Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Spot to Be

 Klamath Basin, California, USA:  Sept 24-28
Black-necked Stilts at rest
 I’m sitting on the sunny side of our van. Hot.  Sticky.  But I don’t mind.  For the third day in a row we’ve parked in the same spot on the same dusty gravel road in the Klamath Basin.  I’m happy as a clam ... a hot, sticky clam, but a happy clam.  While Dale photographs I get to draw to my heart’s content.  ... all art in this post were created on location.

We arrived in the Klamath Basin the evening of September 24 and pulled into a campsite at Lava Beds National Monument.  Usually we come to the Basin in spring or a little later in the fall.  

The next day we headed to the Klamath Basin Refuges and bumped around on one road and another: very few deer (I suspect they are still up in the high country), very few geese (they are still up North), many of the ducks are molting and look a little ratty, most of the summer birds have left.  Hummmm.  Maybe we came too early.  

A sandhill crane looks dainty next to a white pelican

And then we found “The Spot To Be.”  We bounced our way on wash-board gravel for miles when suddenly we came upon an island about the size of our house and just a nice distance from the road for Dale to photograph.  A gathering of white pelicans first caught our eye.  

Each day has been roughly the same.  We arrive late afternoon.  Most of the pelicans have already arrived but stragglers continue to arrive in small groups.  They splash down like big bombers and swim about before coming ashore.  Lots of preening is in order before they settle down for the night. 

White-faced ibis

Meanwhile I’ve tallied 25 other species of birds from the same spot:  three kinds of grebes, 5 kinds of ducks, two kinds of geese, three kinds of blackbirds, shorebirds, hawks, a gull, a sparrow, a sandhill crane ...  

When we first arrive the sky is relatively quiet.  Not a duck in the air.  The water is shallow so many of the birds are wading, or resting.  If the harrier or a red-tailed hawk swings by, most of the shorebirds flush, swing around, and return to the area.  Yellowlegs are the nosiest when they flush.  Their three-note call tells me they are greater yellowlegs.  Somewhere off in flooded willows I hear hen mallards.  They are a talkative bunch too.  A great egret stalks its prey with careful deliberation and the snowy egret scurries about in jerky spurts. Eventually a rowdy flock of mixed blackbirds joins the group on the island.  First they bath and chase.  As dusk approaches they cluster into three small willows -- lots of chatter.  Towards the end of the day flock after flock of ducks fly low over us.  A couple of small flocks of Canada geese fly over too and one handful of white-fronted geese land on our little island.  
Late afternoon sun shines on the pelican.

As soon as the sun slips beneath the horizon we move just a little farther off.  I don’t want to disturb the birds when I get out of the van and get into the cooler for our cold supper.  The pelicans now looks like a cluster of over stuffed pillows thrown together.  A red-tailed hawk comes to roost in a tall willow.  Ducks are still streaming past.

It is finally cool and I’m content.  Dale takes me out to eat in some of the nicest places!


  1. These are all wonderful drawings and paintings. What a wonderful book they would make. I love the nice places your Hubby takes you out to eat. :) The weather has been lovely around here for bird watching hasn't it? :)

  2. I love this little collection of sketches and paintings. It's fun to see the gesture pen drawings of the ibis and pelicans.