I stayed two nights in the historic Frenchglen Hotel. Established in 1916, the hotel has interesting history and rustic charm. The rooms are small and the bathrooms shared, but I was most excited for the family dining experience. I’m not usually into family dining, but in this setting I found it delightful and charming.
Dinner is promptly served at 6:30pm and consisted of tasty local fare followed by apple cobbler for dessert. While grazing, Tomas and I chatted with another Portland couple visiting in a similar fashion to us, but the best part was listening to stories from the retired couple at the opposite end of the table about their encounters earlier in the day with wild horses and burrowing owls. I listened carefully.
And the next morning when Tomas set off for his bike tour over Steens Mountain, I set off in search of owls.
The plan was Tomas would bike tour for a week while I birded the surrounding area so I could also provide a pick-up if needed. Best of both worlds. We set off and though I tried hard, searching the shrubs along gravel roads, checking multiple sites, I failed to find any owls.
But I did find Golden Eagles.
It was neat to see the different variations, the one on the left with white patches under the wings and tail is a juvenile. I pulled over at another stop and saw four (!) perched on a power pole in the far distance. See terrible photo evidence (note the American Kestrel perched on the juniper to the right):
While driving around I spooked several birds along the roadsides, occasionally finding a cooperative one or two perched on barbed wire.
And waiting to strike, Loggerhead Shrike.
It was exciting to get roadside views of pronghorn.
Classic eastern Oregon.
And not far away, hopeful coyote.
After too many hours of driving, I returned to Frenchglen and discovered the P Ranch historic area of Malheur. Named after Peter French, a nineteenth century rancher, the P ranch is now a part of Malheur National Wildlife. Old structures, barns, fields, and paths along the Donner und Blitzen River, it was really pretty and I spent some time poking around and finding a few birds including:
Being in Malheur, I really wanted to find something exotic. Because Maheur, right? I got pretty excited when I saw this weirdo bird.
It took me a while to realize it was just an American Goldfinch in transition to non-breeding plumage. Then another point I got excited when I saw something I thought looked grouse-like in a field.
Not until I got home and studied the photo when I realized it must be an American Kestrel in a chicken suit. Strike two. Birding is hard.
Lets look at deer instead.
Better. At least I recognized one bird.
Bank Swallow! Hanging on the wire next to with a bunch of Barn Swallows and the moon.
As it got dark, Common Nighthawks flew by peenting along the way as I made my way back to the hotel room for the last night. In the morning, I would head to Steens Mountain to see what I could find.
Good nights and chirps,