Malheur Wildlife Refuge


I’m standing on the edge of the Blitzen River, watching – and being watched by – a pair of Northern Harriers.  I think they must have a nest nearby, since they don’t seem to like the fact that I’m hanging around.

The female does a couple of fly-bys, checking me out.  The third time, she is vocal in her displeasure: she doesn’t want me there.


That spurs her partner into action.  He screeches a response and circles me as well, giving me the evil eye on the first pass and diving at my head on the second.  I swing my arms and he veers off, but I’m duly chastened.    I get the heck out of there.


The Malheur Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon is a grand birding destination, especially in early May before the mosquitoes have woken up.  It’s an oasis in the high desert, with hundreds of bird species both stopping through as they migrate north and nesting.  We camped at Page Springs Campground among tall cottonwoods and watched orioles and warblers and song sparrows as we had our morning coffee.  We easily filled four days wandering the area, seeing new birds every day.


On the trail along the river we watched and listened to cute little Bushtits,  Yellow-breasted Chats (the first I’ve ever seen),  Bullock’s Orioles, a gorgeous Lazuli Bunting,  and hundreds of bright little Yellow Warblers.



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The open meadows and ponds were full of Ibises, swallows,  Cinnamon Teals and shorebirds like the Short-billed Dowitcher.

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Stands of cottonwoods along the ponds and marshes provided habitat for Kestrels, Phoebes and Northern Flickers.

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There was even a Great Horned Owl with two chicks.  The mom flew off when we arrived,


leaving the kids to nap on their own.  One little guy woke up and kept an eye on us for a while,


but eventually lost interest and turned around to join his brother in his nap.  Owls are chill, that’s for sure!


About westerner54

Hello. I'm Cindy, and I love to hike, bike and explore the outdoors - particularly the western U.S.
This entry was posted in Birding, Nature, Outdoors, Wildlife and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Malheur Wildlife Refuge

  1. avian101 says:

    Fantastic pictures Cindy! Thank you! 🙂

  2. Hi Cindy. I love how much you get around! Can’t wait until it’s my turn to taste more dust!
    Kris in Oregon

  3. bubbasuess says:

    Is that section of the river shown in the picture just up stream from the Page Springs campground?

  4. Awww. Love those baby owls. What a lovely find.

  5. Jeff Katzer says:

    Another marvelous post. I have a (someday) trip to Harts Mountain antelope refuge planned, and now Malheur will be a must see along the way.

    • westerner54 says:

      We started for Hart Mountain, but the wind was blowing up a gale and we decided that hanging out in the valley was a better option. Including them both is a good idea! Thanks.

  6. What an exciting (and dangerous?) encounter with the Northern Harriers. Lovely pictures of exotic and colorful little birds that we never get to see up here in northern Scandinavia. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love the little bird with the flash of red (what is it?) peeking its head out of the tree hole.

  8. Jet Eliot says:

    Cindy your photos here are really wonderful. The birds are incredible — such a variety of species, a great refuge. To find a lazuli bunting, orioles, nesting hawks and owls…so dreamy! My favorite photo is the Say’s Phoebe with the just-caught bug; that peachy blush in the perfect light, and they’re such fast and twitchy birds to capture, and then with a fresh catch too. Lovely.

  9. westerner54 says:

    Reblogged this on Off the Beaten Path: Hikes, Backpacks, and Travels and commented:

    Seems like an appropriate time to re-post this.

  10. Jet Eliot says:

    Thanks for reblogging this during the protest, Cindy. I wish the protesters would all go away and let the wildlife live in peace, on this beautiful land that is open to the public for infinite enjoyment. Funny when I went through your photos a second time, the Say’s Phoebe struck me once again, as so very stunning.

    • westerner54 says:

      This whole thing gets me so riled up…these yahoos with their warped view of government and the constitution daring to impose their will on a beautiful place that belongs to all of us….ugh. Makes me thankful for all of these lovely public places.

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