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Their name says loons are common, but in this part of the world, they are not. Some do breed in the Okanogan Highlands and it’s always a highlight for me to see and hear them when I am camping. We saw two nests and hope the eggs are hatching now and hope the youngsters can survive the summer and migrate away before fall gets here. Bald Eagles are a primary predator for loons eggs and chicks. It’s hard to not like eagles but their numbers seem to be growing while loons seem to be struggling. All these images were made with a long lens at an appropriate distance from the birds. They are very tolerant of non-motorized boats and often pop up close to my kayak.

The girls and I and our friends, Beth and Fern, went to our favorite camping place in the Okanogan Highlands last week and had a fun time despite lots of rain. One day, it rained for five straight hours, not just a light rain, but hard rain where you don’t even want to consider going outside. The trailer stayed dry inside, well, maybe it was damp from wet dogs and people and condensation but we were more or less dry. All that rain is good for wildflowers and green growing things. We did manage to do quite a bit of walking and birding and botanizing. And we read books. One day, we sat under a tree with a big canopy and stayed dry while it rained and hailed and then the birds came to us.

This has been the spring of the balsamroot super bloom in our valley! Most years there is a nice display of the arrowleaf balsamroot but it sure seems like this year is over the top! It is starting to fade on the lower hills and with the upcoming hot weather, the flowers will be gone in just a few days. In addition to the balsamroot, there are two or more kinds of lupine, several varieties of lomatium and larkspur too. It all made a good backdrop to photograph the girls. Willow has not yet learned how to pose for the camera and Sky seems a bit tired of it but I keep trying. There was a prescribed burn up by Mazama and its smoke lingered in the air.

As you might expect at a place like Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, there were birds. Lots of kinds of birds. Most of them were not close enough for photos but I did manage to see nearly eighty species. My favorite birdwatching was right in my campsite. I saw four kinds of warblers in the trees and shrubs over the creek and Cinnamon Teals drifted by pretty continuously. Willow particularly enjoyed watching the teals. Is it because she is the same color as the male? There was a Great-horned Owl nest in the campground. It was in a particularly large and dense juniper tree and the owls were nearly impossible to photograph. Many people stopped to look at them.

From the lands with few trees and granite and then sandstone, we drove to the land of basalt and junipers. Lots of junipers. So many that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is cutting down or pruning many of the junipers. I don’t know why – maybe to ease fire danger or provide more rangeland for cattle. I really like the junipers. They seem to grow right out of solid basalt with little dirt. There were some cottonwoods and willows along the river.

We camped south of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southern Oregon. It’s a very pleasant campsite with a river on one side and a spring-fed creek on the other. We were next to the creek. The dogs loved it. They could cool off any time they wanted. We toured the refuge and some areas around it and also walked and walked, right from the campsite. It was a very relaxing place.

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