Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Birds in the Klamath Basin NWR

Snow geese and greater-white fronted geese take to flight.

Last week I spent a couple of days down at the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge shooting photos and collecting ideas for some articles about the refuge. I am working on one about the photo blinds that are available for shooting images of eagles, waterfowl or songbirds. Although the blind I was hoping to use was not available, I did get to check out several others. Just missed getting some pictures of a bobcat that was about to enter blind #3.

Photo blind set up for perching raptors.

This time of year, the refuge is loaded with snow and greater-white fronted geese, bald eagles, northern harriers, northern pintails, and other waterfowl. The sandhill cranes were too far off in the fields for photography, but I could easily hear their trumpeting calls a mile away.

Pick out the pintails.

The best photo ops were in the partially flooded fields where the snows, greaters and pintails were foraging. Thousands of birds crowded into these fields. An occasional bald eagle would stir up the flocks, sending the salt-and-pepper group skyward. Using my car as a blind, I was able to shoot photos of the birds with a 400mm lens.

After their initial uproar, the flocks would circle and settle back down. This happened many times and provided some great contrasts with the lighting and backgrounds.

The other great event to watch was later in the day towards sunset. Several adult bald eagles were herding flocks of American coots into tight bunches. At least that is how it looked. The eagles seemed to be working in tandem and the rafts of coots were like black slicks on the surface. When the time was right, the eagles would descend and snatch a coot out of the group. The waterfowl were so tightly packed that the eagles probably could not miss. That eagle would peel off with a prize and another one would take the place of the successful hunter. Pretty cool behavior to watch.

Although Friday morning turned to rain and eventually snow, I was able to take advantage of a small window of light and get some more bird images. Once the skies turned dark gray, I just drove along the dikes and birdwatched. Now, I've got to blend words and images into some articles and, like the rising flocks, send them skyward.


  1. Damian,
    Sounds like a nice day of birding. So how many coots did the eagles get and did you get any photos?

  2. David,
    I did not get any photos due to time of day, dangerous parking and because the eagles and coots were so close to the road, I didn't want to spook the eagles. I only saw one eagle take a single coot, but that eagle was soon replaced by another one. The coots were all bunched up, maybe fifty in a group and there were multiple groups.