Thursday, June 05, 2014

On the Oregon Trail (Sorta)

We made it to Ontario, Oregon this afternoon.

After three hectic days of driving, today was a piece of cake. (Except for Boise, ID which is always an adventure.) Monday we hurried to depart in the afternoon when we just couldn't wait any longer and traveled 300 miles to Ohio. Tuesday we boogied another 900 miles to reach Omaha, NE. (The final 75 miles or so was in torrential rains that spawned baseball-sized hailstones a little to our west and south. Thank goodness!) Wednesday we drove 1200 miles to reach Brigham City, Utah.

Today, Thursday, we drove a bout 10 miles to reach the Bear River National Wildlife Refuge and do some birding. It was magnificent as always! We "only" identified 41 different species of birds but didn't spend a lot of time trying to ID many of the little brown jobs (sparrows) that flitted in and out of the reeds. Nor did we spend time in any one spot on the 12 mile drive from the refuge's headquarters to the auto loop or back. Nor did we spend undue amounts of time at any one spot along the 12 mile loop. (That's 36 miles of productive birding from the car for those of you keeping track.) Millions of mosquitoes (biting) and billions of midges (no-biting, thank God!) kept us in the car. All the swallows in the world couldn't put a dent in the midge population!

Although the 41 species is just a fifth of those recorded at the refuge--not all on the same day!--the shear number of birds in around three dozen of those species was amazing. There were thousands of cliff swallows, hundreds of coots, white-faced ibises, avocets, stilts, killdeer, cinnamon teal, western grebes and Clark's grebes. And this is a relatively slow time in the refuge's year!

Here's the list of species we did identify:

Canada Goose
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White-faced Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Long-billed Curlew
Wilson's Phalarope
Franklin's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Forster's Tern
Mourning Dove
Willow Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Black-billed Magpie
Common Raven
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Marsh Wren
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird

We took four hours to do the 36 miles from headquarters-to-headquarters. Most of that time was spent on the 12 mile auto loop through the marsh itself. Quite a difference from the 75-80 mph speed limit on the interstate though Utah!

After birding we headed west on I-84 and eventually reached Ontario, Oregon some 330 miles from the refuge around 4:30 PM local (meaning Mountain) time. The only difficulty we had was through Boise where the gods of perpetual construction were busy reducing four lanes to two and then, miraculously opening them up for rush hour. (We were unfortunate enough to get there j-u-s-t before they reopened the lanes and so got stuck in some bumper-to-bumper traffic for 30-45 minutes.

We spent the time discussing the merits of various vehicles to be towed behind the RV on a solid bar instead of a dolly should the Jeep Compass not make the cut. (While the Jeep Wrangler seems to be a favorite of many RVers based upon personal observation over 2000 miles of travel since Monday, we agreed that it was too small and cramped for a day-to-day vehicle. Perhaps a Honda CRV?

I'll be posting pictures of birds (hopefully!) as soon as I download them from the camera and do some editing.

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