Eastern Oregon - Cabin Lake and Malheur here we come! Oh and Idaho too...

Ilya and I went down to bird South-Eastern Oregon because we heard so many great things about it, especially the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. We were also eager to photograph Sage Grouse up close, as we have both only seen them at distant leks through a scope.

We started out in Southern Oregon. We knew that Cabin Lake Campground was best in August to see Pinyon Jays but since they would be a lifer for both of us and since we were heading to Malheur anyways, we felt we might as well try. Boy were we glad we did.

We saw quite a few birds there, it was very hot and we both have never seen so many Ferruginous Hawks and Sage Thrashers in one place! In one road we counted over 15 of each.

After Cabin Lake Campground we stopped at Fort Rock State Park and saw many good birds including nesting Prairie Falcons. We had close views of many raptors including Golden Eagle and Swainsons Hawks.

Here is some of the species we saw in Southern Oregon in the Fort Rock area:

Eurasian-collared doves
Great Horned Owl
Red-shouldered Hawk (Before Fort Rock in Oakridge)
Western Scrub-Jay
California Quails
Red-winged Blackbird
Ferruginous Hawks (more than I've ever seen anywhere)
Swainson's Hawks
Mountain bluebird
Sage Thrashers (more than I've ever seen anywhere)
Bald Eagles
American Kestrels
Prairie Falcons
Turkey Vulture
Pygmy nuthatches
Western bluebirds
Northern flickers
Mountain Chickadees
Clark's nutcracker
Pinyon Jays (Lifer!)
Gray Flycatchers
White-throated Swift
Rock wren
Canyon wren
Cliff swallow
Tree Swallow
Violet-Green Swallows
Say's Phoebes
Loggerhead shrikes
Yellow-headed blackbird
Chipping sparrow
Black-billed Magpie
Western Meadowlark
Golden Eagle
Brewer's Blackbirds
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-tailed Hawk

After spending the night at Christmas Valley, where they not only have the best Alfalfa Hay but also the best pizza :), we headed to Bend to bird.

We birded Hatfield Lakes there and really enjoyed the Juniper forest and wetlands which held a diverse assortment of water birds.

We then birded Badlands Rock Trail outside of Bend where we saw 15 beautiful Pinyon Jays but the flock moved through so fast we were unable to get any decent photos.

After that we headed to Burns where we would stay the night and go to Malheur Wildlife Refuge the next day.

It was a first visit for both of us to this part of Eastern Oregon and to the Refuge. The diversity of birds here is incredible, especially for birds we don't see often at home. We also got to see many Pronghorn Antelope including some close ones which was nice since most we've seen in the Canadian prairies run away from you. These Pronghorn cannot be hunted so seem to be more tame around people.

We saw many species at the park in Malheur in Princeton including :

Black-necked Stilts
American Avocets
White-faced Ibis (more than I've ever seen)
Sandhill Crane
Long-billed curlew
Sage thrasher
Ferruginous Hawk
Loggerhead Shrike
Cinnamon Teal
Savannah Sparrow
Northern Harrier
Pied-billed Grebe
Marsh Wren
Great blue Heron
Horned larks
Vesper sparrow
Swainson's Hawk
Brewer's Sparrow
Sagebrush Sparrows
Tundra swan
Ring-necked Pheasant
Great Egret
American Wigeon
Great Horned Nesting
Franklin's Gull (in breeding)
California Gull
Song Sparrow
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Western Grebe or Clark's (too far to discern)
Mountain Bluebird
California Quail
Western Bluebird
Say's Phoebe
Rock Wren
Chipping sparrow
Burrowing Owls
Western Kingbird
Double-crested Cormorant
Barn Owl
Long-eared Owl
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Sage Grouse

Birds added in Sisters and Bend:

White-headed Woodpecker
Black-capped Chickadee
Red Crossbill
Williamson's Sapsucker
Hairy woodpecker
Pine Siskin
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Pinyon Jays

Some of the mammals and reptiles we saw during our trip:

Pronghorn Antelope
Golden-mantled ground squirrel
Least chipmunk
Yellow-bellied marmot
River otter
Pocket Gophers
Mule Deer
Black-tailed Jackrabbit
Eastern Racer snake

The refuge headquarters were still closed due to the previous militia occupation. This was unfortunate as there is no park rangers to speak to and you can't access the lake.

There is a public Sage Grouse Lek near the refuge but sadly it became inactive a few weeks ago most likely due to a fire. I hope the grouse have relocated at a new lek. We traveled to nearby Idaho in search of another Lek we knew of but it had also become sadly inactive. We saw a black racer snake here and had a nice time birding in the lush green rolling hills in the area.

The US fish and game monitors these public leks. The leks provide a chance for the public to see these beautiful birds and prevents people from seeking out and unintentionally disturbing other leks. The protocol at these leks is to stay in your car, view and photograph them from the roadside and then leave as soon as the last bird departs the lek.

We ended up seeing Sage Grouse at another public lek near Bend it wasn't at all the photographic opportunity we had hoped for in Malheur (since the birds were 200m away) but you can't be too disappointed when you are lucky enough to see threatened Sage Grouse displaying and fighting. We just sat back and enjoyed watching the majestic display through our bins. It still was a vast improvement on both our previous scope views.

Towards the end of our trip we had one of our favourite stops at The Ponderosa Lodge in Sisters. The town is touristy and cute as well. Here in the surrounding Ponderosa trees in the Deschutes National Forest, we picked up such birds as White-headed Woodpecker, Red Crossbill, Hairy Woodpecker and Williamson's Sapsuckers.

Here are some of my photos from the trip:

Burrowing Owl near Malheur NWR - Photos: Melissa Hafting
Mountain Chickadee in Sisters - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Wilson 's Snipe in Princeton - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Sage Thrasher in Fort Rock State Park, OR - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Franklin's Gull in breeding in Princeton, OR - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Female White-headed Woodpecker in Sisters, OR - Photo: Melissa Hafting



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