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Imagine 500 bald eagles, a nesting golden eagle, a prairie falcon harassing a northern harrier. White-headed woodpeckers. Pygmy nuthatches. Mountain chickadees. Oh, and mind-blowingly vast flocks of waterfowl. Hundreds of tundra swans that change color with the light. Welcome to the Klamath Basin in winter.

“Beautiful place. Great people. Fabulous birds. Unbelievable photo ops,” said Bill Thompson, III, of the Klamath Basin. “You’re in a valley in the mountains with lakes.”

In a column she titled “The Divine Underfoot: Klamath,” Julie Zickefoose raved about her February 2019 trip to Klamath Basin. “If you have a yen for raptors and waterfowl, this is the place,” she wrote. “What a delight it was exploring the Klamath Basin and its marvelous birds.” It was Julie’s column that inspired this Rendezvous.

Golden eagle, USFWS / Wikimedia.

Golden eagle, USFWS / Wikimedia.

Yes, it will be winter and quite possibly very snowy, so pack accordingly, and be prepared to see the largest concentration of bald eagles in the Lower 48. Expect countless tundra swans and countless waterfowl, the likes of which you won’t see elsewhere, since the Klamath Basin is squarely on the Pacific Flyway. If we’re lucky, we’ll encounter golden eagle and prairie falcon. Rough-legged hawks and northern harriers are certainties, and ferruginous hawk is probable.

Plan to arrive at the Medford Airport (MFR), located about 70 miles west of Klamath Falls, Oregon, on February 14. Our Rendezvous shuttle bus airport transfer will transport you the hour and a half drive to Klamath Falls so you don’t have to worry about driving in bad weather. Our home-base for this Rendezvous will be the comfortable and beautiful Running Y Ranch Resort in Klamath Falls, Oregon, not far from the California line.

Local guides will include Stephen Shunk, BWD contributor and author of the Peterson Guide to the Woodpeckers of North America, Kevin Spencer, and Dave Haupt. From BWD, it will be expert guide who happens to duo as our Redstart manager, Raymond VanBuskirk; events manager, Emily Jones; and highly-skilled bird and nature photographer who happens to duo as our production director, Bruce Wunderlich! Bruce will conduct photography workshops throughout the trip for anyone interested as well.

White-headed woodpecker by USFWS / Wikimedia.

White-headed woodpecker by USFWS / Wikimedia.

We will visit Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge (on the Oregon/California border), where we’ll be blown away by waterfowl and raptors, including mind-blowing bald eagle numbers. Other stops will include Upper Klamath Lake, the North Basin area, Bear Valley NWR, and Collier Park. Since we’ll have the world expert on North American woodpeckers as one of our guides, we’ll look for local specialties, and cross our fingers for a white-headed. We may also check out Butte Valley in northern California for some hawk watching!

We’ll also attend the Winter Wings Birding Festival’s dinner and keynote talk on Saturday night (for which Julie Zickefoose was the 2019 presenter).

Likely birds include:

  • Waterfowl: up to 24 species of ducks, geese, and swans in huge, spectacular flocks; possibly Barrow’s goldeneye and Eurasian wigeon
  • Western and Clark’s grebes
  • American white pelican
  • Raptors: Rough-legged, ferruginous, and red-tailed hawks, northern harrier, golden and bald eagles,
  • Sandhill crane
  • Falcons: Peregrine and prairie
  • Woodpeckers: white-headed, acorn, and red-breasted sapsucker
  • Northern shrike
  • California scrub-jay, Steller’s jay
  • Black-billed magpie
  • Common raven
  • Oak/juniper titmouse, mountain chickadee, bushtit
  • Pygmy nuthatch
  • Wrens: Pacific, Bewick
  • Mountain bluebird
  • Townsend’s solitaire
  • Varied thrush
  • Golden-crowned sparrow
  • Towhees: California, spotted
  • Blackbirds: Tri-colored, Brewers, yellow-headed
  • Cassin’s finch
  • Red crossbill
  • Lesser goldfinch

If you are an eastern birder, the Klamath Basin will blow you away. Life birds will be scored. Note that we will be birding in wintry conditions in snow on uneven terrain. This is not a Rendezvous suitable for those with severe mobility challenges, but for those who are up for a mind-blowing birding adventure, this will be a magical experience!

 

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