[Tweeters] Belated short report on Burns Bird festival tours

Jerry Broadus jbroadus at seanet.com
Tue Apr 17 07:54:55 PDT 2012

Shep Thorp, Clarice, and I just finished leading 6 "behind the gates" tours for Malheur refuge, and one tour of double O, all for the John Scharff festival. Then, dealing with standard logistics such as no spare tire and the like, and an orientation meeting with refuge biologist, and neglected chores like fixing a leaky faucet at P Ranch, left me a little tired. Today is first day off.

Clarice and I pre scouted the generally off limits areas of the refuge, trying to find birdy areas that could be reached in 4 hour trips. In general, it became obvious that the totally open to the public area on the north edge of the still huge Malheur Lake, and along the flood plain of the Silvies River, from Ruh Red Road, offered the easiest and most satisfying birding (including a close encounter with a flock of some 500 yellow headed blackbirds, and a marbled godwit). But these were to be tours of generally closed areas.

Given the time constraints, we took all the behind the gates tours to sod house ranch, presently closed, with really stunning views of nesting double crested cormorants, great blue herons, a pair of red tailed hawks, ravens chasing the redtails, and sometimes dancing Sandhill cranes. The sod house long barn gave Shep a chance to demonstrate his vet skills dissecting barn owl pellets.

For the other areas, we alternated between Knox and Boca Ponds, or the Krumbo Reservoir area. The Krumbo gate is closed till the end of April, and all the fields along it (past the gate) have recently been flooded, making them good feeding and birding areas for waterfowl. Knox and Boca are not showing as many birds as in the past, but as Boca is being set up as a pilot study area, and is off limits, it was an opportunity for birders to see the area. One time we split up, taking one van to Boca and one to Krumbo. On that trip Shep found another pellet, this one from a loggerhead shrike, full of bug parts.

Birds are coming in strong. Willets are increasing each day, as well as curlew, avocets, black necked stilts, long billed dowitchers, and ibises (one day zero, the next 110, the next 250, all in same place). Not much really spectacular to report from the trips, although three common loons at Krumbo are unusual (they have been passing through the last couple of weeks) and a flock of common redpolls is still hanging out at Knox. A great horned owl was nesting right next to where we walking at double O. Rock wren and canyon wren singing. Generally the birding seemed good for the pre warbler season (only butterbutts as of yesterday). Mammals included yellow bellied marmots (rockchucks), mink, river otters, Belding ground squirrels (sage rats), hares and rabbits, coyotes, deer and cattle.

The real stars of the festival, the Ross' and snow geese, are not as easy to spot on the refuge as near Burns, but we had a few mixed flocks, close enough to study the different field marks, and one included a minima cackler, and sometimes a flock of greater white fronts (and now Kelly Hazen tells me I need to check for Tule geese).

Ran in to Noah (see his report) and will add that the Bewick's wren at P Ranch has been there all week, and has been seen with a second one.

Jerry Broadus
Sent from my iPad

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