Coyotes in Malheur

When I tell people I’m going on a “birding trip” that’s only half true because I’m really going on a “Nature trip” and if I happen to see some birds while I’m there, all the better.

I got up at first light Tuesday morning, fixed a light breakfast, and headed out for a day of exploring Malheur. I began the day with a shot of a coyote that ran on first sight, but paused and looked back as soon as it reached cover:

Coyote in tall grass

Strangely, I also ended my drive through Malheur with this shot of a young coyote,

Young Coyote walking on road

walking on the road near the small community of Frenchglen, much too boldly for my taste and probably for its own good. I drove right past it and had the feeling if I’d called it it would have been willing to eat out of my hand. Hunting may be banned on the Wildlife Refuge, but I doubt local farmers would be quite as accommodating.

I felt much better the next day when driving back through the refuge I saw this coyote that appeared to be hunting mice in recently hayed fields,

Coyote hunting mice

and across the road a young coyote seemed to be emulating its parent,

coyote in field

though it showed much more curiosity about me than its parent did. I suspect it’s better for everyone if coyotes do what comes naturally and avoid becoming dependent on humans for food.

Back to Malheur

When I arrived at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Monday afternoon, the first thing that caught my attention was the silhouette of a White-Faced Ibis, a bird I hadn’t seen when I was here the week before, a bird I hadn’t seen since last year,

Silhouette of Ibis in Flight

and yet it took but a moment to recognize its distinctive shape.

And once I recognized it and began to look for it, I saw it in the next two days I was there,

White-Faced Ibis

but perhaps this shot, taken minutes later, might have been the best shot I got while I was there this time.

Out in the distance, too far to get a good shot, I also spotted a small flock of White Pelicans feeding,

White Pelicans Feeding

a bird I was to see considerably more of in the next few days.

Of course, I was also on the lookout for Western Grebes, and, sure enough, I was rewarded with this shot of a rather large chick riding on her back.

Western Grebe with Chick

A great beginning for an hour or so of birding.

Fall Colors

Unwilling to sit home all alone, I drove to Theler Wetlands Friday morning even though it wasn’t particularly sunny and I had no great hopes of seeing many birds because birding is slow this time of year.

I was greeted, though, by a Marsh Hawk flying remarkably close, a bird I seldom see here:

Northern Harrier

I was also pleased to see that the Great Blue Herons have returned in larger numbers now that the breeding season is over. Since my hard drive is already full of GBH shots, I tried to find a new way of seeing one, and I liked this one that resembles a giraffe or a Brontosaurus:

Great Blue heron

I was also struck by the brown and white chest feathers, which are quite similar in appearance to both the green heron and the American Bittern. There must be a survival benefit to this pattern or it would seem quite unlikely such dissimilar birds would all share this characteristic.

There really weren’t many birds, though. The Canadian Geese haven’t returned and most songbirds, including the Cedar Waxwings were absent. Of course, it’s times like this that I begin to search more thoroughly and almost always see something I haven’t seen before, like this rather large frog that blended in so well with the fallen leaves that I had a hard time locating him in my telephoto lens.

Orange Frog

Of course, it wouldn’t be Fall without an obligatory shot of leaves, would it?

Fall Leaves


Despite the gorgeous weather and the abundance of birds at Malheur Monday, I only stayed there for about four hours before I turned around and drove the 400+ mile home. Skye who finally seemed able to travel after visiting a new veterinarian had a sudden relapse that evening and kept me up the whole time we were camping. Finally, at midnight I decided that I needed to return home and get him back to the vet. It’s a good thing I did because otherwise I might never have gotten him home.

Although the Prednisone made him feel better temporarily, he relapsed as soon as the drugs were reduced, relapsed to the point that he couldn’t walk up the stairs and had trouble getting in and out of the house. After much thought and much agony, I finally decided that it wasn’t fair to try to keep him alive because I was going to miss him so much. So, I had him put to sleep today.

The reality is that he has been my closest companion since I retired a little over ten years ago. Most of the time we’ve been in the same room or linked by a leash. Since Leslie’s still working, I spent more time with him than with anyone else.

The highpoint of our adventures together came at Malheur last year,
and Skye, who never liked to get his feet wet, seemed particularly at home in the deserts of Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington.


I bought my new Honda Element because I thought it would be the perfect camping vehicle for the two us and had planned several trips this Summer before he became ill.

Malheur is a wonderful place, and I’m thinking of returning next week for a few days, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to bird there without wistfully remembering the wonderful times Skye and I had there.