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Posted by: atowhee | June 7, 2018

MALHEUR AND SUMMER LAKE: OWLS AND THEN SOME

MALHEUR 2018 TRIP

We completed our Klamath Bird Observatory’s annual Malheur birding trip yesterday, after covering 1300 miles and birding a range of habitats from lake to march, ponderosa forest to sagebrush steppe.

On the trip the owls became a regular recurring series of “Wows.”  We saw at least 17 individual Great Horned Owls in several locations.  Adult and young in bare tree at first parking area along Auto Route at Summer Lake WMA. Adult and three young in trees at Malheur NWR Headquarters. Adult and three young in cliff south of Milepost 44 on Hwy 205.  These were high in the basalt on west side of highway and owlets still mostly whiter.  Two young in crater at Diamond Craters. Adult and fledglings nearly in full plumage in big trees east of Benson Pond.  . Pair of adults side by side on utility pole crossbar along Hwy 78 around 810PM as we drove north after dinner at Diamond Hotel.

We had repeated views of Burrowing Owls in Harney County, most on private land.  There was a family with four owlets west of Lawen Road, fifty yards into a field.  Co-ordinates:43.3909-118.8078. The young were several shades darker than the pale adult.  There also was a lone owl seen on Ruh-Red Road about three miles east of Hwy 205.

There were four young Ferruginous Hawks, starting to get adult sized wing feathers crowded into nest in lone juniper around MP 17, west of Hwy 205

June 2

On our first evening we had good views of a hunting Short-eared Owl at Summer Lake.  Then the next morning we had another chance to watch what may have been the same owl hunt the same area near the start of the auto tour route.  At one point it dived aggressively at a male harrier.

We also saw an adult Great Horned Owl and two fledged juveniles, still in pale feathers along the auto tour.  Every nest box at Summer Lake Wildlife Area was occupied by Tree Swallows.

En route to Christmas Valley from Summer Lake we had both Swainson’s and Ferruginous Hawk, a Bald Eagle and a speeding Prairie Falcon along Old Lake Road south of Christmas Lake.  On Christmas Valley Road about four miles east of THE gas station we had a Swainson’s hawk nesting on a power pole crossbar, in nest that had been built in previous years by ravens.

There was a pair of Mountain Bluebirds nesting in a nest box on a juniper’s trunk at the southeast edge of the Sage Hen Rest Area. That’s west of Burns on US20. There Say’s Phoebes nested on the east end of the toilet building, under the peak of the roof.  There were four hungry fledglings in the nest.

Burrowing Owls were busy hunting in early evening east of Milepost 26, north of Hwy 78, not far from Crystal Crane Hot Springs where we stayed because the Malheur Filed Station has lost its water system.

Monday, June 4, 2018

We found Burrowing Owls again just east of Milepost 26 on Hwy 78.  that’s east of Burns and just short of the big elbow in the road before you reach the Crane Store, last gas station for over 100 miles as you head south.  The owls are in a field full of dirt hillocks on the north side of the highway.  They are in the greasy circle in the field not in the sagebrush margins.

Late in the day we would see six Great Horned Owls, three young and three adults.  There were young white fuzzy owlets on a wall shelf inside one of the large cavities at Diamond Craters.  There they shared space with a Say’s Phoebe, two Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Rock and Canyon Wrens.  We saw an adult and one of its young in the trees on the east side of Benson Pond.  Our last two owls came after our scrumptious dinner (as ever) at Diamond Hotel.  On Hwy 78 south of Crane about four miles there were two adult GHOs on a utility pole crossbar at 810PM, long before dark.  Photography ensued.

Our raptor run in the morning took us along Hwy 78 from Crane to New Princeton.  Both eagles, plenty of Red-tails.  Then in Princeton we had one fleeting glimpse of a Prairie Falcon speeding away.  At the west end of Sodhouse Road there was a dark morph Red-tail feeding a single nestling in the nest far up the face of cliff.

SOME NOTES

Yellow Warbler, Eastern Kingbird and YB Chat at Page Springs as usual.
Gull watching was best along Hwy 78 south of Crane–including a Mew, Herring and some California plus the “locals” (Franklins and Ring-billed).
The Lawen Road-Ruh-Red arc was very dry.  Only significant water at Silvies River Bridge.  We pounded the walls of derelict wooden house south of Lawen–no barn owl.
The Narrows are dry, one tiny pool of water.  Horned Larks perhaps, no grebes within eyesight.
Headquarters Pond had mud flats–Willet there.  Benson Pond seemed full as usual.  No sighting of Trumpeters after we left Summer Lake.
Best Bobolink and Black Tern sightings along Diamond Lane just after entering the box canyon.
Ibis may have been the most numerous large bird.  Cliff Swallows were the most seen songbird.
Boat Launch Road still closed.  No water drip at the DUncan Evered cabin at Malheur Field Station.
Nighthawks splendid as they always are in early June upon their “tardy” return.  They sleep on wooden rails at Crystal Crane.  There is a “wild” impoundment there outside the west fence-line that had Cinnamon Teal, Wilson’s Phalarope, stilt, avocet, et al.

SWAINSON’S HAWK GALLERY
Our first views in Christmas Valley were of hawks in flight.

swhk1swhk2swhk3swhk4swhk5Then we found this guy who seemed to be clearing his throat.  A dragonfly that went down sideways?  A feather or rodent bone stuck in his craw?  We couldn’t figure it out  but he finally preened away as if wall were well…swhk6swhk7swhk8swhk10swhk11swhk12swhk14swhk15swhk16swainThis is the nest on Christmas Valley Road, miles from the throat contortionist…this nest formerly used by ravens.swhk18

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