On January 28th Harney County residents woke up to a winter wonderland of over 12" of snow in town. The USDA's Oregon Basin Outlook Report for Jan 2021 indicates that Steens Mountain has 102% of normal snow pack compared to 74% at the same point in 2020. Now, with the additional snowfall in the region we are looking forward to a wet and wonderful spring at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Teresa Wicks
It is not uncommon to start out the new year under a blanket of snow in Harney County. In a world where we have been conditioned to expect the unexpected, our late January snow fall was quite a comfort. Heading into February I am reflecting on comforts like this and in fact, the importance of recognizing and respecting discomfort.
After all, it is weather changes and availability of foods that cause 'discomfort' for birds which inspires them to move along their migratory routes. Discomfort is valuable. It gives us an opportunity to learn something and perhaps even to change. 2020 was full of discomfort and as we move through 2021 we ask ourselves, what can be changed to make ourselves and those around us more comfortable even if through discomfort.
Being February and Black History month in the midst of these reflections on 2020, discomfort, and inspiring change I hope that as our world shifts to a gradual return to normal we all choose the parts of 'normal' that we are comfortable returning to. What do we want our community to look like? How can those of us with skin privilege welcome and make comfortable members of the birding community who are BIPOC? What can be learn about historical and modern barriers to outdoor recreation for BIPOC?
"I’m not alone, though. I have friends—black friends—who’ve also experienced the lingering looks, the stares of distaste. They’ve endured comments about their color flung within earshot. I look at maps through this lens—at the places where tolerance seems to thrive, and where hate and racism seem to fester—and think about where I want to be. Mostly those places jibe with my desire to be in the wild but sometimes they don’t." - Dr J. Drew Lanham, Birding While Black
For me, here in Harney County and in a community leadership role, there are small things I can do. I can actively work to recognize systemic racism and the ill effects of colonization in the sciences and outdoor recreation, specifically our birding community. I listen to BIPOC leaders, organizers, birders, and scientists. And I can work every day to make Malheur NWR a welcoming and comfortable place for BIPOC to visit and connect with nature.
Due to the pressures of hunters and fur trappers, who targeted Trumpeter Swans, the species was near extinct at the turn of the 20th Century. A survey in 1932 found a mere 69 trumpeters alive in the United States. At the time the swans persisted in Montana’s Centennial Valley and Yellowstone National Park where severe winters kept out hunters and geothermal springs maintained enough open waters for a small group to survive.
Malheur Refuge was among the first of several sites selected for saving the Trumpeter Swan from extinction in the late 1930s. Read More
George M. Benson served as a game warden under the Bureau of Biological Survey (later to become the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency that oversees management of National Wildlife Refuges, among much else) in Harney County, beginning in 1918. Preferring the title of “refuge protector,” Benson enforced hunting and trapping laws at what was then known as the Lake Malheur Reservation. Read More
Imagine yourself as a small ancestral Parulidae (wood-warbler) 6 million years ago. As the climate warms, and the extensive forests of the late Miocene begin to fragment the opportunity to speciate (form new species) presents itself. By the late Pliocene your ancestral line has produced 25 new species. Species that will weather 5.3 – 2.6 million years of change in the Americas to be enjoyed by modern birders along their migratory pathway. Read More
We strive to offer informative and thought provoking content that will deepen your connection to Malheur NWR. We hope that these articles and updates keep you coming back for more while inspiring you to be a steward of the Refuge.
With that in mind, we want to know what interests you. Let us know If you have an idea, or several, for future Malheur Musings newsletter articles.
The week of January 18th, the first sets of Bird Scout activity packets were delivered to Slater Elementary school and the Harney County Public Library. This program has been designed to support both independent, at-home exploration and a brand new afterschool program for local 5th graders.
This month's kit is themed 'Dinosaurs in Your Backyards' with activities focused on understanding the unique characteristics of birds and bird evolution that will lead to beginner bird identification skills. Every Bird Scouts bi-monthly kit will include all of the materials needed to complete the activities and will culminate with the participation in a national or international community science program. Read More
Every one of us has the power to stay informed, make comments of open proposals, call our representatives, and spread the word about protecting wild spaces and the wildlife that depend on them. Here are current critical action items:
You can become an advocate for our National Wildlife Refuges
The National Wildlife Refuge Association is a non-profit exclusively focused on protecting and promoting the 850-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, the world’s largest network of lands and waters set aside for wildlife conservation. They look out for threats to all our Refuges, including our beloved Malheur. Their work is largely focused in Washington, DC where they watch for policies and legislation that undermine the integrity of the Refuge System, while advocating for efforts that advance wildlife conservation. You can help them support Refuges by supporting them through membership and donations and/or you can help advocate for Refuge issues by signing up for their action alerts via their Action Center webpage: https://www.refugeassociation.org/action-center
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.
Northern Goshawk (1/19)
Widely distributed throughout North America and Eurasia, the Northern goshawk is an uncommon permanent resident of montane forests in the Great Basin. In winter months, goshawks migrate down into the foothills and valleys in search of food, and some may also wander into the Basin from more northerly locales.
This post reached 2,884 people through Facebook and received 92 reactions on Instagram! Follow our pages, @Malheurfriends, to see more great content like this!
The sustaining support of our members is more imoportant than ever.
If you are unsure of your Membership status you can email us at email@example.com today!
Current Membership Total: 710!
This is the first month of increase in Membership
since pre-Covid! Thank you, everyone, for your support.
GIFT A MEMBERSHIP to the Malheur enthusiast and Bird lover in your life! Membership is a great way to keep up with and support the ongoing work of our organization!
All you have to do is fill out THIS FORM with the recipient's name and contact information and they will be informed of their Membership!
Volunteer with Friends
We are tentatively recruiting for the Crane's Nest Nature Center & Store (Monthly, March-October) Must be comfortable managing limited entry of the Store and enforcing Covid-19 safety procedures with all visitors.
These plans will require volunteers who are fully self-contained in an RV or Trailer that can be parked at Refuge HQ. There may not be access to the Volunteer Community Room & Kitchen or Bathrooms.
All Volunteer opportunities are contingent upon and will be subject to any local, state, or federal health and safety guidelines. Volunteering may be cancelled at any point.
If you wish to be considered for a Crane's Nest volunteer position please email Janelle, firstname.lastname@example.org
Crane's Nest Nature Center & Store
Unstaffed until further notice
The Online Nature Store is now operational and offering a selection of our favorite Malheur NWR and Friends of MNWR goodies!