March 9, 2017
Sunday, the last day of Winter Wings Festival, we woke at 4am to heavy snowfall with 4″ built up in the parking lot.
It was cold, dark and early but we headed over to the OIT to catch our ride for the last event my friend & I signed up for, “Call of the Wildfowl” with Jim Szemenyei.
After discussion about weather and road conditions, only 5 of us decided to go on our field trip to Lower Klamath NWR in the heavy snow.
We let our bus driver off the hook and drove slowly down the highway in Karl’s 4WD.
Because we were late, I watched a magnificent sunrise from the backseat, and as we arrived waterfowl were already bustling about their day. (Lucky me to see my first Eurasion Wigeon pair!)
I must say this was one of the most amazing nature scenes I’ve ever witnessed……
….for hours and hours.
It was cold and windy but the sun peeked out from behind clouds off and on all morning.
Each time an eagle flew overhead a giant flock of birds would take off, fly across the marsh and land at a nearby section. Swans, geese, ducks, blackbirds, all taking off at once amidst a cacophony of calls.
Jim, our guide let us know Pintails are his favorite duck so I snapped a few shots for him.
I’d not seen a Greater White-fronted Goose before.
Did I mention the noise? It was incredible. Like being in our own PBS nature show.
An American Wigeon flew oh so close to us.
Another herd of Pintails….yes, I know they are not herds, hahaha.
As the morning progressed more Tundra Swans flew overhead.
Snow Geese were constantly in motion.
This group of swans were settling farther out than where we would have liked.
I thought this was an interesting view of a Northern Shoveler.
There goes another eagle hunting across the marsh.
Then we saw Sandhill Cranes arriving!
As our morning came to a close, Jim noticed this tree filled with Bald Eagles.
We walked over to investigate as waterfowl continued their routine.
A giant flock of Red-winged Blackbirds tormented us by not sitting still for portraits.
Another take off and landing for Snow Geese.
More Tundra Swans overhead.
Edit: I failed to mention I saw my first Tri-colored Blackbird. Not the best photo, but yay!
My friend secretly grabbed this shot of me sitting back for a minute, joyfully taking it all in. Another beyond fabulous day and it wasn’t even noon yet!
Note 2 hats (and I eventually pulled my hood up!), 2 gloves with hand-warmers, 2 shirts, a sweater and coat; 3 pants, 2 socks with toe warmers slipped inside insulated boots! Alas I left that scarf somewhere in Klamath Falls! It was deliciously warm on all my cold winter outings this season.
Our group headed back to campus to warm up, grab food and head out in different directions. Nancy and I went back to Lower Klamath that afternoon and found delightful treats that I’ll show you in my next post!
March 2, 2017
On Saturday morning, my third day at Winter Wings Festival, I went on a field trip with Dick Ashford to improve my ability to identify raptors in the field. Lucky me, I was placed in the lead car with Dick!
After Friday’s classroom training, I was already far more confident in my ability to age Bald Eagles and identify various Buteos
Most of the raptors we saw were far away sitting in a field atop a pivot, or like these in flight far above our heads.
These were a pair of juvenile Bald Eagles, one chasing the other hoping to steal food. If you look close, you can see a rodent trapped in the front eagle’s talons.
We don’t know how it ended, they continued the chase until well out of sight.
I saw something move on the ground and look! More Coyotes!! This pair was hunting for rodents or perhaps small squirrels that race across the fields then dive into underground tunnels.
We saw several Rough-legged Hawks ~ aren’t they gorgeous?!!
And THEN I saw my first Ferruginous Hawk!! He didn’t stay long for this portrait.
Shortly after we arrived he took off in flight and of course I followed as best I could.
We saw a few more that day, but this was the only one close enough for me to get a good shot at.
We saw a few American Kestrels and they are always a challenge to capture because they’re so fast.
I was thrilled to keep this one mostly centered in my viewfinder until he landed….
….and then he let me take a portrait while he hunted from his wire perch.
We saw over 100 Bald Eagles. We tried to keep track of what we saw, but I didn’t hear the final tally.
We watched him fly closer to us…
…then he turned and flew away….
We moved on to find a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a post and Dick indulged me to grab this photo because the bird was right next to the road.
One of our last stops of the day was for this Great Horned Owl sitting in her nest. If you didn’t know she was there she’d be easy to miss.
Wherever Mama sits, Daddy is somewhere nearby and one of our participants spotted him right away. I went back another day but could not find him again.
Lucky us, our last sighting of the day was a Golden Eagle. Like any bird, he was not going to sit for us very long at this close distance, so in order for everyone behind the lead car to get a good look at him, we drove past him pretty fast after I took a few shots.
Sitting in the back seat, window down, driving fast over a very bumpy road I grabbed as many shots as I could while we drove by. This is a ‘drive-by-shooting’ in my world. I mostly got shots of his feet, his perch, and air ~ check out those talons! Lucky me, I also managed to capture this ONE shot. All in all it was an inspiring day filled with literally hundreds of raptors mostly in the Butte Valley and near the two refuges south of Klamath Falls, Tulelake and Lower Klamath.
Saturday’s keynote speaker was author and researcher Scott Weidensaul who shared his research on Snowy Owls and Project Snowstorm. Again my friend and I sat in the back row because there was no way we’d stay awake until the end of his talk after yet another full day that began too early. You guessed it…mesmerized by his talk, we stayed for his book signing because after hearing about Project Snowstorm we HAD to have his new book, “Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean” …with autograph of course!
Tomorrow will be our earliest wake-up call ~ 4:30am to get to our field trip on time….
March 2, 2017
I paid close attention to his every word in yesterday’s workshop, so my camera was ready and I was ready!
About a dozen photographers had plenty of room to spread out in our school bus that took us to the first eagle sighting.
Still early, a bit dark, we had learned how to let more light into our sensors and clicked away as the pair of eagles came and went from their nest.
It was difficult to choose which images to share out of the many I took.
The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge was amazing in spite of overcast skies and threat of rain.
We watched swans and geese take off and land, especially after an eagle ‘fly by’.
There were literally thousands of Tundra Swans and Greater White-fronted Geese.
Tundra Swans are another of my favorites.
We saw a few Sandhill Cranes and lucky us, we caught them dancing!
I didn’t count the Bald Eagles but they were plentiful … and as usual in a group, fighting over food.
There were also thousands of Snow Geese.
They were especially sensitive to eagle fly overs and took off at every sighting of a Bald Eagle.
They usually landed not too distant from where they left.
Looks like a pair of Tundra Swans having some alone time away from the group.
I have a series from this incident…a Great Horned Owl flew across a field then landed in the grass where we could barely see him. A Northern Harrier buzzed overhead & dove near the owl several times. Can you see the owl? He’s directly below the Northern Harrier in this shot, hidden by grass.
Bald Eagles and other raptors perch on utility poles. Generally there is only one bird per pole, so this shot with an adult and juvenile Bald Eagle was fun to see.
To my delight we also found a Rough-legged Hawk! I am getting to know this raptor quite well.
Another Red-tail ~ a juvenile that hasn’t fully developed his red tail yet.
I had to yell “stop the bus!” when I saw this coyote in a field. I rarely can grab my camera in time at home when I see them and he was so beautiful.
He stood there posing for a bit then ran off with a glance over his shoulder.
Our last stop for the day was back in Klamath Falls where Black-capped Night Herons roost in trees along the Link River near the Favell Museum.
We noticed Barrow’s Goldeneye in the river as we watched the herons…
…and a few interesting Mallard hybrids!
Later in the afternoon I enjoyed a class learning intermediate and advanced raptor ID that I am most grateful for! My next post will chronicle a fabulous field trip in search of raptors.
Our keynote speaker that night was Chas Glatzer. My friend and I sat in the back, expecting to leave early because we were so tired from a full day that began at 5am. We were literally the last to leave. We didn’t want to miss an opportunity to talk with and thank Chas for an exceptional presentation. I love that all three keynote speakers are ethical about capturing their wildlife shots. Chas’s parting words still ring in my ear as it applies to wildlife photography, “Do the right thing”.
I don’t think I’ve addressed ethics in my posts, but if you haven’t thought about it I would never bait my subject or interfere with its life in any way. I don’t whistle, rustle the brush or do anything that would turn its attention away from eating, feeding it’s young, sleeping, hunting or even just to direct it’s attention to me. I’m truly grateful and appreciate any opportunity I have to see birds and wildlife; and love sharing what I capture with you.