Sunday, August 14, 2016

My Summer at Malheur - Weeks Seven and Eight: Of Birds, Butterfly Blitzes, and Beautiful Things / JULY 24 - AUG 5, 2016

My final two weeks as an intern with Friends of Malheur were filled with continuing surveys of breeding waterfowl and migratory shorebirds in water impoundments and monarch / milkweed patches throughout the refuge. We accompanied the co-directors of Malheur Field Station, Duncan and Lyla, on two butterfly blitzes, one of Steens Mountain, and the other on Strawberry Mountain in the Malheur National Forest north of Burns. After these blitzes I certainly feel I've cracked the seal of my zeal for butterflies. I look forward to continuing my familiarization with the order Lepidoptera. 

Reflecting on my summer at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, I have realized how the experiences I've had have helped me find some personal closure and healing following events earlier this year. As I watched the tragic and illegal occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge unfold the past winter, I was overcome with many strong emotions. I became angry, frustrated, and deeply saddened. I felt helpless. As with many others, Malheur NWR has been a very significant place to me for years and it was incredibly difficult to witness it being a place of conflict and strife. I moved to Oregon from the southeastern U.S. a decade ago and quickly fell in love with the Northern Great Basin. I remember my first visit to Malheur and how much of an impact it made in my life. I have been visiting the refuge and surrounding region continuously for the last seven years. This summer internship, living and working at Malheur NWR, has allowed me the chance to give back to this very important place and the work that is done here. Despite the negativity of the recent events, my summer at Malheur has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I’ve had the privilege of engaging with some great individuals during my time spent working among USFWS staff, ODFW duck banding crew, and the directors of Malheur Field Station. Their expertise, advice, and guidance has helped me gain an even greater appreciation for this wondrous ecosystem and its management. My duties and experiences here have contributed much to my skill-set and will serve as a great boon to my professional development as I continue my career in wildlife science and resource management. 

Due to the overwhelming beauty and wonder of this place, it is impossible for me to condense my time here at Malheur into a “favorite experience”. However, some highlights from the summer might include watching juvenile Burrowing Owls poke their heads up while under the watchful supervision of nearby parents, a raft of over fifty American White Pelicans illuminated by moonlight diving in synchronicity while nocturnally feeding, observing the fascinating invertebrate communities associated with milkweed while searching for Monarch Butterfly larvae, or watching hunting Long-eared Owls silhouetted by the light of the Milky Way. Although it will take time to repair the wounds inflicted on the refuge, its staff, and the surrounding community by the illegal occupation, this internship has given me some level of closure and healing. From the French, malheur translates to misfortune, however the only misfortune I will take from this place (aside from perhaps a few hundred mosquito bites) is how much I will miss this it once I leave. I consider myself very fortunate, indeed, to have been able to participate in this internship and to have hopefully contributed a positive impact on this integral and sacred part of the American West.

During my time exploring and working this summer at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Steens Mountain, Strawberry Mountain, and the surrounding areas I found a total of 164 bird species, 26 mammal species, 6 reptile species, and 2 amphibian species, and 4 species of fish. I also identified (with some help in many cases) dozens of invertebrates. A complete list of the vertebrate species I identified during my internship follows the photographs at the bottom of this page. 


Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)
Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya)
Benson Pond




Great Egrets (Ardea alba), Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), Snowy Egret (Egretta thula), and other waterbirds

Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula)
Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinatorand cygnets

Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)
Bobolink female
Bobolink male
Bobolink juvenile
Red-veined Meadowhawk (Sympetrum madidum)




Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
Darnell Pond
Redhead (Aythya americanaand American Coot juvenile (Fulica americana)
Song Sparrow fledgling (Melospiza melodia)

Hunt Bumble Bee (Bombus huntii) on Milkweed flower (Asclepias speciosa)


unidentified chrysalis, perhaps Pontia sp.
unidentified caterpillar... help anyone?


5th Instar Monarch caterpiller (Danaus plexippus)






Cobalt Milkweed Beetles (Chrysochus cobaltinus)
lady beetle larvae
unidentified grasshopper
Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)


a Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis), most likely killed by flying into powerlines

Western Pygmy-Blue (Brephidium exilis)
Steens Mountain Butterfly Blitz


White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata)





Callippe Fritillary (Speyeria callippe)



Coronis Fritillary (Speyeria coronis), Zerene Fritillary (Speyeria zerene), and Callippe Fritillary (Speyeria callippe) 
released!
gobs of Hairstreaks on 


California Hairstreak (Satyrium californica)
Hedgerow Hairstreak (Satyrium saepium)



Castilleja sp.


Milbert's Tortoiseshell (Aglais milberti)
Milbert's Tortoiseshell (Aglais milberti)
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)
Little Elephant's Head (Pedicularis attollens)

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)




Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes sp.)
Alpine Shooting Star (Primula tetrandra)

Penstemon sp.
Yellow Monkey-flower (Mimulus sp.)
Purple Monkey-flower (Mimulus lewisii)

Big Indian Gorge


photo credit: Duncan Evered

Duncan's fast ball




Green-banded Mariposa Lily (Calochortus macrocarpus var. macrocarpus)

Big Indian Gorge cabin

hiking up Big Indian Gorge















Castilleja sp.
Western Sheepmoth (Hemileuca eglanterina)








Lorquin's Admiral (Limenitis lorquini)


Flatheaded Poplar Borer (Dicerca tenebrica)







a road-killed American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
a road-killed Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
a helicopter preparing to spray the Beuna Vista impoundment
Herbicide treatment of Glyphosate is applied to the 
emergent vegetation in order to maintain sufficient open water for breeding of migratory waterfowl and other water birds.





North Buena Vista Butte Archaeological Site
ancient rock enclosure





Donner und Blitzen River at Sodhouse Ln. crossing
no carp problem here.... eeesh

Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)
remains of a Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)
a bedded Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus hemionus)
Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)
Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)


sunset behind South Coyote Butte at Malheur Field Station

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
Malheur National Forest / Strawberry Mountain Butterfly Blitz
Duncan on the hunt
Lyla points the way

Hydaspe Fritillary (Speyeria hydaspe)



Duncan Evered and Lyla Messick
Co-Directors of Malheur Field Station, Local Butterfly Experts, and Naturalists Extraordinaire









Clark's Nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana)
Strawberry Mountain
unidentified Meadowhawk female (Sympetrum sp.)
Margined White (Pieris marginalis)
Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) feeding on mint



Scarlet Gilia or Skyrocket (Ipomopsis aggregata)
smoke plumes from the Rail Fire near Unity, OR

very near to our sighting of an American Pika


Queen Alexandra's Sulphur (Colias alexandra)

Clodius Parnassian (Parnassius clodius)
my final evening at Malheur Field Station
Watching the onset of dawn and dusk at Malheur Field Station is a fascinating character study on the nature of light and transition. Of all the many times I spent watching the light creep up from the eastern horizon or fade into the western hills during my summer internship, no two sunrises or sunsets were the same. The play of sunbeam, cloud, shadow, wind, and dust mingled to produce unique and variable displays between the Coyote Buttes each morning and evening. The onset of day and night became a new stage for a shifting and charismatic cast of animal players. The loud song of a Willet rings out in the bright yellow of morning. You watch a Long- tailed Weasel as it stalks quietly through patches of rabbitbrush, illuminated by low angled shafts of light. Say’s Phoebes hover in the breeze and catch insects on the wing. You hear the yips and wails of Coyotes climb to a chorus in the distance. Common Nighthawks boom as they dive-bomb overhead while the sun fades into a fusion of gold, orange, and pink. A Bobcat meets your eye for a split second before disappearing like a ghost into the sage. As I reflect on the 8 weeks I spent living, working, and learning at Malheur, perhaps what I take away most from the experience is a new perspective on the power and beauty of transitions in the world around me... the transition between night and day, the seasonal transition of bird communities across landscapes, the transition of plant and butterfly species as one travels up a mountain side. As I transition back into my life away from Malheur, I will continue to ponder the nature of shifting light on rock, leaf, and wing, and how my experiences this summer can better help me to gain new insights into our complex world.







Birds - 164 spp.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa
Gadwall (Anas strepera
American Wigeon (Anas americana
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos
Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors
Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca
Canvasback (Aythya valisineria
Redhead (Aythya americana
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
 Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus
Common Merganser (Mergus merganser
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis
California Quail (Callipepla californica
Chukar (Alectoris chukar
Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus
Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps
Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis
Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis
Clark's Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus
American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias
Great Egret (Ardea alba
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax
White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus
Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis
Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis
Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola
Sora (Porzana carolina
American Coot (Fulica americana
Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis
Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus
American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana
Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus
Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus
Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla
Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri
Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus
Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata
Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca
Willet (Tringa semipalmata
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes
Franklin's Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis
California Gull (Larus californicus
Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia
Black Tern (Chlidonias niger
Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura
Barn Owl (Tyto alba
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus
Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia
Long-eared Owl (Asio otus
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus
Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor
Common Poorwill (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii
White-throated Swift (Aeronautes saxatalis
Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri)
Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon
Lewis's Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) 
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus
Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus
Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus
Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii
Gray Flycatcher (Empidonax wrightii
Dusky Flycatcher (Empidonax oberholseri
Pacific-slope/Cordilleran Flycatcher (Western Flycatcher) (Empidonax difficilis/occidentalis
Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya
Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis
Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus
Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus
Cassin's Vireo (Vireo cassinii
Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus
Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri
Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia
Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos
Common Raven (Corvus corax
Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus
Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana
Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus
Canyon Wren (Catherpes mexicanus
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris
Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana
Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides
Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi
American Robin (Turdus migratorius
Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum
Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata
Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina
Brewer's Sparrow (Spizella breweri
Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata
Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys
Sagebrush Sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia
Green-tailed Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus
Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena
Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta
Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater
Bullock's Oriole (Icterus bullockii
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus
Cassin's Finch (Haemorhous cassinii
Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Mammals - 26 spp.

American Pika (Ochotona princeps)
Mountain Cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii)
Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus)
North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)
Common Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)
American Beaver (Castro canadensis)
Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris)
American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
Columbian Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus)
Belding's Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus beldingi)
Least Chipmunk (Tamias minimus)
Yellow-Pine Chipmunk (Tamias amoenus)
Ord's Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ordii)
Bushy-tailed Woodrat (Neotoma cinerea)
Western Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis)
North American Deermouse (Peromyscus maniculatus)
Sagebrush Vole (Lemmiscus curtatus)
Bobcat (Lynx rufus)
Coyote (Canis latran)
North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis)
American Badger (Taxidea taxus)
Long-tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata)
Feral Horse/Mustang (Equus ferus caballus)
Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)
Mountain Goat (Oreamnos americanus)
Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus hemionus)

Reptiles - 6 spp.

Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)
Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus graciosus)
Western Yellow-bellied Racer (Coluber constrictor)
Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayiI)
Wandering Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans)
Great Basin Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus lutosus)

Amphibians - 2 spp.

Great Basin Spadefoot (Spea intermontana)
Pacific Chorus Frog (Pseudacris regilla)

Fish - 3 spp.

Redband Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdnerii)
Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)
Borax Lake Chub (Gila boraxobius)
Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)