April 28, 2015, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Gadwall Takeoff
Gadwall Takeoff

Yet Another Interesting Day at Malheur

Every day, when I leave home in the morning, I never know what I am going to find here at Malheur. Today was no exception.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Cattle Drive
Cattle Drive

I had decided to drive the Diamond Loop and check out the Peter French Round Barn and, on the drive there,  found myself face to face with about 100 head of cattle, being driven down the highway, as I was later told, a fairly common practice here.

Cattle Drive
Cattle Drive

No vehicle out in front on them to give oncoming motorists warning, I just came around a fairly sharp corner on a 65 mph road and there they were. A local person soon pulled up behind me and explained that the correct thing to do in this event is not to stop, as I did, but to simply proceed through them …  carefully and at a slow speed. They will make way for you, he assured me. And, of course, they did as he said they would and soon I came to the end of the herd and three real life cowboys that were driving them along ( the third cowboy had just cut off to the right to drive a stray back to the herd ).

Cattle Drive
Cattle Drive

All’s well that ends well !

Bing Mapper
Bing Mapper

Only a half mile down the road behind the cattle drive, I saw this fellow stopped in the road. After zipping by him, my curiosity got the better of me and I turned around and went back to ask a few questions.

Bing Mapper
Bing Mapper

This is Bing’s answer to Google Earth. The driver/operator of this vehicle was kind enough to show me the equipment used, camera, 10 TB hard drive, GPS, etc., and explained the process of collecting all the data. I asked if I went on Bing and highlighted this stretch of road, then hit their ” street view “, would I see images of him stuck in the middle of the cattle drive, and he assured me that, yes, I would. Just need to wait a couple months for all these new images to be upload, he said. Over the next two days, I saw two more of these Bing cars during my travels around Malheur and Burns.

Palomino
Palomino

Caught this beautiful creature gracefully trotting down a hill to a water hole by the side of the road.

Mallard Drake
Mallard Drake

I know, it’s only a mallard.

Mallard Splashdown
Mallard Splashdown

I liked the refection of this Northern Shoveler as he splashed down, something I had never caught before.

Gadwall Takeoff
Gadwall Takeoff
Gadwall Takeoff
Gadwall Takeoff

These two images show the takeoff sequence of a male gadwall. Notice how hard his wings drive down in the water to provide his initial lift. The second image of him in flight is about as good a shot of this type as I have been able to get to date, at least. The focusing system of my camera always has a very difficult time isolating the bird from the busy background of reeds and most images like this are always rendered out of focus.

Love Them Lips, Ruddy Duck
Love Them Lips, Ruddy Duck

Gotta love them lips, looks like he is puckering up to give his honey a big old wet one ! During mating season, the Ruddy duck’s bill turns this bright shade of blue to help make him irresistable to the ladies.

Ruddy Duck
Ruddy Duck
Teaching the Kids How to Hide
Teaching the Kids How to Hide

I always get a kick out of Canadian Geese dropping their necks to the water to ” hide ” themselves to me as I pass by.

Teaching the Kids How to Hide
Teaching the Kids How to Hide

These parents were doing a good job of showing their kids how to hide from dangerous photographers, but the little ones don’t seem to have caught on to the neck flattening thing.

Unescorted Ducklings
Unescorted Ducklings

The goslings are the first to hatch and the ducklings follow a week or two later in the spring. These are the first ducklings I have seen this year. These ten ducklings are only about half of this group, that must consist of the offspring of more than one set of parents. They were quickly trying to get themselves concealed from me by heading behind a dense bunch of willows growing on the water’s edge. It seemed odd that I never saw any parent’s anywhere near these cute little guys.

Old Dump Truck
Old Dump Truck
Old Dump Truck Detail
Old Dump Truck Detail

In the afternoon I drove back north towards Burns to check on the fields south of town. I happened upon this old dump truck on the way. Nice watercolr subject, when, and if, I ever get the brushes out again.

Black-necked Stilt
Black-necked Stilt

A Black-necked Stilt searching for morsels among the submerged grasses of a cow pasture.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark

 

Meadowlark
Meadowlark
Meadowlark
Meadowlark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It truly is starting to look like spring as there are now all kinds of songbirds singing their hearts out along the road.

Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow
Barn Swallows
Barn Swallows

Not often I find these guys so easy to capture.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Robin
Robin
Yellow-headed Blackbirds
Yellow-headed Blackbirds
Yellow-headed Blackbirds
Yellow-headed Blackbirds

The Yellow-headed Blackbirds have arrived in clouds the past few days and sometimes you may see as many as a hundred of them perched on the fences here along Hotchkiss and Greenhouse Lanes.

Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird

This one was really getting into it, belting out his melody.

So, Spring has definitely sprung, and much as I am enjoying my time her at Malheur, I really do have to think about leaving and getting on my way north to Alaska.

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April 18, 2015 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

Exploring the Refuge and My ” Guide ” Arrives

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

I drove the refuge main road again this morning and once again found the pair of Short-eared Owls, though they remained just out of range,

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

 

 

 

 

 

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

once again found several Northern Harriers, including the elusive Gray Ghost,

Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Female Northern Harrier
Female Northern Harrier
Female Northern Harrier
Female Northern Harrier

plus a Canada goose family with five goslings, along Buena Vista Pond.

Canada Goose Family
Canada Goose Family
Canada Goose Family
Canada Goose Family
Canada Goose Family
Canada Goose Family

Probably one of the reasons these guys have become so numerous, and become such a pest, is because they are such good, protective parents.

Red-wing Blackbird
Red-wing Blackbird
Red-wing Blackbird
Red-wing Blackbird
Red-wing Blackbird
Red-wing Blackbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are all kinds of small birds along the road, such as Magpies, Meadowlarks, and many, many Red-headed Blackbirds, singing up a storm.

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk

I made a quick run up to Burns to fill up the Prius and grab some groceries, and on my return south on Route 205, I saw this Ferruginous Hawk taking off just off the side of the road, another first time bird for me.

Jim Palmer arrived around 3 PM and we talked for a couple of hours and then decided to go out to check on the Sage Grouse lek off Foster Flat Road around 6 PM. We saw a few at twilight but they were too far off, and there just wasn’t enough light to shoot. I definitely will return to this location for what is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Jim is a long time gifted wildlife photographer I met in Yellowstone National park a couple years back and he had graciously agreed to meet me here and show me the ropes, as he has been photographing here at Malhuer for many years. There is a lot of ground to cover here at Malhuer and it will be nice to have someone to show me where everything is ( or might be, I should say ).

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April 17, 2015 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

Yesterday I left Winnemucca about 10 AM after visiting WalMart looking for RV antifreeze ( I want to be prepared next time ), of course, this particular store didn’t have any, and then filling both gas and propane tanks at the Flying J across the road. Drove about 180 miles of very straight, flat, boring high desert terrain north on Route 95, then north on Route 78 to the Malheur NWR. Turning off Route 78 onto Lava Bed Road, I travelled a few miles and came to a sudden fork in the road with a tiny sign pointing right to the refuge that I didn’t see until too late, so ended up driving an extra 20 miles as I looped south on what turned out to be the Diamond Loop, and that eventually got me to Route 205, where I turned north and pulled into the Narrows RV Park around 4 PM.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Narrows RV Park
Narrows RV Park

The Narrows RV Park is directly on Route 205 and has about 40 spaces, both pull through and backin and really worked out to be a convenient place to stay. Full hookups with 30 or 50 amp electric with flat , pea stone sites, as usual much too close together.

Narrows RV Park
Narrows RV Park

During my stay there were only 5 or 6 other folks here so the closeness wasn’t a problem. I paid their $157 weekly rate so that came to $ 22.50/night, a good deal for a well kept park with friendly, helpful owners.

Malhuer NWR

Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier

Malheur is a very large refuge with a wide variety of reasons to come here and shoot wildlife. I may as well start off with my first wonderful discovery here, this appears to be the home of all of North Americas male Northern Harriers. 🙂  This has been one of the most elusive birds on my must photograph list.

Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier

 

 

 

 

 

 

I swear that I have seen a hundred female Harriers for every one male Harrier pretty much everywhere I have been. Never have understood how that works. But here at Malhuer I am seeing many more males than females, and finally am having opportunities to capture a decent image of the ” Gray Ghost “.

Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

And then there is another of my favorite subjects here in abundance, the brilliantly colored Ring-necked Pheasant.

Ring-necked Pheasant Pair
Ring-necked Pheasant Pair
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

Today I drove the length of the center refuge road all the way south to Frenchglen and these guys were all over the open meadows along this washboardy gravel road.

Malhuer NWR Sandhill Cranes
Malhuer NWR Sandhill Cranes

There were a few pairs of Sandhill Cranes present feeding …

Sandhill Cranes preflight routine
Sandhill Cranes preflight routine

.. and then going through their weird pre-flight routine of leaning into the wind for several steps before running and powering off.

White-faced Ibis
White-faced Ibis

A huge flock of White-faced Ibis was feeding along the shore of one of the many small ponds along the road.

White-faced Ibis
White-faced Ibis

This bird usually appears as a dull dark brown creature, until the light hits him just so and all the iridescent colors come shining forth.

Red Wing Blackbird
Red Wing Blackbird
Swallows
Swallows

There is quite an assortment of small birds along the road,

Mallard in Flight
Mallard in Flight
Mallard in Flight
Mallard in Flight
Mallard in Flight
Mallard in Flight

 

 

 

 

 

 

as well as ducks, including these Mallards I managed to catch as they took off.

Mallard in Flight
Mallard in Flight
Mulie Hop
Mulie Hop

Mule deer and pronghorns were also encountered on this first drive through the refuge. The mule deer’s strange pogo stick hop when fleeing always amuses me. Jack rabbits as well as cottontails are present in large numbers.

Canada Goose Takeoff
Canada Goose Takeoff
Canada Goose Takeoff
Canada Goose Takeoff
Canada Goose Takeoff
Canada Goose Takeoff
Canada Goose Takeoff
Canada Goose Takeoff
Canada Goose Takeoff
Canada Goose Takeoff

And then there are Canadian Geese, lots of Canadian Geese. I generally forego photographing these large, some think, far too numerous birds, but I did like this takeoff sequence, so here it is.

My first impression of Malhuer NWR is… WOW ! Think I will be spending a little more time here than I originally planned. Stay tuned !

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February 3, 2015 Yuma, Arizona

Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails

Motorhome Service Day and a Trip to Cibola NWR

Appointment at Fisher Chevy in Yuma for drive belt replacement, front brake job, transmission flush, rear differential service, power steering flush, air and gas filter replacement, plus a few other minor items, all preventative measures for my Alaska trip this summer. With the solar upgrade, the jack replacement and frig and generator work yesterday, and today’s major expenditure, I feel like I am hemorrhaging cash, but it all did have to be done, and I am living in an eleven year old motorhome and maintenance expense is to be expected. But boy, does this hurt.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

The gathering
The gathering

Cibola NWR

Since I knew I was going to have to find a way to kill at least 8 hours while my home was being worked on, I had decided earlier to head up to Cibola NWR and check the place out. So, I backtracked to Ogilby Road and headed north to Route 78 East hoping to find a some signs directing me to the refuge. This refuge is indicated on Google Maps, but nowhere does it show the refuge headquarters or Visitors Center. The Refuges own web page map doesn’t show anything either. So I drove up Route 78 all the way to I-10, checking out a couple of dirt roads off of 78 to see if I could luck into finding the refuge, but no such luck. Only after turning around at I-10 and retracing my steps south on Route 78, did I encounter a sign for the refuge. Just one sign, and visible only if traveling south ( west ) on 78, nothing if coming from the other direction.

Without a doubt, one of the hardest NWR to find. But I certainly was glad I persisted, because it was well worth the trouble finding.

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

I finally got some shots of a burrowing owl,

Northern Harrier male, the " Grey Ghost "
Northern Harrier male, the ” Grey Ghost “
Northern Harrier male, the " Grey Ghost "
Northern Harrier male, the ” Grey Ghost “

I almost got some useable shots of one of my greatest nemesis, the “ grey ghost “, a raptor I see now and then, but can never digitally capture, the elusive male Northern Harrier,

Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails

and I got some nice flight shots of Northern Pintails.

Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails
Northern Pintails circling for a landing
Northern Pintails circling for a landing

In case you couldn’t guess from these shots, one of my absolute favorite ways of passing time on a gorgeous day is to sit in a blind on the edge of a pond and shoot flight shots of ducks. Here in Cibola NWR, they request that you stay in your car, so as not to unduly disturb the birds, so my blind today was the Prius. Actually a car is one of the better blinds for wildlife photography anyhow, but I prefer my camp rocking chair inside my Doghouse Blind, just couldn’t use it today.

Northern Pintail
Northern Pintail
Canada Geese landing
Canada Geese landing

On my way back to Yuma, I had to drive right past my campsite off Ogilby Road, so went in to make sure my perfect spot was still unoccupied, and was very, very disappointed to find that not one, but three RVs had moved in right on top of this previously perfect boon docking site, so very disappointing. I had told RV Sue last night that I was definitely returning here after the work was done on my motorhome, for where would I ever find a better spot, but now I will have to relocate.

So after picking up my motorhome, paying my $1728 bill ( Ouch! ), and loading the toad, I headed back to I-8 west, but instead of going back to my previously perfect spot, took the Algodones Exit and squeezed in to a spot along the All American Canal, just south of the Casino, quite a change of pace from my previous spot, but close to the cross border town where I hope to investigate finding a place to have some dental work done.

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