My first visit to the Klamath Basin, at least with wildlife photography on my mind, was March 4-6, 2015. It was meant to be a sort of scouting trip just to see what the basin had to offer and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I was so excited about the potential I found that I decided to come back every month for at least a year to see how things change and what new species show up.
Now, you have to understand that I recently moved back to my native Southern Oregon, having spent the past 8 years in New Mexico. There, I made frequent visits to the Bosque del Apache and had come to think of it as the standard by which all wildlife refuges should be measured.
Well, just to give you some perspective, I shot the image of a Bald Eagle on the left on my last visit to the Bosque. Yeah, I know, I’m embarrassed to show it but I’m trying to make a point here. And that’s about as close to an eagle as I ever got at the Bosque and in over 10 visits it was about the second time I had seen one. By comparison, I shot the image of a Bald Eagle on the right on my first visit to the Klamath Basin and it was only one of about 5 pretty decent shots and I lost track of how many sightings. Let’s just say I am no longer concerned about leaving the Bosque behind.
March is pretty quiet in the Klamath Basin . Most of the spring migrants have not yet arrived and many of the winter visitors have already left. It was a good time for a scouting trip too, as I pretty much had the place to myself. Aside from Bald Eagles I saw a fair number of Sandhill Cranes though they were mostly too far off the road to get a good shot. But, you know, I have Sandhill Crane pictures up the wazoo from my many trips to the Bosque del Apache.
There were also several flocks of snow geese. Since it was a scouting trip, and before the switch to daylight savings time, I didn’t make the effort to get up before sunrise. But I thought these geese flying in front of Mt. Shasta made for a pretty good shot. And here are a few more coming in for a landing with the sun backlighting their feathers.
Other birds I saw in abundance were pheasants. More than I have ever seen in one place before. But they were shy and my lens was too short to get a good shot at a distance they felt comfortable. I also missed out on the tundra swans I saw in the distance and I fear I will have to wait until next fall as they will likely be gone by the time I go back in April. I also saw a few white pelicans but it was early for them so I hope to get a better shot next time.
Killdeer were everywhere and happy to pose. Hawks were very plentiful and I got at least one of the rough legged variety to hold still long enough to get his portrait made. I came close on a red-tail in flight but he just wasn’t quite sharp. I will try, try, and try again.
The lakes seemed mostly empty but without having a comparison I’m not sure if that was normal. I suspect there will be more birds competing for space next month. Ducks were plentiful and I captured a few, including these pintails.
There were also Northern Shovelers in abundance. Lots of Buffleheads but they were sure nervous. Canvasbacks were also seen swimming away and I even saw a Mallard or two. But my favorite water birds were the grebes. I’ll be gunning for them in the future.
Canadian Geese were everywhere and I could get almost close enough to get a good shot before they flew away. Also abundant but shy were the red wing blackbirds. I was excited to see a Great Blue Heron at Tule Lake but the lighting was all wrong and I have much better shots of Great Blues in my files so you won’t be seeing one here. And it’s not just about the birds. These ladies and a few of their friends strolled in front of my car one morning. I sighted two coyotes hunting in the fields but that 100-400mm just couldn’t cut it.
These images were all captured at Lower Klamath and Tule Lake National Wildlife refuges, mostly from my car hand holding said medium telephoto zoom lens. Gotta love image stabilization. I’m going to be looking into renting a longer lens one of these trips. I am also going to check out the photo blinds next time.