I hadn't planned on driving for eight hours yesterday. We misjudged the round-trip distance from Boise to Malheur Lake in Oregon, and Pamelia wasn't feeling well, so I stayed behind the wheel as we passed Ore-Ida's big potato-processing plant (where Tater Tots are produced, along with an unpleasant smell), many farms and ranches, an Oregon State University agricultural research station (with fields of genetically-modified corn, each row marked with a sign stating the type of genetic modification) and lots of sagebrush and grassland. If the word Oregon makes you think of lush forests and Pacific Northwest rainfall, you probably haven't visited the eastern part of the state. Our route wound through barren mountains to the high desert.
I won't say much about the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge because I may write about that in my article for Via, but we appeared to be the only people there yesterday afternoon. We had close encounters with deer and a coyote and (fortunately for us and the story) saw birds—some live, some stuffed. The refuge has a museum with more than 150 taxidermied bird specimens from the area. One specimen is of a mountain bluebird, and when I saw it I knew that it was too small to be the type of blue bird I'd seen in Idaho two days ago. As you may recall from yesterday's blog, I included a photo of that bird and tentatively identified it as a mountain bluebird, the Idaho state bird. I now think it was a Western scrub-jay.
One more thing: In a comment about yesterday's blog, BG Thorpe included a link to a beautiful poem by Jonathan Steffen called The Falcon to the Falconer. I forgot to mention that while we were in Boise visiting the World Center for Birds of Prey, we got a tour of the Archives of North American Falconry, the biggest collection of English-language falconry material to be found anywhere. Attached to the archives is a museum on the history of falconry in the Arab world, funded by the founder of the United Arab Emirates. It's quite a startling exhibition to find in Boise, Idaho.