Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Tree of Life

Malheur NWR is an amazing 187,000 acres of marsh lands and sage brush steppe. The Malheur Headquarters has a combination of large Cottonwoods, Slippery Elm and various ornamental trees that act like a magnet for attracting migrating birds. For migrating songbirds the Headquarters is welcoming beacon following their nightly migration travels. (yes-most birds migrate at night) You can just imagine finishing an all-night flight looking for a place to land to rest and feed....Headquarters is the only place for miles with such lovely inviting habitat.

Each morning we load up the truck around 6:30- 7:00 to get ready for the days survey activities and we stop by and see who has arrived into the trees at HQ. We have to be very disciplined to make sure we make it out of HQ to take care of our duties- it would be easy to spend the day there enjoying all of the migrating birds on their incredible journey:)

Malheur Headquarters

Hence, Headquarters (HQ) is a spring migrant bird trap attracting birders from all over the Pacific Northwest. Within the HQ complex is a small group of flowering trees dominated by this Prairie Crabapple Tree that is the first to bloom.

Once the sun warms the tree-it fills with bees that attract the birds.

One warm day the trees were filled with bees and other insects acting as dinner bell to the hungry birds.

These Western Tanagers are some of the most colorful visitors. They love the bees:)

This guys is eating a bee. They actually remove the stinger and then enjoy.

The striking male Bullock's Oriole also loves the bees.

This Calliope Hummingbird is not that much bigger than some of the big bees.

This female Rufous Hummingbird is enjoying the new blooms.

Notice the bee to the lower left flying away for its life:)

We had the good fortune to have a large group of Cassin's Vireos stop by. They are identifiable with their well marked "spectacles"

Here is a Warbling Vireo. They have been here for about a month so maybe they are nesting here. Right now there seems to be a pair in every tree- how wonderful is that!

The Cedar Waxwings look like they are out of a charcoal painting

They are actually eating the petals off the trees:)

These little female and male Black-chinned Hummingbirds enjoy the protection of the trees.

It is always a pleasure to see the Evening Grosbeaks

Here is a male Black-headed Grosbeak- I love the little patch of yellow on their belly.

We had a few days where we had large numbers of Lazuli Buntings at HQ eating out of the feeders. 

This is a beautiful male Lazuli Bunting below.

This was a new bird for us! A hybrid Lazuli x Indigo Bunting! You never know what you are going to see......

The striking nomadic Lewis's Woodpeckers are always a treat to see. At one point we had as many as 15 Lewis's hanging around HQ!! You never know where you will see a Lewis's Woodpecker.

And the warblers..... I love the warblers.....

If any bird species owns HQ- it would be the Yellow Warblers. There are Yellow Warblers everywhere- singing and calling- establishing their territories and building nests- what a wonderful experience to see.

A male Yellow Warbler

Another male Yellow Warbler....

Another Yellow Warbler.... singing with all if his heart...

And there he goes.....

This female Yellow Warbler found a wonderful place to feed on the inside of this wire tree support. Here she is safe from predators for the most part.

Below is the skulky MacGillivray's Warbler with its gray head and broken eye arc.

We had pretty good group of Nashville Warblers hang around for a week or so- enjoying the tree of life

The Nashville has the soft gray head with a full eye ring.

This Orange-crowned Warbler looks a little scruffy but is enjoying the abundance of food.

This dazzling Townsend's Warbler was enjoying the early Lilac bush blooms.

The male Wilson's Warbler is usually darting about in the back of a tree or bush- I was blessed to catch him in a moment of repose.

This Yellow-rumped Warbler is the Myrtle's subspecies- they have a white throat verses the Audubon's has a yellow throat....either color...they are very dramatic in their breeding plumage.

One of my favorite sparrows- the White-throated Sparrow- was hanging out underneath the feeders taking advantage of the fallen seeds.

There is a pond next to HQ with a nesting platform. This Osprey was looking at the site but did not nest there.

We had a Red-naped Sapsucker show up. Apparently they don't get many woodpeckers since there are not that many trees.

An immature Swainson's Hawk showed up..... this had all the local birders scratching their heads....Swainson's do not hang out here. There are lots of Red-tailed Hawks but not Swainson's. Well this Swainson's started making a nest....he would sit on the branches of big trees and break off pieces with his beak or sometimes try to break off branches with his claws. One evening we watched and listened as he came in with a mature Swainson's Hawk, they circled and called out of a few minutes and then we never saw the mature bird again. We can only imagine that this immature bird was possibly inviting this mature bird to mate with him.....for some reason she moved on. He is still here working on his nest.

Carrying a big branch...

Here he is with a branch with leaves

Turtle-dove or Eurasian Collared Dove?? There was a controversy about what this bird species is. Sometimes you aren't able to put a name to every bird and that is okay- that is the fun of it.

The noisy Yellow-headed Blackbirds are some of my favorites- the noises and calls that come out of them sound life threatening sometimes:) They love the bird seed and hang out at HQ pretty much all day with the Red-winged Blackbirds.

Here they are having a debate about who owns this feeder:)

The European Starling is considered an extremely invasive bird that is displacing many cavity nesting birds around the country. They are amazingly adaptable but you can't deny they are stunning looking birds.

It has been about 3 weeks or more since many of these photos were taken. The blooming trees have changed and the birds are continually coming and going- I guess that is the magic about birding and connecting with this special place.

The world is filled with beauty & wonder,

Turtle & Hawk

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