Contact

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Harney County Chamber of Commerce

484 N Broadway

Burns, OR 97720

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Tel: 541.573.2636

info@harneycounty.com

www.migratorybirdfestival.com

TOUR DESCRIPTIONS
General tour information

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  • All tours depart from Burns High School. 

  • Arrive early and check in at Bird Central (located in the gymnasium at Burns High School) – we will get you connected with your tour guide, group and vehicle.

  • Tours depart at the scheduled time.

  • Transportation is provided – no caravanning or driving your own vehicles (except for the llama tours and the overnight Sage-Grouse excursion that begins in Frenchglen).

  • Tour vehicles are a mix of 12 and 15 passenger vans, and 8 - 13 passenger commercial transit vehicles (think "People Movers" or inner city-type busing). 

  • Be prepared with your own amenities. Most tours travel to remote areas, and weather and road conditions could change routes of travel and the duration of some of tours. 

  • Bring snacks, lunch and water, and dress for changing weather conditions - “fowl” weather gear and sturdy shoes or boots are advised. 

  • There may be long stretches between restroom stops and the birds will only be as visible as they choose! 

  • You MUST register for tours and other fee-based activities. Registration opens February 4, 2019 for members and February 11, 2019 for the general public. 

  • Participants with limited mobility should contact the Harney County Chamber of Commerce prior to booking tours to assure accessibility and accommodations. 

  • Must be 10 years or older to participate unless otherwise noted.

  • Tours are posted alphabetically below! Pay close attention to varying dates and times since many tours have multiple opportunities to join.

BIRDING BY BIKE - HALF THE WHEELS AND TWICE THE FUN!

Birding Intensity: Medium

$15

Birding, biking, fresh air and a little exercise. What a great combination for surprises along the way to local birding hot spots in our excellent Harney Basin. Join Karen Jacobs as she guides you around Burns, Oregon for a flat, 12-mile bicycle exploration of all the local hot spots. You will need to bring your own bike (helmets and binoculars are recommended!). Layer your clothing, as the weather could change from one end of the thermometer to the other. Be sure to carry water and anything else you need to be comfortable on a 2-3 hour bike ride (water, snacks, etc.). Restroom stop available part way at the Eastern Oregon Agriculture Research Center.

Friday: 9 AM - 12 PM  

Sunday: 9 AM - 12 PM  

BIRDING SILVIES RIVER FLOOD PLAIN

Birding Intensity: Low

$45

Join professional naturalist and owner of Paradise Birding, Steve Shunk, for this series of short tours around the Silvies River flood plain. Each 2-hour tour will visit a different part of the valley in search of the region's avian abundance. Maximum registration for each group is 9 people, so everyone will have a window seat. Enjoy Steve's expert skills and infectious enthusiasm as you explore the floodplain with a 20-year Malheur veteran!

Friday: 12 PM-2 PM   2:30 PM - 4:30 PM

Saturday: 7 AM - 9 AM ) | 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM  | 12 PM - 2 PM | 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM 

Sunday: 7:30 AM - 9:30 AM  | 10 AM - 12 PM 

BIRDING THE HOT SPOTS

Birding Intensity: Low

$40

If you are new to the area or just want someone else to do the driving and take you to all the “hot spots,” this is the tour for you! Join local Wildlife Biologists Matt Obradovich (Bureau of Land Management) and Jim Lemos (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, retired) for a comfortable and personalized tour of the Harney Basin. They will answer all of your birding questions and provide insight into the habitat needs of many of our spring migratory birds. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to quiz an expert and discover the best birding around! Family friendly.

Friday: 1 PM - 4 PM 

Saturday: 9 AM - 12 PM 

Sunday: 9 AM - 1 PM

BIRDS OF PREY

Birding Intensity: Medium

$80

Come soar with the eagles and search for raptors! View Bald Eagles exiting roosts, then drive along agriculture fields observing eagles and raptors hunting for prey. Led by U.S. Forest Service Biologist Roy Sutcliffe (Friday) and Wildlife Technician Melanie Finch and High Desert Partnership's Ecological Coordinator Ben Cate (Sunday), this tour won’t disappoint! If weather and road conditions permit, the trip may extend into the Malheur National Forest.

Friday: 6 AM - 1 PM 

Sunday: 6 AM - 1 PM 

BIRDS UNTAPPED

Birding Intensity: Medium

$75

NEW TOUR! Join Portland Audubon's Eastern Oregon Field Coordinator, ornithologist, and microbrew lover, Teresa 'Bird' Wicks, on tour designed for adventurous birders and beer aficionados. Participants will spend the morning at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. You'll visit Headquarters, Buena Vista, and Benson Pond, where you'll have a chance to stretch your legs and learn more about the conservation work Portland Audubon is doing with the Refuge.The tour will then head to Steens Mountain Brewing Company, the local nanobrewery, for lunch, a talk with the brewer, and a flight of beer. Ticket prices include a flight of four beer tasters, including the Buena Vista, Benson Blonde, the Unfortunate IPA (all named for the Refuge), and a rotational beer variety;and a four-pack of beer. Participants will need to either buy lunch at the brewery or bring their own.

Friday 7 AM - 1 PM ; 1:30 - 6:30 PM

BOCA LAKE HIKING

Birding Intensity: Medium

$80

Enjoy a leisurely 5-mile birding hike to one of the hidden gems of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Candace Larson, Field Biologist with the Portland Audubon Society, guides you through this beautiful sub-basin of the Blitzen Valley, exploring the wetlands and surrounding habitats of the 600-acre Boca Lake. You can expect an abundance of water birds and plenty of upland species as you walk the road that circumnavigates the lake. The selected area is otherwise closed to the public!  This is a terrific opportunity to combine birding and exercise with an adventure to a very special place.

Friday: 8 AM - 4 PM 

Saturday: 8 AM - 4 PM 

CATTLEWOMEN'S WORKING RANCH TOUR

Birding Intensity: Low

$45

Includes: homemade lunch

Travel to a working cattle ranch with members of the Harney County Cattlewomen as your hosts. You get to meet the ranch owners – multi-generational, family ranchers – who will explain ranch management techniques that are sustainable and support wildlife, especially migratory birds, in the Harney Basin. Local range scientists from the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center will provide a presentation on the work they do and the benefits to wildlife as well. Family friendly.

Saturday: 7:30 AM - 2:30 PM 

CATLOW VALLEY SAGE GROUSE OVERNIGHT RETREAT

Birding Intensity: Low

$210 (includes the tour, lodging, dinner, and breakfast)

This retreat is a unique opportunity to learn about Greater Sage-Grouse in Harney County. Your tour begins with a family-style dinner at 6:30pm at the Frenchglen Hotel and an overnight stay at the historic Frenchglen Hotel. The following morning, the tour departs at 4:00am for a 1.5 hour trip to a lek on Roaring Springs Ranch. This trip requires a 0.5 mile hike on uneven terrain (off trail) to get to the lek viewing area. Over 20 male sage-grouse may be strutting and you'll have 2 hours out of the vehicle for viewing, photographs, etc. In order to reduce disturbance on lekking sage-grouse, participants will be viewing the lek from a distance. Roaring Springs Ranch Biologist Andrew Shields leads this tour and shares results of sage-grouse research being conducted on the ranch to learn more about these unique birds. The tour concludes back in Frenchglen at 10:00am, leaving plenty of time for a full afternoon of birding in the Blitzen Valley. This is an amazing opportunity to see and hear sage-grouse in their natural setting! You are responsible for lunches and transportation to Frenchglen. The tour may be cancelled at the last minute if access to the lek isn't possible due to weather.

 

Thursday night stay/Friday birding: 6:30pm - 10:00am 

CIRCLE STEENS MOUNTAIN & THE ALVORD DESERT

Birding Intensity: High

$100

Spend the day with local experts Rick Hall (BLM Ecologist, retired) and Joan Suther (BLM Manager and Biologist, retired) exploring lakes (Mann, Six Mile), hot springs, landscapes and historic sites  including Frenchglen around Steens Mountain. Tour loop is approximately 200 miles, with a few strategic rest stops. Plan to learn about the distinctive desert habitats of these seldom visited lakes and the surrounding area, view large mammals and see some of Oregon’s unique desert bird species…over 90 have been identified on this all-encompassing tour! Spotting scopes are available for your use, or bring your own as you spend time at each site searching for birds and other wildlife. Either bring your own  lunch or purchase and enjoy famous milkshakes and burgers at Fields Cafe.  Tour stops may vary based on road conditions.

*Guides can help with eBirding on this tour! AND...don't forget your camera for stunning landscape shots!

Friday: 6 AM - 5 PM 

Saturday: 6 AM - 5 PM 

DOUBLE O LLAMA BIRDING & PHOTOGRAPHY HIKE

Birding Intensity: Low

$80

On Friday and Saturday of the festival, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge managers give Burns Llama Trailblazers special permission to escort a small group into an area normally closed to the public. This year we will be visiting hidden lakes on the famous Double O Ranch. This is the only time this area is open to the public and is very special treat. Eight of our best pack llamas accompany participants one-on-one as they enjoy the views and great birding. From swallows to ducks to swans and eagles, the list can often reach twenty-five species.


This is more than just an easy 4-mile walk over gentle terrain to see the birds. Each participant chooses a llama to be theirs for the day. They are encouraged to work with the llama as much as they like - saddling and unsaddling, loading and leading (guidance provided). Each llama carries his person's gear during the day. Weather can be very unpredictable on these outings - be prepared for cold temperatures and intense sun. Bring plenty to eat and drink and all the amenities you need - each llama can carry over 60 lbs! The hike is not recommended for children under 10 years of age. Feel free to contact llama leaders at herd@burnsllamatrailblazers with any questions.


Participants must provide their own transportation. The hike will last until about 3:30 p.m. giving participants time to return to Burns for the festival's evening activities. 

The tour limit is 8 participants.

Friday: 8 AM - 4 PM 

Saturday: 8 AM - 4 PM 

e-BIRD WORKSHOP & TOUR

Birding Intensity: Low

$40

New to birding or visiting a new place and want to maximize bird watching opportunities? Join this opportunity for a short workshop AND tour to learn how to use eBird – a real-time, online checklist program that has revolutionized the way birders report and access information about birds and sightings! eBird is a great way for beginning birders to narrow down the potential birds in a particular area and discover local hot spots (no matter where you are!) to maximize your birding time. This workshop is part classroom, part field tour. You can download the eBird app for your iPhone or Android phone before the workshop. Your approach to birding will never be the same!

Friday: 8 AM - 12 PM 

FORESTS TO WETLANDS & HABITATS IN BETWEEN - A LONG DAY TOUR

Birding Intensity: High

Friday: $130 | Saturday $100

Bird most of Harney Basin habitats from the majestic old growth ponderosa pines on Malheur National Forest to the spring fed ponds on Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Everyone gets a window seat on this tour and there are plenty of birding stops with short walks to stretch legs and smell the sagebrush. Local wildlife biologists Rick Vetter (U.S. Forest Service, retired) and Howard Richburg (U.S. Forest Service) lead this exciting tour and also provide discussions on habitat management and threats to native birds. Plan on a full day of birding various habitats such as burned and unburned forests, juniper woodlands, sagebrush, agricultural fields, hot springs, wetlands, rimrock, floodplains, backyard hot spots and even sewage ponds. High quality spotting scopes available for use, and tour leaders can provide support for photography, digi-scoping and birding apps including eBird.  Forest parts of the trip are weather dependent.

Friday: 6 AM – 7 PM 

Saturday: 6 AM – 4 PM 

HARNEY BASIN ROCK ART

Birding Intensity: Low

$65

Join local archaeologists from the Bureau of Land Management – Scott Thomas (retired) and Carolyn Temple – for a rock art tour that focuses on the center of the basin. Explore different types of rock art made in ancient times by the first people to live in southeastern Oregon. Visit pictograph sites where the rocks were painted in different color pigments and have survived for millennia. Petroglyph sites – where the designs were made by grinding or pecking the boulders with hammer and stones – are viewed as well. The tour loops from near Harney Lake to Diamond, and then back to Burns through New Princeton and Crane. There is a short stop to visit the Round Barn Visitor Center, and – if time permits – a look at the historic Pete French Round Barn.  Family friendly.

Friday: 8 AM - 12 PM 

HEY! WHAT'S THAT BIRD?

Birding Intensity: Low

$50

Birding for beginners! New to bird watching, looking to hone your novice birding skills, or just interested in the potential for bird watching as a hobby? This is the tour for you! Ducks Unlimited Biologist Chris Colson leads this tour and guides you through basic bird identification, habitat identification for common bird species, and insights into the world of bird watching. Family friendly.

Friday: 12:30 PM - 5:30 PM 

HIKE THE WILD DOUBLE O

Birding Intensity: Low

$75

Unique unto itself, the “Wilds” of the Double O unit of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are a blend of playas, dunes, meadows, lakes and ponds. Join Candace Larson, birder extraordinaire and Field Biologist with the Portland Audubon Society, on this adventurous hike to the Stinking Lake Research Natural Area. Be the first to explore where natural features are preserved for scientific purposes and natural processes are allowed to dominate! Hiking will include sections off-trail and on uneven ground. Plan accordingly. Please note that weather and road conditions in April are unpredictable; if the area is inaccessible, we will explore other refuge hot spots.

Sunday: 8 AM - 2 PM 

LANDSCAPING FOR WILDLIFE WORKSHOP & TOUR

Birding Intensity: Low

$25

Do you love to watch the birds and butterflies?  Come to this workshop to find out how to make your yard an oasis for native wildlife! Did you know that typical yard grass is a desert as far as finding food for our local birds, butterflies and other pollinators? Small choices we make in our yards have a large effect on wildlife (bees, birds, frogs, etc.) and the functioning ecosystems that we all depend upon. Learn how to replace this with native plants that not only support wildlife, but also make your yard the envy of the neighborhood.This tour, which is led by High Desert Partnership Executive Director Brenda Smith, visits various landscapes and residences in the community to see what works and how/why!

Friday, April 12, 12:30 to 3:30 PM 

LLAMA RANCH VISIT ON THE WILD GOOSE MEADOWS

$35

This is a shutterbug's delight! During this tour, Burns Llama Trailblazers will work with the llamas located in  meadow lands three miles north of Burns. Here, birds and llamas mix in a tremendous spring delight. Curlews, ibises, and cranes, fly low overhead, while Canada geese nest on the haystack. Snow geese by the thousands gather in the fields. You will have the opportunity to groom llamas, lead them through obstacles and go for a walk with them. If the babies have arrived, you will meet them personally and have a chance to pet and hold them. You will also get a complete background on the care, history, breeding and uses of these fascinating animals. Weather can be very unpredictable on these outings - be prepared for cold temperatures and intense sun. 

 

The tour meets at Burns High School. Participants may carpool with tour guides or drive their own vehicles. Children are welcome. 

 

The tour is limited to 8 participants.

Sunday: 9 AM - 12 PM 

LOCALS RESTORATION TOUR

Birding Intensity: Low

Free

This tour is just for our local Harney County residents! The Harney Basin Wetlands Initiative is a local group of diverse partners working in Harney Basin and the Silvies floodplain to enhance flood meadows and improve the health of Malheur Lake and its tributaries while creating economic and social benefits for the community. For the past few years partners have been working behind the scenes and they want to show you what they have been doing! Join High Desert Partnership's Ecological Coordinator Ben Cate and Ducks Unlimited Biologist Chris Colson as they take you around the basin for an afternoon of birding and learning about the restoration work being done. Come along for a fun ride and learn what is happening in your backyard! 

Thursday: 1 PM - 5 PM  

OWL PROWL

Birding Intensity: Medium

$55

Come over to the dark side, (with a little light) and meet these amazing birds best known in folklore and literature that still remain a bit of a mystery to most people. We will visit several different habitats, both natural and artificial, listen for owls, and, hopefully, have encounters of the nocturnal kind. We will start before dusk and search for owls at day roosts, followed by those that become active at dusk and others that are truly nocturnal. Several sites are on private property. Dress for cold weather, wear hiking boots and bring snacks and a small flashlight to aid in walking. Some optional daytime walks may be ½ mile. Led by Rick Vetter and Joan Suther (retired wildlife biologists). 

Thursday: 4 PM - 10:00 PM 

PHOTOS WITH FRIENDS OF MALHEUR

Birding Intensity: Medium

FREE

Join your Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for a FREE casual morning discussion and  demonstration on photographing birds! Photographer, Dan Streiffert, is avid wildlife photographer and birder who has spent many beloved days in Harney County over the years. As an active member of the Sierra club and current President of the Rainier Audubon Society, Dan cares deeply about avian conservation and environmental stewardship which is on beautiful display in his photographs. Learn some tips and tricks to get that perfect shot from the comfort of the Crane's Nest Nature Store at the Malheur NWR Headquarters. Friends of Malheur NWR Executive Director will be there to host a coffee hour talk about the Friends!

Enjoy the added bonus of FREE guided birding walks at 8:30 AM and 11:30 AM with Portland's Audubon's Eastern Oregon Field Coordinator, Teresa Wicks.

Sunday: 8 AM - 12 PM, open house and casual birding; 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM, photography discussion and demonstration

Where: Crane's Nest Nature Store at Refuge Headquarters - 36391 Sodhouse Lane, Princeton, OR 97721

RESTORATION BIRDING

Birding Intensity: Medium

$70

Huh? What’s this tour about? Go bird watching with Ben Cate, High Desert Partnership's Ecological Coordinator and Chris Colson, Ducks Unlimited Biologist. Cate and Colson will help you gain a better understanding of the role the Harney Basin plays in the Pacific Flyway and the wetland/floodplain restoration efforts in the area, aimed at improving habitat for migratory birds. This tour moves through the Silvies River Floodplain with a stop at the Narrows (you can purchase lunch here!) on Malheur Lake, then travels to Sod House Dam on the Donner and Blitzen River and on to the historic Sod House Ranch to visit the colonial nesting great blue heron and winter roosting bald eagles. A short drive into the Blitzen Valley is also on the agenda.

The Harney Basin Wetlands Initiative, an effort umbrella under the High Desert Partnership, will be a subject of interest on this tour. The initiative is a cooperate effort between conservation partners, local ranching families and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge – all working to build an understanding of how to manage the flood-irrigated wet meadows in the Harney Basin in a manner that reduces carp reintroduction, provides food for migrating water birds, and provides a sustainable economic return for ranching families. The Harney Basin is a critical stop on the Pacific Flyway and this cooperative effort will ensure it remains a healthy stopover for decades to come.

Saturday: 8 AM - 3 PM 

SANDHILL CRANE DISCOVERY

Birding Intensity: Low

$30

Discover the world of Sandhill cranes with crane biologist Gary Ivey from the International Crane Foundation. This tour focuses on finding Sandhill cranes and learning about their biology and migration. Ivey is a Research Associate at the Foundation and works on research, monitoring, environmental education and habitat conservation projects for the sake of crane conservation. www.savingcranes.org

Saturday: 8 AM - 10 AM | 2 PM - 4 PM 

Sunday: 8 AM - 10 AM 

WILLOWS, CATTAILS, MEADOWS...OH MY!

Birding Intensity: High

$60

Ever wonder why birds use some areas more than others? What entices birds to rest and nest at different locations? Ducks Unlimited Biologist and expert bird watcher Chris Colson specializes in restoring habitat for birds in the Pacific Northwest. Colson leads this tour and will help you learn how to detect the best habitat viewing locations for your favorite birds; understand which plants birds prefer during various seasons of the year; and gain insight into the life-cycle of many birds using the Harney Basin. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to bird watch with an expert!

Sunday: 7 AM - 12 PM 

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