[Tweeters] Malheur NWR, Oregon. Field trip May 18th-22nd, 2013

Shep Thorp shepthorp at gmail.com
Mon Jun 10 05:11:45 PDT 2013

Hi Tweets,

Jerry Broadus and myself were invited to join a group of 12 birders
from Tahoma Audubon Society for a wonderful trip to Malheur NWR. We
observed over 150 species and highlights included Ross' Goose, Clark's
Grebe, Golden Eagle, Swainson's Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Burrowing Owl,
Greater Sandhill Cranes, White-faced Ibis, Black-crowned Night Heron,
Franklin's Gull, Black Tern, Forster Tern, Common Tern, mating
American Avocet, mating Black-necked Stilt, mating Long-billed Curlew,
Western Willet, mating Wilson's Phalarope, Red-necked Phalarope,
Black-chinned Hummingbird, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Gray Flycatcher,
Loggerhead Shrike, Red-eyed vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher,
Yellow-breasted Chat, Sage Sparrow, Black-throated Sparrow, Lazuli
Bunting, Bobolink and Great-tailed Grackle.

On our way down, we drove through Madras and Prineville along SR 27
and the Crooked Creek Highway to SR 20. This route is quick with
beautiful scenery and plenty of great birds to see including Golden
Eagle, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Mountain Bluebird. After arriving
in Hines/Burns, we visited the Burns STP. The STP and flooded fields
within a 1/4 of a mile had hundreds of phalarope, mostly Wilson's
Phalarope, but plenty of Red-necked Phalarope and nice numbers of
waterfowl. Unexpectedly we discovered 10 Snow Geese and 1 Ross' Goose
in an adjacent field which seemed late in the season to us.

On our first day we birded Hotchkiss Lane, Greenhouse Lane and Potter
Swamp in the area just south of Hines/Burns. The flooded fields and
swamp provided great habitat to attract Greater Sandhill Crane,
White-faced Ibis, Long-billed Curlew, Wilson's and Red-necked
Phalarope, Wilson's Snipe, Cinnamon Teal, Gadwall, and Yellow-headed
Blackbird. There were also several American Avocet and Black-necked
Stilts and we observed the stilts breeding at Potter Swamp. On Green
House Lane there is a red barn adjacent to a feed lot that provided a
nest site for a Great Horned Owl, an adult and juvenile were observed.
The highway that runs from Burns to Malheur NWR is 205. A few miles
south of burns on the east side of the road is a large electrial power
transformer with a water retention pond directly north. As in years
past, we observed a dozen Black Tern and a variety of swallows (Bank
Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow,
and Violet-green Swallow) feeding over the water. The water level was
not as high as last year, but higher then two years ago. There were
plenty of birds to see from highway 205 approaching and through the
narrows of Malheur Lake and Mudd Lake. At the south west corner of
Ruh Red Road and 205 there was a Burrowing Owl with young easily seen
from the road, another nest burrow 3 miles east of 205 on the north
side of Ruh Red Road marked by a pink ribbon was quiet and no owls
were seen. Dozens of American Avocets, Wilson's Phalarope, American
White Pelican, waterfowl and American Coots were easily observed. The
Narrows was still a great place to observe and study Clark's Grebe and
Western Grebe. The Golden Eagle nest on the cliff south of Mudd Lake,
1 mile west of 205 on South Harney Road, was active but we did not see
any adult birds. The Malheur NWR Headquarters is a great place to see
passerines and is a well known migrant trap, we didn't see anything
unusual but had wonderful close up looks at Black-chinned Hummingbird,
Dusky and Gray Flycatchers, Yellow/Wilson's/Townsend's and
MacGillivray's Warbler. There had been reports of Black and White
Warbler toward the end of our trip but we were not able to locate this
rarity. A great new feature of headquarters was the road to the
Refuge boat ramp which now the public can drive on. The road is just
east and north of headquarters and takes you to the south edge of
Malheur Lake with surrounding fresh water marsh and good visibility of
the artificial island constructed for Caspian Tern breeding. Here we
had wonderful observation of wading water birds and aerial water birds
and added Great Egret, American Bittern, Eared Grebe, Caspian Tern,
California Gull, Ring-billed Gull and Herring Gull to our list. From
headquarters we drove east and birded "raptor alley" between Princeton
and Crane on SR 78. We probably observed over 15 Golden Eagles and
also saw Bald Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk, Swainson's Hawk, Red-tailed
Hawk, Prairie Falcon, American Kestrel and Loggerhead Shrike. In the
sage we had terrific views of Sage Thrasher and Brewers Sparrow. From
78 we drove south of Lawen to connect with the east end of Ruh Red
Road and bird the north end of Malheur Lake. Here we were treated to
breeding American Avocets, and hundreds of birds including Long-billed
Dowitchers, Least Sandpipers, Phalaropes, Stilts, Egrets, Herons,
Ibis, Grebes, Ducks, Teal, Pelicans, Cormorants, Gulls, Swallows, and
Marsh Wren - the quintessential Malheur experience.

Many of us stayed in Diamond. Diamond Lane Road provided great
birding as well, as there were flooded fields on either side of the
road providing great habitat for Phalaropes, Ibis, Curlew, Willets,
Avocets, Stilt, Snipe and Blackbirds. There is a large bluff on the
south side of the road 1-2 miles west of Diamond that houses a large
colony of Bank Swallows adjacent to the road for nice views.

On our second day we birded P Ranch on the south side of the Refuge,
here we were able to observe several Bobolink that breed in the fields
just north of P Ranch on either side of the Donner and Blitzen River
and the Turkey Vulture roost in the Cottonwoods and fire tower. Great
Horned Owl were seen in the Long Barn. Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow
Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Goldfinch and Wilson's Snipe
were also seen. Page Springs was very productive as well with nice
views of Yellow-breasted Chat, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Lazuli
Bunting, Bullock's Oriole. Black-crowned Night Heron was flushed from
the stream and there were many reports of Virginia Rail chicks being
fed by the adults. We stopped in at Frechglenn and very quickly
stumbled onto the Great-tailed Grackle in the wildlife observational
area directly across the road from the Inn. The area had plenty of
California Quail, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Brewers Blackbirds,
Red-winged Blackbirds, Western Kingbird and Say's Phoebe to enjoy. We
then took the Central Patrol Road, or CPR, from P Ranch up to Krumbo
Reservoir and stopped to explore Knox Pond and Benson Pond immediately
east of the road. Plenty of more great observations to enjoy,
noteworthy were Bobolink, Greater Sandhill Crane, Long-billed Curlew,
Black-necked Stilts, Eared Grebe, Clark's Grebe, Trumpeter Swan, Black
Tern, Semi-palmated Plover and 3 Great Horn Owlets with adult in stand
with CCP hut just east of Benson Pond.

On our third day we drove down to Fields Station Oasis, just south and
east of the Steens Mountains where 205 intersects with Fields-Denio
Road, to explore this migrant trap. On our way down we observed
Ferruginous Hawk and Prairie Falcon. The Oasis was very productive
with nice observation of Yellow Warbler, Wilson's Warbler,
MacGillivray's Warbler, Townsend Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler,
Orange-crowned Warbler, Warbling Vireo, Gray Flycatcher, Western
Wood-pewee, Vesper Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Western Tanager, Bullock's
Oriole, and another nest of Great Horn Owlets. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
was also seen. At the Alvord Hotsprings, the owners allowed us to
walk around and we discovered a Long-billed Curlew sitting on eggs. A
Gopher Snake slithered on top of the bird flushing it from the nest.
I used my binoculars to pull the Gopher Snake off the eggs before it
consumed one of them and chased the snake away. At the Mann Lake
Recreational Area we had great views of Sage Sparrow. And on our
return, we stopped in at Diamond Craters to find Black-throated
Sparrow and hear Canyon Wren.

On our way home, we birded the Sage Hen Rest Stop west of Hines/Burns
on SR 20. There is a very nice 0.5 mile walk here and we enjoyed
observations of Mountain Bluebirds, Gray Flycatcher, Brewer's Sparrow,
Vesper Sparrow, and Chipping Sparrow.

We had a wonderful trip which we'll remember for years with
approximately 151 species seen. Thanks to Tahoma Audubon birders for
putting this trip together and letting Jerry Broadus and myself lead.
Many thanks to Jerry for putting together a pleasurable route. Until
next time!

Good birding,
Shep Thorp
Browns Point
sthorp at theaec.com

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