Posted by: atowhee | May 4, 2021

A DAY’S BIRDING AT MALHEUR–AFTER BREAKFAST

MALHR, TUESDAY, MAY 4TH-DAY TIME

During the day our Field Station birding group did Hwy 205 north of The Narrows, its side roads and then US 20 west to Chickahominy.

At milepost 17 on 205—the aged Ferrugy nest and one adult visible.

The target spots were rich with birds— one was the farm pond at the electric sub-station on 205 north of Wright’s Point and south of Greenhouse Lane. Its barren situation looks most unpromising but that’s misleading.  There we had Blue-winged Teal, Wilson’s Phalarope, our first Spotted Sandpiper of the day, Canvasbacks and several other species.

Next was Greenhouse Lane and its Potter’s Swamp cul-de-sac.  Great Horned at one barn open to the south.  Mom flew out in front of us, revealing three wide-awake owlets at 10AM.  Three Sandhill Crane moms, each on a nest mound within thirty yards of the road.  This likely caused by drought conditions that make nesting sites precious—each was in privately-owned field flooded with water from the man-drained Silvies River.  One car of birders saw the first snipe-on-a-post of the trip.  As a group we saw Willet, curlew, avocet, stilt, W. Phalarope, ibis, dabbling ducks, Marsh Wren and heard winnowing snipe.

From there back onto 205 northbound, adding Redhead.  At the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center we saw a puzzling buteo on a crossbar.  When it lifted off we determined it was a dark-morph Swainson’s Hawk, the first of that species our group had seen together.

Then onto Hotchkiss with more flooded fields using Silvies’ water.  More ibis and phalarope and another Blue-winged Tea among the countless Cinnamons.  Then north to the fairgrounds and into the northern Burns’ sewer ponds, always a birder’s delight.  Who doesn’t lust after yet another sewer pond?

Two hundred lounging Snow Geese—will they not migrate eventually?  Dozens of Ruddy Ducks, a score of Eared Grebe, handful of Western, Lesser Scaup, three gull species, coots uncounted. Bufflehead.  And a functioning indoor toilet.  Wow!

Then to US 20 westbound, lunch at Sage Hen Rest Area (functioning rest rooms AND running water) and on to Chickahominy.  Reservoir less than half full. Shorebird medley was intense: singletons were Dunlin, Western and Spotted Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plover.  Plurals were Willet, Killdeer, Least Sandpeep, avocet and stilt.  Ducks were all familiar types.  Two snoozing White Pelicans next to their cormorant companions.  Sparrows: singing Vesper and Brewer’s.  Prairie Falcon up in good sunlight.  Mountain Bluebird on sage shortly after we got there. Then the performance of the day:  we parked in open area outside sagebrush.  Horned Larks like this open barren, I began to explain.  At that instant a male with a dark beetle in its beak jumped onto the nearest boulder lining the roadway.  Thence he flew to a nearby picnic table, beetle still beaked.  We gawked and awed.  Then he flew away.   Later another lark, then a third.  Ho hum.

After all that. one birder wanted to see the previously noted Golden Eagles’ nest location, so we went out the dirt road about 5pm.  Heading back home we caught sight of the much-sought-after thumb-shaped figure on his little dirt mount on private land—our first Burrowing Owl of the trip.

May 4, 2021. Just another feather-brained excursion in Harney County.  The resident birders at Malheur Field Station can take you to the owl burrow, should you find yourself here. The Field Station resident birder program runs all the rest of May, check in and check it out at no extra cost.

Our group checklist is now well beyond 110 species. I will get it all counted up after I get home this weekend.


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