Restoring the Cellar at Sodhouse Ranch

Written by Peter Pearsall/Photo by USFWS

Located along the south shore of Malheur Lake on the Refuge, Sodhouse Ranch is the northern terminus of what had been one of the largest cattle ranches in the U.S. during the late 1800’s: the French-Glenn Livestock Company, owned by Dr. Hugh Glenn of California and managed by John William “Peter” French.

According to Refuge documents, French purchased the property from a rancher named A. H. Robie in 1877. French continued as part owner and primary manager of the ranch for the Company until his death in 1897. It continued to be owned and operated by various entities within the French-Glenn Livestock Company until it was sold to Henry L. Corbett and the Blitzen Valley Land Company in 1907. In 1916, the Blitzen Valley Land Corporation was reorganized as the Eastern Oregon Land and Livestock Company when Louis Swift of the Swift Packing Company purchased 46% of the company’s stocks. The Eastern Oregon Land and Livestock Company later sold the Sodhouse Ranch to the federal government in 1935.

Sodhouse Ranch was listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1979. NRHP states that Sodhouse Ranch is “one of the finest examples of an Eastern Oregon Ranch remaining in the state.” The stone cellar (pictured) at the site was built in 1900. According to the NRHP, the cellar at Sodhouse Ranch is an excellent example of an early 1900s stone cellar and worthy of restoration.

Currently Malheur Refuge staff is in the early stages of restoring this historic stone cellar. The Refuge has selected a contractor “possessing exceptional skills and experience with early 20th century building techniques and materials as well as traditional construction, stone masonry techniques, and carpentry techniques” to lead the restoration, according to the project’s Scope of Work, provided by the Refuge.

Karla Mingus, USFWS Zone Archaeologist, expects restoration work to begin on the cellar’s SE and NE corners later this summer after the nesting birds have vacated the area.

Keep Your Feeders Clean!

Written by Peter Pearsall/Photo of Townsend’s warbler on suet feeder by Dan Streiffert

As the pandemic forces us to spend more time inside our homes, backyard birdwatching is becoming increasingly popular. By many measures, birdwatching itself hasn’t enjoyed this sort of widespread interest in decades. Backyard bird feeders are a source of joy to many of us, and they can provide essential calories to birds during times of need. But bird feeders can also be a source of disease if not properly maintained.

Feeding wild birds is not a black-and-white issue; as with most things, there are pros and cons to consider. One of the major cons is the potential for disease transmission. In the wild, birds rarely congregate closely around food sources as they do with feeders. This crowding puts birds in close proximity with one another. When birds inevitably excrete waste in or around bird feeders, bacteria such as Salmonella can spread between individuals.

Salmonellosis, a disease transmitted by bacteria in the genus Salmonella, often afflicts bird species that visit feeders, including finches, redpolls and siskins. Infected birds may appear weak or lethargic, with swollen eyes and fluffed-up feathers.

As a rule, feeders should be disinfected twice a month, even if no signs of disease are present. If birds suspected of carrying Salmonellosis are spotted near your feeders, take them down immediately. Wash the feeders and wait for a week or so before setting them back out. The birds will thank you for it!