Reub's journey

03 May 2017


 I have just returned from a trip to central Oregon, the northern Great Basin.

 This is a place of high desert, very cold at night. There was snow when we awoke on Friday morning, April 28.

The place where we stay is certainly not fancy. If you are interested, please visit the website of the Malheur Field Station, and if you go, take a sleeping bag, food, and your own gear. The field station seems to be trying to return to the elements much faster than anyone has the money or time to prevent.

 After all, that is the history of others who have tried to exist in this harsh and wild environment that was once the domain of the Paiute tribe.

The Malheur area has been managed by a collaboration of local cattle owners, refuge managers, Paiutes, environmental groups  (the Audobon Society), and others. The refuge was a good example of working things out between federal government and local interests; it was not a "land grab" and should never have been the center of violent protest on the part of the Bundy family in 2016.

Harney County is still healing from the Bundy's armed occupation of early 2016.

  But what a place. There are close to 200 thousand acres of wetland in this high desert basin, and every bit of it is crucial to migrating birds. Here is our list of 85 species spotted in 4 days. By "our" I don't mean "me;" I mean the actual bird watchers I was tagging along with: they have the most acute eyes, ears, and memory of anybody I've ever met.

However, birds are only a part of the draw. This is a Side-Blotched Lizard, a little guy who has to watch out for many predators.

A buck rub; it is time for itchy antlers to come off.

A freshly dug badger hole. Badgers can dig down pretty far in just 30 seconds, searching out ground squirrels to eat.

This sphere is comprised of hundreds of little twigs: a magpie nest.

Decades ago there were a number of drainage ditches dug; they are running full right now because of the wet winter.

Tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage was done to Malheur headquarters by self-branded "patriots" in early 2016, and when we visited last year it was closed. Thanks to local volunteer efforts, it looks good now.

Is there a wetland near you? Try to visit it in the next few weeks. Take some binoculars, and be willing to sit and listen for awhile.

Back home now in my warm house and easy life, there is a small part of me that remains behind. Certainly I will go back, but for now it is enough to gratefully remember the solitude and beauty.


  1. Oh what a wide-open lovely place! I'm glad the refuge has been repaired from last year's damage.

  2. Replies
    1. Such a big sky out there! Often dramatic.

  3. Such beauty all around us it makes one wonder why humans seem also bent on destruction.

  4. I had to do a double take. The words of Pauline, above, are almost exactly what I was about to write. I did so enjoy your visit to this beautiful place. It looks abandoned, and happy to be so. And free.

    1. When you both comment the only way I can tell you apart is by the letter W! Both good writers and acute observers.


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