The only thing predictable about spring is the unpredictability of spring. Such was the case this past weekend as my wife Brenda and I and our friends Maret and Rod headed east, through warm sunshine and snow squalls, for a long weekend. Our hope was to bird Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and fish the Blitzen River. Three hours southeast of Bend, Malheur Refuge tends to be a bit drier, but a persistent cool wind was a sharp reminder that spring is just beginning to take hold on the High Desert.
Birding highlights of the trip included large numbers of Sandhill cranes, northern shovelers, Northern pintails and long-billed curlews. We also saw the ubiquitous American coot, as well as eared and western grebes, a pair of collared trumpeter swans, a close view of a great horned owl, and yellow rumped warblers.
Pronghorn antelope, mule deer and several coyotes were also seen. Aside from a few hardy buttercups, the native wildflowers have yet to make an appearance. With the Blitzen running cold and clear, rises were few and far between, but as usual Rod's flyfishing artistry produced several large, beautiful redband trout.
Between the great spring birding and some surprising success (for me) on the Blitzen, the trip made me really excited to see what spring and summer will look like at Camp Polk Meadow and Whychus Canyon Preserves, as well as further downstream at Alder Springs.
Our award-winning effort to restore Whychus Creek has also resulted in substantial habitat improvements for a broad range of bird species. As wetlands heal and willow and alder grow in along the creek, new nesting sites should be created for wading birds, waterfowl, and songbirds. Spring is the ideal time to view our resident birds and passing migrants, and there's no better way to just that than on one of our guided hikes with an experienced naturalist.
Our bird walks are designed to both help you view our local birds and keep a respectful distance from nests. Remember: too much disturbance and a nesting site can be abandoned for the season. To help our nesters stay put, we like to remind folks to stay on trails, avoid making a lot of noise, and keep dogs on leash.
So, with warm weather beckoning, consider joining us for a guided walk or hike to explore the beauty and diversity of life in the High Desert… but dress warmly you never know when it might start snowing!