Sandhill Cranes with Chick

One of the highlights of our trip to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was spotting these Sandhill Cranes with a chick. Sadly, I’ll have to admit that even though I was the one that spotted the cranes, I didn’t see the chick until Leslie told me to stop as we were about to move on. She insisted that she saw a chick, even though I never saw it. When you look at this photo, I think I could be forgiven for not spotting the chick without binoculars — it’s on the left side of the screen in the tall, brown grass.

When I got back to camp that evening and looked at the computer screen, I found that the chick was somewhere in all but one of the shots. I sharpened the little guy in this shot to make it more obvious that mom/dad was keeping an eye on it the whole time.

Surprisingly when I looked back at shots I had taken earlier in the morning of another pair of cranes, there was a chick following the one on the left.

Although we’ve seen Sandhill Cranes several times in the past few years, we’ve never seen a chick before.

Back to Birding

Our recent 10-day birding trip began in the parking lot of The Narrows RV Park, which is at the edge of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The campground is full of birdhouses and feeders, and, more importantly, birds.

Despite choosing a home in the middle of a campground some of the birds seem remarkably shy and elusive, like this Bullock’s Oriole

which was more than willing to reveal its presence by persistent chatter but unwilling to actually show itself. The early evening sunset made it seem even brighter than it does during the day.

Unlike the Bullock’s Oriole, the Western Kingbirds

seemed largely indifferent to humans, moving a little way down the telephone wire as you approached.

This Kildeer

which had chosen to build its nest in one of the campsites hardly made a peep but wasn’t about to leave its nest.

A Quick Stop-over at Malheur

It’s a serious drive from our house to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah, so we’ve made it a habit in recent years to stop at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on the way. I didn’t have any great expectations about finding birds, but I knew from experience I would see birds and animals I probably wouldn’t see around home.

I was shocked to see how far the lake had receded since we were there at the beginning of summer. Yellowlegs were taking advantage of the concentrated fish.

I didn’t recognize them at first because I’ve never seen so many of Yellowlegs together before.

We got an early start the next morning, heading South on our way to Elko, Nevada. This coyote glanced at us, and immediately went back to hunting in the recently cut hay fields.

A little further down the road, Leslie spotted this deer peering at us through the unusually tall grass.

A small flock of Red-Shafted/Yellow-Shafted intergrade Flickers escorted us through the refuge for several miles, giving me a chance to finally capture a decent shot before it, too, flew off up the road.

Though I would have been disappointed if I’d driven all the way to Malheur to bird and seen so few birds, it offered a welcome refuge from endless miles of nothing.

A Morning Drive through Malheur

Although our main destination was Bear River in Utah, I love Malheur and wasn’t going to leave without spending another morning birding before heading out. Although I couldn’t manage to capture a shot of the Bob-o-link that I look for this time of year, we did spot a Sand Hill Crane in the same field where we usually spot the Bob-o-links.

The highlight of the morning probably came when we spotted a pair of Great Horned Owls

in the small trees than line the Blitzen River,

though I’ll have to admit that I’m particularly fond of the Yellow Warblers

and Willow Flycatchers

that frequent the willows that line the southern end of the refuge.

You never know what you will find at Malheur. This is the first time I’ve seen Cedar Waxwings there.