Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Three Moons

"Wild beasts and birds are by right not the property merely of people who are alive today, but the property of unknown generations whose belongings we have no right to squander' --President Theodore Roosevelt

Klamath Basin ... a little late, but a nice reminder how wonderful fall can be when I've been looking at grey-cloudy and damp for three months.    This post is largely snippits from my journal written when we visited the Klamath Basin Refuges in early November.  The Roosevelt quote is taken off a sign posted on the refuge.  The trip happens to coincide with the start of a new journal.

Nov 5, 2014:
Good way to start a new journal!  We’re heading out – going to one of my favorite places.  It’s a beautiful fall day in Roseburg.  Damp.  Milky sunshine.  The air barely moves.  First we head south, following Oregon's western forest.  By the time we reach the Klamath Basin, 125 miles away, we'll be farther south and on the other side of the Cascade Mountains. 

Puffs of new clouds ease out of the steep, damp slopes.  Some are dense enough to hold and drift upwards, others dissipate like wandering will-o-the-wisps. 

Moon I:  We're back in the Basin.  Full moon rises to the west of Miller’s Island (just sw of Klamath Falls, Oregon).  Actually I think it is the night before the full moon … this moonrise made more beautiful because the sky still carries hues of dusky rose and blue greys.  The moon looks perfect and may be closer to its moment of absolute fullness than tomorrow night.  The moment of fullness is probably in the wee hours of the morning rather than tomorrow evening.

Nov 6:  
We’re parked in the shade of a big willow on lower Klamath’s tour route – across from acres and acres of flooded willows.  Hunting is taking place not far from here, and that is probably why hundreds of ducks are hanging out in the flooded willows.  Good food for them here too.

Flock after flock of shovelers, pintails, wigeons, teal and mallards pop into the air and then back down. Those that fly left to right struggle with the wind, but as they turn, they zoom by flying as if they have hidden wings.  Down in the willows we can’t se them, but we can still hear  their soft gabbling and an occasional antsy hen mallard.  Four harriers and two retails are in the area too.  I think they are the mysterious force that keeps stirring the pot. 

Here comes a bald eagle ducks rise all over again.  What a marvelous spot to be.  I hear the wind in the willows, feel the warm sun on my back and I see the sky alive with birds. 

I’ve been sketching and writing.  Far off I hear geese.  All morning I’ve only seen one small flock of Canadas.  Now I look up.  Way high a flock of speckle bellies (white fronted geese) are coming in to the Basin.  1000 … no 2000 … with my binoculars I see more.  Maybe 3000.  Several flocks are up there.  Some have set their wings and are dropping into the far end of the sump we are watching.  A few wiffle  -- tipping and turning they slip sideways, losing altitude far more quickly than mere parachuting. 

For five minutes the sky is alive with speckle bellies; then all have landed out of our sight.  When did they last touch land?  Where?  Or are they just coming from their feeding grounds and are now flying high to stay above the hunters? 
It is the night of the full moon.  Don’t expect much because of the clouds, but when are driving back to Klamath for the night, we see the moon is high enough to play hide and seek with the clouds. 
Nov  7:  
We awoke to fog … and headed back to yesterday morning’s hot spot.  Ever so different this morning.  The fog has lifted, but the birds are quiet.  Between a pair of bald eagles and two great horned owls we must have photographed for over an hour in the same area.  I only saw one harrier.  The redtails were mostly perched.  Not nearly as much duck activity. 
We spent late afternoon and dusk on the road between Lava Beds and the refuge.  Two nice bucks and a couple of younger ones.  Very few birds in the air.  By the time we are ready to head back to Klamath Falls for the night the moon is rising … this time a big yellow / orange moon in a clear sky.  I feel as though I’ve been treated to three full moons in three days.

Nov 8: We’ve come back to Lower Klamath tour route.  The murmur of hundreds of ducks sounds rather like a billion insects buzzing.  Many are feeding amongst the flooded willows.  There is no hunting on this sump so the ducks have found safe haven here:  3000?  5000?  Hard to estimate the number.  A lot!

We stay in the same area from about 11 AM until nearly dark.  New things keep happening but no more excitement like we had the first morning.  Redtails are plentiful, but didn’t seem to be bothering the ducks.  One did get himself all wet and tangled in the willows.  I suspect he was after a duck but just got fouled up instead.  (our photos later showed he had a coot!)
 Dale spots a beautiful coyote across the ditch from us.

Darkness is almost upon Lower Klamath NWR.  To the west we see vivid streaks of crimson and yellow peeking from beneath dark clouds.  A great horned owl has left his day roost and now perches on an exposed limb.  Acres and acres of marsh stretch out in front of him.  His deep hoots carry far -- a fitting end for a Klamath day.