Readers’ wildlife photos

July 21, 2022 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos come from ecologist Susan Harrison. Her notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge her photos by clicking on them—especially the first one, a panorama.

John Day River, June 1-8, 2022

These photos are from a 68-mile trip down the John Day River in north-central Oregon (route here).   This huge region consists of sagebrush-juniper desert with volcanic geology.   The river canyon is carved from layers of columnar basalt.  There are also fossil-rich deposits of volcanic ash, and if you are ever in the area, don’t miss the remarkable Condon Paleontology Center which displays mammalian and ecosystem evolution from 50 million to 5 million years ago.

Storms before and during our trip led to high and fast river flows, so we paddled only 2-3 hours a day, leaving plenty of time to explore and watch wildlife.  We spent a layover day at a dramatic section called the Palisades.


On the towering cliffs across from camp, bighorn sheep grazed, and a golden eagle tended her two large nestlings.

Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis):

Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos):

Western Juniper trees (Juniperus occidentalis) teemed with berries and birds. Below: Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena)

Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum):

Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii):

Black-throated Gray Warbler (Setophaga nigrescens)

Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus):

Recurring sounds of the trip included the squeaky warbles of Lazuli Buntings, maniacal cackles of Yellow-breasted Chats, and seagull-like cries of Spotted Sandpipers.

Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens):

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius):

This huge Robber Fly was not easily distracted, though it finally flew a few feet away while still slurping its prey.

Robber Fly (family Asilidae; probably the Large Robber Fly, Stenopogon inquinatus):

Scattered native plants such as this one were flowering on the rocky slopes.

Purple Sage (Salvia dorrii)

11 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

    1. Thank you! Yes, there are two named rapids on this section, Clarno which is class IV and scary, and Basalt which is class II and not so scary (that’s the one I flipped in 🙂 ) The rest of the run is just fun cruising along.

  1. Thanks for the lovely photos. My brother and I have been fishing the John Day for 60 years. It’s a beautiful peaceful place.

  2. Beautiful photos! I love the John Day. The Thomas Condon Paleontology Center is a real treat if anyone is in the area.

  3. Beautiful photos of beautiful creatures and a beautiful setting. That rafting must have been amazing. I’ve never done it, but I have a friend who cannot feel at ease without at least a bit of white water rafting every year.

  4. This is a gorgeous post.The Lazuli Bunting photo is just priceless.
    What an area to visit!

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