Malheur Musings
January 2023
Sometime after Bendire's 1875 spring ornithology visit to the south side of Malheur Lake, Peter Stenger began using the south side of Malheur Lake for summer livestock grazing. He constructed a small sod structure for shelter at the location of today's Refuge headquarters. This "sod house" provided intermittent shelter over the years and was used to describe the area from that time onward (Malheur's Legacy, pg 33)
A new year, for many, holds a palpable feeling of renewal, hope, and potential as consider the year ahead and any Resolutions for how we will approach it. I include myself in this camp and thus naturally it sets the tone for how I approach my work with the Friends.

Renewal of commitment to our mission and all the various ways we see it out.

Hope in the opportunities to come together in-person for programs, projects, and events for the first time since 2019.

Potential for an even greater force for good on the ground at Malheur NWR every passing year as our Membership grows and donors continue to contribute to our cause. During end of year fundraising a total of 177 Donors contributed over $25,000! This blew our $15k goal out of the water, so to speak. But it's not over yet. The campaign does not end until January 15th, so if you still want to contribute, please click the link below! Can we get to 200 Donors? $30,000?!? Ultimately, what this level of support means is that when the Refuge has a need above and beyond our existing commitments we are better positioned to say, 'Yes, we can help with that!' In that, there is untold potential all made possible by you!
I know that 2023 is going to be an incredible year for the Friends of Malheur NWR and we have you, our Friends to thank for it.

Thank you, as always, for being a Friend.

Janelle L Wicks
FOMR Executive Director
Wm. Tweed, FOMR President

The Friends of Malheur pursues many paths as we carry out our mission of supporting Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Among these avenues is advocacy. Let me share some recent examples.

A few weeks ago, we added our voice to those calling for the addition of more than five miles of Bridge Creek to Senator Ron Wyden’s proposed River Democracy Act that would enlarge Oregon’s wild and scenic rivers network. This section of Bridge Creek, all of it within the BLM’s Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area, flows into Malheur National Wildlife Refuge a few miles north of Frenchglen and adds its water to the Donner and Blitzen River. If Wyden’s bill is enacted, the designation of Bridge Creek as a Wild River will help protect water quality in the southern part of the refuge. In early December, in response to our letter, among others, Wyden added Bridge Creek to his bill, which FOMR supports. READ MORE
Conservation Corner
By Peter Pearsall

In December 2022 U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley on December 6 announced a new River Democracy Act that reflects input from communities across Oregon over the past year to update the total mileage of rivers and streams in Oregon that would be added to the national Wild and Scenic Rivers system.

The River Democracy Act builds on legislation Congress passed in 2019 that added more than 250 miles of Wild and Scenic rivers in Oregon. The state now has 2,173 miles designated in the Wild and Scenic Rivers system, but that total remains only a small fraction of Oregon’s 110,994 miles of rivers and streams. Read More
By Alexa Martinez, Malheur NWR Wildlife Biologist
The Motus Wildlife Tracking System (Motus) is an international collaborative network that uses coordinated automated radio telemetry to facilitate research and education on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals. Motus is a program of Birds Canada in partnership with collaborating researchers and organizations. (

On November 2021 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge became a project partner when two Motus towers were installed. One stationed at Malheur NWR headquarters and a second near Boca Lake at the south end of the refuge. With the help of Legacy Region One, Inventory and Monitory Plan staff and their partnership with MPG Ranch from Montana, we were able to bring Motus to Malheur. Read More
By Peter Pearsall/ Photo by Peter Pearsall

Depending on which circles one moves in, Christmastime is also about birds —live birds, in situ. Not just basted turkeys. Nor that mixed flock of “four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree”. The Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, a citizen science effort aimed at monitoring bird population trends on a massive scale, is a long-standing tradition dating back to 1901. Read More
By Rick Vetter

Historic count start date: 1939 (53 species on that first count)
Total number of Christmas Bird Counts: 68
CBCs missed: 15, mostly in 1940s and 1950s, and in 1995 due to a government shut down and in 2008 and 2009 for unknown reasons.

Seven field birders braved the frigid temperatures and snow-covered ground along with 2 feeder watchers at their home on the southern part of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Frenchglen to count birds for the annual Refuge Christmas Bird Count on Wednesday December 14. Read More
Welcome New Staff
The Varied Thrush is a beautiful and enigmatic bird native to the forests of the Pacific Northwest. With its striking plumage and melodic song, it is a beloved sight and sound for many nature enthusiasts.

One of the most distinctive features of the Varied Thrush is its coloration. A striking contrast of blue-gray back and wings, with a rusty orange breast and belly, set this thrush apart from other forest birds of the West. Males sport a black band across the breast. The face is adorned with dark cheeks and a bold stripe of rusty orange above the eye. Another distinctive feature is its beautiful and melodic song, which is often described as a series of clear, flute-like notes.
Refuge Reflections

a fingernail moon
orange-turquois horizon
coyotes answer

by Suzanne Simons
By Blake Nolan

Relatively speaking, I’m a rather recent admirer of the Malheur NWR. My first visit to the refuge was in November of 2021, which also happened to be my first bird-photography focused trip. Despite quickly learning that it was far from peak season on the refuge, it was still a very memorable visit, highlighted by an abundance of raptors, most notable of which was an encounter with a Long-Eared Owl. I left Malheur with the idea that I would return again, in a future Spring or Summer season.
Sometime shortly after my initial visit to Malheur, I got in contact with Harry Fuller, a long-time birder, who leads a guided tour at Malheur (based out of the Field Station) three times a year. During our first chat over the phone, Harry told me “the best bird photography Oregon offers is at Malheur during the first week of June.” A short time later, I had my second visit to the refuge planned, and when would I make way there next? You guessed it, the first week of June! Read More
If you want to contribute a poem, photo, or other creative rendering to be included here please email us,

A High Desert Museum Natural History Pub Event
At McMenamins Old St. Francis School | 700 NW Bond St., Bend
FREE | Monday, February 6, 2023
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, doors open at 5:30 pm
Registration opens January 9, 2023
Old stands of largely cottonwood trees grow within Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon. Although these trees are not native to the region, many of the over 340 species of birds that visit Malheur annually depend on these trees to nest, feed, and rest. Join Janelle Wicks, Director of the Friends of Malheur NWR, to learn about the group’s work to assess the historical and ecological value for the Refuge’s wildlife and the work being done to ensure a future that supports a wildlife oasis in the high desert.

Mark your Calendars:
April 13th - 16th | Registration Opens in FERUARY!

FOMR Member's Weekend!
June 9th - 11th | Program Details to Come
A weekend to celebrate Malheur NWR and our Friends Members
We will be looking for volunteers to serve as Hotspot Hosts during Saturday, June 10th's Migrate Malheur event. During this event, Hotspot Hosts will greet visitors and tell them all about cultural and natural history of the popular Refuge site they are assigned. Of course, you will also encourage people to bird the site and share what they see!
The weekend will also include a Member's Mixer and Banquet - Details TBD.
Volunteer with Friends
Artist in Residence Program
Meet Julie Burchstead, our 2023 AiR Program Artist. She will join Refuge Wildlife Specialist, Carey Goss, in visiting every elementary school classroom in Harney County this spring. Together they will share the intersection of creativity and conservation with over 600 youth from Burns and Crane to the farther flung rural schools.

For 33 years as a teacher, she delighted in sharing this curiosity with students in her Oregon and Vermont classrooms. One of her favorite joys was finding new ways for her students to express their learning and discoveries of nature in artwork. Now retired, Julie loves having opportunities to visit the remote and wild corners of her beloved state, often on horseback, with a sketchbook always at hand. Last year, Julie was fortunate to visit Harney County for the first time as a May volunteer at Malheur Wildlife Refuge. She fell in love with the moody skies, lonely landscapes, The Steens, and most of all, the astounding variety of birds. She is very excited to soon be spending time with the students of Harney County capturing these amazing birds in art. Below are two examples of Julie's creations!
Crane's Nest Nature Center & Store
I am thrilled that we have a handful of returning volunteers coming to staff the Nature Store in 2023. That being said, we still need additional help during the months of June, July, August, and October. These are slower visitation months and a great time to enjoy a low-key volunteer assignment 3 days/week and 4 days off to explore the Refuge.

Nature Store Volunteers are trained to engage with the public, answer questions about Malheur NWR and the surrounding area, handle cash, and use the store's sales system. If you are a Malheur-Loving People Person, this is the volunteer gig for you!

RV pads with water, sewer, and electric hook ups are available at the Volunteer RV park. Here you will also have access to bathrooms with showers, a community room with wifi, directTV, a fully stocked kitchen, dining room, and laundry room with washers and dryers.

No Wheels? No Problem! The Friends of Malheur NWR own a travel trailer on site that is available on a first come first serve basis for volunteers who do not own their own camper.
December's Most Popular
Every month there is excellent content on the Friends Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. Here we will feature the most popular post of the month.
December 14, 2022: What do you see in this photo? There is one correct answer.

A) Literally nothing. What even is that.

B) A mule deer in a high desert snowstorm.

C) A spectral coyote which is not truly of this realm, but only a visitor

D) The missing shepherd mix you saw in a frantic and imploring Facebook post from a neighbor

Inspired by @usfws
Photo by @theoregonchallenge 

For more great content you can follow the Friends of Malheur on
Facebook and Instagram at Malheurfriends!
Membership Minute
The sustaining support of our members is more important than ever.
If you are unsure of your Membership status you can email us at today!
Current Membership Total: 1003!
Introducing the Sandhill Crane Society
Beginning this year, Friends of Malheur are welcoming the 17 inaugural members of the Sandhill Crane Society. Any supporter who contributes $1,000 or more through Membership dues and/or donations throughout the year will become a Member of this new program. Our depth of our gratitude for those individuals who support our mission at this level of ongoing support cannot be expressed, but we sure will try!
Not a Member or need to RENEW?
Simply visit OUR WEBSITE!

Prefer to send a check? Easy.
Just fill out THIS FORM and mail it to us with your dues:
Friends of Malheur NWR
36391 Sodhouse Lane
Princeton, OR 97721

Photo of American Avocets by Dan Streiffert

Friends of Malheur NWR aim to be your go-to resource for planning your visit! Our newly updated website ( has a lot of the same great seasonal sighting information in addition to a direct eBird link and more!

For even more content you can follow us on social media. Just follow @MalheurFriends on Facebook or Instagram and you will see posts about news, events, volunteer opportunities, and - of course - bird and wildlife sightings!
Crane's Nest Nature Center & Store

Reopening March 1st, 2023

Online Store CLOSED Until Further Notice
Featured Book of the Month:

Sagebrush Collaboration
How Harney County Defeated the Takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge

'Drawing on more than two years of intensive fieldwork, Sagebrush Collaboration shows that the militants failed in their objectives because the sensible and hardworking citizens of Harney County had invested decades in collaboratively solving the very problems that the militia used to justify their anti–federal government revolution.

In Sagebrush Collaboration, Peter Walker offers the first book-length study of why the 2016 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge failed. His nuanced and deeply researched account provides the full context for the takeover, including the response from local and federal officials and the grassroots community resistance. It will be essential reading for years to come for anyone who wants to understand the ongoing battle over the future of America’s public lands.' - Review

We hope you pick up a copy on your next visit to the Crane's Nest Nature Center & Store.
Malheur HQ Visitor Center
See you next spring!
Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge | 
36391 Sodhouse Lane
Princeton, OR 97721