Malheur NWR: The Second Half

On Tuesday morning we drove from headquarters to the Burrowing Owl spot my friend had mentioned, which is a few miles from the old spot I had visited before.  It took a minute but eventually we found one hanging out.

A ground squirrel popped up and demanded attention also.

 Next we drove back down the road to head north into town and pick up some supplies.  Many things distracted us along the way.

Sage Thrasher

 Loggerhead Shrike

White-faced Ibis

After our supply run we wanted to look for phalaropes because we had only seen some on ponds with nowhere to stop.   I remembered Alan Contreras mentioning a flooded area down Ruh-Red Road that had a lot of birds, so we decided to check it out.

Success!  Wilson's Phalaropes were swimming close to the road with ten or so Red-necked farther out, about 40-50 total ropes.

From there we headed south to check for a well-known Golden Eagle nest near the Narrows.  Before we could get there we found a rattlesnake relaxing in the road.

I jumped out to take a bunch of pictures at a distance, then we drove around it and saw it fairly close up.  So cool!

I think it's Crotalus oreganus lutosus, the Great Basin subspecies of western rattlesnake.

We found the nest we were looking for but didn't notice any activity, so we continued on south to check out Diamond Craters.   There's a self-guided auto tour of the area which is (from Wikipedia) a monogenetic lava field consisting of a 27-square-mile area of basaltic lava flows, cinder cones, and maars.  This is also the area with Pete French's Round Barn, built in the late 1800's to train horses.

The first thing we noticed when we pulled up to the barn was a jackrabbit (probably black-tailed) chilling by the fence.

Inside the barn there is a large nest, and there was a woman who kept telling me she was talking to the birds inside it.  She thought it was an Osprey nest though it was pretty clearly not.

 At one point some youngsters started calling so I began to take a video and a parent flew in.

Ah!  Raven nest.  The parent was actively looking for food outside the barn later.

From the barn we finally made it to the right area to explore the craters.  It was cool with lots of wildflowers as a bonus.


Crater lake!  Aka a maar.

It was pretty cool to see the maar up there in the middle of nowhere.  The landscape appears totally rocky and barren and then you look down and boom, Cinnamon Teals cruising around.

Dwarf monkeyflower (Diplacus nanus)

After spending the afternoon in this area we drove down to our campground to take a hike along the Blitzen River Trail.  A couple of yellow-bellied marmots were waiting by the campground entrance.

Yellow-breasted Chat

 Black-crowned Night-Heron

Over that evening's chili and beers I found that we had hit 100 trip birds!  We hoped again for poorwill and again were denied that night.  A 5 a.m. Great Horned Owl was all we got of interest.

Wednesday morning we made coffee, packed up our tent and everything, then drove up the Center Patrol Road to bird along the way to Benson Pond.  At Dredger Pond we finally saw a trip bittern.

We also had a trip Western Grebe and a calling Virginia Rail.  Good spot!  At Benson Pond we applied yet another thick layer of DEET as the mosquitoes were abundant.  Check out this Western Kingbird basking in the food supply.


We walked out the trail to the weird little stone house finding more birds along the way, like a bunch of Bullock's Orioles.

On the lake a Trumpeter Swan was sitting on its nest while a second one flew around trumpeting for a bit.

Nest in background

 We walked the trail into the trees which we had also walked on Monday.  A pair of kestrels did the deed while we creepily watched, then felt like something might be watching us.


Another day another fuzzy Great Horned owlet

We walked to another view of the same tree and found mom and another owlet.

We walked the trail away from the family but then accidentally flushed another adult we hadn't noticed.

After that we walked back to the car and headed up to headquarters for one more visit.  A Great Horned there was enforcing the rules.

A Spotted Sandpiper on the log in the lake was another trip bird.

A thrush was poking around in the shadows and I wasn't convinced it was a Hermit until looking at photos now.

A Black-headed Grosbeak and some flyover white pelicans were new trip birds here.  We watched the hummingbird feeders for a bit but never managed a Calliope.  Plus the chipmunks were distracting.

We were getting ready to head out but spotted an owlet in a tree.  While pointing it out to some people Jacob noticed something else in the tree:  a porcupine!!

YESSSSSS!!!! Seriously one of my favorite animals, if not my absolute favorite!  Plus Jacob had never seen one and had really hoped for one on this trip (or a badger).

 It tucked itself into the tree and we finally managed to pull ourselves away and walk back to the car.  A Caspian Tern appeared over the lake, our final new trip bird.

We finished the trip with 108 species in Harney County, 17 of which were new for me in the county (108 were new for Jacob in the county).  I probably won't be back this way for awhile as it's so dang far, but man is it an awesome place.  Good times!!!!

*And it rained the whole way home, we left just in time...


  1. Great trip report :) That second pic of the porcupine!!!!!!

    And TIL what a maar is - thanks!!

    1. Thanks!! And today I learned what TIL means :)

  2. Wow, so many awesome birds and mammals! I love the Porcupine, that would be amazing to see! Also, thank you for the Burrowing Owl :)

    1. Yesss the porcupine is such a good animal! And you're welcome!

  3. Wonderful trip full of awesome birds and mammals! Again so many OWLS! I almost never see owls out in the daylight here.

    1. Yeah this area is ridiculous with Great Horneds!

  4. I need to check this place out someday...the closest I've been to this area is Goose Lake on the CA/OR line, which is not close at all! Should prolly get there soon though before the flocks of Great Horned Owls eat everything.

    1. Ha! It's definitely worth a visit. I had to look up Goose Lake, which I agree is not close at all.


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