Today was what bird festivals are all about. It started with Great horned owls zooming across the parking lot as the gold and orange hues welcomed the dawn and ended with conversations about South Africa with a fellow birder in a local tavern over dinner.
|One of the dry lakes with Steens Mountain in the background|
My tour was to visit the Alvord lakes. We are in the Great Basin here which extends into California, Nevada and Idaho. The key element is that none of the water that enters the basin leaves except through evaporation or through underground caverns. And I’m not sure about the caverns. Interestingly, not all of the lakes are salty or alkaline. The lakes that we saw today are alkaline and most are intermittent. They do not always have water, but when they do, they are an important part of the avian flyway as the birds migrate from points south to points north. That is why this is the John Scharff MIGRATORY Bird Festival. Today we saw 73 of those mostly migratory birds.
While there we also say one endemic pigmy short-horned toad and another lizard like creature.
The other great birding stop was Mann Lake where we saw Great White Pelicans among the other typical water birds among the fishermen. An extra added attraction was watching one of the fishermen pull in an 18 inch trout from this alkaline lake.
|Fields Station - Well worth the visit|
We stopped for lunch at Fields Station. Without question this is one of the best places in the world for lunch. But don’t bother if you don’t have a big appetite. Or just indulge in one of the only true milk shakes still available anywhere. These milk shakes are made with real ice cream with a traditional blender and served in frozen metal ‘glasses’. Back in the day we used to pour the milk shake out of these metal mixers into fancy glasses. The shakes are so thick that you must eat it with a spoon. Yes, you must eat it. Meanwhile the burgers are among the better ones you will ever eat. They are remodeling the kitchen so our burgers were specially BBQ’d for the festival and did not include the usual extra tray of fries. Actually the packaged chips were enough. A few years ago Linda and I stopped here about 4:00 in the afternoon to try the shakes. We were on our way to Winnemucca where we knew we had to try a traditional Basque dinner. We do recommend the Basque dinner, but since that also requires a good appetite, the combination is NOT recommended. Traditional Basque dinners are served family style and include salad, soup, main course, after course and dessert and all the wine you can drink for a set price that is much less than you would spend for a medium level dinner at a typical city restaurant.
|The Fields Oasis|
Fields also happens to be one of the premier spots in Oregon for unusual migrants. Because of permanent spring there is a small grove of trees that must seem tremendously attractive to a bird that has lost its way over this desert area. We did add a couple of birds to our trip list around the cafe, but the trees in the oasis were almost barren of bird life.
|A not unusual sight in Eastern Oregon|
As a last note before you fall asleep reading this, our guide today was Tim Blount who hosts a Harney County birding web site at http://harneybirder.com. Check it out for some great bird pictures and more.