Monday, May 11, 2015

Interstate Birding!

Yesterday evening after our marathon birding session we were resting in our room before dinner having a few beers and enjoying a thunderstorm rolling in over the mountains. Suddenly a White-headed Woodpecker appeared in the top of the tree just outside our window offering great views from our 3rd floor vantage point.

As if that wasn't exciting enough as the storms rumbled on into the night two Great Horned Owls having a conversation just outside said window woke us around 2am!

Northern Flicker ♂Adult - Red-shafted is the western version! - Photo by Dee
After yesterdays excitement we decided to start our day on a more sedate note, completing one of the hotel birding trails. Around 2.5 miles long the trail meanders through woods of Western White Oak, Ponderosa Pine and Juniper, ending near the Upper Klamath Lake. The outward walk was pleasant enough, if not a little overcast but the return was completed in heavy downpours and the odd rumble of thunder. The birding wasn't too bad with of note: Northern Flicker, Brown Creeper, White-breasted Nuthatch, Warbling VireoBlue-headed Grosbeak, Californian Quail, Steller's Jay, Blue JayBrown-headed Cowbird, Pacific WrenSpotted Towhee and Tree Swallow, plus Turkey Vulture, Raven and Bald Eagle over.

Willet - another addition to the birding list at Lower Klamath.
After lunch we headed back over the state line once more and into California, this time to visit Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. For the more autocratic bird listers this is an interesting one, as the reserve is split between Oregon and California, so be careful to remember which state your observation took place. The refuge was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, the nations first waterfowl refuge. At 46,900 acres the refuge has a varied mix of shallow freshwater marshes, open water, grassy uplands and crop-lands. Like Tule Lake yesterday there is a 10 mile auto route which allows access all year round. Good job too as today it was back to trousers and fleeces with a balmy 9C the high and rolling thunderstorms. I suppose at 4,500ft this is to be expected.

American Avocet - unperturbed by the torrential downpour!
We began at White Lake, a smaller marshland area separate from the main trail. It was literally a haven for waders! First noted were American Avocet feeding quite close in and several Willet and Killdeer along the roadside. Small numbers of Black-necked Stilt and larger flocks of Long-billed Dowicher (3/4 hundred) were constantly on the move and other flocks in feeding frenzies held Dunlin, Western Sandpiper and within Least Sandpiper were numerous. Out towards the centre, which held shallow water, several Phalaropes could clearly be seen in the scope feeding both in and out of the water. In typical fashion twirling constantly to stir up the waters. These turned out to be Wilson's Phalarope, what a smart looking bird. 

Western Meadowlark - An unexpected addition today!
Once on the auto route it's fair to say that we encountered many of the species observed and listed within yesterdays marathon post. With that in mind and to save repetition I've posted almost exclusively the new species recorded today. First of note has to be an American Bittern, which flew along the reedbed meters from the car, offering some decent views before dipping back down and out of sight. On the grassy uplands a flock of 35 Greater White-fronted Geese and an unexpected Western Meadowlark arrived briefly, offering a few musical notes before departing. Dee picked out the birds of the day for me when she came across two Great Horned Owls roosting in one of only a few trees on the circuit. A bird which came in a close second was a Golden Eagle, which had our undivided attention while causing mayhem as it flew low over the open water. Another thundery downpour brought down a dozen or so passing Black Terns, which hung around feeding over the open water before heading off, our final new species were a dozen Ring-necked Duck.

Two out of three Sandhill Cranes in more gloomy conditions, but who's complaining!
On route back, a stop at the Klamath Wildlife Area in search of Sandhill Crane before heading off to the hotel. This area runs along the Klamath River just off US 95 and there are several parking areas for observation. Californian Quail are abundant here at it was all we could do not to run any over! A few stops and scans and thankfully it wasn't long before our target bird was in sight, three Sandhill Cranes in yet another downpour. The reedbeds along the river were a cacophony of sound, with many Marsh Wrens in residence. At the boat launch area Caspian Tern and  four Common Tern were at rest, along with several Forster's Terns, which seem never to stop fishing.

Great Horned Owl - Shame about the twig over the eye but another great image by Dee!
Amazingly, as we drove back out towards the highway my birding guru Dee did it again with a third Great Horned Owl of the day, showing a little better than our earlier two. What a terrific end to our Klamath stay, tomorrow we begin to head back north and our next destination Bend!
BUBO Listing