When we first learned that we were moving to the Southern Pacific Northwest, we naturally started to research the area in which we were going to move to. The Klamath “Basin”, Klamath Falls Oregon.
One thing we have learned or I learned since I moved up here first, was this is not a valley. Unlike Southern California, where you have San Fernando Valley, Simi Valley, Antelope Valley, etc … you get the picture. They’re all surrounded by mountains. So therefore it’s a valley. I totally get that. I lived there for many years. Even in my home state of Montana, I lived in the Bitterroot Valley. But… Klamath Falls is the “Basin”
Here is the difference according to the search I did and we all know everything is true on the internet.
A basin is a depression or hollow on the earth’s surface, which is surrounded by higher land. A valley is also a depression or hollow between hills, mountains and uplands. A basin, which is also called a watershed, is the part of land that is drained by a river and its various tributaries.
So, I will go with the Basin idea, now that I know what the difference is. Kind of. It dates back to lots of history about the Klamath Watershed, and all the other shenanigans dealing with water in this area.
All that said, in doing the research of this area, it was learned that Klamath Falls is located on the “Pacific Flyway”
The Pacific Flyway is a major north-south flyway for migratory birds in America, extending from Alaska to Patagonia. Every year, migratory birds travel some or all of this distance both in spring and in fall, following food sources, heading to breeding grounds, or travelling to overwintering sites.
You can bet that once I learned that, I was all about what kinds of birds migrated to this area.
A large number of bald eagles winter in Bear Valley, located 10 miles (16 km) west of Klamath Falls, near Keno.
Yay! Bald Eagles! Last time I saw them in a large number was in 1981 when they followed the spawning habits of the Kokanee Salmon. Which sadly, I learned a few years ago, they no longer converge on the waters of Glacier Park for this yearly event.
Bear Valley, is close to where we live. It is part of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
The complex consists of several refuges;
Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge https://www.fws.gov/refuge/lower_klamath/
Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge https://www.fws.gov/refuge/tule_lake/
Clearlake National Wildlife Refuge https://www.fws.gov/refuge/clear_lake/
Upper Klamath Lake National Wildlife Refuge https://www.fws.gov/klamathbasinrefuges/upperklamath/upperklamath.html
Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge https://www.fws.gov/refuge/bear_valley/
Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge hyperlink not available.
The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge was Established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 as the Nation’s First Waterfowl Refuge.
The Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge was Established in 1928 by President Calvin Coolidge “as a preserve and breeding ground for wild birds and animals“.
Clear Lake Refuge in northeastern California consists of approximately 20,000 acres of open water surrounded by over 26,000 acres of upland bunchgrass, low sagebrush, and juniper habitat. Small, rocky islands in the lake provide nesting sites for American white pelicans, double-crested cormorants, and other colonial nesting birds. Clear Lake is not open to public access.
Upper Klamath Refuge was established in 1928 and is comprised of 15,000 acres of mostly freshwater marsh and open water. These habitats serve as excellent nesting and brood rearing areas for waterfowl and colonial nesting birds including American white pelican and several heron species. Bald eagle and osprey nest nearby and can sometimes be seen fishing in Refuge waters. A boat is a must for those who wish to explore this refuge. A marked canoe trail is open year round and canoes may be rented nearby.
Bear Valley Refuge was established in 1978 to protect a vital night roost site for wintering bald eagles. The refuge consists of 4,200 acres, primarily of old growth ponderosa pine, incense cedar, white and Douglas fir. Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge also serves as a nesting habitat for several bald eagle pairs. Bear Valley is also closed to public access.
Now that you’ve had your history lesson….
As I mentioned I live near Bear Valley. It is an amazing sight to see Bald Eagles flying over the top of the house, either coming into the area or flying away from. Most likely they’re flying to the Lower Klamath Refuge which is about a ½ hour drive from where we live.
My husband and I are learning the roads in and out of the Lower Klamath Refuge.
Along the state-line highway (Oregon and California) you can make a turn onto the “Willows” road. This road is a line of willow trees that the Eagles nest in. Why they chose this row of trees I will never know. You can see Eagles, both Golden and Bald, Hawks and Owls in these trees. It is a really cool spot to photograph. The trees just by themselves without the awesome Eagles are interesting. They would make for some awesome scary tree collages in Photoshop. (another story for another time)
This is really my “first” year photographing the birds in this area. I mean, I’ve walked around Discovery Marsh, which is located at the Tulelake NWR, and have photographed Egrets, Pelicans and Ducks. But these past few months have been about the Eagles and Hawks.
The beginning of February, we were able to see the Bald Eagles on Township road, which is a way I go to and from work, and we use it to come home from town. Sometimes along our route to town or to breakfast in Malin, we would count Hawks and Eagles and our numbers would be in the 20’s for hawks and the Teens for the Eagles. Now that it’s nesting season, they aren’t around as much. I also imagine it has a lot to do with the farmers flooding the fields, so the mice and whatever hang out in the fields, have moved to higher ground.
On our weekly trek to Malin for breakfast, we pass the Willows Road and we wind through the Refuge on the gravel roads.
I have mentioned Malin Oregon before, but if I haven’t done so here, it is a farming community about 45 minutes from where we live. My husband and I have been known to take a 6 hour round trip to and from Malin, via the way of the Refuge and Lava Beds National Monument. All for the perfect “shot of the day”. I never would have imagined we would spend such fun times most every weekend (weather depending) touring around. It’s awesome. And I discovered that is makes sense to take two cameras out instead of one. We can both shoot to our hearts content.
I was saddened when we were headed out one weekend day and were getting ready to turn down the “Willows” road and it was CLOSED…
I totally understand though. The eagles are nesting and the Refuge does this to reduce disturbances for the Eagles and other nesting birds. I did so love that drive to see them all. In hopes of a great photo op! The best were when the eagles were on the closer side of the road.
If you haven’t experienced your local Wildlife Refuge, I encourage you to do so. Take a little time away from the rat race of the city noise and your electronic devices, find a refuge, or even a park, just to unplug. Listen to the sounds of the nature.
There is more to see on our refuge than Eagles. We have many migrating birds, Snow Geese, Tundra Swans, Canada Geese, Greater White Fronted and lots of ducks. Right now the Coots are abundant and not so bright, but you can see Northern Shovelers that look like a Mallard but they’re bills are black and shaped different, Buffleheads, Golden Eye, Ruddy Ducks, Pintail Ducks and a host of other ducks! We were lucky enough to see Sandhill Cranes, a bit off the Refuge, but they are here as well. Soon we’ll have the White Pelicans, and other summer type birds, more Herons, Egrets, and Raptors.
I am learning a lot more than I ever thought I would about birds. It’s fun to ID a bird once you’ve seen it. I am fortunate to work where most of the men hunt, so they can ID a duck or goose for me.
I hope to visit a couple different Wildlife Refuges while the husband and I explore different areas this summer.
Even if you don’t have a camera, take a day trip. Use your cell phone camera, find a path to hike, a dirt road to drive down, something that gets you out of the house after a long winter!
Best of all.. Record your trips, and Have Fun.
Be Good Humans