Posted by: atowhee | September 14, 2022


After speaking with a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Malheur, I will try to summarize what has been observed during this breeding season.

Neither Trumpeters nor White Pelicans bred, again.  Swans last bred in 2017.  Pelicans have no safe islands there now—Malheur Lake was down to 1000 acres in June, now at less than 450 acre-feet.  Harney and Mud Lake have been dry for years now. There were at least three Sandhill Crane colts this year, up from last year when none were confirmed to reach migration-ability.  Hard and dry meadows make it very hard for cranes to dig up enough food.

None of the gulls bred apparently.  Neither did the large terns, while a few Black Terns did manage to nest in marshes.  Ibis nesting was also limited.

Lack of robust ecosystem may be affecting alpha-predators.  The Great Horned Owls at refuge HQ did not fledge any young.  None of the other nests we found in spring had more than two young.  There seems to be a dearth of jackrabbits but that may be related to an epidemic, not just drought.

We saw shorebirds in only two places—Knox Pond and Burns Sewer Ponds.  Many traditional spots are bone dry—Chickahominy, Ruh-red Road at Silvies River, Greenhouse Lane, Substation Pond along Hwy 205, The Narrows.

Carp in Malheur Lake are even suffering as there is little water and little food.  This may be a chance for the refuge to eliminate much of that invasive population.

Even dryland birds welcome water—a large Horned Lark flock had gathered near an artificial cattle watering hole on Old State Highway west of Buena Vista.  Nearly every Barn Swallow flock was near Bltizen or other water source.  Both rails presented themselves at Page Springs which continues to be an  oasis.  Roaring Springs Ranch in Catlow Valley also had numerous waterfowl.  The oasis at Fields was dry—one afternoon bird, a Say’s Phoebe.  Irrigated fields often had a concentration of raptors and corvids.  Some raptors, inc. Golden Eagle, even riding the pivots as they moved.  Sometimes hundreds of icterids were feeding in the shower wetting the hay field.  This is water from the aquifer that will not be soon replaced, if ever.

Species that may even welcome the drought—more sagebrush, less cattails—include pronghorn, Sage Thrasher, Say’s Phoebe.  I saw more Mountain Bluebirds on this visit than any previous—strictly anecdotal.  The crow population at Frenchglen has exploded—dozens.  An open compost heap outside Frenchglen Hotel may help. 


The large white bird was one of two adult Trumpeters at Benson Pond. in good conditions they can live 20 years or more. These birds have not been able to nest at Summer Lake for the past two years. I was told there is a publicly-owned lake at Prineville where young were raised this summer.
The shorebirds were dowitchers and Killdeer at Knox Pond.
The Ferruginous Hawk in flight was around MP4 on Hwy 205.

As if drought weren’t bad enough, click here for my recent report on avian flu in Oregon.


Click here for Salem Audubon’s Birders Night–“Chinstrap Penguins” presented by Noah Strycker. He studied them on Antarctic’s Elephant Island. He wrote his Master’s Thesis on these birds.


Wanna see a Swainson’s Thrush in the hand? I will be leading field trips at Luckiamute. Here is description for first trip. Second one is Sunday, the 25th. Email me at: if you want to come, limited parking space.

Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area

Friday, Sept. 23: bird walk and banding demonstration
Harry Fuller, trip leader    971-312-1735  

The Luckiamute River meanders through the 615-acre north tract, flowing into the Willamette River from the west and just a stone’s throw from the Santiam River confluence from the east. Travelers paddling the Willamette Water Trail can camp at the boater-access-only site. Hikers can park at the North Trailhead and take the North Unit Loop trail along a meadow and through a riparian hardwood forest of Oregon ash and bigleaf maple.

If you are coming down Hwy 99W take Stapleton Road east, just south of Monmouth.  Then turn south(right) on Corvallis Road.  If you are coming through Independence, take Corvallis Road south from the Willamette River Bridge.  At one bend in Corvallis Road, it turns south and Prather Road goes straight east.  Take Prather, then take the first right onto Buena Vista which goes straight south.  Stay on Buena Vista past the Luckiamute Landing Paddlers Access west of the road.  Keep going south until you cross the Little Luckiamute River.  Just south of the bridge turn left on narrow gravel road, Crocker Road.  Now stay to the left as dirt road parallels river on your left and ends in gravel parking lot.  This is where we meet.  8 AM.

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