pheasant Pair
Ring-necked Pheasant Pair

… as well as to promote vigorous new growth of native grasses.

Wilson's Phalarope
Wilson’s Phalarope

Wilson’s Phalaropes were a new bird for me …

Wilson's Phalarope
Wilson’s Phalarope
Wilson's Phalaropes
Wilson’s Phalaropes

… and I got a kick out of watching their feeding behavior.  They continually walk in rapid small circles stirring up small prey from the mud below with their feet. When you see a group of 20 or 30 birds doing this non-stop in close proximity with each other, it’s a rather interesting sight.

Wilson's Phalaropes Mating
Wilson’s Phalaropes Mating

Even when feeding as described above, they are never too occupied to take care of business during mating season.

American Avocet
American Avocet
American Avocets
American Avocets

Lots of American Avocets at Quivira.

White Pelican Takeoff
White Pelican Takeoff
White Pelican Takeoff
White Pelican Takeoff
White Pelicans
White Pelicans

I estimated about 250 White Pelicans gathered here, quite a distance from the auto road through the refuge.

White Pelicans
White Pelicans

But it was my good fortune to have them all take flight and head right towards me …

White Pelicans
White Pelicans
White Pelicans
White Pelicans
White Pelican
White Pelican

… eventually flying directly overhead.

Cheyenne Bottoms Campsite
Cheyenne Bottoms Campsite

Cheyenne Bottoms

I am staying at the free primitive camping area on the west side of Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve. There are five rough campsites along a gravel road that leads into the refuge. This is a rather rough camping area, level grass, actually dirt with some grassy areas, but there are picnic tables and a fire ring at each site. No water, electric, dump station, restrooms, or trash receptacles here.

I actually enjoyed my stay here since it was very quiet, there is no lighting of any sort, and only one or two other campers stayed her during my weeklong stay. Fortunately, it didn’t rain here during my stay since it looks like the place would get very muddy when it rains.

Maltese
I’ll Come when I’m Ready

Pearl is now four months old and seems to really enjoy this lifestyle. Still very independent and afraid of nothing … but the dark. When I take her out at night, she is all ears, staring warily at the tall grass and brush just across the road, and hurriedly does her business and races back to the motorhome door to be let back in. During daylight hours I have a job convincing her she needs to go back inside, since she delights in exploring and racing around, running loops around the motorhome.

Maltese
Kinda Windy here in Kansas

Still delights in tormenting poor old Sam, but Sam now does at least a couple of serious play sessions with her every day, careening around the limited confines of the motorhome, bouncing off walls and furniture, hopping up and down out of the dog bed and my recliner. They also now can be found sleeping in close physical proximity almost all the time.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

Cheyenne Bottoms Birds

Since I am staying within the confines of the refuge, I do make a morning and an afternoon trip around the refuge roads every day.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

Lots of Red-winged Blackbirds doing their thing hanging off the reeds and cattails along the roadsides, as well as a few Yellow-headed Blackbirds, of which I have not managed to get a good shot.

Cormorant with Bullhead
Cormorant with Bullhead

A bit of luck encountering this Cormorant just as it surfaced with a bullhead ( or some kind of small catfish ). The bird spent a good deal of time maneuvering the fish just so before gulping it down.

Cormorant with Bullhead
Down the Hatch

Luckily one of the series of shots I took happened to catch the fish being tossed up to ensure that it went down head first.

White Pelicans
White Pelicans

As at Quivira, lots of White Pelicans here also.

White Pelican
White Pelican

The weird, knobby growths on the bill have something to do with breeding season I believe.

American Avocet
American Avocet

All kinds of small wading birds here including Avocets, Plovers, Dowitchers, and more but it is difficult to get any decent shots because of their small size and the ability to get close enough here to get any good shots.

Also all kinds of ducks, lots of Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teal, and Ruddy Ducks, with a few Mallards, Pintails, and others found throughout the refuge, but I haven’t bothered concentrating on these since I already have an extensive library of duck shots from other refuges where the conditions for flight shots are much better than here.

Snowy Egrets
Snowy Egrets

Late one afternoon I came across a lot of Snowy Egret activity at the outflow of a culvert under one of the refuge roads. Water was being released from an area on one side of the road to a large pond on the other side of the road. The rapidly moving water, tumbling over some large pointed rocks was apparently stunning the small fish caught up in the rushing water, and the Snowies were taking advantage of this bonanza.

Unfortunately, the only vantage point from which to shoot this scene was looking directly into the sun, resulting in just impossible lighting conditions to catch the action. I snapped a few shots anyway and then just sat there watching the action as as many as a dozen of these Snowies bounced around the stream jockeying for position. I vowed to come back in the morning and hoped the water would still be flowing and the birds would still be there ( it was and they were and I did, and wait til you see those shots! ).

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June 9, 2017 Bend, Oregon

Journey's End ???

Journey’s End ?

Today was to be my second day of driving the entire 60 plus mile Denali National Park Road on my Professional Photographer’s Road Permit, but that was not to be.

The Road to McKinley
The Road to McKinley

I have been stationary in Bend, Oregon since April 27th undergoing testing and then treatment for Myeloma, an incurable cancer of the blood.

Denali Grizzly
Denali Grizzly

Instead of shooting grizzlies in Denali, I am camped on the Loop Road of the Saint Charles Hospital Campus, while being treated as an outpatient at the Bend Medical Clinic and had waited until I had completed my first round of chemo treatments before I wanted to write this post.

While this is an incurable disease, it is optimistically classified as a “controllable” cancer, with some folks surviving a decade or more. At this point, that is obviously the outcome I would prefer to see. My response to the first three drug therapy round has been favorable and I am on  a game plan that hopefully will bring about remission and the opportunity for a stem cell transplant , perhaps as soon as in August. Just have to wait and see.

Where initially I was told I would have to stop traveling to battle this condition, they now are telling me that if I make a successful recovery from a transplant, it is completely possible that I could resume my full-time travels and could have periodic testing done to monitor my status while on the road. So my best case scenario is that I could be back on the road before winter sets in here in Bend, Oregon.

And of course there is also the very definite possibility that things may take a turn for the worse, but at this point I am cautiously optimistic and will keep you posted .

Since this blog was started four years ago to share my adventures on the road, and since I won’t be doing any traveling for the next several months, blog posts will probably be few and far between for a while.

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March 7, 2017 Salton Sea, California

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area
Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area

A Brief Stay along the Salton Sea

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area
Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area

Monday morning, I reluctantly broke camp at Ogilby Road, now one of my favorite all-time boon docking spots, and headed west to the Salton Sea. Route 78 west takes you through the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, a mecca for dune buggies and four wheelers.

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area
Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area

A Single Digit Salute to Caltrans Employees

In the image above you can just see a tower and what look like some buildings at the peak of the highest sand dune. As I drove the motorhome closer, I could make out a couple large RV’s with trailers parked up there and then noticed a sign indicating that there was an observation point up there. A wide paved road appeared to the left of the highway that takes you to the top.

Now normally, when I am traveling with the Prius in tow, I am very, very, cautious about driving up this type of road, always being afraid there may not be room to turn around since I can not back up with the car on the tow dolly. But since I could see the two big rigs already up there, I decided to risk it to get a bird’s eye view of the dunes below.

Big mistake ! About half way up the very steep two lane paved road, the road was completely blocked by a good two feet of wind blown sand! So, there I was, unable to proceed, and also unable to back up, and absolutely no way to turn around. My only option, unload the Prius, drive it down the hill, then back the motorhome and unloaded dolly down the very steep incline. As most people reading this probably know, backing a small tow dolly behind a large motorhome is something you always wish to avoid.

About the time I got the motorhome down to the bottom and managed to get it turned around, a Caltrans work truck pulled in and parked just a few feet behind me, but leaving me room to be able to get the Prius loaded, once I walked back up the hill and drove it down. This was now around 9:30 AM, and the lone state employee carefully avoided making eye contact with me as he lit up a smoke and I went about my business. A few minutes later, a large dump truck with snow ( sand ) plow attached pulled in and parked next to the first truck at the bottom of the hill, I imagine waiting for me to retrieve the Prius and get out of the way so he could begin removing the sand blocking the road.

Now you could probably guess that I really wanted to ask these guys why someone could not be bothered to put out some barriers blocking entrance to this Oobservation Point Road or at least put up a temporary sign indicating that the entrance road was impassable and thus closed. I wanted to, but I restrained myself since, who knows, they may have been somewhere else doing something more important.

By the time I had the Prius reloaded, two other tourists driving pickups had pulled off the highway to drive to the top. The guy in the plow truck, now about half way through the sand blockage, obviously saw these folks waiting to drive to the top, yet for some reason stopped his plowing and backed down the hill to join his chain smoking buddy in the first truck … for what apparently was coffee break time ! Too bad for anyone wanting to get through the blockage, whether those two vehicles at the bottom or the vehicles at the top who were also trapped and waiting to get down.

After all, a unionized government employee of a super liberal state undoubtedly has his priorities, and serving the public most likely sits at the bottom of that list.

OK, sorry, rant over, but this incident really did tick me off. This just happens to be the first time in four years of full timing and traveling with the Prius in tow, that I did have to unload to get out of a situation like this, and this should never have happened.

Corvina Beach Campground, Salton Sea
Corvina Beach Campground, Salton Sea

Corvina Beach Primitive Campground

This was my primitive campsite for two nights at the Corvina Beach Campground on the eastern shore of the Salton Sea. Campground is probably overstating it since it is essentially just a wide gravel parking lot with some picnic tables and fire rings, along with a few trash barrels. No water or dump on site, although you are allowed to use the facilities a few miles north on Route 111 at the main campground free of charge if you are staying here. Camping fee is $10 or $8 for a senior.

Despite the highway running closely parallel to the campground and a busy railroad track running on the other side of the highway, I had a couple nights of blissful sleep here under dark starlit skies. The trains were fairly heavy during the day, but I never heard one pass at night. I actually enjoyed my two nights here and would have stayed longer if not for the weather forecast … temps into the 90’s here at an elevation of 200 feet below sea level, so I had to head to higher ground, a few thousand feet up in Joshua Tree National Park.

Niland County Park, Salton Sea
Niland County Park, Salton Sea

Several years ago, when visiting Anza Borrego for desert flowers, I drove east to check out the western shore of the Salton Sea. I remember discovering a very depressing site where  obviously many grand dreams had gone to die. I always wondered if perhaps there was a more pleasant story over on the eastern shore. Turns out there wasn’t.

The image above was taken at the Niland County Park and Boat Launch, obviously abandoned years ago, although the state highway signs on Route 111 still stand that announce a campground out here ( there isn’t one ). Another Caltrans neglected duty?

I drove south from where I was staying at Corvina to check out the Wister State Wildlife Area, without a doubt the most depressing, neglected wildlife area I have ever come across, then proceeded a little farther south to the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge, also not exactly a place I would want to revisit. This is a very neglected part of the great state of California and I suppose it’s just as well I’m only passing through..

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