Posted by: atowhee | January 6, 2016


The Bundyites remain in the headquarters buildings at Malheur NWR.  IF Teddy Roosevelt were still President I can imagine how he would have handled this invasion of one of his first wildlife refuges.  Rough-riding comes to mind.

Meanwhile current officials continue to be calm and cautious, not interested in creating more martyrs for militia zealots.

Today the Malheur occupiers got a clear message from the descendants of the first human owners of the refuge.  The Paiute Tribal Council in Burns made it clear that the Bundy Bunch has nothing to do with them, their ancestors or any other Indians who lived there before they were driven from their land by grasping white ranchers in the 19th Century.

On one birding trip at Malheur a member of our group found a Native American stone artifact lying on the surface where we were birding.  Federal regulations–so hated by the militia–required that it be left in place.  Only the Paiute and authorized archaeologists would be allowed to take it away for study.  Meanwhile it remains where a Paiute left it some decades, or centuries, ago.

At one time a Mr. Peter French owned much of the land now in the refuge which he got through bullying, violence and shady deals. Finally one of his neighbors killed the hated Mr. French. That was in 1897.  A couple decades later TR created the refuge along with the one in the Klamath Basin.

Malheur is very cold in winter so there are few small birds that stick around.  There are mammals and raptors.  Golden Eagles, Harrier, Prairie Falcon and Great Horned Owls make a living off the mammals that are active off and on all winter.  The owls like to nest in the same watch-tower now being used by militia gunners as a lookout.  The owls will have to try to find another nest site if this continues.

The local bird festival is planned for early April when many of the northbound waterfowl use the Malheur Basin as a feeding and restorative stop on their way north.  Most of the world’s Ross’s Geese pass this way that time of time but they still have another thousand miles to go to reach their nesting grounds in north central Canada.


Here’s a few shots to show why we birders loved Malheur at least a fraction as much as the Paiute though our history is just over a century long.

Imagine now long this guy would live if the armed militia spotted him above ground.  After all, what right does a mere badger have to use the land unhindered?  Where’s the profit in that?   I have to say the worst part of the militia argument about federal regulations is that they hinder profit-making.  There is no way money can be used to measure the value of a place like Malheur which lets any observant human see daily financial and business considerations as insignificant and destructive of life and beauty.  BDGR-N BO-looksLook closely for there’s an American Bittern in the tall reeds and grass:BITT1 (1280x960) PINTL MALE1 (1280x960) Short-eared Owl:SEO IN TREE (1280x960)

Finally, for this blog, Malheur most years has the largest colonies of nesting White Pelicans and Sandhill Cranes in Oregon.  Last year the drought prevented the pelicans from nesting because their “island” was dry land surrounded by grasslands and landborn predators.  A wet winter will bring them back to nest in Spring, 2016.

One reader sent me this poem:

Hi this was posted on a Poetrylovers list today. This is what Malheur is all about. Thanks

“Malheur Before Dawn”

An owl sound wandered along the road with me.
I didn’t hear it—I breathed it into my ears.

Little ones at first, the stars retired, leaving
polished little circles on the sky for a while.

Then the sun began to shout from below the horizon.
Throngs of birds campaigned, their music a tent of sound.

From across a pond, out of the mist,
one drake made a V and said its name.

Some vast animal of sound began to rouse
from the reeds and lean outward.

Frogs discovered their national anthem again.
I didn’t know a ditch could hold so much joy.

So magic a time it was that I was both brave and afraid.
Some day like this might save the world.

– William Stafford


  1. TV says th ose nut cases can still come and go as they please! I certainly expected the state or feds to block any one from going in with food and to a rrest those guys when they try to leave. TR where are you???

    Daily Show last night said Bundy’s saying that the feds took land from poor farmers is hogwash. Said the ranchers were going broke and the feds bailed most out while buying land for the refuge.

    Just got back from a meeting against the LNG pipeline. That is another big mess.

    m a

  2. […] Jan. 6…with photos: […]

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