Sunday, May 10, 2015

Tule Lake Marathon

After our first lay in of the holiday Dee and I decided to drive the relatively short distance and cross states lines into California. Our reason was to visit Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. 

Across state to California for the day.
Established in 1928 , Lake Tule Refuge encompasses 39,116 acres of mostly open water and crop-lands. Around 17,000 acres are leased by farmers under a program administered by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Refuge permit holders farm another 1,900 acres of cereal grain and alfalfa. These, crops together with waste grain and potatoes from the lease program, are a major food source for migrating and wintering waterfowl. A ten mile auto route allows wildlife observation throughout the year from the comfort of your car. It's so extensive that Dee and spent 5 hours today exploring!

Bullock's Oriole - A pair of these stunning birds around the Nature Centre.
The drive down to the Nature Centre from the highway produced the first highlight of many during an amazing days birding when a Red-shouldered Hawk, our first for North America was perched along the driveway. At the Nature Centre things continued to get off to an extraordinary start when a pair of Bullock's Oriole were putting on a outstanding display. An American Kestrel was perched up watching events and Stellers Jay, House Finch, Brown-headed Cowbird, and American Goldfinch were all noted. To be honest a normal post would not be sufficient to describe the day and include our many photographs in detail, therefore I've decided on this occasion to compile a pictorial of the days events. I hope you enjoy.

After moving off from the Centre what followed was quite simply one of the best birding days we've encountered, with over 400 photographs to plough through too! Birds here are literally in their hundreds, if not thousands, some resting up to continue their migration north, many nest building and of course many resident. Hirundines were in their hundreds, feeding on the millions of flies and included: Tree Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Bank Swallow and Violet-green Swallow, a mixture of so many wonderful colours within!

There are five Grebes to be found here and we ended up with a full house: Clark's, Western, Eared, Horned and Pied-billed

Eared Grebe - Abundant over the whole reserve!
Western Grebe - These birds can be encountered anywhere around Klamath were there's water!
A white-faced version of the Western Grebe, the Clark's Grebe formerly was thought to be the same species. Differences in face and bill colour keep the two grebes from interbreeding.
The Horned Grebe is striking in its red-and-black breeding plumage. Its "horns" are yellowish patches of feathers behind its eyes that it can raise and lower at will. Not as abundant as the Eared Grebe today, we managed two sightings.
Part bird, part submarine, the Pied-billed Grebe is common across much of North America.
Terns were in large numbers too with many Forster's Tern, Caspian Tern and the odd Black Tern to be found. Equally there were many Bonaparte's Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Californian Gull and a smaller number of Franklin's Gull.

Forster's Terns with it's long trailing tail was constantly on the look out for a quick meal.
Caspian Tern is the largest tern in the world. Its large coral red bill makes it one of the most easily identified terns throughout its worldwide range.
The White-faced Ibis is a western replacement for the Glossy Ibis. Similar in appearance and habits, the two species can be distinguished only by slight differences in colouring of the face and legs.
Among the most elegant of the herons here, the slender Snowy Egret sets off immaculate white plumage with black legs and brilliant yellow feet.
Huge numbers of White-faced Ibis today along with American White Pelican. Great Egret numbers were in double figures and we managed a single sighting of Snowy Egret. Black-crowned Night Heron numbered around a dozen or so and a brace of Great Blue Heron were also recorded. There were some small flocks of Snow Goose to be found and we also came across a singe Tundra Swan. Also of note the only Cormorants to be seen were Double-crested Cormorant.

Snow Geese have skyrocketed in numbers and are now among the most abundant waterfowl on the continent. Also represented were the ever present Canada Goose
Cinnamon Teal - One of my favourite Teal. This one showing it's blue flash.
Wildfowl were abundant and included the gorgeous looking Cinnamon Teal and the more familiar Gadwall. Within the more secluded areas Northern Shoveler and out towards the pool centre Ruddy Duck, Bufflehead, Hooded MerganserAmerican Wigeon, Canvasback and Redhead. In the many channels that feed off from the main water body Lesser Scaup could be found and American Coot were everywhere. A single Belted Kingfisher was observed as we were leaving the reserve.

These stunningly beautiful American Avocet were found in small numbers today!
Raptors included Turkey VultureRed-tailed Hawk, ♂♀Northern Harrier and while observing a Lewis Woodpecker a Peregrine made an unannounced visit! Several species of wader in the mix with Spotted SandpiperLong-billed Dowicher, Dunlin, Western Sandpiper, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt and the stunning American Avocet.

♂♀Californian Quail - This the female of the species
Ground  and reed hugging birds were also in abundance with Brewers Blackbird , Red-winged Blackbird and Yellow-headed Blackbird. Song Sparrow and Savannah Sparrow, plus Marsh Wren, a pair of Californian Quail and a more familiar but differently named Ring-necked Pheasant. Doves and pigeons to add to the day list included Eurasian Collared Dove, Rock Pigeon and Mourning Dove.

The unmistakable and quite vocal Yellow-headed Blackbird
Look closely to see Virginia Rail left and Sora on the right - Well done Dee!
Finally, on my longest ever post an amazing if somewhat blurry image that Dee took of both Sora and Virginia Rail we spotted feeding out in the open on a small section of marsh. Incredible to see both these shy species out in the open feeding together.
BUBO Listing