Just Drive. Part 2.

June 12, 2015
Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge


Waking up in Southeast Oregon somewhere between Malhuer NWR and The Steen Mountains.

After we woke to neighboring Mule Deer foraging, this Blackbilled Magpie watched us closely all morning waiting for dropped food.  It even got inside the truck while we weren't paying attention.  Picture through binoculars.

A juvenile California Quail.  Quick, shy and hard to get a cellphone picture of.
Picture through binoculars.

The Long Barn of French's P-Ranch.

An interior shot of The Long Barn.  Blurry due to mass mosquito attack.

Turkey Vultures roosting on an old fire-lookout.

In the far distance past the sagebrush are The Steen Mountains, a fault block over 30 miles long with a 10,000 ft elevation.  Unfortunately the road to The Steens was still closed.

A roosting Common Nighthawk.

A Short-eared Owl in the middle of the day.  

     After exploring a few different areas around Malhuer NWR, we decided to begin driving towards Fort Rock.  While in Malhuer we sighted a Muskrat, a Cottontail Brush Rabbit, Loggerhead Shrikes with babies, a Northern Harrier, Black Terns, a California Quail family, Whitefaced Ibis, Great Egrets, Song Sparrows, an American Kestrel, a Burrowing Owl, a Yellow-headed Blackbird, Forster's Terns, Belding's Ground Squirrels, Mule Deer, American Coots, Gadwalls and a number of other birds.  What we did not see was any water where at this time of year there should be no shortage.   
    We stuck to the highways, avoided "nearby" distractions like the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge and headed through Christmas Valley so as to get to the Fort Rock area before dark.  We set-up at the Deschutes National Forest border, poured 5-gallons of our water into a water reserve for animals and hung out in the wooden blinds with our binoculars waiting to see what showed up.

A White-headed Woodpecker.  Picture through binoculars. 

A Lewis' Woodpecker which, unlike most woodpeckers, primarily feeds by catching insects in mid-air.  They also shell acorns before storing them in tree crevices.  Picture through binoculars.

Exploring some cabins as the sun begins to set on the Deschutes National Forest.

A new place to call home for the night.


  Jeff was first out of his tent. He reheated some leftovers and packed to head over to the bird blind to get some pictures.  The night before we put about 5 gallons of water in the guzzlers.  Around 6 am while I was making coffee on the gate of Jeff's truck a car came driving up the dirt road, pulled up and parked near the truck.  The driver was a friendly woman who began unloading a lot of gear from the vehicle.  We briefly chatted as I continued heating water for coffee and then she packed her gear over to the blind in multiple trips.  Her name was Lynda Goff.  She is a research biologist and naturalist visiting the area from California.  She takes lots of pictures of animals, birds in particular.  You can see her pictures here: www.lyndagoff.com

A Red-shafted Northern Flicker through binoculars.

Two shots of a single Clark's Nutcracker through binoculars.

After an hour or so of taking pictures of animals and talking with Lynda, Jeff and I gathered our gear and made off towards Fort Rock to see some nesting Prairie Falcons, Cliff Swallows, some quick and shy Sage Thrashers, Canyon Wrens soaring in place, Say's Phoebes, Green-tailed Towhee and some Northern Harriers if I recall correctly.  While driving we saw a family of Pronghorn Antelope, one giving us a panicked escort until finally reaching an area with a more easily jumpable fence line. 

I am not really sure how we did it when looking at this picture but we managed to off-trail scramble up and over a big portion of that thing to exit down the interior side. 

Antelope pictures through binoculars.

Half way up and still so far from those soaring Prairie Falcons.

Almost to the top, kinda. This is where I had a close-up eye-level view of the Cliff Swallows nesting just below where I was standing.  I am not sure why I do not have a photo of one?

Getting a picture of the sage-brush sea with a Cascades backdrop while on the way down the interior-side of Fort Rock.

That typical photo angle for Fort Rock while making our way back to a highway to begin the drive home.  And as we were just reaching the summit of a pass near Mt Hood we realized how we were on empty.  I even put the truck into neutral and mostly coasted down the mountain until finally winding our way to the only gas station in town.  Finally we could breathe again and rest assured we would make it home before nightfall.

It is always a little hard returning to such vast swathes of concrete.