On the Road with the Kidds! travel blog

Miles and miles of miles and miles!

Hamton Station Cafe ...and antique shop...and a friendly chicken

Ferruginous Hawk

Malheur NWR...Finally!!!

White Crowned Sparrow

Says Phoebe

Ruby Crowned Kinglet

Beldings Ground Squirrel "does this make my ass look fat?"

Squirrel family

River Otter

Otter looking right at me!

Lincoln Sparrow?

Song Sparrow

Prarie Falcon

First swallow warning sign I have ever seen!

Western Meadowlark

Golden Eagle Nest - Been used for over 135 years!

Golden Eagle sitting on nest... you can just see the head.

Tricolored Blackbird making a mess in the cat-tails

Yellow Bellied Marmot

Near one lake, we saw this fish in the reeds. Wierd, Probably...

American Coot

View of the valley, and Malheur Lake

Yellow Headed Blackbird


Cowboy up! I had to look twice.....not real

Female Ring Necked Pheasant

Female Northern Harrier

Long Billed Curlew

Fluffy Long Billed Curlew

Look out tower. A great horned owl is nesting in this one.

Rough Legged Hawk

Sand Hill Cranes

American Avocet...and a cow

Black Necked Stilt

I look at the birds and Mike looks at the trucks.

A cloud of snow geese

Snow geese at the water treatment plant

Tree Swallows

Colored tile roof, refuge headquarters

American Kestrel

Coot stretch


Sage Thrasher

Rough Legged Hawk

Pronghorn Antelope and the Steens Mountains

White Faced Ibis

Ring Necked Pheasant

Sandhill Crane and the Steens Mts.

Sunrise at Malheur

We are back on the road! Today we drove south to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, all because we saw a short program on TV about how the Sage Grouse were forming Leks and doing the courtship dance. It looked like something cool to see, so we headed there. The males look really cool strutting about. If you don’t know what I am talking about, and are curious, look up sage grouse and see! Unfortunately I do not have any photos (I never did find any sage grouse). Note: Photos this time are heavily bird oriented in case you did not already see that!

On the way to Malheur we found a café in the middle of nowhere, called Hampton Station Café. GREAT burgers! The staff was nice, and the owner was excited to see his local friendly chicken had come back to the yard after being gone for a few days. Now that is some excitement there!

We found an RV Park at the Narrows. It is about 30 miles south of Burns. The Narrows is named for where the lakes come together, but there were no lakes. Everything is dried up. The Narrows as a community consists of an RV park, a restaurant, saloon, gas, and small store, all rolled up in one and ran by the same person. Nothing else here but tumbleweeds and a few cows. Cheap enough to stay though, with full hookups. Breakfast there is really good. I suppose when you are in the middle of nowhere, your food better be good or no one will come!

Malheur is one of those kind of birding meccas where you would expect to see thousands of ducks and snow geese. I always wanted to come here, especially when going to Oregon State University. I heard about clouds and clouds of geese and ducks. This was not meant to be. There is a draught in the area, and most of the lakes are dried up. There were a few wet areas on some farmer fields, so I was able to see some ducks but the big lakes were empty. Finding birds was difficult. But I did manage to find 68 different species over the course of the weekend. I did see thousands of snow geese from a distance, and later found them at the local water treatment plant. We got up early one morning to see the sage grouse, but we never did find one. What we did see was a beautiful sunrise! (You have to catch the sage grouse as the sun comes up).

The Malheur Refuge was once part of a 185,000 acre cattle ranch ran by Peter French and father in law, Dr. Hugh Glen beginning about 1872. It is said that through “some legitimate and devious practices” they eventually owned the whole Blitzen Valley. There are many large ranches still in this area. Many of the buildings from that time period still exist. The Headquarters of the refuge is a pretty building with a colorful tiled roof. I am not sure how old the building is but was told it was a former ranch house. The headquarters has a few buildings there including a small museum that is full of examples of birds in the area, collected by a former resident. There is also a photo blind by a small pond. I went down there to take a few pictures of the Cinnamon Teal and whatever else was down there. I was surprised when a River Otter swam towards me! An otter in the desert. Who knew? I clicked off a few pictures before he dove.

The grounds there are also very actively inhabited by Beldings Ground Squirrels. They are everywhere. Cute little things, but seeing the ground with all the holes everywhere I can see why ranchers would hate them. Many cattle and horses have broken their legs in them. We were told by a rancher wife, that 22 shells are hard to come by in this area since so many are being used to shoot the squirrels. They are also very good food for the local pair of nesting pairs of American Kestrels and Great Horned Owls.

There is a 40 mile auto tour drive within the refuge grounds, one way. It was suggested we do just the lower half since the lakes were so dry, we were not likely to see much. It was still a nice drive. I can only imagine what it is like full of water. One part of the drive was through some meadows were we saw a lot of Ring Necked Pheasant. So colorful.

Only a few miles from our campground, on a rocky bluff is a Golden Eagle nest. It is a huge pile of sticks, about 12 feet high. It has been documented there since the 1880s. There is a Golden Eagle Sitting on it now though I am sure she has not been there since 1880! Very interesting place. I would really like to come back some day when they have water and see how different it is.

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