April 21-25, 2017 Malhuer NWR, Oregon

Grey Ghost
Grey Ghost

I arrived at The Narrows RV Park and set up camp. Very nice, well maintained campground where I have stayed a few times before. About 20 miles south of Burns and only a couple of miles from the refuge headquarters, this is a convenient spot to stay.

My first day out I encountered nine different male Northern Harriers, the grey ghosts, and Malhuer is one of the few places I have ever found that these guys can be found in numbers. But for some strange reason, I never again encountered more than one or two of them again during the rest of my stay.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark

Meadowlarks were out singing for mates all throughout the refuge.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant

I almost always get some good chances at capturing the brilliantly colored male Ring-necked Pheasants here, but never quite like this sequence.

Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant

He was escorting two hens and not 30 feet from me started this “rooster crowing” display.

Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant

Can’t say it really sounded anything like a “cookie-doodle-dooo”, but it must do something for the gals.

Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
Ringneck Pheasant
American Bittern
American Bittern

Another pleasant surprise was getting a chance at a couple of bitterns, this guy assuming his classic camouflage position, apparently not realizing he was surrounded with short green grass, not his usual hiding spot within the taller straw colored grasses.

Long-billed Curlew
Long-billed Curlew

Curlews and white-faced ibis were plentiful throughout the refuge this spring…

Willet
Willet

… as were willets, this one perched high up on the smokestack of an incinerator, kind of an unusual spot to see one.

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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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January 23, 2014 Bolivar Peninsula, Texas

Royal terns
Royal terns

Some really nasty weather predicted for this afternoon through Friday, ice, sleet, freezing rain, maybe even snow with 30 mph north winds, pretty nasty for this part of Texas, and supposed to be even worse a little farther north. Guess I am glad I decided to plunk down here on the Bolivar Peninsula and not go any further north until this thing blows past.

Went to turn on my rooftop Winegard Trav’ler sat. dish last night and it would only go up a little, make a 360 degree turn and then pack itself away again, giving a “no LNB voltage” message on the interface box. Went up on the roof and checked out all the coax connections and everything seemed tight, same inside the RV. Called the Winegard help line and after 3 attempts finally had a tech return my call, but she did not seem to understand my situation. Next tried to do an online support ticket and got a response several hours after I entered it, so I only answered the tech’s question this AM. Will be kind of curious how that version of support goes. Supposedly, Winegard has a good reputation for support, but so far, I am not impressed. I had this automatic dish installed 8 months ago and have been pleased with its performance, it dials right in on a signal quickly and never loses the signal in windy conditions like the little manual rooftop dish that came installed on the motorhome would.

After having lunch, with the foul weather still not arrived, I decided to venture out and head up to Rollover Pass, High Island, and then on to Anahuac NWR.

Willet feeding
Willet feeding
Snowy egret breeding colors
Snowy egret

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seemed strange to pull into Rollover Pass and see it completely deserted, not a single fisherman, I guess a winter storm warning must scare reasonable folks off. There were a few wading birds in the flats there, but not very many.

The remains of Highway 87
The remains of Highway 87
A pair of terns
A pair of terns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proceeded up Route 87 to where the highway turns inland to High Island and drove out the dirt road north along the hurricane ravaged abandoned old Route 87, scouting for seabirds and found several gulls and terns on the edge of the surf. The image to the right above shows the centerline of the abandoned 40 mile stretch of Highway 87 heading north to Sea Rim.The highway was closed in 1989 when hurricanes Chantal and Jerry washed out the roadway. More evidence of the power of Mother Nature.

Least tern in flight
Least tern in flight
Forster's tern in flight
Forster’s tern in flight

 

 

 

 

 

 

The skies were getting dark and the wind was starting to pick up, but I decided to check out Anahuac NWR anyway, since I know I won’t be getting out the next couple of days.

I was running low on gas when I drove past the last gas station in High Island and I had forgotten how far it was to Anahuac so I was getting a little nervous about running out of gas as I finally drove into the refuge. Don’t know if the threatening weather was the cause or not, but there was very little in the way of birds at Anahuac, no snow geese at all, very, very few ducks, and little of anything else, I will have to come back out after the cold front passes through.

The Prius has a function on one of its monitor settings that shows you how many miles you have left to go before running out of fuel. I watched this pretty closely as I left Anahuac, which, if you haven’t been there, is in the middle of nowhere, and anxiously headed back towards High Island. The monitor said I had 20 miles of fuel left and that was about how far away from High Island I guessed I was. When High Island was finally in sight as I crossed the bridge over the coastal waterway, my monitor said 2 miles of fuel left and that would calculate out to less than 1/25th of a gallon. With great relief, I coasted in to the gas station with 1 mile of fuel showing on the monitor. I assume that the remaining fuel estimate probably is going to be on the conservative side, but just out of curiosity, I wish I were brave enough to have kept on going to find out for sure, since I don’t think I will ever intentionally put myself in this position again anytime in the near future.

Tri colored heron
Tri colored heron
Tri colored heron
Tri colored heron
Snowy egret breeding colors
Snowy egret
Oystercatcher liftoff
Oystercatcher liftoff

 

 

 

 

 

Oystercatcher
Oystercatcher