Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Broad-winged Hawk at Malheur NWR HQ, 5/20/18.

I saw this bird flying overhead with stiff, fast wing beats. It's tail seemed too short to be an accipiter. It has a light supercillium and dark malar marks. The trailing edges of the wing are dark, as are the wing tips, and the primaries seem to form 4 fingers. It has coarse streaking on the full length of the underbody, especially the sides (and no patagial marks). The tail has narrow bands.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Malheur Routes

Arriving and leaving Burns: Hotchkiss/Greenhouse
When arriving or leaving Malheur through Burns, take Hotchkiss and/or Greenhouse east-west roads; stop to look at sewage pond along Hotchkiss. Also check substation pond along Hwy 205, at Island Ranch Road (approx. MP 6), just south of Greenhouse Lane.

South Refuge Loop:
Starting at intersection of Hwy 205 and Diamond Lane (MP 41) at 8am or earlier, drive south on Hwy 205. South of MP 46, look for Cliff Swallow colonies along the cliffs. Continue south to Krumbo / Benson Pond cutoff, MP 47, and turn left (east) onto a gravel road.
(1) Krumbo Pond
Drive east from Hwy 205 on gravel road, continue past the intersection with the CPR (Center Patrol Road, the gravel road that runs north-south through most of the refuge), for about 1-2 miles, until the road curves left and goes downhill and you will see Krumbo Pond – but only if it has water (some years the pond is dry). Good for waterfowl. Stop half way down hillside to scope the pond from above. Park at the SE corner of the pond and walk out along the east end of pond. It is best to do this in early morning, so the sun is behind you as you look over the pond. Look for Black-crowned Night Heron near the NE corner of the pond, also check for Virginia Rail and Sora in the reeds along the way. Listen for Canyon Wren. Look for terns flying over the pond.
(2) Krumbo Reservoir
Then continue driving east on the gravel road to Krumbo Reservoir (about 2 mi. further), where the road ends at a boat ramp. Scope the reservoir for Common Loons, mergansers, Goldeneyes, Western and Clarks Grebes, Double-crested Cormorants. You can also walk up into the brush to get a better look over the reservoir. There is an outhouse at this stop, and picnic tables. Drive back to the west on the gravel road, and after about ½ mile, park at the metal bridge across a spillway. At Krumbo spillway look for Eared and Horned and Pied-billed Grebes, and perhaps a closer look at some birds that you saw in the distance from the boat ramp. Leave Krumbo and head west to intersection with CPR then turn south on CPR and drive towards Benson Pond, about 1 mile.
(3) Benson Pond
At Benson Pond, park and walk along north side of pond, look for warblers and woodpeckers in cottonwoods next to pond. In Benson Pond, there are often a few Trumpeter Swans, and can be Tundra Swans, Great and Snowy Egrets, American White Pelicans. Check for terns flying over; scope for Black-crowned Night Heron at south end. Once you reach NE corner of pond on foot, instead of continuing to the east, you can make a loop by turning right (south) and walking along east side of pond on a dyke. Along the channel next to the dyke look for Belted Kingfisher, Snowy Egret; listen for American Bitterns to the south in reeds. Look for Great Horned Owls nesting in cottonwoods. Continue along dike when it turns east, to a metal bridge across the channel, walk across the bridge and circle back around, through a good area for flycatchers and warblers. There are usually Great Horned Owls nesting somewhere in the cottonwoods.
(4) Frenchglen
Drive north on CPR about 1 mile then take first left to get back to Hwy 205. At Hwy 205, turn left (south) and go to Frenchglen for lunch, served 11:30am – 2:30pm, they have good sandwiches and potato salad and ice tea. Then walk around the town of Frenchglen, starting with side yards of hotel. There is always a collection of blackbirds, and sometimes a Grackle, in a puddle of water behind the hotel; look for Say’s Phoebe along wood fences behind hotel. Look for Orioles and Warblers and Black-headed Grossbeaks in trees around town.
(5) Hilltop south of Frenchglen
Leaving Frenchglen, drive south on Hwy 205 up a steep hillside, about 1 mile to MP 60 at top of hill overlooking Frenchglen with view of the Steens, pull out and park in wide areas next to highway. Mountain Bluebirds used to nest in a birdhouse there but haven’t seen them in 2016-2018. Walk into area on south side of road, look for Gray Flycatcher, Chipping Sparrow, and look for Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in the Juniper trees, especially moving around in the low branches near the ground – it is suspected that they nest in the area. Have also seen Black-throated Gray Warblers here.
(6) Page Springs Campground
Drive back on Hwy 205 to Frenchglen to the north, and turn right on gravel road just south of Frenchglen Hotel to go to Page Springs Campground, about 2 miles east of Hwy 205. At the fork in the road, go left to Page Springs (not right to Steens Mtn. Resort) and cross a small bridge, then turn right and drive into campground. This is also the intersection for one of the roads that goes up to the top of the Steens Mountains, but the road is usually closed until late May due to snow. Listen for Yellow-breasted Chat around the bridge and along the entrance road into the campground in mid-May or later. Park and walk around the campground, check camping spots in the NE area of the campground for House Wren, there are several houses in the trees. Check the rock walls to the east for Canyon Wren, Rock Wren, and for nesting Great Horned Owls. Look in the creek that meanders through the campground for Cinnamon Teal and other ducks. Say’s Phoebes nest in the area. You can also drive to the south end of the campground and park in a lot, then walk on a trail that starts at the parking lot, but watch out for rattlesnakes. Long-eared Owls have been reported to nest along this trail. At night in the summer, Common Poorwills call from the cliffs to the west of the campground.
(7) P Ranch
After Page Springs, drive back towards Frenchglen but turn north on CPR before Hwy 205, about 1 mile east of Hwy 205 to go to P Ranch. Park in the parking lot, it has an outhouse. Walk on trails along creek (look for warblers) or to a barn. Look for vultures roosting in tall trees in evening and early morning; check the tower for Great Horned Owls.
(8) CPR from P Ranch to Benson Pond
Continue driving north on the CPR, and if mid-May or later look for Bobolinks in the fields of grass on either side of the CPR. Ring-necked Pheasants are numerous along this road in mid-April and later. Look for Sandhill Crane in the fields, a few pairs nest at the refuge. Expect to see Northern Harrier, and in May, White-faced Ibis flocks. As you get further north, towards an areas marked as Knox Ponds, and then just south of Benson Pond, there may be water along the east side of the road, good for ducks in April, and they can still be there into May. Best viewed in the afternoon, with the sun south and west of you as you drive north. Look and listen for American Bittern, Virginia Rail, and Sora in areas where water and reeds are next to the road, especially as you approach Benson Pond from the south. About ½ mile north of Benson Pond, turn left on gravel road that connects to Hwy 205.

North half of Refuge & Burns:
From Diamond Hotel, stop in at Buena Vista ponds (Hwy 205 entrance), maybe pull into sage on a small dirt road near MP 33 to look for sparrows in morning; on to HQ. After HQ, drive back out towards Hwy 205 on Sod House Lane (if ever there between Aug 15 and Oct 15, worthwhile to visit Sod House Ranch which is open only between those dates). Once on Hwy 205, head north and stop almost immediately at Narrows (not the Narrows RV park, unless you are low on gas, but the U-shaped Narrows pullout). Continuing up Hwy 205, north of Wrights Point, check substation pond at approx. MP 6. Turn west on Hotchkiss Road (MP 2) & stop at sewage pond (which is just west of Egan Rd. intersection with Hotchkiss) if time before lunch (otherwise, stop after lunch), then to get into Burns, take Egan Rd. north and turn left (west) onto Filmore, to reach Juniper BBQ, lunch served until 2pm at Juniper BBQ (except closed Sundays). Then drive west to nearest gas station (Shell), and after that continue westward on Hwy 205 a few miles to Greenhouse lane, stay on Greenhouse lane to go back to Hwy 205. Travel south on Hwy 205 to Ruh Red Road. Should now be afternoon, with sun behind you, travel east on Ruh Red Road, up to Lawen. Go east towards Crane, pull in briefly to Crane Hot Springs (which is west of Crane) to check small pond. Then continue to Crane junction, skip the town of Crane, turn south to stay on Hwy 78. At the Y in the road, go straight (do not continue on road marked as Hwy 20 McDermott / Winnemucca). If you get to the New Princeton Store you went the wrong way. Signs for the road you should follow going straight south say: Diamond and French Round Barn. From now on, stay on pavement, going towards Round Barn, past the Diamond Craters, and road will T into Diamond Lane. Then turn left (east) to go back to Diamond Hotel.

Loop to Fields and around Steens Mtn.:
From Diamond Hotel, drive to Hwy 205, south to Frenchglen, stop at Roaring Springs pond and also check cliffs for White-throated Swallows and Rock Doves; check sand dune pond before you go through the pass for Goldeneye, Scaup, etc.; go through pass and stop in pass next to high cliff walls to look for Chukar; then continue to Fields. Have a milkshake and lunch at Fields (if they are not too crowded) and check the oasis and check around the town of Fields. Get gas in Fields. Optional, if time: head south of Fields to Cottonwood Creek, road goes to west a little way and you park then walk up a trail. Then head back north, go straight instead of turning east, to go towards Andrews on paved road. Look for Black-throated Sparrows at the first vista of the Alvord Desert. You will pass the borax lakes. There is a trail that goes up the steep side of the Steens, where you can look for mountain sheep. Keep going north, will hit gravel road (approx. halfway between Andrews and Hwy 78?) Keep going north until you hit Hwy 78, then head NW on HW 78 to New Princeton, then back to Diamond as described in North loop itinerary.

Saturday, May 12, 2018


The Murre the Merrier team, raising funds for Portland Audubon Society in a 1-day Birdathon from Portland to the coast 5/12/18.

Team photo taken at Oceanside Beach

Morning highlights: Western Wood-peewee and Western Tanager at Pittock Mansion; Hermit Warblers, Hammond's Flycatcher, Evening Grosbeak, and 2 American Dippers at Jones Creek Day Use Area in the Coast Range on the way to Tillamook.

Jones Creek Day Use Area

We saw 2 Black-bellied Plovers and a Whimbrel at Sitka Sedge Natural Area.

Sitka Sedge Natural Area

We had lunch at the beach house of our leader's parents in Pacific City, overlooking Haystack Rock where we saw Tufted Puffin and Osprey. In the afternoon, we encountered dense fog at Cape Meares but managed to spot a Red-necked Grebe among the Surf Scoters. The fog was further out at Oceanside Beach, enabling us to see Pacific Loons, Black Oystercatcher, and our eponym, Common Murre. Purple Martins were in the birdhouses at Bay City Oyster Company.

Looking south from Bay City Oyster Company

Sewage Ponds at Bay City and Nehalem added only a few ducks to our list (Northern Shoveler, Gadwall; Ring-necked Duck, 1 Bufflehead). The team finished the day at Dawson Creek in Hillsboro, with a total of 101 birds for the day!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Malheur in April

A large mixed flock of Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese that are typically here in April, near Burns.

Highlights that we found at headquarters today were a bright Nashville Warbler and Bushtits. We also saw a Harris’s Sparrow that has been seen at the feeders for the past two weeks.
Nashville Warbler


Harris's Sparrow

Looking North from Benson Pond

Benson Pond has Trumpeter Swans (one with a green neck band) and several Tundra Swans. Sora and Virginia Rail are calling at Buena Vista ponds, and an American Bittern was hiding in plain sight just south of Benson Pond along the CPR.

American Bittern

Krumbo Pond has water, and a good diversity of ducks. At Krumbo Reservoir were Horned Grebes and Eared Grebes in their bright breeding plumage, and a Common Loon.

There is a good amount of water in the fields near Burns, along Greenhouse and Hotchkiss Lanes, but almost no water at the Narrows. Ruh Red Road has no water except one small area towards the east end, that yielded an interesting Blue-winged Teal X Cinnamon Teal hybrid.

Blue-winged Teal X Cinnamon Teal hybrid, with Cinnamon Teal

For comparison, here is a Blue-winged Teal (right) I found along Diamond Lane the next day.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Virginia's Warbler

A NE Portland homeowner reported a Virginia's Warbler coming to his suet feeder. I went to look for it on 3 days with no luck, then the bird started coming to the suet feeder more often and I got to see it 11/18/17.

Camera comparison: photo above taken with Sony RX10 iv;
photo below taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Prothonotary Warbler

Along with a small group of birders, I got to see this rare bird, thanks to a hospitable homeowner who invited us into his yard in NW Multnomah county.

It has been coming in to the birdbath every evening like clockwork at 7pm for just a few minutes, starting 4 days ago.
This is only the 8th Prothonotary Warbler ever documented in Oregon.