April 23, 2015 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Pintail
Pintail

Grouse Lek in the Morning, Meadows Near Burns in the Afternoon

Once again I got out really early to get to the Sage Grouse Lek before sunrise.

Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display

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

Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display

Thankfully, the birds were there and doing their dance, unfortunately, the harsh lighting conditions were very similar to my last visit.

Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display

The forecast calls for rain in the next few days, so I shall return when there is a little better light, and will hope the grouse are still into doing this bizarre dance.

Pintail
Pintail
Pintail
Pintail
Pintail
Pintail

After leaving the lek, I drove north on Route 205 to explore the farm roads around the town of Burns. Managed to catch a Pintail Duck taking off from a portion of a small roadside wet area.

Greater Yellowlegs
Greater Yellowlegs

These fields or meadows around Burns are usually flooded in the spring and attract all kinds of birds. This year, a flooded field is hard to find, but Jim Palmer had given me some suggestions for areas to check on, and I did find some productive spots.

A Willet in a Hurry
A Willet in a Hurry

The water I did find off Double Zero Road yielded the above shots of pintail duck, greater yellowlegs, and willet, but the drought has left precious little standing water in the area and there simply weren’t that many birds around.

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

Acting on another tip from Jim, I drove out Ruh Red Road to pole #132 to check on some burrowing owls, and they were actually there. One of the pair actually was kind enough to almost completely show himself instead of remaining below ground, with just the top of his head showing, as is usually the case with these tiny birds.

Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier

I have driven the northern portion of the main refuge road pretty much every morning since I have been here, trying to get a good shot of one of the many male Northern Harriers here.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, i just can’t sneak up on them as the road is made with fairly large crushed rock and therefore produces quite a loud crunching sound as you drive over it. As a result, by the time I am close enough to get off a shot, I am usually shooting at a bird’s butt, or they drop down in the bunch grass or cat tails and are hidden from view. I’m starting to think I’m just not going to get that one great ” Gray Ghost ” shot I initially really thought I would get here.

Tree Swallows
Tree Swallows

These tree swallows aren’t put off by the road noise though.

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

And speaking of bird butts and frustration, there is this guy, a beautiful Short-eared Owl who I meet up with every day at the same place on the refuge road, yet just can’t get a shot of him. This is one of the few owls who hunt by day, but he too, always hears me coming and heads off before I can get close enough for a good shot.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Every morning, and some afternoons, he is sitting on the same bush, just taunting me, and I now must admit, I believe he has gotten the better of me. At least I have some painting reference shots.

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4 thoughts on “April 23, 2015 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon”

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Wish I could say it’s nice that someone appreciates all the hard work I do, bu it’s a joy to do, hardly anything I could ever call work.

  1. Brilliant photos in your last two blog posts. I would have been so flipping chuffed to get one of those photos myself and have it be one quarter as good at best. Retired now and looking for the nearly halfway perfect used RV to start touring in, I am sure it will take a while or so to find.

    1. Thanks Paul. Malhuer is a bird photographers dream world, and I am told that this, my first visit here, is a bad year for birds due to the lack of standing water. Good luck finding that RV.

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