Sunday, July 31, 2016

Final Day in Malheur

I’m finally going to take you back for the final installment of our trip to Malheur NWR from back in April. The day started with a fiery, glowy sunrise. We got some sweet light looks at a Willet and American Avocets in a little pond, as well as a Red-Tailed Hawk that flew alongside the car as we drove by at the same pace with the camera poking out the window. 

We had been having a blast with our lens rental (which we have since purchased!), and this day was highlighted by more American Avocets. These birds are usually very distant, including during the previous days of this trip. But these few individuals were VERY accommodating and allowed us to get these beautiful shots.

Did you know that a more upturned bill indicates females? 

Love seeing that delicate upturned bill just slightly open. 

Aren’t these birds just amazingly gorgeous? I love seeing these graceful birds in their beautiful breeding plumage. Well, just take a look for yourselves and relish along with us. 

That tiny water droplet...

Look at those grey legs! And notice the straighter bill on this one. 

Someone got a nice, juicy worm snack! Yum!

Not far from these guys were the also lovely Black-Necked Stilts. We used to see these guys so super close back in our South Florida days, so it was nice to once again see these beauties so near. Can’t get enough of those bright red legs!

Using the car as a mobile blind works so well with a place like Malheur. This place is like a giant safari park, but with native birds being the subjects of adoration, with the occasional fun mammal. We’ve gotten our best looks of Horned Lark here. Their little “horns” always crack me up. They can never look like they are not up to something mischievous.

Two out of the two times we’ve been to Malheur, we have had fantastic looks at another mischievous-looking bird, perhaps even devious-looking – Ferruginous Hawk. His wide, sly, yellow smile looks like he is surely up to no good. But who couldn’t fall for his devilish charm and handsome good looks?

As we made our last rounds on the farm roads of Malheur, we stopped by a lush little pond rattling with the demonic sounds of Yellow-Headed blackbirds. In the pond itself were a few ducks and other floating little baubles. 

Looking like such a bad@$$ on that barbed wire

Northern Pintail

And looking more closely, we saw that those baubles were a group of handsome Horned Grebes! We are so used to seeing these guys in non-breeding plumage that it was so striking to see them now outfitted in bold black, rufous, and gold. We also got a nice farewell look at a statuesque Sandhill Crane.

On the way back home, we popped over to the town of Sisters for our routine check-in at the Best Western there – not to stay, but to check our their feeders butting up against the Deschutes National Forest. We saw the usual suspects – Pygmy Nuthatch and White-Headed Woodpecker, which I never get tired of seeing. 

View of the Three Sisters Mountains

Pygmy Nuthatch

White-Headed Woodpecker

We then had a very strange Pinyon Jay encounter. We very rarely have seen Pinyon Jays, and when we have, it’s only been in Sisters and usually a solitary individual. But this time, we heard this huge raucus coming towards us from the forest. A band of 10 jays came swooping in close to where we were, jumped around noisily in the trees, and then after a minute, all rushed back into the forest. This was so bizarre and delightful at the same time! We couldn’t quite wrap our head around what had just happened, and we waited and wandered around a bit hoping they would come back, but alas, they did not. 

Pinyon Jay - the only one I could capture from that big party

Pine Siskin

We made one more stop before heading home. We pulled into Detroit Flats in hopes of finding some good flycatchers. We did find one, but could not get good enough looks at it to seal in an ID. But a pleasant surprise was finding a dozen American Pipits. You could have almost missed them when looking at the sand and rocks as they just blended right in. Only when we noticed that that some of the “rocks” started moving, that we pinpointed the pipits.

American Pipit blending in with the rocks

It was another fabulous trip to Malheur. No Bundys and good birds, just the way it should be. 


  1. Lovely photos!! I've been craving some non-summer desert action and this hit the spot. Your Pinyon Jay encounter here sounds more like the norm- I've never seen a solitary one myself. Great stuff... is it almost spring yet?

    1. Thanks, Jen! That's funny about the Pinyon Jays. We've had such limited encounters with them that we didn't quite know what to expect from them. But it makes sense that they would be so social and chattery being jays and all. Spring will be here any moment ;)