Sunday, June 13, 2010

Memorial Day weekend at Malheur: Part 10

Western Tanager Western Tanager at Malheur NWR Headquarters, Oregon on 30 May, 2010 by Greg Gillson.


[Click to read all Memorial Day weekend at Malheur posts.]

Lawn and fruit trees! Cottonwoods, spruce, pine, licacs, hawthorn! Bird feeders, bird baths, hummingbird feeders! You have finally arrived at Malheur NWR Headquarters, some 25 miles south of Burns, Oregon.

If you are here in the first few hours after dawn during spring migration you will see an amazing spectacle. Hundreds of birds drop out of the sky to land exhausted in this most amazing green oasis. Here they are--Western Tanagers (above), Black-headed Grosbeaks, Wilson's Warblers, Lazuli Buntings, Warbling Vireos, and dozens of other regular species!

The birds started their migration a few weeks earlier, crossed the length of Mexico, flew over the Southwestern cactus deserts, and now have navigated the Great Basin sage flats. They fly at night, rest and eat during the day. If the weather is cooperative, they take off again at dusk, heading for some northern forest or pleasant meadow to breed. But first they have to get there. Refuge Headquarters at Malheur is a welcome break providing water, shade, a hiding place, and food.

No wonder most serious birders start each morning at "Headquarters" before heading off elsewhere for the day.

Western Tanagers, nest in conifer forests, but are common migrants in May at Malheur.

HQ's Malheur NWR Headquarters, Oregon on 29 May, 2010 by Greg Gillson.