Posted by: atowhee | June 2, 2010

Malheur By The Numbers, With Pictures

During the three days we birded Malheur and northern Harney County, our eleven-birder gang from Golden Gate Audubon had 125 species.  Thousands of White-faced Ibis and Cliff Swallows.  Hundreds of Common Nighthawk, Red-winged Blackbirds, Western Tanagers, Yellow Warblers.  Dozens of Black Terns, Franklin’s Gulls, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Common Yellowthroat, Cinnamon Teal, Marsh Wren, Coots.  Breeding ducks: Canvasback, Redhead, Blue-winged Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Ruddy and Lesser Scaup.  One day we had 9 Great Horned across 3 locations, including five young in two different nesting sites. We stopped for Burrowing Owl and Horned Lark along hwy 205 at “The Narrows.”  Soon five other carloads of birders were stopped alongside.  The only other crowd we found was at the Malheur Visitors Center (VC), a known vagrant magnet.  STAR OF THE TRIP: Breeding and singing Bobolink. BEST VAGRANT: Catbird at Malheur VC on May 31.  An Oregon lifer for all, a lifer for several birders in our group.

For the eight of us who drove to and from Ashland together, we added another 22 species including Dipper, Screech-Owl, Mountain Bluebird, Sage Sparrow, Gray Jay, Williamson’s and Red-breasted Sapsucker, Mountain Chickadee and Green-tailed Towhee.  Making 147 birds for the entire venture.

My nomination for most beautiful bird of trip: Black Tern.  Swift, swept-wing elegance, stunning against background of green grass, purple-gray storm cloud or blue sky.  Most watchable: Common Nighthawk whether circling on long, thin wings or folded into a small lump on a willow branch or even power line.  Most numerous: Ibis, some times there were hundreds in the fields, dozens in small flocks overhead and nearly always present where there was water.  Most unpredictable: a Lewis’s Woodpecker hawking insects from willows allong Benson Pond.  Do hungry it ignored the birders about fifteen feet away, making the camera-bugs ecstatic.  Most annoying: tie between tanager and Yellow Warbler.  They were everywhere and every time it required birder attention to make sure it wasn’t a bird we hadn’t seen.  I estimate I raised my binocs about 650 times just to confirm Yellow Warbler or Western Tanager in almost any possible habitat from sage to willow to cattail.   Biggest surprise:  Franklin’s Gulls in flocks over seemingly arid sage steppe.  Stunner: adult Ferruginous Hawk in good light on a long, elevated irrigation structure near Silver Lake, Oregon.  BIRDERS’ FAVORITE BIRD: Bobolink.  Though Black Tern and Nighthawk got some votes.

Yellow Warbler male in second picture from top.  Third picture: Lewis’s Woodpecker.


  1. […] Posted in Cascades, Icterids, Klamath Basin, birding, birds, birdsong, corvids, ducks & geese, eagles, migratory birds, natural history, oregon, owl, raptor, shorebirds, warblers, woodpeckers | Tags: sapsucker, Cinnamon Teal, Franklin's Gull « Malheur By The Numbers, With Pictures […]

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