Great-Tailed Grackle

While watching the Forster Tern diving at the Bear River headquarters I heard a very unusual sound coming from a nearby post and looked around to see this Great-Tailed Grackle, a bird I’ve never even heard of before.

Great-Tailed Grackle

Clearly preoccupied with the circling tern, it ignored me as I snapped shots.

Great-Tailed Grackle

When it finally noticed me, it took off, clearly showing why it is named Great-Tailed.

Great-Tailed Grackle

Forster’s Tern at Bear River

I seldom stop at the Bear River Migratory Refuge headquarters, but I was fascinated by the birds we saw there on this trip, particularly this Forster's Tern.

I particularly liked the symmetry of this shot,

but there were so many good shots that I found it hard to choose between them.

Heck, I was even happy when the tern landed nearby and seemed to scold me for interfering with its hunting.

Still Lots of Birds at Bear River

What do you do when you discover that half of the refuge is dry? First, you spend a lot of time looking at very, very parched ground since there isn’t much else you can do. If you’re lucky, you spot a bird taking advantage of new habitats, like this Curlew,

and, for the first time, see it fish in a stream.

And when you get back to a wet area you can watch a male Ruddy Duck

trying to attract a mate by blowing some impressive bubbles.

You might even chance on an Eastern Kingbird sitting on one of the few branches to be found around what is left of the pond.

Magically, places like Malheur or Bear River manage to attract wildlife even under extreme conditions.

Another Sandhill Crane

We went to Bear River Migratory Refuge to see Western Grebe and Avocet chicks — we didn’t see a single one. Instead, the highlight of the visit was another sighting of a Sandhill Crane chick, not once twice.

If that wasn’t ironical enough, the best pictures of the chick were taken by Leslie who was using the camera I just replaced and an older, less powerful lens. As it turned out, we sighted the cranes on Leslie’s side of the car, and I had my camera attached to the door mount, making it difficult, though not quite impossible to get a shot. By swinging the door open, I was able to get this shot.

The biggest problem was the high grass between us and the Cranes, which probably prevented them from being spooked but made focusing damn near impossible.

We circles a second time in the afternoon when we had switched sides in the car and we spotted the Cranes again, but this time they were further away.

Leslie shot a lot of shots of the parents and chicks; so, it was difficult to decide which shot a liked best, especially since all of them had technical faults. She fought the same grass I did but was able to catch them when they were less obscured.

Technically, this seems like the clearest shot,

but this was my favorite pose.

If you’re into irony, we probably saw more Avocets in this series of shots than we did anywhere else.

Pictures or no pictures, we both were excited by the sighting. It made the trip worthwhile just by itself.