Contact

Harney County Chamber of Commerce

484 N Broadway

Burns, OR 97720

​​

Tel: 541.573.2636

info@harneycounty.com

www.migratorybirdfestival.com

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TOUR DESCRIPTIONS
General tour information
  • You MUST pre-register for tours and other fee-based activities. Registration opens February 3, 2020 for members and February 10, 2020 for the general public. 

  • All tours depart from Burns High School unless otherwise noted.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • We make every effort to diversify tour opportunities and experiences. Some tours may pass by, stop at, or bird in similar areas as other tours. And you know birds...they are as visible as they choose!

  • 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

$20

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  

Saturday: 9 AM - 12 PM
Sunday: 9 AM - 12 PM  

BIRDING SILVIES RIVER FLOOD PLAIN

Birding Intensity: Medium

$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: Medium

$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 Biologist Matt Obradovich (Bureau of Land Management) for a comfortable and personalized tour of the Harney Basin. Matt and driver Dave Vickstrom (also retired from the Bureau of Land Management) 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: 8 - 11 AM

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 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 - Diamond Craters

Birding Intensity: Medium

$75

[NEW ROUTE FOR 2020]   Join Portland Audubon’s Eastern Oregon Field Coordinator, ornithologist, and microbrew lover, Teresa ‘Bird’ Wicks, and local bird, geology, outdoor guide, bushcrafter, and business owner, Jeff Schmidt on a tour designed for adventurous birders and beer aficionados. Participants will spend the morning touring the Diamond Swamp of Malheur NWR on their way to Diamond Craters Outstanding Natural Area (ONA). At Diamond Craters you’ll have a chance to stretch your legs and learn more about wetland conservation, the geology of Diamond Craters, and the unique ecosystems that exist in the ONA. 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 and the Unfortunate IPA (named for the Refuge), the Lagerhead Shrike (named for this awesome upland breeding bird), 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 lunch. 


Friday and Saturday: 7 - 11 AM

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: 6:30 PM - 10:00 AM 

CATTLEWOMEN'S WORKING RANCH TOUR

Birding Intensity: Low

$45

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. No need to bring a mid-day meal... a home cooked lunch provided is by Harney County Cattlewomen!

Saturday: 7:30 AM - 2:30 PM 

CIRCLE STEENS MOUNTAIN & THE ALVORD DESERT

Birding Intensity: High

$100

Spend the day with local experts, 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: Medium

$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: 12:30 to 4:30 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. This exciting tour also provides  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: Medium

$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 - 5:30 PM 

HIKING THE MALHEUR HOT SPOTS

Birding Intensity: Medium

$80

[UPDATED FOR 2020]  Join Candace Larson, naturalist and field biologist with Portland Audubon, as we hike behind the gates at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  Discover lakes, wetlands and uplands as we bird our way on foot around hidden wildlife gems in the southern Blitzen Valley.  Our destinations will be dictated by field conditions in April and may include Boca Lake, East Knox or Bridge Creek.  You can expect an abundance of waterbirds and early spring migrants as we explore an area otherwise closed to the public!  Expect to walk around 5-6 miles. Terrain will be mostly flat but will include uneven ground. 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 

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, naturalist and field biologist with Portland Audubon, on this adventurous walk 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!  Expect to walk around three to four miles, including 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 

LLAMA RANCH VISIT ON THE WILD GOOSE MEADOWS

Birding intensity: Low

$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 ONLY 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 - 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. 

Thursday: 4 - 10:00 PM 

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 - 10 AM | 2 - 4 PM 

Sunday: 8 - 10 AM 

URBAN BIRDING ON FOOT

Birding Intensity: Medium

$10

[NEW] Watching birds in urban areas is far easier than you may have imagined. Birds are everywhere, even in the middle of town! The knack is learning how to notice and eventually recognize those that share our urban lives. Join Portland Audubon’s Eastern Oregon Field Coordinator, ornithologist, and microbrew lover, Teresa ‘Bird’ Wicks and High Desert Partnership (HDP) on this walking tour of East Hines and the Harney County Wildlife Parkway. Rare birds often show up at feeders in this neighborhood, and the Wildlife Parkway is a great place to find Northern Goshawks, Prairie Falcons, waterfowl, and other later wintering/early migrating passerines.

 

This leisurely tour is a nice way to stretch your legs without having to drive out of town. The walk will be an easy three to four miles (round-trip).

 

Meet at High Desert Partnership for coffee before setting out on this walk.


Saturday, April 18, 2 to 4 PM

Sunday, April 19, 9 to 11 AM

WILLOWS, CATTAILS, MEADOWS...OH MY!

Birding Intensity: Medium

$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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