October 25, 2016

We woke up, got the van packed, and took off – well not before finally posting one of my blogs.  Denio Junction is very remote.  The nearest store is around 100 miles away.  I would count the population of the area in the low hundreds, if that.  A number of large ranches are nearby.  The town of Denio – close to Denio Junction – is on the border of Oregon and Nevada.

While most of the traffic (campers specifically) were heading south to warm climes, we are headed north with our first stop in Oregon at the Page Spring (BLM) campground.  This campground is located adjacent to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  Everyone remembers this refuge, right? – the one right wing crazies took over for months and got away with it.

Tomorrow we will drive the auto tour route and see if the refuge headquarters/visitor center is open.  Today, however, we took a walk on the East Cattail Trail.  Not a lot of birds out and about in the cool, crisp fall afternoon.  Did hear and see several Marsh Wrens.  These birds do not winter here so hope they know to leave soon.


Stormy morning




On the way to Page Springs we drove by the Roaring Springs Ranch.  This is one LARGE/BIG ranch.  The ranch has a number of ponds so we stopped along the road (good thing traffic was almost non-existent) and checked them out for birds.  Oh and guess what?  I finally got to see my Golden Eagle.  Woohoo!!!  The bird flew across the highway in front of us and landed on a rock half-way up the mountainside.  We got good looks at the bird and a photo that at least leaves no mistake as to the identify of the bird (but not good enough to post).  It was not a pigeon…..


Pond on Roaring Springs Ranch

Bird Species Observed or Heard on Roaring Springs Ranch

  • Common Raven
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mallard
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Common Merganser
  • American Coot
  • Eared Grebe
  • Canada Goose
  • Northern Flicker
  • Rock Pigeon
  • American Crow
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Great Blue Heron

We made it to Page Spring Campground mid morning.  We picked a great site and then walked over to the East Canal Trail on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.


We liked the sign about weight restrictions on the bridge ahead although the sign above says vehicles are prohibited. Maybe the sign is for refuge staff members or ranchers who use the refuge for cattle grazing.


Nest in a tree

Here are some photos of the refuge as seen from the East Canal Trail on the southern end of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.










We did see more than just birds.  A raccoon made its way from the canal across the trail to a stand of trees.  Cute little bugger.


Mule Deer – Buck


Another bird’s nest. So much easier to find once leaves have dropped from the trees


View of the inside of the nest. Not sure what bird made the nest.

In the late afternoon we took it easy at the campground.  There are around 35 sites, but only about 7-8 are occupied – at least at 3:30 pm in the afternoon.  We will spend another night here then head north.  We hope to make it to Portland by Halloween.  The first order of business in Portland is to visit our favorite Indian restaurant – India Oven in the Hawthorne District.  The second order of business is to visit our favorite breakfast spot – Milo’s on Broadway in NE Portland.  I only go there because of their homemade jams.

October 26, 2016

Slept in until 8:00 am this morning, which is very unusual for me.  I generally get up about 6:00-6:30 am, but didn’t get much sleep last night.  Too many things on my mind.  I recently learned my older brother, Larry, has brain cancer.  The doctor is optimistic they caught it early, but the operation only removed 95% of the tumor so now he has to endure radiation and chemotherapy.  He gets to have both treatments at the same time.  The chemo is a pill.  Better than when I had to sit for 1.5 hours while a poison was pumped into my body,  on four separate occasions,  every three weeks.  He lives in Valdez, but luckily his symptoms demonstrated themselves while he was vacationing in Scottsdale, Arizona.  He went to Osborne Medical and was seen by one of the top doctors in neurology.  Send positive energy his way.  As he said, he is taking it one day at a time because that is all we really have.  Wise brother.

We decided to take the 42-mile auto tour route on the Mulheur National Wildlife Refuge.  Yeah, can you believe it – 42 miles.  I wonder if that is the longest refuge auto tour route.  Will have to ask someone.  Inquiring minds want to know – mine.  We started at the south end of the refuge with the intention of ending at the refuge headquarters, which we subsequently learned is temporarily closed.   They haven’t opened since the occupation.   And speaking of occupation, when we were a couple miles south of the refuge headquarters we got not one but two flat tires, at the same time.  What are the odds?  We called Les Schwab, a tire company, and they came out and replaced all four tires – for free.  Just kidding.  We needed new tires anyway so decided to have them bring out four tires to replace the old worn ones we had on the van.  And as the Les Schawb guy was leaving he had a flat tire.  All the flat tires were on the same side of the vehicles – the right side.  One of our tires had a screw in it.  I think the occupiers put out screws to keep anyone not associated with their cause from coming to refuge headquarters during the occupation.  Why else would we both get flat tires, and us two?   That is my theory and I’m sticking to it.  I may even send an email to the refuge manager letting him know that he can add three flat tires to his list of flat tires occurring on that road since the occupation (sent the email).   And we didn’t even see that many birds during that portion of the auto tour route.  We did enjoy the beautiful scenery however.


Auto Tour Route – start – south end of the refuge



Rough-legged Hawk


Doing its business before it gets ready to take off …


… stretching those wings for take off


Canada Geese like the meadows


American Kestrel – holding on in the wind




Beaver activity – old


Northern Flicker – this should be Oregon’s state bird. They are everywhere.


What we did notice along the auto tour route is that many of the ponds used by waterfowl were dry.  I thought Oregon had a wet winter last year, but maybe the snow levels in southeastern Oregon were below normal.  Or maybe at this time of year there isn’t much water in the ponds.  We haven’t been here during late October so we have nothing to compare it to.


Benson Pond – Dry, Dry, Dry.

And speaking of the refuge, it was established in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt, and contains 187,000 acres – a very linear refuge mostly.  There have been 320 bird species observed on the refuge at one time or another.  Oh, and speaking of Teddy, this refuge was the 19th refuge he established out of the 51 during his tenure as President of the United States.  Go Teddy.  If you ever get a chance to visit this refuge do it.  This is one of my favorite refuges in the national refuge system.

NOTE:  It is only after we left the refuge that we learned a jury of their peers (obviously) acquitted several defendants in the Malheur Occupation Trial.  What a travesty of justice.  While our system of justice is the best in the world, it is far from perfect.  I hope the government appeals the decision, assuming there are grounds for an appeal.

October 27, 2016

Got up this morning to windy conditions, overcast skies and the threat of rain.  But despite the weather, the beauty of southeastern Oregon continued to awe me.  I love it here during the fall.  When we lived in Oregon we visited this area a few times, but never this late in the year.  The grasses are a golden color, the rock cliffs a dark brown/black.  The contrast is breathtaking – at least to me.

Reluctantly, we broke camp and headed north taking the Diamond Loop Route, although we didn’t follow the entire loop because it would have taken us back near the refuge headquarters and after two flat tires and the purchase of four new ones, I didn’t want to take the chance of another flat tire or four.





Part of the remnants of Diamond Crater. Looks like an old asphalt road that has gone through upheaval.


Up close view

By the time we got to Burns, Oregon we had seen our share of raptors – Northern Harriers (everywhere flying low to the ground in search of food), a Rough-legged Hawk, two Golden Eagles (on telephone poles no less), a Bald Eagle (rare for this area), a Cooper’s Hawk, three Prairie Falcons, two American Kestrels, and many Red-tailed Hawks (I quit counting after ten).  What we had hoped to see, but didn’t, was a Short-eared Owl.  Maybe next time.  We have seen them here before.


Rough-legged Hawk or Red-tailed Hawk???


Red-tailed Hawk


Red-tailed Hawk


Cooper’s Hawk


Golden Eagle


Prairie Falcon

We stopped off at the Peter French Roundbarn.  Yes, it is actually round.  Why?  Peter French used the barn to train his mules to haul freight.  Guess it is important for horses and mules to go in circles.  There is an outer section and an inside section.  The inside section was to keep foals (baby horses) secure.


Peter French’s Roundbarn



The swallows like it



Something was nesting here – raptor of some sort most likely


We had an appointment in Burns to get the oil changed in our van.  Before doing that, we decided to go to an area called “The Narrows”.  This is where Malheur and Harney Lakes come together.  Guess what.  These two lakes haven’t come together in several years we were later told.  Both lakes in this area were dry as a bone, as the saying goes.  Malheur Lake does have water in it, but we couldn’t see it from the road, only when we were near the refuge headquarters which sits a few hundred feet higher than the lake bed.  According to the guy at the gas station (where we could not pump our own gas), the lakes didn’t have any water in them all spring and summer.  He says the drought in this area has been going on for at least four years.  Not good news for the birds or the farmers.


Malheur Lake – while there is some water in the lake itself, just not this section of the lake


Harney Lake – there are lots of times this lake has little water in it. Now none.


Pond (with picnic area) near Burns, Oregon. Birds were using the pond.


Dead Western Grebe. We think the kill was very recent.


Look at those feet


Even the eyes on the grebe were still present – indicating to me a fresh kill (or accidental death if hit by a car)

Tonight we are camped at the Idlewild Forest Service Campground, about 17 miles north of Burns.  This campground has 26 or so sites, and we are the only ones here at 5:00 pm. Maybe someone will come in later.  There always seems to be someone who comes to a campground after dark.  I can’t understand these people, especially those that are tent camping.  Hard to set up a tent in the dark.  I like to get settled while there is still daylight, but that’s just me.  Tomorrow we head to a new Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) campground (Cottonwood Canyon) near the Columbia River.

Bird Species Observed or Heard at Page Springs Campground and Malheur NWR

  • American Kestrel
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Townsend’s Solitaire
  • Northern Harrier
  • Song Sparrow
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Marsh Wren
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Mallard
  • Canvasback
  • American Coot
  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Prairie Falcon
  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Ring-necked Pheasant
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Northern Flicker
  • American Robin
  • Common Raven
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Osprey
  • Western Grebe
  • Eurasian Starling
  • Canada Goose
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Ring-necked Duck

Birds Species Seen or Heard in and Around the Burns, Oregon area

  • Golden Eagle
  • Bald Eagle
  • Northern Harrier
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Prairie Falcon
  • American Kestrel
  • Townsend’s Solitaire
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Ruddy Duck
  • American Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • American Robin
  • Eurasian Starling
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Western Grebe
  • Northern Flicker
  • Eurasian Collared Dove
  • American Crow
  • Common Raven
  • American Coot
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Canada Goose
  • Northern Pintail

October 28, 2016

Woke to a cold morning at Idelwild campground.  Well no one else showed up at the campground – fine by me,  but a bit spooky.  We walked around the campground, birding,  before heading north for our next destination for the night – Cottonwood Canyon State Park.

The drive between Burns and John Day is one of the most beautiful in eastern Oregon.  However, we missed much of it because we were in a fog – literally.  From John Day we headed northwest towards the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, and specifically, the Painted Hills.  We’ve been here before but it has been sometime ago – maybe 20 years ago –  which is a long time for us, but nothing in terms of geological time.


Large gathering of Pronghorn Antelope on the hillside. I counted at least 30.


These shoe trees seem to be popular. This tree had more shoes on it than the ones in Nevada and Utah we saw.


I’m not sure what the purpose is of the shoe tree. Boredom?


Doodlebug asleep in the van as we are driving. She has found a nice little nesting spot in the van.

The ‘Painted Hills’ area is spectacular with its hills painted red, golds, and lavender – all dependent upon the type of soil or rock and when they were formed.  If it was wet; (red soils) or dry; (gold or what looks to me like green soils).



John Day Fossil Bed National Monument – Visitor Center – really well-done.  In fact this is the best National Park Service visitor center that I have visited.


Piece of petrified wood outside the visitor center








Up close view of the materials that make up the painted hills – very fragile.


The red soils


There are several short hikes in the Painted Hills section of the monument where you can get close views of the ‘painted hills’.


Some bird life was present – Common Raven

As we traversed the countryside, making our way to our campsite,  we were surprised at how many houses we saw in these remote areas.  As for distance to a decent grocery store, think of living in Homer and having to drive to Soldotna to shop.  I can understand the appeal however as it is a lovely area.  Lots of the houses are associated with ranches, but not all.





Big Horn Sheep. I did see a ram with a full curl but was unable to get a photo.



Wheat country the closer you get to the Columbia River


Lots of wind turbines here too – have been here for 10+ years

In a previous life I thought it would be fun to have been raised on a ranch.  I asked Jack how do you decide which cow is going to give its life to feed your family.  I don’t think I could make that decision – that is, in part, why I don’t eat beef.

Other than California Quail, we didn’t see any new birds than what we’ve seen since entering Oregon.  We saw a covey of about 10 birds alongside the road.  Of note, we did see a lot (20+) Red-tailed Hawks in trees or on poles, and one Rough-legged Hawk that landed hard in a field.  I would have only giving his landing a 2.75 out of 5.  Beautiful birds.  Oh, and let’s not forget the Big Horn Sheep (at least I think they are big horn).  One had a full curl.  He was in a bad location (or was I in the bad location) to get a photo – we were on a highway with very little shoulder.

We finally got to our campground at Cottonwood Canyon State Park around 4:30 pm.  As we were approaching the area we were on high plateaus dotted with wind turbines.  We could see a front coming in from the northeast.  We descended into a canyon, which while it didn’t block the wind, it at least wasn’t as cold as it was up on the plateau.


The campground is considered primitive.  They have vault toilets, water, picnic tables, and garbage cans, but not much else.  There are a number of trails within the campground – two bordering each side of the John Day River, which runs through the park.  We did take a portion of one trail after dinner, but didn’t get far before it became too dark to go on.  We hope to be able to walk a good portion of this trail tomorrow – weather permitting.  Rain is expected.


John Day River – view from our campground

29 October 2016

I would love to see this area during a warm, sunny day.  The area is beautiful even when it is windy and raining.   I think we were the only people there that didn’t come  to the park to go fishing.  One guy even had a motorized scooter to get to and from his fishing spots.  His friend had a mountain bike.  Maybe he was physically challenged and could not ride a bike or walk the distance to fish.  I must say though the motorized scooter (think scooters like the kids use but only with a motor) was loud.  Disturbed the peace and quiet of the area.  Luckily we only heard it for a short period of time.

We did a short hike in the morning with Doodlebug.  Parts of the trail were under water from the heavy rain the night before.  Still the walk was pleasant, even when it started to rain again.  I’m always prepared with my rain coat and pants.


An appropriate sign for hot days especially. I like the last part of the sign – so true, so true.

One bird we saw a lot along the trail was the Northern Flicker.  Probably the most prolific bird around.  Always distinguished by their white tail patch and their call.


The trail takes you along the canyon walls


Interesting nesting material. Better a nest than having a bird trying to ingest the monofilament line.


Pinnacles Trail – as you can see the area had gotten a little rain.


Lincoln Sparrow (one of my top two favorite – can’t decide if I like it or the Swamp Sparrow more) we saw along the trail.


Mullen – lots of arms.


Say’s Phoebe. This bird was being chased by a Loggerhead Shrike who was looking for its next meal. The phoebe got away, but then came back and landed within two feet of the shrike on the same fence line. Crazy bird or maybe a method to its madness.

Later in the afternoon, Jack and I headed out again and walked a short trail leading to the day-use area.  A lot of thought went into this park’s development.  They have some nice interpretive signage.


Former Ranch Barn


Lots of interpretive signs about life on the ranch at the turn of the century and I don’t mean the last century.


Old photos superimposed on wood slats – more interpretive signs


Nest box


I like this art work – took old fence wire (or maybe it is new) and made it into a Big Horn Sheep.

We had intended to go Deschutes State Recreation Site for two nights, but decided to stay another night here.  I would definitely come back again to this campground.  And, at $10/night, what a deal for us cheapo retirees.

Bird Species Observed or Heard at Cotton Canyon State Park

  • Bewick’s Wren (my favorite wren species)
  • Song Sparrow
  • Hermit’s Thrush
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow
  • Lincoln Sparrow (one of my top two favorite sparrows)
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Northern Flicker
  • American Kestrel
  • American Robin
  • Spotted Towhee
  • European Starling
  • Rock Pigeon

October 30, 2016

Okay it was COLD, WET, and WINDY when we woke up in the morning.  Hated getting out of my warm bed.  We quickly made coffee and ate our breakfast of granola and fruit before heading west to the Columbia Gorge.  As we ascended out of the canyon we ran into fog.  This is a stark and beautiful high plateau area and was sorry to miss it with all the fog.  Same goes for our passage through the Columbia Gorge, which is especially beautiful this time of year with all the fall colors – reds, yellows, oranges, golds – set against the green backdrop.  The Big Leaf Maples and Oregon Oaks are spectacular at this time of year.  BEAUTIFUL!!!

We decided we would stop at Deschutes SRS – the eastern end of the Columbia Gorge and check out the weather.  We are so close to Portland (about 100 miles) and a warm bed at our friend Jane’s house so we opted to stay the night in Portland.  However, since it wasn’t raining we did go into the SRS and walk the trail (nice and flat – old railroad bed) along the Deschutes River.  The Deschutes River is a world renowned fly fishing stream.  And people where out trying their luck.


Descutes River near the Columbia Gorge

The walk down an abandoned railroad bed was very pleasant – no wind or rain.  We went two miles out and two miles back.  The trail sits up high from the river, so you get great views of the canyon with the river winding through it.  Several times we had large flocks of Canada Geese fly over.  And in one flock there was actually a Snow Goose.





American Robin – this birds are so accommodating


And I thought Alaska had liberal hunting seasons. Luckily we didn’t run into anyone hunting, but we did see a few people fishing.

After completing our hike/walk we drove in to Portland and were greeted by – you guessed it – RAIN, RAIN, RAIN.  But then again, there is a reason Portland is so green.  Another friend told me that Portland had the wettest and grayest October on record (or at least in a long while).  I believe it.  Even Eastern Oregon is much greener than usual.


Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)



View from Rowena Point –  Columbia River Gorge

We did stop at our favorite Mexican restaurant for lunch – Aztec Willey’s and Joey Rose – on Broadway and 15th in Northeast Portland.  Yum.  And of course one always needs to pick up a copy of Willamette Weekly to find out what is happening in town.

Birds Species Observed or Heard at Deschutes SRS

  • Great Blue Heron
  • Bufflehead
  • Canada Goose
  • Snow Goose
  • American Robin
  • Cedar Waxwing (hatch year birds)
  • White-crowned Sparrow (I always ask if they are from Alaska, but they never answer)
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Common Raven
  • American Crow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Northern Flicker
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet

October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween.  No plans for tonight although there is a lot of weird stuff going on in Portland.  They even have strip club haunted house.  So  instead I will be catching up on emails, blogs, shopping, and laundry.  We do plan to visit a few birding areas – Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and Sauvie Island Wapato Greenway.



It’s a Great Day to Bird