Highway 205 Clean-up

Help us continue our committment to stewardship of the 5 miles north of Frenchglen on Highway 205. We believe that keeping this stretch of road clean sets an important example for how we should all care for nature all around us. Thank you for signing up!

Meet up at the Frenchglen Wayside parking across from the Frenchglen Hotel.

BRING/WEAR: 

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Water and a snack
  • Gloves (if you have a comfortable pair that you prefer, others will be available)
  • Your mask – This is a Covid safe event in which people will be outside and able to socially distance, but you will be required to wear your mask when near other participants whith whom you do not share a home. 

Bags, Grabbers, Gloves, and other materials will be provided.

Expert Tips for Attracting Birds to Your Backyard Fast

Written by Mike Cahill, https://www.redfin.com/blog/how-to-attract-birds-to-your-backyard/

When trying to attract birds to your home creating a habitat that serves their basic needs is essential. Food, water, and shelter are key but aren’t the only variables you need to consider. While these satisfy their physiological needs, birds also prefer a safe space where they can socialize freely. That’s why we reached out to the birdwatching experts from Vancouver to New York to provide you with a few creative ways to attract birds to your home.

Foster a bird haven

The most effective way to attract many different species of birds to your yard is to offer a wide variety of food sources including seeds (especially black oil sunflower seeds), suet, nuts, jelly, sugar water (for hummingbirds) and fruits. Also consider installing native plants, fruit-bearing trees, and shrubs in varying degrees of density in your backyard to promote an attractive, safe habitat for the birds to forage, roost and nest in. It’s also a good idea to put out a birdbath or install a small pond garden so that the birds have someplace to bathe, cool off and grab a drink, something that is particularly important during the summer months. Lastly, make sure that you clean your feeders and birdbath periodically and keep your feeders full. Following these steps, it won’t be long before your backyard will become a bird lover’s paradise! – Birdwatching N.C.

This spring, consider turning your backyard space into a welcoming haven for birds! The key to attracting birds to your yard is by providing for their basic needs. Growing native plants is a great way to encourage birds to settle in your yard by offering natural food sources and shelter. In addition, you can add bird feeders with a variety of food types to entice many different species. Proving a water source is another great way to attract birds because of course, they all need water! Putting a birdbath in your backyard is an easy way to provide a place that birds can drink and bathe. A couple of other important things you can do to help out our feathered friends are to avoid using pesticides and herbicides, which are harmful to birds and also to keep cats out of your yard! Have fun birding and good luck! – Meewasin

Townsend’s Warbler, Photo by Dan Streiffert

Incorporate a variety of feeders

Get some hummingbird feeders up in various parts of your garden. Hummers can be territorial so we suggest at least 2 or 3 different feeders in different corners. Keep the feeders well stocked with a 4 to 1 dissolved mix of water to sugar. Once the birds know there is a regular supply of food they’ll keep coming back. Take care to clean the feeders every day or so, and replace sugar water which ferments quickly on hot days. It’s not just about feeders – get some plants on the go too. Hummers love brightly colored tubular hanging flowers rich in nectar. Reds and purples are perfect, like cardinal flowers, columbines and fuchsias. – Home Happy Gringo

Don’t underestimate the importance of a clean water source

Our Friends know that their own yards can serve as vital mini-sanctuaries whether you live in the rural vast expanse or eastern Oregon or an urban ‘jungle’. We have a few tricks for ensuring that you are supporting the birds that may find themselves in your backyard. First things first – food is not enough. Clean, freshwater is a vital and often overlooked necessity for many birds. A resident of Burns, OR and Friends of Malheur Board Member, Rick Vetter, says, “I use a combination of water, feed, and bait to attract a variety of birds to my backyard in winter.” Water can be a shallow bath or bubbler and should be cleaned regularly. Rick continues, Feed consists of 2,000 lb of cracked corn and black sunflower see in several feeders supplemented with suet and a large plastic container of skippy super crunchy peanut butter with holes for wood pegs and slots for access to the peanut butter.” What about the bait you ask? Well, Rick has a unique approach to that as well. ” Bait consists of California quail and Eurasian collared doves eating the feed and in turn, they attract northern goshawks, Cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, red-tailed hawks and northern harriers that feed on them. Merlins feed on the smaller birds. – Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Try planting local natives

Firstly, I recommend planting local native plants like the Firebush (Hamelia patens). This plant is very attractive to hummingbirds and insects, therefore attracting other birds like warblers and flycatchers. Something important to keep in mind is that this plant has a tropical and subtropical distribution. Therefore it attracts birds suited for those conditions that the plant is also well adapted for. For that reason, before planting your garden or designing your landscaping, you have to investigate the local native plants in your area. Also, another helpful and easy way to attract birds in the garden, for example, is if you have old tree trunks on your property. These dead plants can provide a suitable habitat for woodpeckers, owls and in general birds that need a cavity to nest inside. – Drake Bay Birdwatching

Planning your outdoor space with bird-friendly plants that flower at different times of the year will attract a variety of birds throughout the flowering season. By planting early bloomers you will be providing a food source for early summer migrants (or straggling fall migrants) and by planting late bloomers you will be attracting birds leaving a little later (or fall migrants arriving early). And of course, you’ll be providing for your resident birds as well! To learn how to spot some of California’s most notable birds, check out our Guide to Birding. – Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority

The most effective way to encourage a variety of birds to your yard is to plant as many native trees, shrubs and flowers as possible. These are plants that the native birds have come to know and depend on over centuries. By using more native plants in your backyard, especially those that flower profusely in spring and follow the blooms with berries, you will not only encourage birds and other fauna to visit your yard, you will also encourage them to stay in your yard and call it home. – Ferns & Feathers

Yellow Warbler, Photo by Dan Streiffert

Install a moving water feature

A simple, cheap, clean and effective way to attract birds to your garden is to install a moving water feature. Place a floating solar-powered water pump in the middle of your birdbath, surrounded by small rocks to keep it in place and to act as perches. Alternatively, if you want to DIY it, you can make your own “spring” out of a large plastic bucket with a lid (eg paint bucket) and a small solar-powered pump. Paint or decorate it to your taste, punch holes in the lid for the tubing and drainage back into the bucket, and place small rocks or stones on the lid to give it a more natural feel. The moving water ensures that it is oxygenated and stays clean for longer than still water, and it attracts the bird’s eye more readily. – Birding in Spain

Originally published on Redfin

First Time Volunteers, Forever Friends

Written by Cheryl Hunter & Larry Hill

We have just experienced our first volunteer stint with the Crane’s Nest Nature Center & Store at Refuge headquarters. It was great fun learning more about Malheur and its wildlife, making new friends and, most importantly, welcoming visitors to the Refuge and sharing our love of this special place. The store is operated by the Friends of Malheur. Janelle Wicks, Executive Director of the Friends, welcomed us warmly on our arrival. She shared necessary information for working at the store and gave us tips to share with visitors about what birds were currently being sighted and where best to find them. We are newer birdwatchers, but Janelle provided resources that immediately helped us answer questions for store visitors. After a first day of training in the store, Janelle made sure to schedule us and other store volunteers so that we had plenty of time to really explore the refuge and surrounding area, adding to our own knowledge and giving us firsthand information to share with people coming into the Center. We quickly began to feel confident!

Accommodations for volunteers are modern and comfortable. Coming from Eugene, we stayed in our trailer in the RV area provided for Friends volunteers. The kitchen and community room gave us the luxury of cooking and eating inside as desired, and even a chance to do our laundry! Bathrooms and showers were up-to-date and impeccably clean. Using these facilities was also a great way to get to know other volunteers and share knowledge about wildlife sightings each day. Everyone was friendly, easy to get along with, and enthusiastic about sharing current and past experiences as well as some fabulous photos of birds and nesting places! These facilities provided by the Refuge make it possible for us to stay for extended visits, giving us a chance to really get a feel for the Refuge and increase our knowledge as volunteers.

Our experience as volunteers for the Friends has been a wonderful combination of contributing to the work of the Friends and the Refuge and having a chance to spend time in a beautiful and unique part of Oregon. Working in the Nature Center & Store includes fun conversations with visitors, sharing knowledge and learning more, as well as helping to sell all the fun products and books that visitors take home with their memories of Malheur NWR.

Exploring the Refuge during our free time is always unforgettable, seeing hundreds of familiar and new birds as well as other wildlife and wildflowers. Our sightings included Great Horned Owls (nesting with chicks!), Golden Eagles, Northern Harriers, Sandhill Cranes (one pair nest-building and another already nesting), Great Egrets, White-faced Ibis, American Avocets, Western and Pied-billed Grebes, Black-necked Stilts, Long-billed Curlews, a range of ducks and geese and many more besides. We saw a shy, elusive Virginia Rail at Benson Pond and a Great-tailed grackle, a rare visitor at Malheur, at feeders near the store. Malheur is a world that is constantly changing and seems to provide, every day, a unique and sometimes rare sighting of a bird or of certain bird behaviors. At the end of our volunteer experience, we returned home, full of new knowledge and greater awareness of the vibrant world around us! We are already scheduling our next visit as volunteers for the near future!

Malheur & Me: Pilgrimage to Malheur

Written by Steven Kratka/ Photos by Steven Kratka

Spring 2021 and time for my annual pilgrimage to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  This sacred place has been calling  me back for over a year and it was with great excitement that I once again find myself in the midst of  this wildlife mecca. My plan was to spend three days here, crisscrossing the refuge road system in search of subjects for my mind and my lens.  Malheur never disappoints. 

Within the first hour of my arrival I photographed my first Great Horned Owls of the trip.  The female sitting on her eggs while the male kept careful watch of his mate from an adjacent tree.  I marveled at the amazing camouflage of the female nestled in the crotch of a tree. She was easy to miss even just a few feet away. Two hours later I spotted another nesting Great Horned Owl about 2 miles from the first pair.   We observed each other intently but at a respectful distance.  A good place to have some lunch I thought as I communed with this wonderful owl on a more spiritual level.  I tried to lighten the mood a bit and decided to have a staring contest with my feathered friend.  I lost big time.  I photographed a total of six Great Horned Owls.  The most ever in one trip for me.  My favorite owl encounter I was not able to photograph.  As I was driving the refuge I spotted,  through a dense tangle of branches, two Great Horned Owls sitting on a branch shoulder to shoulder, both with intense stares in my direction. As quickly as I spotted them they flew away but that amazing image has recorded itself forever in my mind.

Usually I enjoy only the solitude and peace that Malheur has to offer during my visits avoiding  other people always, however this time I spent many hours at the Headquarters.  What a wonderful experience that was.  So many birds gathered at the feeders, in the trees, on the small pond.  I sat for hours watching and photographing a plethora of bird species.  My favorites were Audubon’s Warbler and  White Crowned Sparrows flitting through the branches of the sagebrush.  I was serenaded to the songs of Red Winged Blackbirds, the always striking Yellow Headed Blackbirds and of course the ever present Meadowlark.  One of my favorite shots was of the  Mountain Cottontail Rabbit.  I love that photo and already have it hanging on my wall at home.  While in the headquarters building someone opened the door to come in and they were preceded by a quick moving four foot bull snake who decided to tour the facilities before being escorted out. The refuge Headquarters will always be a part of future trips.  A must see for everyone.

One of the more difficult birds I have tried photographing has always been the Belted Kingfisher.  Malheur came to the rescue.  I spent several hours photographing Kingfishers on the ponds at the entrance to the Paige Springs Campgrounds.  To my delight they were very cooperative diving for fish for my lens. The refuge always has new experiences for me every-time I visit.

As always, during my drives through the refuge, the every present Northern Harriers treated me to their low level flight skills as I whipped my huge telephoto lens back and forth attempting to record their gracefulness.

My heart jumped for joy when I heard the rattling bugles of Sandhill Cranes. The sound that will always mean Malheur and home to me.  I could listen to their vocalizations for hours.  Several took the opportunity to pose for my camera. 

Over the three days I was on the refuge I saw so many of it’s wonders.  The nesting Bald Eagles by Frenchglen,  Mule Deer everywhere at dusk and dawn, Antelope running so effortlessly through the sagebrush, the striking plumage of Magpies as they flash by, various lizards scurrying over lichen covered rocks and the spectacular iridescent feathers of the Northern Shoveler duck.

Three days was much to short to explore the treasures of this refuge.  However I have several thousand images to process and catalog so Malheur will still be with me for many more months.  Already I am missing my day long explorations.  I am not sure I can wait an entire year before my return to the place that I consider my other home. 

Returning to Malheur NWR, Responsibly

Written by Janelle Wicks/Photos by Dan Streiffert

Spring is well under way and bird migration in full swing. As the birds return, so are the people! After a year of quarantining, stay at home orders, and travel restrictions, many are finding themselves eager to visit Malheur Refuge. Though, it can be a hard decision to make as Covid-19 cases are on the rise in Oregon while at the same time many people have been or will soon be fully vaccinated. If you are one of many who will make the trip to Malheur this spring, we are eager to welcome you, safely, back to the Refuge.

Malheur Refuge has remained open to the public throught the past year while the majority of its visitor-use facilities, such as the Refuge Visitor Center, Museum, Nature Center & Store and restrooms at Headquarters, were closed out of concern for public safety, says Brett Dean, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Law Enforcement Officer. These facilities are now reopened with health and safety protocols in place. The Visitor Center and Nature Store are permitting 4 people at a time in doors. Plexiglass barriers have been put in place and hand sanitizer stations are placed in entryways.

A federal mask mandate remains in place for all federal buildings. This includes every building on the Refuge, even bathrooms and the museum. We ask that visitors stay vigilent at all times and maintain spatial distancing of at least 6′ where possible. When 6′ distancing is not possible, even outdoors, a mask is required on all public lands.

It is a great idea to just keep your mask with you at all times. It is also helpful to keep handy your own stash of hand sanitizer or wipes, and wash your hands as often as possible when you spend time in a public or high use space.

In 2020, Officer Dean reported seeing more and more visitors on the Refuge throughout spring in the Harney Basin. He says that while it may seem as though staff are largely absent from the Refuge, essential employees are very much hard at work ensuring that Refuge habitats are maintained, wildlife are monitored, and public safety is attended to. For this reason it is critical the visitors fully pull off of the road if they are stopping to observe birds. And remember, your car is your best bird blind!

“We’re out there patrolling, making sure folks are following the rules, writing citations if necessary,” Dean says. While there hasn’t been a noticeable increase in recreation violations, Dean says that one perennial issue is Refuge visitors trespassing into areas closed to the public. “We see a lot of people trying to get past those signs to get closer to birds and other wildlife for photos. We understand the urge, but those signs are there to protect wildlife and we ask that visitors respect that.”

Another issue that arose to some prominence in 2020 was visitors camping on the Refuge, which is strictly prohibited. Dean suspects that since most parks and campgrounds had been closed during the health crisis (including Page Springs Campground, a BLM site just outside of the Refuge), visitors wanting to camp in the area decided to try staying on the Refuge. Even now that Page Springs and many other camping accomodations are re-opened it is important to plan ahead and make sure that you have a safe and legal back-up plan for where you intend to stay the night.

Outside of those violations, Dean says that the majority of visitors respect the Refuge and practice responsible recreation: obeying signs and closures, packing out trash, and being respectful to wildlife and other visitors.

“Refuges are great places to experience nature and get away from home, especially in these current times, and we want to support that,” Dean says. “We just ask that visitors follow the rules. And most people do.”