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.
The open meadows and ponds were full of Ibises, swallows, Cinnamon Teals and shorebirds like the Short-billed Dowitcher.
Stands of cottonwoods along the ponds and marshes provided habitat for Kestrels, Phoebes and Northern Flickers.
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!