Frenchglen & Malheur National Refuge

June 8-10, 2007

This was my first extended trip to organize and what a great group to break me in as a leader. The trip was advertised as a bird watching experience with some exploration into this remote region. Many in the group had been to the area but for some it was a first time experience. What a treat it was for all and each with a variety of different reasons. With 21 Obsidians we filled the old and new sections of the Frenchglen Hotel and out numbered the population of the town. Maybe that is an exaggeration but the town is very small.

We set off on Friday in separate cars and at different times of the day with a plan to meet by 5 p.m. at the hotel. Many stopped along the way to take in a variety of sites. Once you reach Burns it is an easy drive down to the town of Frenchglen. The first stop is at the Narrows, a recent addition to the area. It is a turn out at one of the better viewing areas along the route. It was here that several felt they saw the best assortment of bird species.

The next place to gather information is at Malheur Headquarters. They share the best places to view and lots of brochures. It too has a pond in which a few birds were seen resting in the waters. The museum offered a chance to see some stuffed birds up close for detail and size. The volunteer staff person that day encouraged us to take in a tour of the Round Barn and Diamond Craters. She also mentioned that the lower section of the P road would have the best assortment of birds.

As cars began arriving and rooms were assigned we gathered to do introductions. I knew from the beginning that this group would be a delight. As any leader knows the make up of the group determines the enjoyment of the trip. When you spend a weekend together it matters a great deal how congenial the group is and they were exceptional. With Rick Ahrens as our resident birder we were in good hands. I might add that many on this trip had a good knowledge of birds and contributed to our various sightings which by the way totaled 83 species of birds.

Dinner was at 6:30 and family style which allowed us to share stories and get to know one another. The food was very good and plenty of it was served. When one eats so much it is nice to wander off for an evening stroll. Right out the front door was a gravel road which took us on a pleasant walk. Again we were able to spend time enjoying the birds, each others company, Steens Mountain and a beautiful big sky. The little critters and birds were around and a skeleton of a deer made lots to look at. When the sun set Rick pulled out his scope and identified three planets and several constellations. The night sky in Eastern Oregon is amazing. It almost makes one want to stay up past 10 p.m.

We started out on Saturday at 6:00 a.m. Yes, that is a requirement of mine. Not really as it was offered out as a choice and I was amazed at how many showed up. We headed over to Page Springs and wandered around until breakfast. Once finished eating we selected our sack lunches and were on the road by 8:30. Packed into five cars with Rick at the lead and a walkie talkie in each vehicle we began our days adventure. We loaded and unloaded at least a half dozen times with various stops to look out our window at a sighting of a bird close by.

Lunch was at Benson Pond with a short walk out to a grove of trees for shade. It was here that my personal favorite sighting happened. Two baby Horned Owls were resting in a tree. At first they huddled together acting a little shy but soon moved around the tree to various branches. A parent was close by and did not seem to be bothered by our large group. Other sightings are too numerous to mention but all amazing in how many birds call this place home for a few days of the year. It makes a person want to know more about migration and where they are going and what other stops they make along the way.

Sunday was a shared breakfast and a farewell to all as each car set out on their separate return trips home. Many thanks to all in the group who contributed to a wonderful weekend. Several of us are already making plans for more extended trips for the future. We are so fortunate to have a large variety of places to explore together. If you have not experienced a trip like this one do not hesitate to sign up the next time. The spaces go fast.

Participants were: Rick Ahrens, David Call, Shelly Call, Marianne Camp (leader), Daniele Delaby, Jim Duncan, Sharon Duncan, Pat Esch, Phyllis Fisher, Kitson Graham, Peter Graham, Richard Hughes, Janet Jacobsen, John Jacobsen, Brenda Kameenui, Lana Lindstrom, Bill McWhorter, Maxine McWhorter, Barb Revere, Bonnie Richman and Barbara Schomaker.

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