Benson Pond is a large, seasonal pond along Center Patrol Road in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Bounded on the north by a line of magnificent, ancient willows, in spring bird migration it can be an astonishing place.
As you can see from the background, Benson Pond is an oasis of green in a desert scape. Even fifty feet from the pond is semi-arid sagebrush steppe. For birds in migration it is a place to find water, rest and forage a bit.
When WC was there, clouds of swallows – Barn, Tree and Cliff – filled the sky, feasting on a hatch of Baetis flies. The air was filled with their twittering calls and impressive displays of aerobatics. Not all the swallows were migrants; there was serious nesting activity under the rickety bridge over the irrigation canal.
Birds ranging in size from Trumpeter Swans and Great Egrets to Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets surrounded WC. In the cool spring morning in warm sunlight, WC’s poor birding skills could pick out the songs and calls of an amazing 18 species of birds. Three species of swallows, three species of blackbirds, three species of ducks, three species of sparrows, two species of goose, pheasants, ibis, cranes, woodpeckers; it was an amazing, delightful soundscape.
WC deals in words and images, but they are inadequate here, at least the words and images that WC can conjure up. For a timeless interval, it was transcendant, and WC doesn’t use that word lightly.
WC doesn’t know how others enjoy their springs. But for WC these moments, these times when the world, however briefly, seems wholly wild, whole and healthy, and the highlights of a marvelous season.
WC hasn’t begun to describe her all the birds of Benson Pond. There’s a Turkey Vulture Roost, a Great-horned Owl nest, Mule Deer, Black-eared Jackrabbits, Cottontail Rabbits and Coyotes. It’s an exuberant concentration of the diversity of life.
WC has been privileged – maybe more than privileged – to see some extraordinary natural sights. Scarlet Ibises returning to their roost in Trinidiad, a sky full of bugling Sandhill Cranes at the Delta Ag Project, long ribbons of Tundra Swans and Trumpeter Swans moving across a bluebird sky, the cacophony of dozens of Montezuma Oropendolas in a Costa Rican dawn. WC’s remarkable morning at Benson Pond gets added to that list.