Sunday, November 26, 2017

Going Coastal

Going coastal
By Damian Fagan

We spent the Thanksgiving holiday at the Oregon Coast. The weather was classic coastal - windy, rainy, sunny, wild, and calm. We spotted gray whales on their southern migration, harbor seals hauled out on rocky "islands," seabirds and songbirds, and a few flowering plants clinging to the concept that winter had not yet arrived.

We, Raven and I, did a little research during our visit in bookstores and the Hatfield Marine Science Center which is a very cool place to visit - especially when the weather turns nasty. Oregon State University is involved with other entities in a variety of great projects, so we know to see what's up at HMSC. Plus, the birding outside the facility is great along the bay.

We saw a nice sized flock of brant, many American wigeons and a lone Eurasina wigeon, northern pintails, a few hooded mergansers, and other birds. The brant were special since we rarely see them inland.

We stayed near the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Resource Area (true to its name) and walked to the lighthouse several times during the holiday weekend from our motel. We had great looks at a female peregrine falcon perched in the cliff above the Visitor Center, as well as whales moving south. A highly recommended spot to stop.

Though we left the area during a minor squall today, the trip was fun and wildlife-rich. We'll be back, probably not until spring, but the coast draws us in and is hard to resist. Squalls and all.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Klamath Basin in Winter

The lakes are frozen, plastered with snow, seams of ice stitched together with winter thread. Snow blankets the hills and higher peaks; the agricultural fields are somewhat snow-free but solid. Waterfowl exists where there is open water - the Link River, Wood River, Williamson River - but the rest is solid, deep in winter slumber.

The birding was OK, not great. Bald eagles, rough-legged hawks, red-tailed hawks and northern harriers were out hunting, preying on winter kill or small mammals. The Link River had its usual nice collection of goldeneyes, buffleheads, mergansers and even a couple of mallards. Black-crowned night herons roosted in the willows along the river, their numbers around 100 but difficult to count during the brief snowstorms.

Our best sighting for the weekend? A pair of bobcats hunting along the edge of a marsh, their movements slow and deliberate. Too far off for a good photograph, we watched them hunt until they decided to run for cover, back into the trees.

I look forward to next month's visit back to Klamath, to see the changes and the return of migrants as the lakes and waterways open up and provide them safe refuge.
A solitary coyote hunts in Klamath Marsh NWR.