On the Way Up
The drive was almost six hours long. Add to that time for lunch, and It was approaching dark when I arrived at the Wild Goose. On the last leg of the drive, I came across Mount Shasta. I'd forgotten I would drive right past it when planning this trip, so this was a bonus. I'd only flown over it a hundred times on the way to work in Medford, Oregon, Boise, Idaho, Logan, Utah, or Seattle, Washington. Ground-level yielded a great perspective, and I couldn't help but pull over several times to capture this grand landmark. I also drove past Castle Crags State Park and had to visit there just because of the intriguing name. 'Twas a happy find indeed.
Day 2/Klamath Falls
This is the first set of birding images from my trip. It's a short one. I'll post more tomorrow.
The first stop on my itinerary for birding was at Veterans' Park in Klamath Falls, OR. The park sits on the northern tip of Lake Ewauna, the first stop on the Klamath River run from Upper Klamath Lake. At times, this is a great place to capture waterfowl of all sorts, and if you're lucky, Eagles are hunting them. Unfortunately, there were no eagles and just a few waterfowl, although I didn't tour the entire lake. I did find a flock of very happy Seagulls, some Mergansers out on the water, some Domestic Geese, a Coot, and some very healthy Pigeons.
Day 2/ Lower Klamath Lake
By the time I made my entrance to Lower Klamath Lake I was starting to feel frustrated. I had been to three of the areas my guide/itinerary suggested for finding Eagles, and yet I'd found none. I couldn't get to one area because the mud tracks out to it were more than my poor vehicle could handle. I was sure that was where the Eagles would be since I couldn't get there. 😕 The first place I visited, Klamath Wildlife Area, Miller Island Unit, held a ton of Geese, smaller waterfowl, and what I thought were Swans (turned out to be Sandhill Cranes), but you need a day pass to park and I couldn't find a place to purchase one. The ODFW (Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife) was closed due to COVID-19.) So I made a few long-range shots and moved on. The next area was a complete wash as I couldn't traverse the muddied roadway. The third area was on the main road that had marshy areas on both sides, but few safe places to pull over. I did make a few shots of Tundra Swans (I'd only ever seen pairs of Swans before this day, never hundreds in one group.) These are the first shots in this set, and again, I was a fair distance from them, so only a few of my shots were worthy of publication. I did see (and tried without success to capture) what I thought was a Golden Eagle trying to nab lunch from the midst of this flock. It was a HUGE bird anyway and it was buzzing the flock. What I captured was a burred view of the flock and a blurrier view of a brownish streak flying just over their heads.) The swans were making a racket and there were so many, I think the Eagle couldn't decide which to grab. It flew away empty-taloned. The next shots are Pintail Ducks. I turned off this road to get to Lower Klamath Lake hoping for better Eagle luck. This was nearly a disaster. It was a one-lane dirt track that turned to mud halfway across (about a 4-mile run). I and Betsy were fishtailing all over the place determined to not stop and praying we'd stay on the road and out of the tundra on either side. 😨 We made it and after a short zig onto a paved roadway we zagged onto another dirt track. This one was far more stable and had very much more drivable mud streaks. If you recall the video I posted about being in the middle of nowhere, this is that dirt road. The only place on this track with trees overlooking a marshy area was at the beginning of the track and I nearly drove on past it. I couldn't see them at first because they were on the opposite side of the trees from the road. I finally looked up when I had to stop to let an oncoming car squeeze by, I saw three eagles in one tree. I'd finally struck Eagle Gold. Later there were Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes out on the open marshes. Two of the eagles in the group were Juveniles. You can tell by the blotchy coloring where you would expect white on a Bald Eagle. The Flying Eagle is a Juvenile. I made a lot more shots, but as I said, the Eagles were on the other side of the tree from me. Focusing through all the branches was a task I failed at much more than I knew before I got home and started sorting through them. Sigh! The marsh area the Eagles were hunting in was beyond the trees, and although I couldn't see them, I could hear the cacophony of noise they were making. There had to be thousands. There was no way to get closer as there was a canal between the roadway and the tree line with no footbridge to cross over. The last two images are map views of the area.
Day 2/ Lava Beds
This was an interesting side trip. I happened on a sign while traversing the eastern edge of Lower Klamath Lake that pointed to the "Lava Beds National Monument" in Tulelake, CA, a Desert wilderness park with volcanic features and 700+ caves. I thought it would put a different spin on the day's imaging. I included the fire image first to explain the smoke visible in some of the following images. That was a controlled burn, BTW. As you can see, this is out there in the wilderness of northeast California and southeast Oregon. I saw five vehicles inside the park, and the entrance road runs for about 15 miles. There are caves here, lots of them. I stepped inside one (image #D8-21LV027PANO1), and the otherworldliness scared me off—especially that orangey glowing roof. 🥵 Okay, I didn't step into any caves, and that's just a color negative adaptation of the previous image in the set, which shows a lava bed or a part of one. It looks like someone took a giant backhoe to the area. I think those are Mule Deer (I think), and the water body in some of the images is Tule Lake. The rock formations were quite interesting too. The snow-capped mountain in the background of some images is Stukel Mountain in Oregon.
PS: Image catalog #s are typed into the top left corner of the image in small print. You'll have to enlarge it to read. You can also find them by hovering your mouse over the image viewing on my blog.
Day 3/ Miller Island Unit
In Klamath Falls, I found a store, Coastal Farm & Ranch, that would sell me a day pass. I was then able to visit the Miller Island Unit without fear of breaking any laws. I was excited to be able to capture the variety of waterfowl I expected to see here. I was not disappointed, but even though I was on a 2.5 mile designated birding trail, the farther I traveled on it, the more nesting birds I disturbed. It bothered me to be a bother to these animals, so after about a half-mile, I stopped and returned to my car. If you look closely at the swans taking off, you can see it was a real effort to do so. They literally ran on the water for about 30 yards before getting airborne. I still captured a lot of images. The Tundra Swans were noisier than the White-Fronted Geese, and yet there were three Water Thrush in a tree who were louder than all the rest. The majority of the ducks were Redheads, though there were Mallards, Buffleheads, and a few Pintails too. A couple of old Coots (😋) and the last image in the set is not a great one but it is the only image I have of juvenile Coots. I was moving on.
Day3/ Lower Klamath Lake - part two
Since I had cut my visit to the Miller Island Unit short, I was ahead of schedule. I had planned to go to Tule Lake next, but instead, I decided to see what the Eagles at Lower Klamath Lake were doing. This side trip was on the way to Tule Lake. That was the right choice. I found several locations clear of branches and made some beautiful images. There was a mom and pop present at the nest this time. That's a juvenile perched atop the tree, free and clear of all obstructions. I also found a Red-Tailed Hawk in the same area, which sparked an interesting tidbit of birding knowledge. We've all heard the screech of a Hawk. One might think the Eagle's voice would be just as dramatic if not more so. Not at all! I will include some YouTube audio links to facilitate comparison (copy and paste into your browser). The Eagle's call seems very much like that of a Gull. Finally, there is always the influence of Mount Shasta to consider in this area. On to Tule Lake, I headed.
https://youtu.be/33DWqRyAAUw Credit to Susan Crowe
https://youtu.be/9RArGl2vkGI Credit to Tristan Findley
Day 3/ Tule Lake
This would be the last stop on my photo journey in the wilds of Northern California. I can't say I was thrilled to be leaving the next day, not at all. As much as I was able to capture my goals, I wanted more, much more. I wanted a four-wheel-drive vehicle, so I could traverse the entirety of the lake perimeters and see what I could see. Frankly, I just wanted to stay - out there. Sigh! But back to these marvelous creatures. Once I turned onto the Tule Lake perimeter road (Auto Touring Roads, they called them), the first thing I noticed was this massive flock of birds going airborne. They were Snow Geese and the ones in the air were but a portion of the whole flock. The sky was filled with them, but it looked as though there were thousands more on the lake. It didn't take much to spook them, so again, I shied away from going too far or getting too close. My turning onto the dirt track was the catalyst for so many taking flight. There were also a ton of White Fronted Geese and a few Canada Geese. They didn't spook so easily. I pulled back to the entrance and rode down another part of the track where I came across some Ruddy Ducks, more White Fronted Geese, and some Pelicans who'd found a patch of tasty morsels underwater. Before I turned down that sidetrack, I saw a hawk take off. By the time I got the camera in play, it was a ways off and flying away from me. It turned out to be my second-only Marsh Hawk. Both times they were flying away from me. You can identify them by the white band across the top of their tail feathers. Between the Pelican images, you'll see a couple of images of another raptor on a telephone pole and a nest on a platform. As I approached the nest, it flew away, and as I kept trying to get closer, it passed to another pole further away. At this point, I was on a two-rut, single-width trail, and it was getting muddier as I continued. When the car bottomed out, I stopped, backed up a little until I could back into a Farm road, and turned around. I stopped there and got out to make a few images of that distant raptor and the nest. It was backlit, so that I couldn't tell the coloring. When I edited these images, it wasn't until today that I found out it was a Golden Eagle, not a Baldy. Had I known that then, I'd have walked to as close a point as I could and captured more of it. Sigh! 😞 Still, my first ever Golden Eagle. YAY! The following two images are maps of my path at the lake.
The following day was a drag - until I came out of that mountain pass and saw Shasta with a hat. 😊
Imagine driving in what you already think of as God's Country. This is beautiful, nearly pristine countryside, where you've been witness to the wonders of nature for three full days and you are sadly leaving that heavenly place. You have the road to yourself, so you snatch glimpses of the glory surrounding you as you travel along a highway that is no highway at all. It is but a gorgeous trail of more natural charm than any highway should ever call its own. You stop occasionally, capturing just one more image to treasure for always. You near what you expect to be the end of this paradise as soon as you come to the real highway, Interstate 5 heading for home and an end to Mother's bounty. You come out of the last pass before civilization intrudes on your peace of mind - and there sits Mount Shasta with a hat on. Oh, the taste of nature's art.