Tag Archives: northern harrier

May 1, 2015 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

My Last Day Here and Still Seeing New Birds

Usually when I arrive in a campground where I intend to stay more than a few days, I will set up a feeding station for the birds to see who may be in the area. I regret that I did not do that here until just my last few days here.

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

Bullock's Oriole

Bullock’s Oriole

This petite, and argueably the most beautiful of the orioles, the Bullock’s Oriole, appeared on the scene just a few moments after I quartered up an orange I thought was going bad, and stuck it in the tree that was only a couple feet from my dinette window. These two shots were taken from the inside of the motorhome, through two panes of glass with my 18-200mm lens, so forgive the lack of sharpness, but I couldn’t let this guy get away without some kind of shot..

Only a couple days before, I hung out a suet feeder and a small platform feeder with seeds and had several surprises appear out of nowhere, including a brilliant lazuli Bunting and three kinds of warblers. I really didn’t think there would be this kind of birdlife in a largely barren landscape, but the campground did have a lot of young trees planted among the campsites acting as a sort of oasis in the highland desert, and now I really wish I had gotten the bird attractants out sooner !

Old Orange Dumptruck

Another Watercolor Possibility

Located another possible watercolor candidate.

Jackrabbit Standoff

Jackrabbit Standoff

I decided to do one last run through the refuge this morning and came across these two Jackrabbits alternately fighting and then staring each other down.

Jackrabbit

Jackrabbit

I challenged myself to try and get a shot of a Jackrabbit going at high speed … and almost succeeded in doing so. Darn, they move quick. There is no shortage of these guys all throughout this area, along with their Cottontail cousins. Lots of fast food ( pun intended ) for the coyotes and larger raptors.

Gadwall Takeoff

Gadwall Takeoff

One more shot of a Gadwall takeoff.

Mystery Raptor

Help ! ID Please ?

A mystery ( to me ) raptor overhead, but I don’t dare hazard a guess as to who he is. After consulting my Sibleys, I still don’t have a clue. Help ?

Willets and a Curlew

Willets and a Curlew

Courting Willets

Courting Willets

I encountered a pair of Willets, apparently courting, with a Curlew observing.

Male Northern Harrier

Male Northern Harrier

Male Northern Harrier

Male Northern Harrier

Male Northern Harrier

Male Northern Harrier

And lastly, I had my final chance for my hoped for great  ” Gray Ghost ” shot, when I came upon this male Northern Harrier doing his preening routine within a decent distance of me. He kept pivoting constantly as he did so, first facing me, then turning around, so I waited patiently for ten minutes or more, waiting for him to finish up and take flight. I figured, with no wind, I had a 50/50 chance he would take off facing me and not leave me with yet another bird butt shot.

Male Northern Harrier

Male Northern Harrier

I lost ! And so my days at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge end. I didn’t get my hoped for images of this guy or the Short-eared Owl, but I’ll be back. Next time, for sure.

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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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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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