Malheur NWR: A Report


Checking Out Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Checking Out Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

WC and Mrs. WC headed over to Burns, Oregon and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. We could tell you that we went to check out the damage done by the criminals and vandals who attempted to take the Refuge over. But that was an incidental reason; mostly, we went to see and photography the birds.

Here’s a sampling of what we found.

Burrowing Owls at Their Nest, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Burrowing Owls at Their Nest, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

It’s always a treat to find a Burrowing Owl burrow. In the wetter parts of the Silvies and Blitzen River Valleys, there were some old friends, too.

Sandhill Cranes, Greenhouse Road, Burns, Oregon

Sandhill Cranes, Greenhouse Road, Burns, Oregon

The ponds, channels and seasonal streams supported thousands of waterfowl. Most were the usual suspects, but a few were nothing short of spectacular.

Cinnamon Teal, Center Patrol Road, Malheur NWR, Oregon

Cinnamon Teal, Center Patrol Road, Malheur NWR, Oregon

The wetlands were packed with thousands of Blackbirds, mostly Brewer’s and Red-winged, but there were a number of their less well known cousins, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, as well.

Yellow-headed Blackbird, U.S. 20, outside of Burns, Oregon

Yellow-headed Blackbird, U.S. 20, outside of Burns, Oregon

We drove back along U.S. 395 and U.S. 26, which got us up into some of the mountain habitats, where we found this very handsome fellow.

White-breasted Nuthatch, Idlewild Campground, Harney County, Oregon

White-breasted Nuthatch, Idlewild Campground, Harney County, Oregon

As for the post-“occupation” Refuge, it is all open except the Refuge Headquarters and the area immediately around them. That’s a bit annoying; some of the best birding is on the Headquarters grounds, which functions as a kind of oasis of green in the sage brush desert. But the fault isn’t with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; the blame goes squarely to the criminals who trashed the place. Those thugs ran a bulldozer through an archaeological site, among other acts of selfish stupidity. Those kinds of messes don’t get cleaned up quickly or easily.

For now, we only have most of our Refuge back, not all of it. But that’s a lot more than the felonious thugs wanted. Some of the damage they caused can never be undone. And WC isn’t just talking about the physical damage here.

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