Birding in Southern Oregon
A well-known Chinese proverb... "If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come." For wildlife enthusiasts the world over, Southern Oregon is the best birding destination to inspire the "green bough of the heart." The abundance of species and viewing areas is practically limitless, stretching from the Wild Rivers Coast to the High Country and Oregon Outback regions. Here's a quick snapshot and some helpful links for planning your next birding adventure in Southern Oregon.
The Klamath Basin
Situated near the Southern Oregon/Northern California state line, the Klamath Basin Birding Trail (KBBT) includes 47 birding locations where birding enthusiasts can spot more than 350 species among the mountains and marshes of the area. The Klamath Basin was rated on Sunset Magazine's list of "Fantastic Five Birding Destinations in the West."
There are eight state and federal wildlife refuges in the Klamath Basin. Winter bald eagle numbers peak in mid February with Basin populations ranking as the largest recorded in the contiguous United States. Waterfowl migration begins in early September with the arrival of northern pintails and greater white-fronted geese. Numbers peak in March with more than one million birds. In early November you can expect other species that include: mallard, American wigeon, green winged teal, snow, Ross', and Canada geese, and tundra swan. August and September are good months to view water birds, such as the American white pelican, double-crested cormorant, and various herons, gulls, terns, and grebes.
Visit the Klamath Basin Birding Trail website www.klamathbirdingtrails.com or pick up their birding map at any resort or tourist information office for additional details. Arm yourself with an early start, binocs, KBBT map, and this newspaper for an unparalleled day of birding.
Fall and spring bring one to three million ducks, geese, and swans using refuge wetlands in their annual migrations.
For more information on wildlife watching in the Klamath Basin, in the heart of the Pacific Flyway, www.discoverklamath.com
Northern Klamath County
Welcome to Sunset Magazine’s #1 Birding Destination in the West. Enjoy the feathered sights and sounds at the north end of the West’s largest natural freshwater lake. The Upper Klamath marshes and open water next to forests host a large variety of birds. Check the area map http://www.thingstodonearcraterlake.com for symbols denoting birding hotspots.
Favorite Birding Routes
Odessa Campground and Upper Klamath NWR to Sevenmile Trailhead. The 15,000 acre refuge offers excellent nesting and brood-rearing areas for waterfowl, bald eagles, osprey, and colonial nesting birds. Odessa, Malone, and Crystal Springs are part of a series of gushing springs that dot the western shoreline. They feature superb examples of forest and wetland species together, including woodpeckers, chickadees, warblers, wrens, blackbirds, and night herons. See nesting black terns and Clark’s grebes on a morning paddle at Rocky Point, and then spot nesting sandhill cranes, yellow-headed blackbirds and both white-headed and pileated woodpeckers at CrystalWood Lodge in the afternoon. In the evening listen for yellow rail near Sevenmile Marsh, a high-elevation wetland with a mixed conifer forest, where nesting species include Lincoln’s Sparrow, nuthatches, chickadees, and warblers.
Jackson F. Kimball State Recreation Site to Fort Klamath Museum. The river aspen, marsh wetland, and open stands of ponderosa pine are excellent for viewing migrating songbirds. This area shelters nesting grouse, sapsuckers, grosbeaks, vireos, and warblers. Wintering raptors frequent the adjacent ranches.
Collier Memorial State Park to the Wood River Wetlands and Petric Park. Along Spring Creek, Collier State Park hosts jays, osprey and dippers, as well as summer hummingbirds. The Wood River Wetlands and Petric Park offer riparian strips, marsh, and open water that attract Clark’s grebe, terns, phalaropes, pelicans, and songbirds. In the winter, view Agency Lake’s waterfowl from the Wood River Wetlands and hawks and eagles from the country roads around Fort Klamath.
Great Meadow, Fish Lake, and Fourmile Lake. Take Hwy 140 West up into the Cascades for a diversity of habitats from wet and dry meadows, to ponds, to marsh, to mature and sub-alpine forests, to mountain lakes. Great Meadow, a unique habitat, hosts nesting spotted sandpipers, American pipits, warblers, and Vaux swifts. Fourmile and Fish Lakes offer mature Douglas fir and grand fir forests surrounding sub-alpine lakes with nesting woodpeckers, crossbills, nuthatches, and western tanagers.
Summer Lake Wildlife Refuge
In Lake County to the east, check out the Summer Lake Basin and the thousands of migratory birds that feed there in the Summer Lake Wildlife Refuge and Chewaucan Marshes. The Summer Lake Basin supports more than 250 species, including bald eagles, Canada geese, White Faced Ibis, Yellow-headed blackbirds, Goshawks, Hermit Thrushes, Red-tail hawks and Great Blue Herons.
Birders will find opportunities to view everything from migratory songbirds, to upland game birds to nesting waterfowl. As the elevation climbs from 4,600 feet at the ranch base to 5,400 feet in the high meadows, it is amazing to see the vegetation and the variety of birds change. Eagle sightings are fairly common as are falcons, which nest in the rimrocks, and other birds of prey. Having seen meadow larks and bluebirds in other parts of Oregon, it seems to us that these species are even more brilliantly marked here in Oregon's Outback. www.lakecountychamber.org
Birding and hiking trails for the Klamath, Lake, Modoc and Siskiyou counties of Southern Oregon and Northern California can be found on this comprehensive website to outdoor recreation and wildlife viewing, www.klms.net.
Rogue River Region
Southern Oregon's landscape of prairie, basalt rimrock, seasonal ponds and oak woodlands harbors some of the state's most diverse wildlife areas. The Wild & Scenic section of the Rogue River is a brooding area for Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, Osprey, Egrets, Pileated Woodpeckers, Scarlet Tanagers, Canadian Geese and Ducks. www.oregonbirdingtrails.org
Birding on the Southern Oregon Coast
Here's what you may find at individual locations:
Floras Lake - waterfowl, raptors, sparrows, tundra swans in winter
Blacklock Point - shorebirds, seabirds
Cape Blanco - hummingbirds, passerines, warblers, raptors, shorebirds, seabirds; one of the best spots in the county with a great variety of species
Garrison Lake - wintering waterfowl, herons and the only bittern in the county.
Jerry's Flat - shorebirds in fall, raptors and sparrows in winter, swallows and flycatchers in summer.
Pistol River Mouth and Estuary - ducks, grebes, sparrows. Walk south to Crook Point where tufted puffins and pigeon guillemots are on the off shore rocks during the summer.
Chetco River Mouth - black-legged Kittiwakes in winter, ancient murrelets and marbled murrelets, loons, grebes, cormorants
Bear Camp and Burnt Ridge - woodpeckers, warblers, vireos, western tanager, hawks, owls at night
Long Ridge Prairies - lazuli bunting, warblers, sparrows, western tanager
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
These sites have good birding almost any time of the year. Not all birds are year-round residents; most of the shorebirds are here only during the winter, some warblers only during the summer.
Bluebill Lake - White-tailed Kite, Northern Harrier, Violet-green Swallow, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow, Townsend's and Hermit Warblers, Great Horned Owl, Great Egret
South Jetty Area - Tundra Swan, Marsh Wren, Canada Goose, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Red-tailed Hawk, Sanderling, Long-billed Curlew, Dunlin, Least Sandpiper
Siltcoos Area - Get a close look at an American Bittern, hike the Waxmyrtle Trail, which parallels the south side of the Siltcoos River, then turns south to a marshy area. Look for Coastal snowy plovers (listed as a threatened species), Great Blue Heron, American Bittern, Green Heron, Virginia Rail, Cinnamon Teal, Common Yellowthroat, Common Merganser and Belted Kingfisher.