Whoever came up with the old idiom, “birds of a feather stick together,” must have been thinking of Klamath Falls. With more than 47 birding locations that play host to 350 species among the mountains and marshes of its 190,000 acres, the Klamath Basin Birding Trail constitutes one of the biggest freshwater wetlands west of the Mississippi and is arguably a haven for bird watching.
On a brilliantly sunny June day a few weeks ago, a few Travel Oregon cohorts and I joined Meet Me in Klamath and the U.S Fish & Wildlife on a tour of some of the area’s prime birding locations. Having never gone out to check out birds before (at least the feathery kind), I was feeling a bit unsure of what to expect and what to do on this outing. But as soon as we met up with our guides, I knew that we were in the hands of experts. They swiftly got the group together by passing around our tools for the trip – binoculars, copies of Klamath Basin Birding Trail (which you can order online), and of course the requisite food for every able bodied bird watcher – water and granola bars. Tools in hand, we scrambled into the bird mobile (okay, van) and hit the road. See photos of our excursion here.
If you’ve never been to Klamath before, prepare to be stunned. The serene landscape here is dominated by the brilliant blue expanse of the Upper Klamath Lake (the Northwest’s largest natural lake), which forms a tranquil backdrop to the mosaic lush marshes, aromatic sagebrush, old growth forests, juniper woodlands and stunning mountain views.
As our hosts drove us to the scheduled watching spots, we were totally spellbound by the sights before our eyes. We saw the “water dance” of courting gebes, majestic bald eagles, the lithe osprey, and a host of other birds that I’ve never seen before such as Red-Tailed Hawks, cormorants, and a plethora of multi-colored herons (blue, green and black). For more on where we stopped and what we saw, check out the following links:
- Klamath Wildlife Area, Miller Island Unit – Our first stop on the tour. Miller Island is an old homestead unit and features marshes, dikes, and ponds. The marshes host varieties of geese, cranes and many duck species.
- Link River Trail – Located close to downtown, this area is bordered by both riparian habitat and an arid hillside; we saw a variety of migratory birds and waterfowl here. We also witnessed the “water dance” of courting gebes here (sorry it was a bit far for video).
- Klamath Wingwatchers’ Lake Ewauna Nature Trail – Also adjacent to downtown Klamath Falls; we saw herons, waterfowl, a bald eagle, an osprey and more.
- Putnam’s Point Park – Located adjacent to Moore Park, here we witnessed swallows, warblers and more.
- Moore Park – The last and most definitely the highlight of our visit! This lush pine forest reminded me of Washington Park in Portland, minus the wide expansive views of Klamath Lake. From the vantage point at the top of the nature trail provides dramatic views of the lake and the rim of Crater Lake. The videos you see here were shot overlooking this view.
Needless to say, with just five of the 47 birding sites under our belt, we were amazed at the sheer variety and quantity of birds we saw. In case you’re curious, we did keep count and at the end of the tour, we’d seen 50 varieties of birds.
If you’re hankering to take a bird watching trip to Klamath and are wondering when to go, your best bet would be late April through early July which is ideal for breeding bird activity (think singing, dancing). For Bald Eagles and Raptors the best months are late-November through mid-March. And for peak migratory bird viewing, mid-March through mid-April and mid-October through late November are best.