Posted by: atowhee | June 12, 2019


I have led to birding trips in the Malheur Basin and nearby Harney County this spring.  One was in late May, the other ended June 12.  Both trips were sponsored by the Malheur Field Station (great grub by the way).  We have another in September with at least one opening.  That trip will do the entire Steens Loop.  Also, not too soon to reserve for next spring.

Here are some notes, observations and discoveries.  Many of the things that are relevant now are seasonal and given to annual variation as well as continues change as weeks and months pass.

This spring’s water situation in the Basin finds both the Blitzen and Silvies Rivers at or near flood stage.  The floodplains along both rivers are awash with water flowing or standing in many fields, roadside ditches and low places.  Significant wetlands can be found in Diamond, along the road to Diamond from Hwy 205, and along 205 north of Wright’s Point, east end of Ruh-red Road, along much of Greenhouse Lane and Potter Swamp Road.  In addition most fields along the Central Patrol Road south of Krumbo Road are wetlands.  Over on Lava Beds Road “Dry” Lake is so full there are Cinnamon Teal paddling in the pool abutting the round barn.  The lake is not only not dry, it is full of waterfowl from Eared Grebe to Canada Geese.  It had the largest concentration of Blue-winged Teal that we found in June.  Other surprising spots for that species: lake about six miles east from 205 along south end of Steens Loop…and small pond on Diamond Road about five miles east of 205 where normally I find nesting avocets.

Yet both Harney and Malheur Lakes remain drought-sized.  Neither has water even visible from The Narrows which is still cow pasture and grasslands.  In fact in June the only area we saw pronghorn was around Hwy 205 Milepost 21 which some years is under water.  The water is now high enough that the man-made tern island is an island once again and apparently has this year’s nesting pelicans and other smaller water birds.

At Chickahominy we found dozens of Eared Grebes and a number of both Western and Clark’s Grebes.  It proved a fine spot for Horned Lark as well plus a score of hawking nighthawks in June–they are late arrivals.  To know more go read my chapter in Oregon State University Press’s Edge of Awe anthology on the region. Edited by Alan Contreras.

Sage Hen Rest Area has nesting Tree Swallows and Mountain Bluebirds in nest boxes.  Say’s Phoebe nest this year is built on top of last year’s at east end of toilets building.

In Diamond Canyon we found Bobolink.  Our senior birder was 96 year old Bob Jones of Eugene.  Bob had stayed at Diamond Hotel the night before our trip began and saw Bobolink near there. So he led us to what we now think of as Bob’s Corner, for both Bob the man and Bobos the birds.  Bob’s Bobos it was.  This spot is between first the two road 90-degree elbows as you leave the hotel and drive back toward the main canyon entrance that passes the elementary school.

Nesting at Malheur Field Station:

  • Western Kingbird on south side of Dorm F
  • Flicker on north side of Dorm D
  • Starlings in various holes in various dorms
  • Cliff Swallows on north side eaves of Dorms A & B
  • Tree Swallows in boxes south of Owl Dorm
  • Say’s Phoebe under north eave of Owl Dorm
  • Kestrels at some undisclosed location on campus
  • Willets and meadowlarks in the sagebrush to the east of campus
  • California Quail likely scattered in the area, seen now only in pairs, no young yet

Also at the field station we had a sighting of Eastern Kingbird near the defunct volleyball courts facing Dorm E.

We saw young cranes with parents in at least three places, including Grant County at Silvie Valley Ranch.

We birded half a day up Devine Canyon along US 395.  There we found Lewis’s Woodpeckers fly-catching over the canyon rim above us.  Other non-Malheurians we found: Spotted Towhee, Clark’s Nutcracker, MacGillivray’s Warbler on territory, lots of juncos at Idlewild Campground.  Other birds there included an inconsiderate Williamson’s Sapsucker male who flew overhead, tanagers, Cassin’s Finches, Dusky Flycatchers, robins, the pale interior Hermit Thrush (an oddity for those of us who live at sea level), Audubon’s Warbler plus all three nuthatches and Mountain Chickadee.  That half day drove our five day species total well over 120.  We’re not too bitter about missing bittern.  Our consolation prize was a co-operative Virginia Rail.

Here’s info on where we found our owls (no long-eared).  Click on this link.

Why bird in June with all those buzzing mosquitoes?  Love of Nighthawks, click here for my apologia.




  1. Reblogged this on Wolf's Birding and Bonsai Blog.

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