Thursday, November 12, 2015

The last counties

Up until last weekend, Sarah and I had birded all but three Oregon counties together.

 

We'd planned a trip in June to visit the last three counties in the southeastern corner of the state, but weather and other logistics kept us home. We finally had an opportunity to take some time off and make the big drive last Friday. Here are some highlights of our tri-county quest.

 

Grant County

Our plan was to leave Portland Friday morning and make our way to Grant County, bird a while, and then head south to Burns where we would spend the night. We made several stops along the way, which of course took longer than expected, and did not arrive in Grant until sunset. This was our only chance to get at least one bird in the county, so we were afraid we might miss out. We drove through the Silvies Valley, which was very quiet. As our anxiety grew, we spotted something on a utility pole. 

We've never been so exited to see a Red-Tailed Hawk!

We also stopped at an old school house and spotted a Northern Harrier hunting among a herd of cattle.


Just down the road, we found a small flock of Mallards feeding in a flooded field.


Three species in Grant county and a jaw-dropping sunset. We'll take it!

Harney County

We woke Saturday Morning and drove south from Burns to bird a very dry Harney County.


Harney Lake and other water bodies are on hiatus this year, but we managed to find some waterfowl here and there.

Raptors were plentiful, however, including a Prairie Falcon terrorizing the local songbirds,


and several Ferruginous Hawks looking sharp on power poles and sprinkler structures.



We had some memorable mammal encounters too. This mule deer buck was steeped in rutting hormones and staring us down. We gave him plenty of personal space.


Malheur County

On Sunday we visited the last county on our list, Malheur (not to be confused with the wildlife refuge). It's the big one in the corner of the state.


As soon as we crossed into the county, we were greeted by hundreds of American Robins, who, along with Townsend's Solitaires, were feasting on a bumper crop of western juniper berries.

 

At an old ranch house, a Merlin and a Sharp-shinned Hawk fought for the right to perch in the poplars.


We eventually made it to our main destination, Beulah Reservoir.


We scoped the water and found it covered with waterfowl.


In addition to ducks and geese, we saw several rafts of Tundra Swans.


We returned to our home base of Burns with a respectable number of species from Malheur County.

It was hard to return to Portland after such a great long weekend adventure. We look forward to returning to the area in the spring or summer when the days will be longer, the temperatures warmer, and the birds a little more abundant. We didn't miss the mosquitoes, though.