Klamath Falls

Last week I joined Jacob for a few days of birding around Klamath and Siskyou Counties in southern Oregon and northern California.  He had to work in Klamath Falls for the week but we had a couple days before that started for just birding.  I made a vague goal of hitting 100 species in Klamath (I was at 18) which I easily exceeded.  Here are the highlights. 

We arrived in Klamath County via Highway 58 and met up at the Princess Creek Campground on Odell Lake

The highlights here included tons of Hermit Thrushes, a Red-breasted Sapsucker, Canada Jays, a ton of Common Loons, and a mixed flock containing a late Hammond's Flycatcher.

After walking around this spot for a bit we continued on 58 to 97 and began heading south.  We wanted to check out Klamath Marsh NWR even though recent checklists for the area were uninspiring.  The headquarters was closed but we had lunch at a picnic table while Greater White-fronted Geese flew over.

We visited two other hotspots on the refuge, Military Crossing Road and Wocus Bay.  It was fairly quiet aside from the Yellow-rumps, Mountain Chickadees, and Pygmy and Red-breasted Nuthatches.  On the ridiculous rock and dirt road to Wocus Bay we flushed a couple of Sooty Grouse from low branches and failed to refind them.  We also failed to find any kind of water, even at the canoe launch. 

Luckily this was the worst birding of the whole trip and we got it out of the way early on.  We made our way to Klamath Falls to check in to our hotel and relax.  Just kidding, we did not relax.  A fast food drive through provided dinner which we ate at a picnic table at Klamath Wildlife Area- Miller Island Unit. Finally we got a taste of the birdiness of Klamath Falls (and a taste of bean burrito too). 

We found plenty of shorebirds including Greater Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitchers, Least Sandpipers, and Wilson's Snipe.  There was a good variety of ducks and grebes plus raptors and sparrows and all the other birds that fill a checklist. Three flyover White-faced Ibis were a nice surprise. 

We stuck around for the lovely sunset which turned Eared Grebes pink. 

A Great Horned Owl began hooting right where we had expected one, rounding off our first day in Klamath nicely. 

The next day we woke early, acquired coffee and donuts, and headed south in the dark to California.  We drove around on the Lower Klamath NWR Auto Tour until we found a few owls, two Great Horneds and one Barn.  We also found a skunk. 

Jacob had visited this area before and thought the birding would be better at Tule Lake NWR, not far to the east of Lower Klamath.  Our first stop was at the trail to a photo blind where the sunrise was impressive.

Eared Grebe/muskrat combo

We continued on and began the Tule Lake Auto Tour which was pretty awesome.  

Western Meadowlark

Red-necked Grebe
Western Grebes


Three goose combo

Eared Grebes are ridiculously abundant in this area

We finished up the auto tour and headed back north to the hotel for lunch.  A bit later we headed up to Veterans Memorial Park on the north tip of Lake Ewauna. There's a trail that follows the lake shoreline east and then south, offering views of both the lake and some mitigation ponds.  It was super birdy. 

Orange-crowned Warbler

That tall brown structure turned out to be a bird death trap as we saw several starlings stuck inside and even a Northern Flicker. They fluttered around the top banging into the mesh. To the right is the mitigation ponds for the wastewater treatment plant. 

There was a nice variety of ducks in the ponds including our first trip Redheads and a lone Cinnamon Teal.  The shoreline offered a tiny bit of shorebird habitat and we had Long-billed Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs, and a late Black-necked Stilt. 

The trail ends at some train tracks but just before that is a small marsh area. 

Jacob clapped once and amazingly a Virginia Rail wandered out into the small opening in the middle.  He clapped again and a Sora appeared.  Magic.

Birding is easy.  A Merlin and a harrier on the walk back rounded out the raptor section of our checklist. 

The next day Jacob actually had to work so I birded on my own all morning along the eastern shore of Agency Lake (just north of Upper Klamath Lake) starting with Henzel Park

Highlights here were my first Black-capped Chickadee, a flyover pipit, a Great Horned Owl, and some roadkill attended by many magpies.

I'll spare you the photos of the shredded rabbit. 

Next I stopped at Wood River Wetland, one of the most popular hotspots in the county. 

Black-crowned Night-Heron

White-throated Sparrow

 It was a nice spot but quite windy once I walked out to the more open areas and I turned around earlier than I normally would have because of that. 

I continued north to Petric Park where I ate lunch and picked up my county Osprey. Let's play find the boat:

A small stand of pines at the entrance to the park held a bunch of Pygmy Nuthatches.

I had time for one more stop so I drove up to the Wood River Day Use Area.  Clouds were rolling in and the wind picked up making it feel like it was going to pour.  There was no one around but there were a lot of cows mooing loudly nearby and it all felt rather creepy.  I walked around anyway.

Highlights included Cassin's Finches, Evening Grosbeaks, Bushtits, and a Red-shouldered Hawk. 

I headed back to the hotel after that to meet up with Jacob for more birding.  We drove up the west side of Upper Klamath Lake to Running Y Ranch which has a number of hotspots.  The Skillet Handle Trail sounded good (because it said "Birding Path") and so off we went.

White-breasted Nuthatch

 White-headed Woodpecker

 Not long after seeing the White-headed we found a Hairy Woodpecker that had me later googling whether the two can hybridize.  I'm pretty sure this Hairy is just leucistic in the face but still, an interesting bird.  

The trail leads to several views of the lake and we found some great mixed flocks along the cliff edges.  Jacob spotted an intriguing warbler that was probably a Nashville but only seen briefly.  Pishing brought out an Oak Titmouse, a lifer for him, but no more warbler views. 

On the walk back to the car a Townsend's Solitaire was down low eating juniper berries. 

On the drive back to town to pick up delicious pizza from Rodeos we stopped for two more county birds: American Kestrel and Western Bluebird. 

I was leaving town early the next morning so that was the last of my Klamath birding.  I picked up 100 county birds on this trip leaving me at 118 in the county.  Not bad! We had near perfect weather every day, incredible sunsets and sunrises, and managed to avoid other people for the most part. Hopefully I can join Jacob here in the spring when he has to work here again (though I'll gladly skip the midwinter trip). Good times!!!

Sunrise along Highway 140 as I was leaving Klamath County


  1. That woodpecker is bizarre. White where there should not be any and black where there should not be any. Black-and-white-warbler-faced Woodpecker.


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