Ode to Sod House Ranch

Half August
We come together
Clearing the trail for opening day~ August 15.
We imagine 100's visiting this vast Historical Wonder.
Cool morning; Hot afternoon.
Thunder heads boil the horizon,
Birds disguise their identity as silhouettes fronting the sun,
We are blinded.
Light & Beauty dazzle.
Flit, flash, flutter.
Ethereal shadows hide from our view,
on the far side of huge Cottonwoods.
Vultures are tree ornaments.
Rustling feathers and leaves.Feathers fall to Earth.
Huge white egrets bursting with pride offer fish "THIS BIG" to gangly chicks.
Squawking for ever bigger fish,
or perhaps a fat pack rat.
Youngsters settle as their parents describe "the one who got away".
Sauntering Sandhills grace new cut fields with the style of thoroughbred racehorses.
Their sounds drown out the squabbling egrets.
Nuthatches "peent".
Raptors bear witness.
Oh right...opening gates,
unlock doors.
Here's a notebook.
Step by step descriptions &
Photos show how to begin.
The Office, Bunkhouse, and Original Homestead have to be arranged.
Packrats reluctantly leave the safety of roofed enclosures...Sigh,
if only they were considerate guests!
They sure are cute!
Flash! Boom, crash!
Thunderheads, now lightning!
We pack and flee as the Earth is drenched with life giving rain.
Come to see the long manger,
Designed to hold wagon loads of hay necessary to feed 300 working horses.
Come to meet "Pedro", the only steer fit to represent the 10 vaqueros no longer bunking in the bunkhouse.
Bring your spotting scopes, binoculars, and curiosity.
Mornings refresh. 
Afternoons scintilate.
Sodhouse Ranch awaits You.

Written by Dale Broszeit, FWS & FOMR Volunteer

Carp Derby at Malheur Refuge

Written by Peter Pearsall/Photo by Peter Pearsall

On Saturday, August 17, FOMR and Refuge staff will host the annual Carp Fishing Derby at Malheur Headquarters. This event, which began in 2010 and has been held nearly every year since, has traditionally served to kick off a week-long carp fishing season at the Refuge. Today, it’s an opportunity for visitors to come to the Refuge and participate in a good-natured fishing competition, as well as learn more about common carp and the management issues they pose to Refuge staff.

Common carp were introduced to Harney Basin waterways sometime in the early 1900s, likely as a source of food for landowners. They began showing up at the Refuge in the 1920s, and by the 1950s their expanded numbers were having detrimental effects on aquatic habitats within the Refuge. Common carp are bottom feeders, and their constant rooting about for food clouds the water and smothers aquatic vegetation, depriving it of the sunlight necessary for photosynthesis. As aquatic and emergent vegetation disappeared from Malheur’s waterways during the height of the carp invasion, waterfowl and shorebirds—dependent on these habitat types for feeding and nesting—abandoned the Refuge.

Carp management is therefore a top priority at Malheur Refuge. Past management efforts have involved piscicides, explosives, electroshocking, fish barriers, hand removal, and hiring a commercial fishing fleet to catch carp and convert them to fertilizer. Each of these methods has upsides and downsides; all have met with lukewarm results thus far. Read more about the ongoing Carp Biomass Study at Malheur Refuge.

Events like the Carp Fishing Derby at the Refuge put a light-hearted spin on this serious conservation issue. The Carp Derby is designed primarily for kids, but everyone is welcome to participate. There will be games and activities, educational information about the effects of carp on Harney Basin wetlands, plus prizes for the best fishing and some cooking of carp to feed the attendees.

FOMR Annual Members Weekend

Friends of Malheur NWR is celebrating 20 years of promoting conservation and appreciation of natural and cultural resources. Join our BIRTHDAY Celebration with this FREE line up of events!

Friday – Board & Members

1:00 PM Board Meeting: FOMR Board of Directors and Refuge Staff will meet to discuss upcoming programs along with the progress of ongoing projects.

5:00 – 7:00 PM Happy Hour: All are welcome to join us for a casual evening of dining and drinks at a local restaurant in Burns, OR. Location TBD

Saturday – Public & Free

7:30 – 11:30 Migrate Malheur: Expert birders, biologists and renowned authors will be stationed at key birding hotspots along the Auto Tour Route to share the thrill of Birding and Exploring Malheur with you!
Presentations at Refuge HQ by Gary Ivey, Biologist and FOMR President.

9:00 AM Sandhill Cranes of the Pacific Flyway
11:00 AM Conservation Challenges of Trumpeter Swans at Malheur

For Transportation: Two vans will leave from Burns HS and return by noon. Pre-register for a seat on the van at 541.493.2612

Presentations and Book signing by Kenn Kaufman & Alan Contreras followed by an auction to support the Tribal Stewards program on Malheur NWR.
Let us know you intend to join us!

Sunday – Members & Guests

8:30 – 12:00 PM & 1:00 – 4:30 PM Friends Guided Tours: Sign up for a van tour of either Boca Lake or Double O units of the Refuge. You will be led by one of FOMR’s Board Members having extensive history with Malheur Refuge, including many years of biological work.

Double O Unit – Unique unto itself, the “Wilds” of the Double O unit of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are a blend of playas, dunes, meadows, lakes and ponds. This westernmost region of the Refuge provides excellent habitat for shorebirds on receding mudflats and alkali playas. You will be guided by one of FOMR’s Birding Aficionados and Board Members. From swallows to ducks to swans and eagles, the list can often reach twenty-five species! AM Tour PM Tour

Boca Lake Unit – Experience this beautiful sub-basin of the Blitzen Valley, exploring the wetlands and surrounding habitats of the 600-acre Boca Lake. You will be guided by one of FOMR’s Birding Aficionados and Board Members. and You can expect an abundance of water birds and plenty of upland species as you circumnavigate the lake. Due to the importance of this specialized habitat, which is a rare oasis in the Harney Basin, this area is otherwise closed to the public! AM Tour PM Tour

Suggested Donation of $20/person. Donations and Membership dues are put towards Friends of Malheur Projects and Programs that further our mission to promote conservation and appreciation of the natural and cultural resources at Malheur NWR.

October 27 Work Party Recap

Written by FOMR Board Member Linda Hoffman/Photos by FOMR

Saturday, October 27 was a lovely, warming Fall day at our Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Our hard-working crew, fueled by coffee and snacks, was ready to get to work. Chatting up a storm (Spurge and Larry in particular!), it didn’t take long for jackets and sweatshirts to start being shed. The focus of all this energy was to clean up all the hugely overgrown weeds and shrubs surrounding our new Crane’s Nest Nature Center.

Alice single-handily tamed the lilac hedge on the south side of the yard, removing load after pickup load of dead wood.

Larry and Spurge became our experts at attacking and removing the huge root balls that were flush with the foundation. As a result, the original iron grates covering the foundation window wells, not only now allow more light into the basement, but are handsome, historic pieces to admire. The window wells are also now clear of years of leaves and debris.

Lisa Sanco, Program Manager for Worthy Garden Club, our Pollinator Garden sponsor, corralled all the cottonwood leaves into pile after pile which soon found their way into the back of the Refuge’s pickup headed for the debris pile.

The weeding crew, especially Jody Newman, found all the buried flagstones that some of us remember from many years past. They found a new home next to the east door filling a small space between the door steps and the first foundation window well that is only suitable for some new ground cover.

Cay, Susan and Jody just worked and worked, weeding, thinning and transplanting several plant clumps on the east and along the south end of the building. Many were moved to the south end of the building but a more appropriate distance from the building’s foundation.

This Spring, when we gather to build and plant our Worthy Garden Club Pollinator Garden, we will also add some flowers and plants in these newly created beds. hey will support our hummingbirds and pollinators with more color than the former residence has seen for many years. So put April 11-14 on your calendars and join us* in building our largest project to date, a 10×18 foot raised bed, garden.

Thank you all for your hard work and love for our Refuge! Have a lovely Winter and see you in the Spring!


*Watch the monthly newsletter for an opportunity to sign up for this volunteer project.

Beaver or Muskrat?

Written by Peter Pearsall/Photos by Kay Steele

The vast marshes and riparian thickets of Harney Basin are a sanctuary for water-loving wildlife, from the scores of birds, insects, amphibians and fishes using its waterways to more than 50 native mammal species. Of these mammals, several are specially adapted for the life aquatic, including the American beaver (Castor canadensis) and the muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus).

From time immemorial, beaver and muskrat were hunted by Harney Basin’s indigenous peoples for food and pelts. When the first Euro-Americans arrived in the basin in the 1820s, their primary pursuit was fur, especially that of beaver and muskrat, for use in garments.

Since both species occur at Malheur Refuge, often in the same habitats, it can sometimes be tricky to tell them apart–particularly at a distance, and if the animal is partially submerged. Owing to their similar lifestyles, beaver and muskrat share several physiological and behavioral traits. Both semi-aquatic rodents possess webbed back feet and thick, brownish, water-resistant fur. Both can remain submerged for up to 15 minutes at a time. Both are most active at night, feeding predominately on vegetation, and neither hibernates during the winter. Both build their dwellings at water’s edge using local plant materials.

While beaver and muskrat have much in common, there are clear differences between the two. Most know that the beaver’s tail is distinctively wide and flat, covered not in hair but scales. The muskrat’s tail, while similarly scaly, is long, thin and slightly flattened vertically. While swimming, a muskrat’s tail sweeps side to side, like a fish’s; the beaver’s paddle-like tail pumps up and down, like a dolphin’s.

Beavers are much larger than muskrats, weighing between 35 and 60 pounds. A full-grown muskrat reaches only 4 pounds. When swimming, a muskrat usually shows its entire body near the surface; beavers show only their heads. The ears of a beaver are also more visible than those of a muskrat.

The waterside dwellings of beaver and muskrat are often noticeably different in their construction. A beaver lodge is typically dome-shaped, employing copious amounts of mud daubed over sticks and logs. A muskrat lodge uses lighter materials (such as bulrush and cattail stalks) which are piled over a solid foundation, such as a tree stump. Sometimes these rodents leave tracks in the mud near their lodges: A muskrat’s drooping tail leaves long, skinny marks as it walks, while a beaver’s wide tail tends to drag through part of its tracks, obscuring them.

No matter the season, wildlife watchers at Malheur Refuge may chance upon seeing one or both of these water-loving rodents plying marshes, sloughs or river channels during their visit. Hopefully this blog post helps to ease any identification challenges!