March's Malheur Musings

Is it safe up here?!? As temperatures rise and the ground softens Belding's Ground Squirrels are emerging form their burrows at Refuge Headquarters. These small mammals are a fascinating member of the ecological community. CLICK HERE to read a past article all about them!

Photo of a Belding's ground squirrel poking its head up out of the ground by Dan Streiffert

Greetings Janelle,

We are all going a little ruddy duck nuts out here as we gear up for the 2024 Harney County Migratory Bird Festival! Check out this image that Teresa Wicks drew in anticipation! This picture will be available as a sticker for all of the festival's Bird Crawl participants.

I am toiling away on the details of various events that will happen throughout the weekend. Trivia, the Saturday Swoop, our Sunday brunch work party at Refuge Headquarters... there will be SO much going on and SO many people helping to make it happen. FOMR alone will have 8 volunteers here that weekend spread out from the Bird Crawl to checking folks in for their tours at HQ, staffing the Crane's Nest Store, and managing our sales table at the Fairgrounds. We would never do all that we do without our Volunteers and Partners. These relationships and the shared sense of service to the Refuge are critical.

If you have always felt a sense of gratitude to Malheur NWR and wondered how you could give back to this special place that gives us so much, 2024 is a great year to volunteer! We will have at least FIVE stewardship work parties this year including the kickoff on Sunday April 14th to wrap up the Bird Festival. If you haven't yet, sign up for brunch and then add the 'free' work party option to hold your spot!

Harney County Migratory Bird Festival Registration

Of course, the Festival is big news and very exciting but there is so much else going on I can hardly keep track. Friends of Malheur was offered one of 4 Public Lands Alliance scholarships to attend their annual Convention and Trade Show so I will be in San Francisco NEXT WEEK! Our monthly speaker series is off to a fantastic start. Artist in Residence classroom visits begin next week. Volunteers begin arriving soon. We are working on plans for work parties and our Migrate event on June 1st. We can FINALLY announce that we will be co-hosting an In A Landscape Concert at Refuge Headquarters on June 16th! Presale tickers to IAL donors are available now! There is MUCH going on it's almost difficult to convey it all - so I hope you are visiting our website's event calendar, staying connected through social media, and of course reading this newsletter!

Meanwhile, on a personal note, our twins are turning TWO on 3/10 and I am thrilled to report that for the first time in nearly two years, we have daycare! It has been no small feat for Teresa and I to balance our intense and important jobs while sharing parental responsibilities with little to no support out here in Harney County. We are endlessly fortunate for supportive and understanding employers and work partners who have kept us sane along the way. Phew, what a ride this life is!

In Service to and Celebration of Malheur,

Janelle Wicks

Executive Director

President's Note - March

Written by Wm. Tweed

As I sit down to write this, an owl has been in the national news. The creature in question, named Flaco by it many followers, lives not in the Harney Basin of eastern Oregon but rather in the man-made canyons of glass and steel that cover much of an obscure East Coast Island by the name of Manhattan. Or rather, this is where Flaco used to reside, because this particular owl died on February 23rd.

Flaco’s story tells us something of how nature endures on our human-dominated planet. Born in captivity, Flaco was a Eurasian eagle-owl who lived in a New York City Zoo until freed by vandals about a year ago. Once out on his own, to the amazement of all, Flaco succeeded in surviving as a large predator in a huge city. Read More

Conservation Corner

Oregon Youth Corps Winter Fieldwork at Malheur NWR

Written by Peter Pearsall

Photos by Tyson Whitney

This winter, crew members with the Oregon Youth Corps (OYC) are working on several stewardship-based projects, such as fence maintenance and rubbish removal, at Malheur Refuge. This fieldwork has historically taken place from December to March each year; after a years-long hiatus, the crew has returned to work. 

OYC supports community-based, stewardship-driven, and crew-focused youth workforce training. Youth participants are typically aged 13-24. Read More

Flyway Interpretation Along Highway 205 Written by Janelle Wicks

Inclusion of 2007 article by Patty Bowers

Even before we were Friends of Malheur and our Mission was formally established in the text it is today, we have been committed to outreach and education to connect our community and the visiting public to the importance of the Harney Basin to migratory birds. We have also always been keenly aware that strong and healthy partnerships are the best way to get things done!

Establishing an interpretive wayside along Highway 205 just south of the entrance to the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Resource Center is a great example of these things coming together. Read More

SMAC Winter Meeting Summary

Written by Karen Withrow, SMAC State Environmental Representative

The Steens Mt Advisory Council (SMAC) met on January 25-26, 2024 in Bend, Oregon. We welcomed another new member. Two vacancies on the council have applicants and are currently in the vetting process. We are hopeful we will soon be up to our full membership.

The BLM updated us on current projects. The Burns District received $3M in Inflation Reduction Act funds that are available across four fiscal years. They will be planning and directing these funds to a number of projects. Those include fencing, Page Springs Weir removal, juniper treatments, ethnographic study, and recreation needs. Read More

Portland Audubon Changes Name to Bird Alliance of Oregon!

Written by Ali Berman, Bird Alliance of Oregon

A year ago, Portland Audubon announced their decision to drop the name Audubon and find a new name that better reflects their mission and values, one that would make the organization a more welcoming place for all people. After listening to feedback from our members, volunteers, and the broader community, they are excited to debut their new name: Bird Alliance of Oregon. Read More

Follow That Swan!

March Update by Gary Ivey, PhD.

Here’s our update on the locations of seven Trumpeter Swans marked on Benson Pond with GPS-GSM neck collars to track their migration.

One of the collars (@19) has not transmitted data since late August when it remained on a small wetland in west-central Alberta, near Goodfare. Here’s a summary of the travels of the other 6:

Neck collar codes @10, @13. @16, @17, and @20 – These 5 remained at Malheur all month, using Benson Pond, Boca Lake and Knox Ponds. Read More

How Big is Malheur Lake?

Stay tuned for updates that will resume in spring.

Species Spotlight: Ruddy Duck

Written by Peter Pearsall

Photo by Dan Streiffert

The ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) is a small to medium-sized diving duck that can be found in abundance on ponds, lakes, and sloughs of Malheur Refuge from spring to fall.


Ruddy ducks are primarily found in freshwater habitats throughout North and South America. Their breeding range extends from the northern United States through Canada and Alaska, while they winter in the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America. Read More

Volunteering with Friends


I am very excited to share that we have updates to our Volunteer accommodations coming soon!

The Volunteer Campground at Refuge Headquarters has been a work in progress for the last couple of years. This has involved much site plan development, cultural resource clearance, and a great deal of elbow grease from Refuge Maintenance Staff and FOMR Volunteers! This coming May our spring work party will be constructing a pavilion shelter in the space and transplanting great basin wild rye grasses between tent sites. The campground should be ready for volunteer groups as early as Summer 2024!

For slightly less rustic Volunteer housing we will soon be acquiring a NEW-ish travel trailer. This trailer was purchased with FEMA funds during the pandemic and served an important role as quarantine housing for USFWS and Burns Interagency Fire Crews as they came and went from time off and assignments. Four years later, the trailer has been out of use and the Service is looking to offload the asset from their property. Malheur NWR values FOMR's volunteer support and is donating it to us!

Stewardship Volunteering in 2024

Our Project Committee is courageously lead by Board Member Donna Owens with volunteer coordination support from the one and only Alice Elshoff. Together they have been busy crafting a schedule of 2024 volunteer opportunities for you! Mark your calendars:

Sunday April 14th: Bird Festival gives back...

After you have spent the weekend enjoying all that the Harney Basin and Malheur NWR have to offer this is your chance to get your hands dirty and give back a little! See the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival registration to sign-up. Registration opens February 14th.

MAY 17th - 19th: Spring Spruce-up | REGISTER HERE

General groundskeeping support at Refuge Headquarters including help w/ xeric landscape implementation and volunteer campground phase 2.

AUGUST 9th - 11th: Historic Sod House Ranch Stewardship

Help clean the grounds and set up this historic site for its annual public open season from August 15 - October 1.

SEPTEMBER 13th - 15th: Trail Stewardship

Assisting with the connection of the River Trail and the Restoration Trail for the improvement of the Blitzen River Trail from P Ranch north.

OCTOBER 18th - 20th: Work for the Wild

Walking for the Wild while you work! Barnes Springs Homestead clean-up and barbed wire removal.

Housing will be provided for FREE to volunteers at The Malheur Field Station or P Ranch.

Registration for these Stewardship Weekends will open in the months to come. In the meantime, if you have any questions please email


Be sure to check out the incredible opportunities below and see our website's event calendar for more. Click on the images below to learn more about these programs and sign-up!

Our March program is being postponed due to FOMR's Executive Director being offered a scholarship from the Public Lands Alliance to attend their 2024 Convention and Trade Show in San Francisco from March 4th - 8th. We appreciate your understanding and hope you will join us in April for Melissa's presentation on Harney County Collaboratives & Malheur National Wildlife Refuge!

Click HERE or on the image below to sign up for the Zoom link!

View presentation videos on FOMR's YouTube Channel
For more Events and Programs Visit FOMR's Calendar

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.

January 15, 2024: “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” -J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Lord of the Rings” • A visitor is dwarfed by the sheer, lichen-covered walls of a volcanic crater in Diamond Craters Outstanding Natural Area, a BLM recreation site just east of Malheur Refuge.  Photo by Peter Pearsall

#diamondcratersoutstandingnaturalarea #highdesert #oregondesert #greatbasin #malheurnationalwildliferefuge #friendsofmalheur

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: 949

2024 New Members: 17!

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

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 program.

Monthly giving makes becoming a Member easy! Set up a monthly donation of $85 and become a 2025 Sandhill Crane Society Member! Email Janelle,

Learn More about the Sandhill Crane Society

Your Business can support Malheur NWR by joining our Business Alliance Program!

Questions? Email us.

Crane's Nest Nature Center & Store


8:00 AM - 4:00 PM | 7 Days/Week

We are thrilled to be reopening our doors and can hardly wait to see familiar faces and make new Friends!

The store has all your old favorites and a SLEW of new inventory. When you find yourself at Refuge Headquarters please stop in to check it out, say Hi to our Volunteers, and meet our Manager, Jill!

FINALLY! Friends of Malheur NWR Logo shirts have been out of stock for TWO years and they are making a comeback!

You can get yours ONLINE NOW!

Shop Crane's Nest Online

Species SWAG Survey

Image of Western Tanager by Tory Schmidt

We are working with a local graphic designer to produce at least 4 original wildlife images for future merchandise. What is your favorite bird or animal found at Malheur NWR? CLICK HERE TO TELL US!

Malheur HQ Visitor Center

CLOSED for the Season

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Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge 

36391 Sodhouse Lane

Princeton, OR 97721 


Tax ID #: 93-1261322


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