Thursday, November 7, 2013

Klamath Basin Sketches: October 2013

My last post, “Star Gazing” was triggered by our three night camping trip to Lava Beds National Monument.  While there we spent some time in the high desert and some time on the nearby Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges.  I keep trying to find time to post that part of the trip too.  

While ‘in the Basin’ I did less writing than usual, partly because ‘events’ didn’t unfold.  There is a positive side to not having a lot of exciting things happen:  I had more time than usual to sketch.  Just being in the Basin is food for my soul.  Thousands of acres streatch flat.  Before white man drained huge sections of it it was a fabulous place for wildlife and the Modoc Indians.  Some has been saved for wildlife, so it still is a treasure, if a reduced treasure.  
Ring-billed Gull

Eared grebe
This post will be simple -- some of my sketches done while down there and shortly after I got home.  The great blue heron, ring-billed gull and eared grebe are examples of work done after we got home.  I often come home fired up to paint or draw some of our sighting that we have just photographed.
Friday AM -- I’m siting by myself at the corner of the big sump -- near the ‘tear drop crevice.’  At first I sketched a juniper and the half moon.  The birds all left when I sat down.  Gradually they’ve come back. Half a dozen ruddy ducks feed near me; a western grebe comes very close; farther off a grebe chick begs for food; another grebe sleeps ... eared grebes, pied-billed grebes, a few gulls.  Up on Sheepy Ridge I hear several robins.  It is one of those times I wish I could encapsulate and save for whenever I need a good dose of Klamath.

A juniper and the moon way up along the ridge-line of Sheepy Ridge.

We parked for a long time along the edge of Tule Lake.  Dale photographed and I sketched.  I always feel sorry for western grebe and Clark’s grebe parents ( two very similar grebes).  The youngsters of other grebe species all seem to be independent, but these grebe chicks yammer on.  The incessant begging reminds me of the incessant horse flies that once pestered me on a canoe trip.  We were taking my mother down a rather small stream in Wisconsin, the Yellow River.  Fortunately it was a warm summer day because once we had committed to the journey we ran into way more obstructions in the shallow stream that we had anticipated.  Over and over again Dale and I jumped out of the canoe to wade and guide the canoe over, under, or around a log.  The horseflies were simply awful.  I still remember taking a deep breath and going underwater for as long as I could hold my breath .......  ah, relief!  I can’t help but wonder if these grebe parents don’t feel a little of the same relief when they escape their grebe chicks by going underwater.  

I confess I peeked at the back of the camera when I sketched the adult handing the minnow to its chick.  The back of a digital camera can me a handy tool when field sketching.  Just a quick peek at a still subject is so much easier than the quick glimpse when it actually happens.  
A few open grown willow trees grow in the strip of land between Sheepy Ridge and Tule Lake.  We know to look carefully and, with luck, we’ll spot a great horned owl roosting in the willows.  I penciled this guy on location, but did a lot of the inking while we waited for grebes and at home. 

We spotted one really nice mule deer buck.  He whetted our appetite for returning to the Basin during the rut -- which would be right about now.  Unfortunately the weather will keep us home instead.  


  1. I'm so happy that you got to be there, to sketch, to have food for your soul...your drawings reflect your love of nature, thank you.

  2. Wonderful drawings Elva. Love hearing your stories past and present. :) Love that Owl. I have yet to see one in person here.