Sunday, March 27, 2016

Prowling for Owls at Klamath Marsh NWR

In February we headed south to Klamath Falls for our second annual trip to the Winter Wings Festival. We were looking forward to revisiting all the hotspots that had treated us so well on our last visit, but the main reason we wanted to get back was the overnight owl prowl we booked in hopes of finding a Great Gray Owl.

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Night-heron roost. There were dozens in just these couple of trees, and none anywhere else in town.

We met up with guides Harry and Kevin in the afternoon, along with our celebrity tagalong, James Currie. Currie was in town as the festival's keynote, but he was also filming an episode of his show Birding Adventures TV, with his trusty cameraman Jeff trying to capture footage of his "golden bird" (new episodes air on Destination America, but older episodes are available here).

James Currie

We would spend the night in a bungalow at the Klamath Marsh NWR headquarters. This was the same day the armed occupation of Malheur NWR finally ended, and we want to give credit here to USFWS who were prepared for the worst, not least because the refuge lies along one of the main routes to Burns, OR. By all accounts, the field trip was touch-and-go for a while, and you can bet that we would have been devastated had our plans been scuppered by a bunch of militant scumbags.

Our target: Great Gray Owl. This one was mounted in the building where we bunked for the night.

Spotted Owl wouldn't be a bad bird, either.

On our drive in to the refuge we had a steady stream of Rough-legged Hawks fly alongside the road, and perched in nearby trees. Later that night, this same road was where we'd flush half-a-dozen or more Short-eared Owls who were laying in wait for any voles foolish enough to leave snow tunnels.

Rough-legged Hawk

We haven't got any photos to share from our nocturnal prowlings, but the night started with a single toot from a Northern Pygmy-owl. A heard-only Northern Saw-whet Owl called much more persistently, but too far off to consider tracking down. And our target bird? Great Gray Owls make a repeating "woo, woo, woo" call… of which we heard only one "woo". A single woo, in fact, followed immediately by a Great Horned Owl. It all happened so fast, that we decided not to count it. When we finally do see/hear a Great Gray Owl, I want to FEEL that I was in the presence of greatness.

We were up well before dawn broke the next morning, hoping to turn up any last-minute owls while they were still active. A calling Pygmy-owl lured us into a meadow, leading to an exhausting quarter mile hike through foot-and-a-half-deep snow. We weren't able to pinpoint it, and settled for decent looks at a Clark's Nutcracker.

We didn't see any owls, but the sunrise alone was worth waking up for

On the way back into Klamath, we stopped at Collier State Park. We were all quite taken with an active pair of American Dippers that we'd missed when we checked in briefly the day before. They seemed right at home under the bridge, and someone said they saw a nest, but I don't think they ever visited it while we were there.

Williamson River runs through Collier State Park. That's the same Williamson as in Williamson's Sapsucker

Not sure what type of moth this is, but they were everywhere

American Dipper

Of course our attention broke away from the Dippers as soon as Harry called out a Northern Pygmy-owl he watched fly in across the stream. We'd already heard a couple call on this trip, but this was the first we'd seen. We were all impressed with how cooperative it was, unobstructed and out in the sunlight -- of course that was nothing compared with the one Maureen and I would find in Ashland three days later.

Northern Pygmy-owl - perhaps look for this future celebrity on a future episode of Birding Adventures?

1 comment:

  1. Bom dia, a selecção de foto muito bem apresentada é de excelência, amplas com qualidade e detalhes, são de mestre.