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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October 13, 2014 Willard Bay State Park, Utah

American avocets
American avocets

Another Trip into the Bear River Migratory Bird Management Area

By sunrise this morning I had already made it to the road leading into the refuge

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

Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier

As I drove the 12 mile road, I spotted a northern harrier perched on a post where I had noticed her on another trip in here. The sun had barely made it over the mountains to the east and there wasn’t a lot of light, but I turned around, checked my camera settings, and circled back to her location. As I slowed down, I could see she was ready to take off, but I got off one quick shot. Foiled once again I assumed. But when processing images, I kind of liked the shot, even though her head is turned the wrong way, liked the early morning feel of the image as well as the background.

ring necked pheasant
Yet another ring necked pheasant tease

And, of course, the ring necked pheasants once again had to tease me, getting a little closer, but still not close enough.

Though there weren’t all that many hunters around today, the ducks were still hiding out somewhere other than here.

American avocet
American avocet
American avocet
American avocet
American avocet
American avocet

 

 

 

 

 

American avocet
American avocet
American avocet
American avocet

Though I didn’t get a single shot on the entire loop road within the refuge, on the way back out there were a couple American Avocets feeding in one of the shallow ponds along the entry road, and these guys were very cooperative this morning.

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October 11, 2014 Willard Bay State Park, Utah

Mountaintop color
Mountaintop color

Another Trip into Bear River NWR

The top photo was taken from the road leading into my campsite at Willard Bay looking east across Interstate 84.

Mountaintop color
Mountaintop color

And this one was taken from the WalMart parking lot just to the east of the Interstate. It appears that there still is some autumn color up in the mountains and I believe I will try to find a route to go explore up there tomorrow since I want to avoid the weekend duck hunters in the Bear River NWR anyway.

Drove the Bear River NWR loop this morning and then explored north up Route 13 to Honeyville before heading back to Brigham City for the dogs vet appointment at Mountain View Vet.

Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier

No great photos this morning as there were at least 100 duck hunters out on the refuge.

Ring necked pheasant
Ring necked pheasant
Ring necked pheasant
Ring necked pheasant

Still haven’t got my ring necked pheasant shot yet, but I am getting a little closer!

Long billed curlew
Long billed curlew

These long billed curlews were foraging along the loop road in the refuge and posed for a shot before scurrying off into the brush.

I spoke with a very nice DNR officer on checkpoint duty coming out of Bear River who told me that I want to be going to all the “other” refuges for good duck photos and to stop at their office in Ogden to get more info and maps. He said these other places do not allow hunting and therefore, I would have a better chance of getting the shots I am looking for. He also said that Bear River NWF would be much better on Monday when most of the hunters are back at work, and that I should come back then.

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