I got a 5:30 to start my second day at Malheur. I had to drive nearly 40 miles to actually get to the refuge, so my first picture was taken at 6:30 AM while the sun was still low on the horizon. I’m sure the yellow light made it easier for these Sandhill Cranes to blend in with the fields.
If they weren’t such large birds I might not have even seen them as they were quite a ways in the distance. Still, since I’ve only seen Sand Hill Cranes three or four times in my life, it was a great way to start the day.
Perhaps the best sighting of the trip was this one of a Long-Billed Curlew, taken about thirty minutes later.
This was a “first.” It would have been a perfect moment if the sun hadn’t been directly behind the curlew so that most of the body was in shadows. I had expected to see one in the wetlands, but have since discovered that grasslands is their main habitat.
This shot of my first White-Crowned Sparrow of the year
shows just how important the direction of light is in photography. I only wish I’d had the same light exposure on the Long-Billed Curlew.
Luckily, Malheur presents so many photographic opportunities that you can count on the sun cooperating some of the time if you account for it and change your position when you can. It certainly cooperated in this shot of a Yellow-Headed Blackbird at the refuge headquarters
and in this shot of a Ring-Necked Pheasant,
probably the best shot I’ve ever gotten of one.
If the light hadn’t been been shining from behind, this might well have been my all-time favorite shots of a Black-Necked Stilt.
Even under less than ideal conditions Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is one of my favorite birding destinations. I can count on seeing birds I would never see in the Puget Sound area, as well as enjoying a very different habitat. I feel blessed to have found such places throughout my lifetime, natural places that inspire and awe me.