Tim Boyer Photography

Small Groups, Cool Birds in Fun Places, Create Award-winning Images!

National Wildlife Refuge Week

National Wildlife Refuge Week -- Benton Lake NWR

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Montana has about 200 species of birds, but it's the breeding habitat for Marbled Godwits, Long-billed Curlews, and Upland Sandpipers that got me to go there the first time in 2008.  I also discovered birds I hadn't seen before; Sharp-tailed Grouse, Lark Bunting, and Common Terns.  This is a wonderful place to visit in June for the breeding shorebirds but it's also, I hear, great in the spring when the Sharp-tailed Grouse are displaying.  

Just outside the refuge Upland Sandpipers can be found on the fence posts in the morning hours.
Just outside the refuge Upland Sandpipers can be found on the fence posts in the morning hours.

I went to Benton Lakes NWR the first time to find, see and photograph Upland Sandpipers (I have a thing for shorebirds).  Each morning as I drove to the refuge I'd find some, but they were often accompanied by Short-eared Owls.  Sitting on the fence posts there would be three or four Upland Sandpipers then a Short-eared Owl, the pattern repeated over and over again as  I drove past the fence posts.   The wide open short-grass prairie doesn't have many perches so these fence posts are often the only perches around.

Early morning light on a Short-eared Owl.
Early morning light on a Short-eared Owl.

The auto-tour loop on the refuge offers many opporutinites to see breeding birds and in mid June the chicks are tall enough to get above the  short-grass.

Breeding plumage Marbled Godwit.
Breeding plumage Marbled Godwit.
Marbled Godwit chick hiding in the short-grass prairie.
Marbled Godwit chick hiding in the short-grass prairie.
The long bill of the Long-billed Curlew.
The long bill of the Long-billed Curlew.
A Sharp-tailed Grouse walking along the side of the road.
A Sharp-tailed Grouse walking along the side of the road.
An unexpected surprise, a Lark Bunting.
An unexpected surprise, a Lark Bunting.
Female Northern Shoveler and lamellae, a comb like edge of the  bill used to sift plankton and  aquatic insects through.
Female Northern Shoveler and lamellae, a comb like edge of the bill used to sift plankton and aquatic insects through.

Located just outside of Great Falls, Montanta Benton Lake National Wildlfie Refuge was established in 1929 to enhance and protect a closed-basin of cattail and bulrush marsh surrounded by short-grass prairie.  Several hundred thousand migrating birds, ducks, geese, swans, shorebirds, and song birds depend on this refuge.

Enjoy our National Wildlife Refuges!   Thanks   Tim

Celebrate our National Wildlife Refuges -- Malheur NWR

Bird PhotographyTim Boyer2 Comments

It's National Wildlife Refuge Week, let's celebrate! My all time favorite National Wildlife Refuge is Malheur NWR.  I first went there around 2000 armed with a 300 mm lens and a 2x Extender with a Canon film camera.  I had heard there were Sandhill Cranes there, so I went there for a week in mid September looking for newly arrived cranes.  I think I heard a few, but I discovered so much more.  The abundance of birds, the wide open landscape, the room to breathe, just the freedom of the West, so prevalent in the High Desert of Eastern Oregon.  Here are just a few of the birds that can be found at Malheur, and a few landscape iamges as well.

A Sandhill Crane pauses during feeding to checkout the surroundings.

A Sandhill Crane pauses during feeding to checkout the surroundings.

From near the Refuge Headquarters a full moon rises over the landscape.

From near the Refuge Headquarters a full moon rises over the landscape.

Lake Malheur from The Narrows at sunset.

Lake Malheur from The Narrows at sunset.

When there's water at Malheur the birding and the bird photography is fantastic.  Didn't Roger Tory Peterson himself describe this a a birding place not to be missed!

A Black-necked Stilt chick foraging by the side of the road in a "wet" year.

A Black-necked Stilt chick foraging by the side of the road in a "wet" year.

An American Bittern by the side of the road in one of the years where tehre wre birds everywhere.

An American Bittern by the side of the road in one of the years where tehre wre birds everywhere.

One of my all time favoirte birds becasue of the way they sit side-ways and the sound they make when they dive through the eveing air.

One of my all time favoirte birds becasue of the way they sit side-ways and the sound they make when they dive through the eveing air.

Sunset on the high desert near Malheur Lake.

Sunset on the high desert near Malheur Lake.

White-faced Ibis flyinig near sunset.

White-faced Ibis flyinig near sunset.

In the spring, a huge variety of songbirds migrate thorugh the refuge, and migrate traps like the Malheur NWR Headquarters site arrtact them.

In the spring, a huge variety of songbirds migrate thorugh the refuge, and migrate traps like the Malheur NWR Headquarters site arrtact them.

I love the way Western Meadow Larks sining along the side of the road as I approach the refuge make me smile.

I love the way Western Meadow Larks sining along the side of the road as I approach the refuge make me smile.

Our National Wildlife Refuge system protects and preserves land and animals.  It's one of the things that makes America a great place.  I encourage everyone to visit a National Wildlife Refuge and for a few minutes just stop and listen.  You'll hear the natural world, birds, insects, and lots of  other animals.  Then plan to go out and experience a sunrise or a sunset at a Refuge, when the sun breaks the horizon it's usually magical.

If you'd like to join me on one of my photography workshops to Malheur Natioanl Wildlife Refuge, more information can be found here.

Many thanks to Sue from A Sense of Wonder for giving me the idea that I need to post about Wildlife Refuges this week.

Enjoy!        Thanks As Always          Tim