Malheur – A Vacation to Nowhere

My final two years of college I went to Malheur twice.  Once with my Ornithology class and once with my Ecology class.  I completely enjoyed myself and ever since then wanted to take Husband along.  Dwight Kimberly has been leading this trip for too many years to count and knows a ton about the area.  He is retiring next year and we may have child #2 by then so we decided we had to make the this year (we didn’t want to lose that expertise).  So off we went on the vacation to nowhere.  And you know what?  We drove and drove, we ate late, we walked a lot, we learned a lot, and we loved it.  We are such dorks.

Welcome to Eastern Oregon.

The Painted Hills.  They almost glow when the sun is out.

Looking out at the Painted Hills with the students with whom we traveled.

Munchkin enjoyed it, although not for the beauty of the hills – more because she could run amok.

On my first trip here I may have fallen in the John Day river, right at this location.  There are some great hieroglyphics here if you know where to look.  They are tricky to get a picture of though because you have to lean out around some rocks to see them.

Nobody decided to go for a swim this time.

It was cold and gray, the gray being unusual for that area at this time of the year.  We have lots of pictures of the white van we followed more than 1,000 miles in one weekend.  The munchkin was a champ even with so much driving.

Cant Ranch with Sheep Rock in the background.

Our fearless and knowledgeable leader, outstanding in his field.


It was fun to watch people move through the sage.  You could see them so far away.

It was fascinating how the clouds poured over Steens Mountain.

The munchkin felt no fear of going into the “tunnel” (Malheur Cave) whether we came or not.  I really expected her to have more fear.

Looking out.

This cave is still used by the Masons.  It’s a little creepy because of the seating and the dark.  It makes you think of ancient and spooky rituals.  As far as I know the Masons aren’t creepy, but the cave kind of is.

At Diamond Crater, they spotted the hidden bird in this post.

The munchkin needed some help getting over the rocks.

There were Jack Rabbits and Cottontails galore.  We managed to catch one scorpion, saw a paltry few lizards, and no snakes.  Disappointing really.

But I did get cell service…

Birding with baby

This is at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge.  It was a cool sunny day and we enjoyed the walk even though we didn’t get any “special” birds.  I also got to try out the new spotting scope I got for Christmas (thanks mom and dad).

Baby is learning quickly how to be a great birder.

The park hosts many hawks.  This is a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk.  He let us get pretty close.

In our backyard we continue to get feathered visitors.

A Northern Flicker who is way too big for our suet feeders but tries (and succeeds) anyway.

A Golden-crowned Sparrow.  We have lots and lots of these right now.

A terrible shot of a Yellow-rumped Warbler.  I just love getting these though, and I wanted to share its bright beautiful colors.

Dark-eyed Juncos again.  We get lots of these season after season and so does everyone else, but I liked this shot.

Red-breasted Nuthatch.


Backyard Birds

We feed and encourage as many feathered friends and beneficial insects in our backyard as possible, and it often pays off with great views for us.  Most of these are regular visitors along with a few others who aren’t shown.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Northern Flicker

House Finch

House Sparrows and Mourning Dove

Dark-eyed Junco

Varied Thrush

But today, we had a somewhat rare visitor.  This is a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  This photo was taken about 15 feet from our slider door.  It is here to eat the buffet of other birds that enjoy the feeders we set out.  And although it’s a joy to see it, hopefully it will move on soon so we can see some other birds again.

UPDATE:  The Sharp-shinned Hawk got its lunch!