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Red Molly came for a visit. Flickers and Lewis’s Woodpeckers started picking out holes for nesting. A rubber boa stopped in the middle of the road. I moved it so it would not be flattened. White-crowned Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers arrived in big numbers. Wildflowers are in full bloom.

What do you do when you go camping? Sometimes I get asked that. On this last trip, there was a lot of sitting and watching the world go by. I saw a beaver and an otter, a couple marmots, lots of birds and turtles too and a few fish. The fish were trying to climb a long steep spillway into one of the lakes, just as if they were salmon returning from the sea, conquering waterfalls to return to the place of their birth. This little fish had no chance of conquering the spillway.

Dippers had a nest under a bridge. They went to and fro with nesting material and dipped for bugs.

And turtles. So many turtles. What do turtles do besides lay on logs in the afternoon sun?

The girls and I got away for three days last week and enjoyed a relaxing time bird watching, walking in the hills and playing in the water (for them, not me). It was pleasantly warm during the day and chilly at night with terrific dark skies and the milky way in all its glory (there will be a later post about that). We camped above a little lake, the one with the pine tree reflections and spent our afternoons watching Wood Ducks and Ring-necked Ducks and turtles lolling about in the sunshine.

WordPress continues to frustrate me. Now it is not showing captions on my images. The image above is the lake where we were camped. Our site is on the left on top of the hill, in the pines.

We camped at Page Springs campground, located at the south end of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and on the road to Steens Mountain. At night I enjoyed listening to owls – Great Horned and also Western Screech Owls and the singing of coyotes. Ruby-crowned Kinglets positively dripped off of every shrub and tree. There were lots of raptors everyday wherever we went.

The girls and I ventured onto the Refuge a couple of times – more gravel roads. It is very dry as is much of the northwest this year. Hopefully recent rains have improved the situation. I did manage to see a few birds and a very beautiful coyote on the main road. The canid stayed on the road til an oncoming truck forced it to choose another pathway. American White Pelicans moved round and round a pond cooperatively fishing at the Malheur NWR headquarters.

One day, we drove to the top of Steens Mountain and another day we drove the long loop. It seemed very long – sixty miles of gravel road. By the time I finished it and returned to camp, I was pretty well done with gravel for a while. Views from the top and into the gorges – Kiger, Big Indian and Little Blitzen – are truly amazing. I hope to return someday when the skies are clear and not filled with wildfire smoke. From the top, I could barely make out the Alvord Desert. It is supposed to be one of the highlights of a visit to Steens.

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