White ibis

White ibis
Ibis

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Visit to Malheur National Forest

I needed to get some groceries.  Next week is going to be crazy and I won't get any time off.  Of course "on" time includes two birding trips - one worth $95.00, free attendance at a banquet, getting to present my  Introduction to Malheur NWR Power Point show many times, and getting to run the kids activities on Saturday afternoon  - all this connected with the John Scharff Migratory Bird Festival- that happens all around Burns and out to the refuge.

But this was an off day, so I needed to have a little adventure. I decided to both check out the birds at Ruh-Red road and to go visit another birding site, the Idlewild Campground in Malheur National Forest which is only about 18 miles north of Burns.

Soon I was climbing and seeing lots of rimrock.  I also saw awesome boulders, weathered into fantastic shapes.



Soon I had left the sagebrush desert behind and was seeing more and more Ponderosa pines.




A few minutes later I was in the Ponderosa forest.  I was at around an altitude 6000 feet and there was still snow on the ground.  The secondary roads were still closed and full of snow.

 
I soon turned into Idlewild Campground in the Malheur National Forest. This place charges $10 a night to camp here. Seniors get to  camp for $5 each night - a price I think I can afford.  There were chemical toilets but no water.  The water was cut off for the winter and I think will be turned back on May 1. It also has a group shelter that can be reserved. 

 I walked around looking and listening for birds. The place was pretty quiet.  I could hear woodpeckers - there are white-headed ones here - a warbling call, and not much else. I stopped and pished and immediately a white-breasted nuthatch flew in to a tree near me and started feeding on it.  I was so transfixed, I didn't even turn my camera on until he was too high in the tree to photograph.

Later I stumbled on another trail and took it for about a mile, before turning around.  Almost as soon as I got on it, I was surrounded by mountain chickadees.  They were feeding along  branches, on the trunks of trees, and on the ground. They flew within ten feet of me, but I was frozen with joy, just watching them.  As soon as I came to myself and turned on the camera, they were off.

I keep hearing that spring is here. Here in the Oregon High Dessert and surrounging mountains, not so much.  But I did found a species of wildflower blooming along the trail as I crunched through snow or walked softly on pine needles. Then I noticed a really strange thing. Could that be.....SAGEBRUSH?   I had to take a good smell but yes, that IS sagebrush growing in the shade of a Ponderosa forest. These sure weren't like the California Ponderosa forests.


I also fell in love with the bright, yellow-green color of the moss that grew on the dead limbs of Ponderosa pines.  Up close, it also has lots of texture.



 I loved this wood-burned and painted map of the area.  I live at the very bottom just to the right of the road that runs between between Malheur (east side) and Mud (west side) lakes. Burns is about 32 miles from my house and is the closest place to buy groceries or much of anything else.


 Soon my feet were telling me that it was time to stop already and get back to Burns and get groceries while they still had a few steps left in them.  But I had to stop once more to get this picture of an aspen grove along the road.



Today I'm busy cooking up pea soup, chicken stew, and fish something or the other. I took my last package of Carp, then found I didn't have the ingredients for any recipe so made a sort of fish soup, with brown rice in it. But I figure all this food will be tasting just fine for some of my lunches and suppers next week.

And I'm about to take the long way to the office area and then see if I have solved my problem of my music running too long. Otherwise, that will be the problem of the day tomorrow. Then from Tuesday on, we'll be giving the show to people coming to take the self-guided tour of Malheur NWR. Friday I'll be the driver for the Extreme Birding Tour.  I have to take the van in to Burns by 5:45A. . Saturday, I'll run the children's activities, then change and go to the Festival Banquet.  Then  I have to get up Sunday and drive in to Burns and pick up another van full of people and take it to the Narrows, where I'll pick up the tour guide.  We'll be touring the Double O Ranch that day.  I'll be done and back home about 4:00P.  I was scheduled to work next Monday but I told my boss I needed a sleep day.

I probably won't have time for any posts until after next week.  But I'll be back with all the fun stuff I did at the Festival.