Oregon is huge.
I've been to Malheur a number of times. When I moved to Fort Bragg, I stopped there on the way and pulled the RV up under some cottonwoods. I was sitting at the table eating a sandwich when a young deer appeared in the doorway and tried to climb the steps. He'd obviously been hand raised, and then released in the Refuge. I scratched his ears, and fed him an apple. The heartbreak came when I drove away and he ran along side until I reached the highway.
The town of Burns. OR, is the gateway to Malheur. The refuge itself it about 30 miles south of town, but it's a full 50 miles to French Glen at the southernmost point. To get out of Malheur, one has to either return to Burns, or drive over a hundred miles into Nevada on Hwy. 205, a very lonely, two lane road. From there, I'd have to turn west on Hwy. 140 for another long drive to Lakeview, OR, the next town of any size. I reasoned that if I didn't find a gull population, I'd have to come back to Burns. If I did find one and released Sully, I could camp at French Glen. However, by the time I reached Burns, about 3 p.m., I'd driven another 350 miles and was tired. It may have been the wrong decision, but I decided to spend the night in Burns and do the entire drive in the morning.
I drove the length of Burns looking for a motel with a 'pet friendly' sign. No luck. I stopped at the nicest looking one, and got as far as filling out the registration card when the girl asked if I had a pet. I said a bird. She had to check with the manager, who say a dog was okay, but not a bird. Go figure. I drove to the Motel 6. When the woman there asked if I had any pets, I again said a bird, but that I would leave him in the car. Like hell. Motel 6 was do or die. The only other motel looked too scary to contemplate.
I carried all my stuff in, put Sully's fish in the little refrigerator, and filled the tub. There was a window in the office that looked out on the parking lot. I kept watching, waiting for someone else to come check in. Then I'd know where that woman was, and would sneak Sully in while she was busy. It didn't take long. I carried his cage in, put him in the tub, took the cage back to the car, and covered it with the blanket.
I'm not a good liar, and I didn't sleep well for worrying about whether I'd get caught in the morning. It was still dark when I woke at 6. The parking lot was lit up like Times Square, but it was still the best chance I had to get him in the car before morning. I unlocked the car, came back and wrapped Sully in my sweater. He squawked loud enough to wake the dead until I covered his head. I slipped outside, stuffed him in his cage, and went back to bed.
|Storm over Malheur|
I sat in the car with the rain beating down and looked at the map for options. Klamath was hundreds of miles away. Then I remembered my last visit to Klamath. Bald eagles winter there. Lots of them. Did I snatch Sully from the talons of a Holland Lake eagle only to deliver him to an eagle smorgasbord? Bald eagles at Klamath NWR
|Eagles at Klamath by ibbuzz.com|
|Hwy 205, the long, lonely road out of Malheur|
I decide that home where, this time of year, we have at least seven species of gulls, was my last, best option.
This is an adult Ring-billed gull in breeding plumage.
A birder I know said the true limiting factor for Ring-billed Gulls is the lack of parking lots.