Posted by: atowhee | August 30, 2022


Next week I will be leading a group of birders around Harney County. We may share a bottle of wine over dinner, but otherwise it will be pretty dry. The Blitzen still flows (not the Silvies).

Malheur Lake is down to less than one-fifth of its capacity size.
Completely dry lakes and reservoirs include: Chickahominy, Moon, Warm Springs, Mann Lake. Mud and Malheur have become dusty playas in recent years–no water visible from The Narrows.
Down 1/3 from capacity: Willow, Poison Creek, State and Greenspot Reservoirs.

One resident reports fall migrant numbers seem reduced during this on-going drought–she thinks the birds look down, see no water and nothing green and just keep flying. Certainly makes sense for waterfowl and shorebirds. Or they might land briefly at night, breathe in the dust and take off southward or westward.

I expect this visit will reveal a tragic list of bird species that did NOT breed successfully at Malheur this summer.

The lack of water may have one positive effect–there has been only one confirmed case of avian flu in Harney County this month–a wigeon back on August 8. The virus lives in water for some time and if flocking birds aren’t congregated in marshes and ponds, the disease will not spread as easily. Many Oregon flu victims have been water birds–Canada Geese, White Pelicans, Mallards.

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