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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