Aspens in the Steen Mountains

Surprisingly, the highlight of Tuesday’s trip to Malheur wasn’t the birds, but, rather, the beautiful fall foliage that awaited me as I left Malheur and drove up the Steen Mountains. After driving through miles and miles of sagebrush and dry fields of grass, I was confronted by the beauty of aspens turning yellow and gold.

Aspen through Car Window

Since birding had been slow, I’d arrived early hoping to see migrating songbirds as I’d done last Fall. I don’t think I heard a single bird the whole time I was in camp, but I was perfectly content to wander through the campground, snapping shots,

Fall Aspen

doing my best to capture the brilliant light reflected off the fluttering aspen leaves.

Fall Aspen

It was obviously and impossible task but one that I would have gladly repeated day after day, even though it was clear that even my wide-angle lens could never capture the full scope of its beauty,

Fall Aspen

though I was certainly willing to try.

I’m Easily Entertained

Tuesday’s drive through the center of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge didn’t yield nearly as many bird shots as I’ve gotten in the past. Unfortunately, most of the birds I did see were at considerable distance or flew away as I approached in my car. And while it is exhilarating to have a flock of White Pelicans and Egrets fill the sky as you approach, it doesn’t yield the greatest of shots:

Whitle Pelicans in Flight

Probably the best bird shot of the day, was this shot of a Northern Shrike, a bird I’ve only seen once before, on an earlier trip to Malheur.

Northern Shrike

In fact, except perhaps for coyotes, dragonflies made the greatest impression on me this trip. There were so many at times you could hardly hear distant birds because of the whirring of their wings.

Luckily, I’m easily distracted and have a particular fondness for dragonflies, so I entertained myself by shooting shot

Dragonfly

after shot of these insects

Dragonfly

that have invoked a sense of wonder since I was a young child.

When I couldn’t imagine how I could use another shot, I turned to taking pictures of grasshoppers

Grasshopper

which might have been even more numerous than the dragonflies. I must admit I wondered more than once why there were so few birds when there was so much food available.