Frozen pond in the distance with a tree and grasses all covered in frost.

Written by Patricia Feltmann/Photos by Patricia Feltmann

My husband and I were introduced to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the late 1980’s by my parents, Tom and Dixie Nelson, who had been visiting for years. We finally returned in 2017 and have been making regular forays to the area ever since.  Our trips are usually in spring and summer, to catch as much of migration and nesting seasons as possible. My husband’s personal favorites are the Yellow-Headed Blackbirds, which remind him of his childhood in the mid-west.

This year, however, we decided to make a trip to the refuge in December.  I am not sure Headquarters could look any more beautiful than it was that morning!  The area was covered in freezing fog.  We could hear coyotes howling in the foggy distance and we had the place completely to ourselves. I was able to take a picture of  a California Quail fluffed up against the cold on a frosty bush that has become one of my favorite photographs. As we drove down the Center Patrol Road, the beauty of the refuge itself was the main attraction, with the birds and animals accentuating that beauty. Stepping out of the car to capture that beauty, I was startled by a Ring-Necked Pheasant bursting out of the long grass at my feet, one of many we saw on and around the Refuge on that trip. 

After visiting the refuge, we traveled down to the South Steens Herd Management Area to photograph wild horses. On our way, we spotted a large herd of Mule Deer and then a herd of Bighorn Sheep fairly close to the road above Frenchglen. Once in the South Steens HMA, we were blessed to find many bands we had not seen on previous trips. 

We hope to continue to return to the refuge year after year and in all seasons.  There are so many places  we still have yet to explore on the Refuge and in the surrounding areas.

Patricia Feltmann’s photographs are used here with her permission and are not to be printed or reproduced. To reach Patricia and see more of her photography please visit her website or send an email.

If you would like to share your photographs or reflection on your connection to Malheur NWR, please contact Janelle via email.