The drive between John Day and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge unexpectedly proved the most exciting part of the four-day trip. THE most heart-stopping moment of the trip came right out of John Day when four deer suddenly appeared on the right side of the road as I came around a corner, until one somehow appeared on the left side of the car. I’m still not sure how I missed hitting one of the four, perhaps because the car was lugging and I was only going 35 mph.
But that moment was quickly forgotten when I happened to look out on large open field as I was motoring down Highway 395 at 60 miles an hour and spotted these Sandhill Cranes. Of course I couldn’t safely stop, but I turned around and circled back. I must have sat there shooting pictures for a half hour, capturing several great poses. Unfortunately those photos turned out grainy because it was 6:00 AM and clouds obscured what little light there was. These photos were taken from the exact same spot in the evening when I was returning to John Day and there was more light.
I’ve only seen Sand Hill Cranes at Northwest Trek, and at quite a distance, so I was enthralled by their unexpected presence beside the highway, especially since they seemed entirely indifferent to my existence.
I’m assuming that this pose was part of the courtship ritual, but, if so, the partner seemed more concerned with personal grooming than her partner’s considerable attributes.
I happened to look across the drainage ditch where I was photographing, and what should I see but a pair of Cinnamon Teal, quickly becoming a common theme in this trip.
I was only a few miles down the road when I had to pull over again because I spotted this antelope, the first one I’ve seen in the wild in nearly 40 years.
Thirty five miles from the Malheur Refuge I spotted a flock of Bonaparte Gulls, the first time I’ve ever seen them in breeding colors.
After a great start to the day, I had great expectations for the time I would actually spend at Malheur.