I just returned from a birding trip to Harney and Deschutes counties and had such a fantastic time I thought I'd share the details. This was my second visit to Malheur NWR, the first being in 2018 when I was still very new to birding. I've only been home a few hours and am already dreaming about my next visit. I've never written a trip report before, but here goes:
I left Warren early Friday and arrived in Burns at 10:30am. On my way to Malheur I found a Black-throated Sparrow singing at Wright's Point and 2 Burrowing Owls along Ruh-Red Rd. Then I spent two nights camping at Page Springs and birding around the Refuge, with a rainy day side trip to visit Fields and the Alvord Desert. While I didn't find the exciting rarities that were around last week, I did manage to tally 141 Harney County birds during the trip, including the GRAY CATBIRD that's been at HQ. It was great fun to sit on a bench and listen to it mimic Red-winged Blackbird, Black-headed Grosbeak and even Sora!
Other personal highlights from Malheur NWR include: Black Terns feeding on the ponds at Diamond Ln, Bobolink perched along Central Patrol Rd, dozens of Common Nighthawks feeding on insects above the Skunk Farm Canal, a Long-eared Owl harassing a Great Horned that was perched on a utility pole by the P Ranch at dusk, and two recently fledged Prairie Falcons engaging in some aerial horseplay while their parents watched from a cliff above their nest on South Harney Rd. Before heading north on Sunday, I stopped at Burns Sewage Ponds to see the ROSS'S GOOSE that has been there.
After a night camping at Idlewild in Malheur Nat'l Forest and hearing my lifer Flammulated Owl, I decided to extend my trip by a day and look for some of the rarities in the Sisters area that kept showing up in my inbox. And I'm glad I did!
On Monday, I went straight to Trout Creek Swamp and heard the NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH singing loudly near the trail, and then had great views of a Black-backed Woodpecker. Next, I visited Upper Indian Ford Creek and photographed the LEAST FLYCATCHER that continues there. I spent the night at Cold Springs Campground and spent time photographing the resident pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers as they delivered food to their nestlings and discarded their fecal sacs.
Today I woke up and decided to visit the NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH again. It was singing much closer to the trail and I was able to get some photographs (much more satisfying for a lifer!). And then on my way out of town, I pulled off Rt 126, ventured into Black Butte Swamp and quickly found the VEERY that continues there, before heading back home.
Since there's been discussion here around chasing rarities vs. finding your own, I'll add that as a relatively new birder (started about 3 years ago), I've never found a really rare bird myself. I normally don't chase rare birds either, unless they are close to home or convenient to go after. I added the Deschutes County portion of my trip on a whim and spent that time chasing other people's finds and had a delightful time doing it - adding 5 birds to my Oregon list and 3 to my Life list.
It was wonderful to spend a few days out around Malheur, camping, seeing and photographing beautiful wildlife, and then chasing other people's great finds around Sisters on the way back. Thanks to all the birders I ran into along the way and all the birders who posted their great finds for me to chase!
-Tom Myers Warren, Columbia County UNSUBSCRIBE: www.freelists.org/list/obol OBOL archives: www.freelists.org/archive/obol Contact moderator: <obol-moderators...>