Malheur Musings
March 2023
In the song Spring Street, Dar Williams sings, 'And the new dead leaves; They made the trees look like children with grey hair.' So, what then do these yellow-headed blackbirds do to the trees?
Yellow-headed blackbirds will begin their return to Malheur NWR this month.
Don't forget these helpful eBird tools for insight on what species should be arriving and departing the Harney Basin from month to month.
This image was taken in early April 2018 by our good Friend, Dan Streiffert
Right about this time of the year, every year, I begin to feel a constant, low but growing energy all around us. I have just returned from the Winter Wings Festival in Klamath Falls and our own Harney County Migratory Bird Festival registration is open. Not just open, but filling up fast!

We are thrilled about what our Festival is offering this year. A combination of self guided, caravan, hiking, biking, and traditional van tours are being rounded out with a handful of presentations. Dan Streiffert will give his presentation on Birding the Harney Basin. Alan Contreras will talk about the newly published A History of Oregon Ornithology. Gary Luhm will be giving an instructional on composition of wildlife photography.

This year's Keynote, Rebecca Heismen will be talking about her new book Flight Paths: How a Passionate and Quirky Group of Pioneering Scientists Cracked the Mystery of Bird Migration. (This book is available for Pre-Order NOW!) This is Rebecca's first book, but she has been writing for national bird publications for several years. You may have seen her works in Cornell Lab of Ornithology Magazine or Audubon Magazine! I, for one, am very excited to meet Rebecca and hear her musings on the history of research on bird migration! While many tours and programs are selling out, there are still a handful of seats available for the Saturday evening banquet and keynote presentation among other programs.
So here we are, in the tail end of another Harney County winter with snow on the ground and spring on our minds. Pretty soon my wife will pop up from the table in the middle of breakfast or dinner and announce that she can hear cranes or geese flying overhead. Our little family will rush out to the stoop to listen and feel that energy grow just a bit more each day.

Thank you, as always, for being a Friend.

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

As I sit down to write these words, I am newly reminded of an important message: FOMR does not work alone. We are indeed part of an energetic movement of like-minded organizations.

What brings this to mind is that I am just back from attending the annual meeting of the Public Lands Alliance (PLA), which this year occurred in Portland. The PLA is a national organization with several hundred member organizations. All have public lands affiliations, which range from National Wildlife Refuges to National Forests and the units of our National Park system. READ MORE
Conservation Corner
By Gary Ivey, PhD.
Photo by Mark Hedrick, Fish & Wildlife Technician at Summer Lake Wildlife Area
Numbers of migrant Trumpeter Swans moving through eastern Oregon have increased dramatically over the last two decades, particularly at Malheur Refuge and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Summer Lake Wildlife Area. We want to learn more about the origins of these trumpeters and to identify their breeding, stopover, and wintering sites. Friends of Malheur Refuge (FOMR) has partnered with The Trumpeter Swan Society (TTSS), ODFW, and Malheur Refuge to study the origins and migration paths of this once much rarer species. Last year, TTSS was approved for a grant from the Oregon Conservation Recreation Fund to support research on these migrant swans. The research involves marking them with solar powered Global Positioning System (GPS)/Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) neck collars. These GPS-GSM collars log the marked swans’ locations using cellphone technology. TTSS has purchased 13 collars for this project to be placed on trumpeters using Malheur Refuge and Summer Lake. The cost of one of the collars was provided by The Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Read More
By Alexa Martinez/ Photos by Alexa Martinez

Even though Malheur NWR may not currently host a breeding pair of trumpeter swans, the Refuge does provide open water habitat as a stopover for winter migrating swans. Thanks to The Trumpeter Swan Society and Gary Ivey, a former biologist at Malheur NWR, seven solar powered radio collars were placed on migrating trumpeter swans that were utilizing Benson Pond.

To capture these individuals, Refuge law enforcement, John Megan, and P-Ranch substation manager, Zack McCoy assisted on this mission via airboat and spotlight at night on Benson Pond. John was no stranger to nightlight, but this was a whole new experience for Zach! Read More
By Patrick Donnelly/ Photos by Dan Streiffert

In the late July of 2022 USGS Wildlife Research Crew Leader, Andrea Mott and her technician arrived at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge with 6 radio transmitters. Their goal was to deploy all 6 on captured white-faced ibis and this expand the geographic reach of their research into the breeding season behavior and migratory patterns of these birds. (You can read Andrea’s Sept 2022 article here.

This project is a collaborative one from the Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV), US Geological Survey (USGS), and US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). Just this past week, we heard from the lead researcher Patrick Donnelly of the USFWS Region 6 Migratory Bird Program and IWJV, with an update on last year’s efforts. Read Patrick's Message Here
Species Spotlight
By Peter Pearsall (Feb 2019)

We marvel at birds for a wide variety of reasons: colorful plumage, melodious songs, intriguing behavior, canny adaptations, and so on. But perhaps most salient among those reasons is birds’ ability to transport themselves across the landscape. Many birds awe us with their seasonal migrations, which may span continents and oceans and challenge our notions of what’s possible in terms of navigation, endurance and site fidelity. When we pay attention to where birds go and why they travel, we often learn things about the wider world. Birds are harbingers of change—in season, climate, habitat suitability—and we can track those changes through their peregrinations, near and far. Read More
Artist in Residence Program
The Artist in Residence Program is returning to elementary school classrooms across Harney County! This program had to be modified with virtual options during the Covid-19 pandemic which kept schools closed and then on modified in-person schedules until the start of the 2022-23 school year. This week and next our Artist, Julie Burchstead, will be teaming up with Refuge Wildlife Specialist, Carey Goss, and Volunteer Karen Edmonds to bring art and science education to students grades K-6th. We can't wait to see what will inspire the youth of our community. You will be able to check out their work in the store fronts throughout downtown Burns during the 2023 Harney County Migratory Bird Festival.

A special thanks to the family and friends of Joan Lehman, an artist and educator, who raised funds and donated them to FOMR to support this program in her honor.
April 13th - 16th | Registration Now Open!
Order your SWAG and come to the 2023 Festival in style! SHOP HERE
Programs will feature some of FOMR's own Friends such as a Book reading and signing with Alan Contreras featuring the new title, A History of Oregon Ornithology, and Birding Harney County with Dan Streiffert!
FOMR Member's Weekend!
June 9th & 10th | 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 Coming Soon!

Malheur After Dark
July 15th | FREE | Registration Coming Soon
Come celebrate dark skies and all things nocturnal at Malheur NWR Headquarters. This program will take visitors behind the gates to the Blitzen River boat launch. There, we'll take an evening bird walk, look for bats and badgers, and enjoy a star viewing experience with the Oregon Observatory. ADA compliant bathrooms are available at headquarters. Parking will be available at the boat launch.
Refuge Reflections

a gentle breeze swept
away by dark gusts of rain
how tiny the birds

by Suzanne Simons
If you want to contribute a poem, photo, or other creative rendering to be included here please email us,
February'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.
February 3, 2023: White-headed woodpeckers live year-round in ponderosa pine forests north of Burns, rarely straying from their preferred habitat there. Despite the fact that permanent populations of these woodpeckers live just 40 miles outside of the refuge, they are considered an accidental species at Malheur. Only a single record exists: In October 1982, an individual spent a week at Headquarters before moving on.
Photo by Peter Pearsall 

For more great content you can follow the Friends of Malheur on
Facebook and Instagram at Malheurfriends!
Crane's Nest Nature Center & Store
HQ Store Now Open
Weather Permitting
Tuesday - Saturday | 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Malheur HQ Visitor Center
Opening MARCH 3rd!
Fridays - Sunday 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
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: 991
Not a Member or need to RENEW?
Simply visit OUR WEBSITE!

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

Photo of the night sky over Marshall Pond by Peter Pearsall
2022 Donation Reports
If you made a donation to the Friends of Malheur NWR in 2022, you will have received an email summarizing your contributions. This email will NOT have included your Membership as our tracking system treats Membership Dues and Donations as two different creatures. If you are in need of this information and did not receive it, please email Janelle,
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!

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!

Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
36391 Sodhouse Lane
Princeton, OR 97721