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Blogging Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Friends of Malheur

I can’t remember ever visiting Malheur National Wildlife Refuge without stopping at the headquarters. It’s a great place to find out where the hotspots are on the refuge, but it’s also a great place to get shots of birds I seldom see anywhere else. Most of the birds are taking advantage of the feeders, like this male Evening Grosbeak

and this female Evening Grosbeak.

The spilled seeds are liable to attract ground-feeders like this male California Quail.

The numerous ground squirrels seem to have attracted a Great Horned Owl family. The refuge had a scope set up on the tree where three fledglings had just left the nest. This little guy looked like he was all tuckered out and needed a little help standing up.

Friends of Malheur , which has just relocated their office, is a great place to stop.

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Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Short-Eared Owl

I’m not sure if it was the highlight of my trip, but the moment this Short-Eared Owl swooped down and landed in the ditch right next to my pickup was a very special moment.

Unfortunately, I was as surprised to see it there as it seemed to be by the telephoto lens suddenly pointed at him. He was gone before I could tell my camera to focus on the owl, not the reeds.

I did manage to get a clearer shot of it as it flew away.

I knew instantly when it landed that this was a “lifer” for me. I had no idea what kind of owl it was and seeing it fly away definitely confirmed that.

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Malheur Wildlife Refuge

White-Faced Ibis at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

The best chance to test my new camera’s ability to capture birds in flight was taking shots of the innumerable White-faced Ibis we saw at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. While we’ve long seen ibis at Malheur, I can’t remember ever seeing so many before.

It’s relatively easy to photograph them at a distance when they’re feeding in wetlands, but you’re more apt to see them flying from field to field.

Once you’ve seen them, it’s impossible to miss their silhouette in the sky.

It’s even harder to miss their iridescent colors

when seen in bright sunlight.

Leslie says that they always remind her of Egypt, and I’ll have to admit that I could hardly believe my eyes when I first saw these “exotic” birds in the southern Oregon high desert.

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Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Malheur Raptors

Since I spent a not-so-small fortune on a new camera that was supposed to be superior to my old camera for photographing birds in flight, I tried to focus on that during our visit to Malheur. I also discovered that since the new camera is a full-frame camera, unlike my previous birding camera, that the pictures had to be cropped much more severely than I’m used to doing.

This female Northern Harrier was

quite aways away but I thought the shot was worth saving if for no other reason than that it was my first shot of a bird in flight with this camera.

This male Northern Harrier

was also a long ways away, but the light was better and I was really happy with how sharp it came out.

I didn’t recognize this Osprey

when it flew over because it was in the shadows and the white breast looked dark and because I really didn’t expect to see an Osprey in the middle of the desert. I was really happy that I could lighten the breast while producing very little noise.

My favorite shot, though, was this one of a Swainson’s Hawk.

I’ve only seen one or two Swainson’s Hawks in all my years of birding, but, more importantly, it’s the kind of shot I’ve been unable to capture in the past.