Cold Springs NWR.

This weekend I spent a couple days out in Umatilla County exploring Cold Springs NWR.  I was fighting an itch to get to Malheur, though at half the travel time, Cold Springs made for a pleasant compromise.  Plus the weather was supposed to be rainy in PDX and a desert adventure sounded perfect. 

Western Kingbirds were all over the area, but the best views were along the county roads just before the refuge.  

There was pretty much no one else at the refuge, except a few fishermen near the boat launch.  All the other areas were deserted.  Both days I started at the easternmost parking area where I followed the Sagebrush Trail (I'm making all these trail names up) to the Oriole Trail, over to the Big Pond Trail. 

California Quail (view from parking lot)

I kind of love sage.  When walking through lots of it I often rip off little pieces, chop it up into lines and snort it.   Ok, not really, but I do rip off pieces and sniff it and put it in my pocket so I can keep smelling it.  Everyone does this, right?

Along the Oriole Trail, Bullock's Orioles were busy building nests and looking sharp.

The Oriole Trail winds around one side of a pond, a pond filled with reeds as well as trees. 

And in one of these trees (not in the above photo, unfortunately), quite conspicuous, is a Red-tailed Hawk nest.

The Big Pond Trail was a winner as well.  It's essentially a road that winds around the pond, meandering between cattails and sagebrush, leading to the far side of the pond where all the action was located. 

Avocets!  Stilts!  Phalaropes!  Sandpipers!  The dogs and I stood there for quite awhile as the birds moved around, showing off how rad they are. 

Wilson's Phalarope, Killdeer

 Spotted Sandpiper

Back along the other side of the Big Pond was this bird I called a Western Wood-Pewee, but surely someone can tell me I am wrong...

 After exploring this end of the refuge I decided to go over to the westernmost parking area and check that area out.  We parked at the Road Closed sign and hoofed it the rest of the way to the reservoir, where the dogs were happy to take a break in the shade.

(a fish jumped out of the water just as I was taking this picture)

We walked down another dusty trail over a bridge to another trail along the west side of the reservoir.  A couple of overhead hawks kept me entertained, like this Swainson's Hawk:

 And this...Cooper's Hawk?

Black-billed Magpies are all over the place out there.  Unfortunately they hate hate hate having their photo taken.  This was the best I could do...

And a couple more shots from this part of the refuge...

I definitely enjoyed my time at this refuge but there are a few things you should know if you decide to go:

1. There is nowhere to camp anywhere nearby.  My plan to camp failed miserably.  The only option was a state park that wanted $25 for me to sleep in my own damn tent.  Hell no.

2. There are dog ticks everywhere.  Between me and the dogs we acquired 7 (and counting...)

3. Grass seeds are also everywhere, which is not a big deal if you are dog-free, but they can do horrible things to dogs.  Like work their way into their toes, get infected, and require surgical removal.

Good times!


  1. Dang, great series of photos.
    They remind me of a more southern deserty state...

    For what it's worth, I think your ID calls are spot on, as is your uncanny ability to name trails and grind out the most pleasure from meandering in a field full of sage.

  2. Jen, this sounds like a great refuge to visit. I love all the orioles, stilts, avocets and the phalarope. Cool Hawk shots. Awesome birds and a great post. Happy Birding!

  3. Love the avocet shots! You saw so many good birds! I am scared to ever take Maggie outside again after the you mentioned the grass seed thing! (I had to reread it- I thought you said they can work their way into their 'nose'!) Is that related to the IG photo?! Ticks!? Eww.

    1. Grass seeds seem so innocent! They're not usually a big problem unless you're somewhere with TONS of them (like the delta). Ralph had a billion grass seeds (between his toes mostly) but only one tick, while Jake had no grass seeds and I think 4 or 5 ticks (on his head mostly). And yeah, he tore his ear open in the yard yesterday so the fun never ends!

  4. You are not the only sagebrush hoarder. I have some leaves in my pockets right now.

  5. I live in SC but I have sage from my travels wrapped in little bundles all over the place here I cant resist it!! GIRL I love that infinity shot of the pier..really great work. And what a niffty Coopers shot...along with the western kingbird, and the Bullocks too!!! Holy waders so many nice ones in one POND jeeps!!
    Dont you hate when plans dont work out..$25 to sleep on the ground, NO THANK YOU! I think state parks charge way too much. My sis was in Portland for a Quilt show...she said she went to VooDoo Donuts?

    1. Yumm yes Voodoo Donuts! She shoulda brought you some back- they make tasty vegan ones!


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