Thursday, December 18, 2014

Klamath Basin: October - Part II

This post is a continuation of our trip to the Klamath Basin in early October.  
Brown Creeper
Friday, October 10, 2014: 
We park under the dense canopy of an ornamental apple tree at Refuge headquarters for lunch .  I'm immediately sidetracked by a tree-full of bushtits and one Bewick’s wren.  The tree is laden with tiny, orange-colored apples about the size of the tip of my little finger.  I think the apples are too large for wrens and bushtits to eat, but maybe the ripe fruit attracts little insects.  The next apple tree is full of birds who can eat the fruit -- robins and waxwings.  After lunch I photograph some more, especially the brown creeper and the waxwings.  Finally I settle in the car to paint the creeper.  The car is still under the apple tree.  Pleasant sitting here.  This could well be the last day of shirt-sleeve weather this fall.  Change is forecast. 

I feel as though I am under an umbrella full of birds.  Already I'm aware we're going to pay some dues for parking under this tree.  Splat!  Plop!  Robins and waxwings are pooping orange tidbits onto the car.  Our dark car is beginning to look as if we are decorating for Halloween, or maybe it has a case of orange-spotted measles.  I stay put in spite of the splats.  The temperature is just right here in the shade and the sun will glare on my white page if I move.

My little painting of the brown creeper is taking shape when "Whoosh" -- a minor hurricane rips through the tree. 


Every bird has scattered.  Thinking back I realize a moment ago I heard a collared dove call and then the alarm call of a robin.  A hawk must be in the area. 

My tree is silent for nearly fifteen minutes before a handful of wary robins return. No sign of the waxwings returning yet.
Double-crested Cormorant
Saturday morning: 
We're parked at the same bay on Gary Canal where we were yesterday morning.  Such a different morning.  Yesterday had a steady flow of ring-billed and Franklin gulls searching for food while soaring over the little bay, plus  ducks, geese, cormorants, egrets, and more gulls on land and in the water. 

Today is the first day of duck season and somewhere to our left a hunter is hidden
When we arrive about twenty egrets are perched high above the slough on the steep forested slope on the far side of the pond.  No geese nearby.  A few geese and about 200 cormorants have flown over high above. No gulls on the spit, but quite a few in the air.  It's as if a giant spoon is stirring up all the birds and slowly rearranging them. 

Mid morning the first cormorants dare to land in the slough just out of our sight ; and then, one by one, egrets drop out of the trees and float down to a spot out of our sight.  Their maneuvers are magnificent!  Twisting and turning they slip sideways, flare their  wings, and succeed in taking a very steep path downwards.  They sparkle white against the dark forest behind.  It's as if a giant apple tree is dropping its big white petals, they float down ziging this way and that.

Saturday midday:  Late morning the birds quiet down at Gary Canal. We head back to Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge where we lunched yesterday.  We eat our lunch at the same picnic table.  The brown creeper returns and even takes a nap, clinging onto the side of a large cottonwood tree.  How often does one get to see a little bird sound asleep?  Not often enough for me.


  1. Delightful paintings and stories, Elva!

  2. Another lovely piece, I love the description of the egrets the painting of them is wonderful.

  3. Love them all, but the egret composition is outstanding!

  4. Lovely images, word and color, of the Egrets dropping down to water.
    Had about 40-50 (each) Robins and Waxwings in Willow River State Park (Wisc) today for Christmas Bird Counting. No apple orange plops!