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We stayed six days at Malheur NWR. Originally we had intended to stay maybe three days and then move on to the Redwoods and southern Oregon however the long days in the truck were really wearing and we were enjoying Malheur very much despite weather that ranged from rain to snow to hail with lots of high winds thrown in just for fun. Most of the weather came in sudden bursts with sun breaks in between. We generally timed our outings to avoid the drenching rains and managed to get in good birding, some nice walks and a brief bike ride. Sadly the weather conditions did not make for good photography conditions. I made the best of it when I could.

 

Frenchglen is a must stop in that part of Oregon. It has a school, a BLM office, a store that is rarely open and then with a surly shopkeeper, and a historic hotel. And it is usually swarming with birders!

 

Much of our birding was done from the truck in order to avoid wind and rain. Note the various layers of clothing. We wore many combinations in order to stay warm. I was happy to have my rubber boots with me.

 

White-faced Ibises. There were many thousands of them, it seemed.

 

 

 

The Hooded Warbler. If you look at your range maps, you will notice that this bird should not be in SE Oregon. Going through Frenchglen one morning we saw lots of birders searching with their binos; we even ran into birding friends from the Walla Walla area. Turns out everyone was searching for the Hooded Warbler that had been seen the day before. Alas, we did not find it despite tromping around in the wet grass and brush for an hour or more. The next day, at the P Ranch, as I rode by on Ken’s bike, a man said, ‘Hey, are you interested in a Hooded Warbler?” Screech, went the brakes! Oh yeah. What a find.

 

 

My, what big ears you have.

 

Lots of nesting shorebirds including this Black-necked Stilt.

 

The air was often full of the sound of winnowing Snipes.

 

I know, it’s hard to see however there is a Sandhill Crane on a nest down there.

 

Magnificent landscapes everywhere we turned. And water. So much water.

 

This intersting allium had me stumped. I still don’t know its species. It was on top of a basalt mesa.

 

One in full bloom.

 

 

 

Here you can see the outlines of the tops of the basalt columns that make up the mesa.

 

The rains produced lots of watering holes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day two actually got us to our destination, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in south east Oregon. It is world renowned for its wetlands that attract migrating and nesting birds by the thousands. It is also a magnet for birders. We found that cell reception in this remote area was excellent and this proved to be a boon for interesting bird sightings. Rarity reports were quickly shared via the internet thanks to smart phones and other technology. But first, we had to get there. And as usual, the weather wasn’t the best.

 

This big fella is in Umatilla, Oregon. We were looking for a breakfast spot when a kindly local police officer stopped us and suggested going on to Hermiston or Pendleton if we were serious about food. Also, he gave Ken a warning and we were headed down the road again.

 

Main Street Diner in Pendleton.

 

Tasty food and lots of intersting stuff to look at. The fellow in the black t shirt seemed to be both the owner and server.

 

I think Pendleton might have lots of intersting old buildings, if you like that kind of stuff.

 

 

A pretty wild pea or vetch growing alongside the road.

 

I wonder why this old Umatilla school bus was left to decay in the woods south of Pendleton?

 

You’d think if the guy was buying the things, he’d know that they are antlers and not horns.

 

Snowy Egrets in a flooded field in the town of John Day.

 

Raining hard at Malheur NWR. We put up camp in ten minutes.

 

The evening was quite pleasant, if a little on the cold side. The snow in the background is on the flanks of Steens Mountain, rising to over 9000′ elevation. Malheur is at about 4100′ – the high cold desert of Oregon.

 

The famous P Ranch of Malheur. Birders go here to see Bobolinks and other intersting bird species.

 

Much is said about the four seasons of wonderful weather that everyone loves in the Methow. However, few talk about the fifth season – Mud Season. This is a time when folks flee the valley. Vacations are planned around this time of year. Any sane/smart/well-adjusted person finds some reason to be somewhere, nearly anywhere else, this time of year. Snow continues to be piled all around houses; some roads and many driveways alternate between ice (in the dark of the night and early morning), slush, and then mud. Skiing condtions might be good, but more likely a skier will be faced with slow, jerking slop. Classic skiers rejoice, letting skate skiers know that their season is longer and more adaptable to unpredictable weather. The ice rink is closed. Alpine skiers enjoy the few remaining days at the Loup, knowing that the lifts will soon cease to operate despite plenty of snow in the mountains. And some of us yearn for Spring and gardens and look forward to next Winter.

 

Where do you park the car?

Mud Season in the Methow

 

Don’t go out without your mud boots.

Mud Season in the Methow

 

The promise of Daffodils

spring daffodils

 

and Strawberries too

promise of strawberries

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