2022-04-24 In Burns Oregon

Someone kindly pointed out that the Scrub-Jay in this post is a California, not a Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay. I will make corrections to the gallery at my next opportunity.

Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca
IMy second visit to the fields north of Burns Oregon began in the early morning. I tried my best to capture birds like this Greater Yellowlegs in the company of a Lesser Yellowlegs on the west side of the road, because of the lovely light from the rising sun.
Long-Billed Curlew - Numenius americanus
The local birding community in Burns Oregon were holding a “Birding Festival” when I arrived in the area. In my past visits to the region, I’d always forsaken my explorations around town to focus on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. I made an exception on this trip, and was rewarded with some nice surprises, like a multitude of these curlews sharing the feeding grounds with Willets.

My decision to visit the Malheur area required a long drive from Joseph to Burns that took me six hours of drive-time. I think there were five passes to cross that were over 5000 feet of elevation. I try to avoid such long pushes, but given my plan for the weeks ahead, it seemed the right thing to do (for now).

I arrived in Burns late Saturday afternoon. Rather than surrendering to fatigue, I drove through the region just north of town where folks had been seeing the rare Common Crane. I missed the bird by several hours, but during the time I spent at my roadside observatory, I enjoyed the company of California Quail, Long-Billed Curlews, Sandhill Cranes, Willets, and a Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay.

When I finished with my afternoon’s bird chasing, I camped in a vacant lot near a city park north of the town-center, where several other rigs were parked. With all the energy drained from me from the drive and from visiting the local birds, I retired without executing any action on my backlog of yarn-spinning or image grooming.

Early Sunday morning I found breakfast at the Apple Peddler, and was treated to a Robin’s nest building activity just outside the window where I dined. She was just beginning the construction, gathering the “bones” (hard weedy sticks) and setting up quarters atop one of the brick pillars supporting the overhanging roof. When I exited the cafe, I broke off some long grassy leaves from a nearby plant and placed them on a rock near the nest. I returned for breakfast again the next morning, and the grass cuttings were gone. I guess she liked my offering.

After my meal, I returned to the same place I’d parked the previous afternoon. After a few hours, I was done shooting for the day. I’d captured images of American Robins, Black-Billed Magpies, Black-Capped Chickadees, Brewer’s Blackbirds, California Quail, Canada Geese, Greater White-Fronted Geese, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-Billed Curlews, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Sandhill Cranes, Savannah Sparrows, Snow Geese, and Wilson’s Snipe.

When I heard the Sandhill Cranes approaching in the distance, I snapped a series of shots of the airborne flocks, hoping I might discover an unusual crane in the mix. However, the Common Crane was a “no-show”. I later learned that nobody saw the bird all day, and the conventional wisdom suggested the bird had moved on to parts unknown. I’m sure there were many disappointed birders in town, but I was not among them. My mantra is “I don’t chase birds, I chase places”. And this place treated me well.

I left the field mid-morning and drove back to my campsite from Saturday night, and worked on blogs all the rest of Sunday. I had a lot of catching up to deal with from my earlier adventures. If I continued burying myself in fieldwork, I’d soon be in deep dung. Monday I headed to Malheur NWR, with only the story of my time in Burns to tell.

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