On the Way to Malheur

I’ve been planning a Spring trip to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge since last Fall. I even invested in a new heater and a new ice chest to deal with the cold nights and the hot days. Unfortunately, I was unable to go in early Spring when I’d intended to go, and I’d promised to take Lael back and forth to school next week, so that left with me a small window of opportunity. So, despite the forecast for rain four of the five days I intended to be there, I decided to go.

It poured all the way down I-5 and over Mt. Hood, but the rain turned to heavy clouds once I got on the other side of the Cascades. Clouds, particularly heavy clouds, aren’t ideal when photographing, but they’re certainly better than rain when you’re car camping.

As I neared the refuge, I knew I’d made the right decision, no matter what the weather. There were birds I seldom see everywhere I looked. I had to stop the car in the middle of the highway long before I got to the refuge to take pictures of this Yellow Headed Blackbird, a bird I haven’t seen since I was last in Malheur.

Yellow-Headed Blackbird

I’d never seen so many terns before, and I couldn’t resist trying to capture them in flight,

Franklin Tern

though I would have loved to have had a blue, instead of gray, sky behind them.

There were flocks of White Pelicans right beside the road,

White Pelicans

though the high winds and cloudy skies made it look more like ocean swells than the small, quiet pond I expected.

I had to double back, though, when I spotted a pair of Avocets in breeding colors,

 Avocet in breeding colors

a bird I’ve been trying desperately to photograph ever since I saw it in a brochure two years ago.

I even spotted another target-bird, an Eared Grebe in breeding colors.

Eared Grebe

Though I was frustrated by the bird’s shyness and by the poor lighting, I was thrilled to see that they were here, figuring I get better pictures in the following days.

As expected, I did get some great light while I was there, but the weather was a challenge. Although the clouds cleared out in the evening, high winds made it nearly impossible to get out of the car or cook outside, much less bird. I ended up coming home a day early when afternoon temperatures dropped to 37 degrees and rain squalls made me run for cover several times.

Still, it’s probably a good thing I couldn’t shoot more than I did because I came home with well over 1,000 shots and have spent many hours just trashing the worst of the shots. In reality, most of the shots on this page will probably be deleted before I’m through because I got better shots of all these birds in the days to follow.That’s not unusual because later shots often turn out to be the best shots.

I usually stop a fair distance away and take shots in case I frighten a bird by approaching with camera in hand. More often than not, though, I end up getting a bit closer without disturbing birds even though I quit approaching if I see that a bird is getting nervous. Deleting pictures is an integral part of shooting digitally, I’m afraid.

Summer Residents

The calendar may say it’s still Spring, but the flowers and birds all seem to be saying that Summer has arrived. All of our winter residents (Goldeneyes, Mergansers, Grebes) seem to have left and summer residents have arrived.

This is the second week I’ve glimpsed the Cedar Waxwings at Theler, and this time I even managed to get a passable shot.

Cedar Waxwings

The Tree Swallows seem to have taken residence in nesting boxes, leaving the Barn Swallows who nest under the boardwalk to occupy the railings while not building their nests under the boardwalk.

Barn Swallow

And as I sat watching television the other evening I noticed a hummingbird resting in the front garden.


This is the earliest I’ve had a hummingbird stay around the yard. The crocosmia haven’t bloomed yet, and they are what usually attract the hummingbirds. This year, though, some native volunteers seem to have drawn them.


While I enjoy the sunshine, it generally means birding locally will dramatically slow down in the upcoming weeks, at least until the Fall migration starts.

Theler Flowers

The weather was better than the birding at Theler Wetlands Sunday and today. Although I did manage to get a few bird shots, my favorite shots were flower shots.

I’ve always thought this red and yellow Columbine was a striking flower, reminding me of a shooting star.


I’m really not sure what this flower is or even whether it was on a tree or just a large plant. This is really larger than life-size, but it struck me as a mini-bouquet.

unidentifiable flower

I’m sure many people view foxglove as a weed, and I’m sure this one was a volunteer since it was growing next to a shed and not in a flower bed. Still, it’s a favorite that I always liked grow when it shows up in one of my own flowerbeds.


The dominant flower now, though, is definitely the wild roses that line much of the one and a half mile long trail. Though they’re not all is perfect as this one

Wild Rose

they always strikes me as the archetypal “flower” by which all other flowers should be judged.

Hottest Day of the Year

I just got back from a week-long trip to Malheur cut short because of temperatures in the high 30’s accompanied by “showers.” Heck, there was nearly white-out conditions in Willamette Pass on the way home.

Can’t explain why it was nearly 80° here on Saturday. But it was too beautiful of a day to spend editing the 1,000 plus photos I took on my trip. With rain forecast most of the upcoming week, I decided I would wait to post shots from the trip and be satisfied with sharing the best of them with Leslie.

We, and half the city of Tacoma, apparently, decided to visit Pt. Defiance Park Saturday. Luckily most were visiting the zoo, not the Rhododendron Garden. I love the garden any time the flowers are in bloom, but the photographer in me loves it even more when brilliant sunshine filters down through the forest cover.

Rhododendron in Forest

That sunshine makes it harder to avoid blowing out the highlights on the flowers, but that’s a small price to pay for the eye-popping colors it produces.

Pink and White Rhododendron

Although some of the plants are beyond their prime, others like this azalea seemed to be at their peak.


Walking from light to shadow, I was struck by how different the same flowers look in direct sunlight versus in the shade.

Purple Rhododendron?

I would have said this was a purple rhododendron, but seen in full light I would be tempted to say it was white with purple tinges.

I like to think that Gerard Manley must have been inspired by something like the Rhododendron Garden when he wrote:

Pied Beauty
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                Praise him.