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TOURS (not yet updated for 2024)

In 2023, we are offering the full gamut of tours: van-guided; you-drive-we-lead caravans; and self-guided. You'll also have the opportunity to enjoy touring by a variety of means - walking, hiking, biking, riding, or driving! 

Tours are listed below by TYPE, then chronologically. 

VAN-GUIDED TOURS

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HARNEY BASIN WETLANDS RESTORATION TOUR  |  Thursday, April 13, 1 to 4 p.m.

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 Ducks Unlimited biologist Chris Colson and High Desert Partnership director Brenda Smith 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!

Cost: $30 / person, 8 spots available - VAN-GUIDED

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OWL PROWL  |  Thursday, April 13, 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.


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.
 

Cost: $55 / person, 8 spots available - VAN-GUIDED

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BIRDS OF PREY TOUR  |  Friday, April 14/Saturday, April 15/Sunday, April 16, 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Hone your eagle-eye vision and search for raptors in Harney County! View Bald Eagles exiting their communal roosts, then drive along agriculture fields observing eagles and raptors hunting for prey. Led by U.S. Forest Service Biologist Roy Sutcliffe (Friday), Portland Audubon (Saturday), and a U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Technician (Sunday), this tour won’t disappoint! If weather and road conditions permit, the trip may extend into the Malheur National Forest.
 

Cost: $80 / person, 8 spots available - VAN-GUIDED

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BASIN BIG DAY TOUR  |  Friday, April 14, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

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. Brodie Cass Talbot is a birder and educator for Portland Audubon and has birded across five continents. 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.
 

Cost: $130 Friday / person, 9 spots available - VAN-GUIDED

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BIRDING THE SILVIES RIVER FLOODPLAIN  |  Friday, April 14 / Saturday, April 15, 7 to 11 a.m. and 1:30 to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 16, 7 to 11 a.m.

Go birding with Melissa Petschauer from High Desert Partnership. Ecologist and birder extraordinaire, Melissa 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 Wright’s Point, where you can see Malheur Lake on the horizon and get a bird’s eye view of the Silvies Floodplain.

​The Harney Basin Wetlands Collaborative, an effort umbrella under the High Desert Partnership, will be a subject of interest on this tour. The initiative is a cooperative 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.
 

Cost: $50 / person, 8-10 spots available - VAN-GUIDED

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HEY, WHAT’S THAT BIRD? TOUR  |  Friday, April 14 / Saturday, April 15, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Description: 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! Local wetland ecologist Samuel Artaiz leads this tour and guides you through basic bird identification, habitat identification for common bird species, and insights into the world of bird watching.
 

Cost: $40 / person, 8-10 spots available - VAN-GUIDED

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BIRDING THE HOT SPOTS TOUR  |  Friday, April 14 / Saturday, April 15, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 16, 8 to 11 a.m.

Description: 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 and Rick Hall (retired) from the Bureau of Land Management for a personalized tour of the Harney Basin. He 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.
 

Cost: $40 / person, 11 spots available - VAN-GUIDED

YOU-DRIVE-WE-LEAD CARAVAN TOURS

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SUNRISE BALD EAGLE FLY OUT  |  Friday, April 15 / Saturday, April 15, 5:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.


Harney Basin provides habitat for nesting, wintering, migrant and wandering bald and golden eagles. Rick Vetter and Joan Suther will lead a field trip to watch an early morning flyout of bald eagles from one of the largest bald eagle roosts of Oregon… that they have been monitoring for 33 years and counting! This is an early-start tour with a 35-minute drive from Burns. We leave on time, before sunrise, so as not to miss any eagles. The roost is secluded, but we’ll get to watch some of the birds fly out over our heads, from the comfort of our vehicles if it is cold, or outside if you prefer, on a quiet gravel road. As the eagles fly out, they scatter across agriculture fields preparing to search for a free meal, which is one of the main reasons they roost in this particular area. But it comes with a possible deadly consequence, which we’ll discuss, as well as the natural history of the birds in the area.

There will also be opportunities to identify and watch numerous other raptor species, including one of the longest winged hawks in the U.S. And on the return trip to Burns, we’ll stop at the Crystal Crane Hot Springs for additional birding. Plan and dress accordingly for cold morning temperatures, any sustenance needs, and a potential swim at the hot springs if you choose!  

 

Cost: $40/vehicle, 10 vehicle spots available - YOU-DRIVE-WE-LEAD CARAVAN TOUR

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GOLDEN EAGLE NEST VIEWING  |  Friday, April 14,  / Saturday, April 15, 2 to 5 p.m.
 

Rick Vetter, retired U.S. FWS and U.S. Forest Service  Biologist, leads this fascinating discussion about Golden Eagles: the largest, fastest, nimblest raptor in North America and most widely distributed eagle in the world. Participants will drive themselves, meet in the field, observe a large nest (hopefully with nesting birds!) and share conversation with Rick. Bring binoculars or scopes, and something to sit on if you'd like!

Cost: $30/vehicle, 10 vehicle spots available - YOU-DRIVE-WE-LEAD CARAVAN TOUR

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DOUBLE 0 LLAMA BIRDING & PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR  |  Friday, April 14 / Saturday, April 15, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

Hiking + birding + llamas to carry your stuff = FUN! The Double-O ranch is a busy part of the Malheur National Wildlife refuge. As many as forty species may be seen in the area during the bird festival - great for photography! This hands-on llama event puts you in the middle of it all!  When you join us for our day-long tour, you will have the opportunity to choose a llama companion who will carry your field gear and help you spot the wildlife. You may assist with saddling and are encouraged to lead your llama during the tour. The route follows level tracks and trails that are otherwise closed to the public. Hiking distance varies depending on the interests of the group, but generally is from three to five miles. Camera gear, scopes and collapsible tripods can be accommodated, but should be well protected against possible jostling. Small folding chairs can also be along. Travel distance from Burns to the birding site is about forty miles and is a birding opportunity in its own right. Bring snacks, lunch and drinks.

Cost: $100 / person, 8 spots available - YOU-DRIVE-WE-LEAD CARAVAN TOUR

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LLAMA RANCH VISIT ON THE WILD GOOSE MEADOWS  | Sunday, April 16, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Burns LLama Trailblazers female and baby llamas live on a ranch located in the meadow lands three miles north of Burns, where birds and llamas mix in a tremendous spring delight. Curlews, ibises, and cranes, fly low over head, while Canada geese nest on the haystack. Snow geese by the thousands gather in the fields. Amid the excitement, we present a three-hour tour during which 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. The activities provide great photographic opportunities. During the tour we will also present you with a complete background on the care, history, breeding and uses of these fascinating animals. Collectively we have nearly sixty years of experience that covers all manner of llama activities, ranging from leading a 4H club, to training llamas to pull carts, and taking lengthy wilderness pack trips. The tour provides an excellent opportunity to answer your questions at length. 

Cost: $50 / person, 8 spots available - YOU-DRIVE-WE-LEAD CARAVAN TOUR

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FIELD SKETCHING / JOURNALING  |  Friday, April 14, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. / Saturday, April 15, 10 a.m. to 12 noon

Covers materials and techniques for working quickly in the field as well as exercises for drawing accurately from life. Students focus on the landscape up close and far away, explore how to tell stories, and keep a journal of informative observations. There is no experience necessary to participate in a field sketching workshop and all levels are welcome. 

Cost: $20 / person, 5 spots available (per class) - YOU-DRIVE-WE-LEAD CARAVAN TOUR

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WORKING RANCH TOUR   |  Saturday, April 15, 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

 

Travel with members of the Harney County Cattlewomen to working cattle ranches just outside of Burns. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about local history, learn about the coexistence of wildlife and ranching in the Harney Basin and listen to local range scientists from the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center. Bring water. A beef tri-tip lunch by the Harney County Cattlewomen is included with the tour.
 

Cost: $60 / vehicle, 10 vehicle spots available - YOU-DRIVE-WE-LEAD CARAVAN TOUR

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CRANE CARAVAN  |  Saturday, April 15, 8 to 10 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m.; Sunday, April 16, 8 to 10 a.m.

Discover the world of Sandhill Cranes with biologist Gary Ivey of the International Crane Foundation. This tour will focus on finding sandhill cranes and learning about their biology and migration. Gary is a Research Associate at the Foundation and works on research, monitoring, environmental education, and habitat conservation projects for the sake of crane conservation. You will be driving yourself, and only six vehicles will be permitted per tour. Carpooling is encouraged. Bring water and snacks and plan for a few stops where you'll be getting out of your vehicle to gather, observe, etc.
 

Cost: $30 / vehicle, 5 vehicle spots available (per tour) - YOU-DRIVE-WE-LEAD CARAVAN TOUR

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DIAMOND CRATERS CARAVAN |  Sunday, April 16, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

 

Join Calamity Butte Guide Service owner and leader, Jeff Schmidt, on a guided tour of Diamond Craters Outstanding Natural Area in southeast Oregon. Participants will drive themselves on this caravan-style tour, with several stops along the way to see and hear about the geologic history and special features of this unique area. There are excellent opportunities for bird watching- especially raptors. This tour is family-friendly with many opportunities to get out of the vehicle and explore! Directions to the meet up location are provided in your registration confirmation.

Cost: $45 / vehicle, 8 vehicle spots available - YOU-DRIVE-WE-LEAD CARAVAN TOUR

SELF-GUIDED TOURS

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BIRD CRAWL  |  Friday, April 14 / Saturday, April 15 - docents on site from 8 a.m .to 12 p.m.; but, stamps available on site throughout the weekend.

Think ‘pub crawl,’ but with a vehicle (not walking) and birds (not beer…you're driving!). Meet up with biologists, scientists, wildlife spotters or subject matter experts in the field! We’ve strategically selected several locations throughout the Blitzen Valley where you can drive to yourself and join a specialist who will help with birding in that area, share information and guidance, and support a great birding experience in the field. Visit sites, get stamps on your Bird Crawl Passport to earn an annual sticker!

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Cost: $20 / person (passport) - if you want to participate in the Bird Crawl without doing the passport, go for it! For free!

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URBAN BIRDING – FEEDER TOUR  |  Friday, April 14 / Saturday, April 15, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Watching birds in urban areas is far easier than you may have imagined. There is more out there than just pigeons and quail! Birds are everywhere, even in the middle of town. The knack is learning how to notice and eventually recognize the birds that share our urban lives. This tour is an introduction to appreciating the abundant bird life in Harney County! 

This is a self-guided tour of some of the more birdy neighborhoods and areas of Burns and Hines. A map of stops will be provided.

Cost: Free

WALKING, HIKING & BIKING TOURS

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BOCA LAKE HIKING  |  Friday, April 14 / Saturday, April 15, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Enjoy a leisurely 5-mile birding hike to one of the hidden gems of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Candace Larson, Master Naturalist 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, a portion of the Refuge normally closed to the public! You can expect an abundance of water birds and plenty of upland species as you walk the road that circumnavigates the lake. This is a terrific opportunity to combine birding and exercise with an adventure to a very special place.

Cost: $80 / person, 10 spots available – VAN-GUIDED HIKING TOUR (you ride with us)

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BIRDING BY BIKE - HALF THE WHEELS, TWICE THE FUN  |  Friday, April 14 / Saturday, April 15 / Sunday, April 16, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

 

Interested in combining some moderate exercise with excellent Harney Basin birding? Join our guide, Karen Jacobs on a flat, gravel bike ride up East Canal, at the south end of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. You will need to bring your own bike (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 3 hour bike ride. Drinking water is available at the Page Springs Campground well house.

Cost: $20 / person, 10 spots available – BIKING TOUR (meet at the starting location)

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DOWNTOWN HISTORY WALKING TOUR  |  Thursday, April 13 / Friday, April 14, 4 to 6 p.m. and Saturday, April 15, 3 to 5 p.m.

 

Enjoy a chance to stretch your legs between birding tours and learn more about Burns history. This walking tour covers 14 blocks in the downtown area of Burns and focuses on many of the 100+ year old buildings still in use. You will visit and get a brief historical sketch about each building on your path. Finish your tour with a visit to the Harney County Historical Society Museum, open Friday and Saturday from 10 to 4.

Cost: Free, 20 spots available - WALKING TOUR (depart from Harney County Library)

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HIKING THE WILD DOUBLE O  |  Sunday, April 16, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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 an area on the Refuge 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.

Cost: $70 / person, 10 spots available - VAN-GUIDED HIKING TOUR (you ride with us)

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