Posted by: atowhee | June 5, 2022


This was Day #2 of the Malheur Field Station-sponsored June birding trip.

Nighthawks: yes.  Bobolink manifest: yes.  Nesting, a lot: yes.  Music to our ears: yes.
We enjoyed both morning and afternoon concerts. After breakfast we pulled off to the side of Hwy 205 to experience a thorough thrashering.  A male Sage Thrasher clung to a diagonal cable anchoring a huge power pole.  He sang, gave some aerial wing demos, then sang again and longer.  The Sage Thrasher is a noted vocalist.  His repertoire is rich and varied—many quick and melodious phrases end-to-end with rapid shifts in tempo, tenor and timber.  Donald Kroodsma tells us this species has a larger vocal vocabulary of musical sounds than any other bird, far more than any rock, jazz, church or opera singer of our species.

Then we spent some hours with ordinary birds and ordinary bird sounds.  At Buena Vista: coots, orioles, ravens, Marsh Wren, blackbirds, Cliff Swallows and Canada Geese.  Silence poured forth from Ring-billed Gulls, a lone crane, Redheads and Black Terns turning and diving over the water.  The ponds there were so shallow we saw Canada Geese wade from one island to the next and not even get their bellies wet.

At the junction of Hwy 205 and the Diamond Loop Road we watched a storm of nighthawks over flooded grasslands.  East from 205 were extensive flooded lowlands with ducks, shorebirds, blackbirds.  In the box canyon at Diamond, we came to our second concert, east of the elementary school near the entrance to Roaring Canyon Corrals—libidinous Bobolink males crooning for the opposite sex.  Their complex stanzas were fast and slow, sharp or smooth and seemed to be effective.  We saw male & female Bobolink fly together into the flooded grassy flats.

At Diamond we heard snipe winnowing, and two of them agreed to pose on posts for our photographic enjoyment.

North to Diamond Craters for Rock and Canyon Wren.  The former chasing the latter.  North from the wrens past Dry Lake which is true to its name,  Thence to Princeton Bluff.  Two adult GH Owls with two nestlings now showing some adult feathers (quite late according to the usual calendar).  Their platform high on the right hand half of the cliff.  Far to the west was a raven nest in its crowded cleft—single nestling. The Field Station ravens’ nest has two, a cliff face perch at Buena Vista had three.  There we saw an adult raven carrying a large white egg in its mouth.

Also nesting at Princeton: Rock Pigeon, Cliff Swallow, red-tails’ nest now abandoned for rest of the season, and a pair of Osprey nestlings nearly ready to fledge, their long wings being waved about their narrow ledge.  On nearby power poles: Golden and Bald Eagle, Swainson’s Hawk, ravens…

Other nesting birds we observed today: coots, stilts.  We saw no ducklings or goslings and have seen only one juvenile Killdeer.  My assumption is that drought is decreasing both the rate of nesting and success of reproduction.

At the refuge headquarters after dinner: two or three Short-eared Owls again hunting the meadows straight north of the viewing deck at the main office.  A male oriole was fussing about, chattering almost non-stop.

I have never before seen two ravens’ nests in a single—today 3.  It is the first time I have seen a cliff face Osprey nest. 

ICTERIDS: Today…Bobolink, red-wing, yellow-headed, cowbird, Brewer’s, meadowlark, Bullock’s Oriole (and nest at HQ). Now if we could just find that oropendola…

Our groups now has recorded 93 species after two days, with a long list of hot spots untouched from Benson Pond south to Page Springs!

Above: Bobolink at Diamond; Sage Thrasher behaving himself; Canyon Wren at Diamond Craters; raven fledglings at Buena Vista; some of our group being bobolinked; our beloved nighthawks up there mosquito gathering.
Below: Wilson’s Snipe at Diamond, enjoying the view and ignoring the nearby mammals.

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