Schlepping Sully Part VI

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
By morning, it was pouring rain. Long story short, I did not find a single bird in Malheur. I'm sure they were somewhere, but not in any of the bodies of water I passed. I took detours down gravel roads. Nothing. 

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

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.
 These birds forage in flight or pick up objects while swimming, walking or wading. They also steal food from other birds and frequently scavenge. They are omnivorous; their diet may include insects, fish, grain, eggs, earthworms and rodents. These birds are opportunistic and have adapted well to taking food discarded or even left unattended by people. It is regarded as a pest by many beach-goers because of its willingness to steal unguarded food on highly crowded beaches. The gull's natural enemies are rats, foxes, dogs, cats, raccoons, coyotes, eagles, hawks, and owls 

A birder I know said the true limiting factor for Ring-billed Gulls is the lack of parking lots.