You might guess I was leading a Great Gray Owl trip this morning for the Klamath Bird Observatory’s Mountain Bird Festival. So we led two groups of birders to Keno Access Road by 840AM. And here is the view that greeted us.It was as cold as this photo looks.
Then we approached Two Pine Meadow. A hunting Great Gray Owl lifted off from the ground flew across the road and into the dense forest on the west side. Was that it? Only some of the birders in the first three cars even got a glimpse of the bird. But I noticed he was not carrying prey n his mouth so he would continue to hunt. We waited silently beside our cars on the road. No traffic, until a few minutes later the owl came low back across the road and coasted across the meadow. Because of their minimal wing-load these big owls with five-foot wings fly slowly. Everybody got a good look, then it landed in a pine on the meadow’s edge forty yards away and faced us for some dozens of seconds. Breath was held, some pictures taken, exclamations proclaimed, then he slipped silently off the branch and turned swiftly away and eastward into the forest. Later re-visits to the meadow brought no more views. Thanks for the brief visit, Mr. GGO. This photo was taken in the same area on Friday, quite likely the same owl.
After that beginning the day began to warm, the birds began to appear. Mountain Chickadees and Tree Swallows were two species we saw copulating. More birds are on the way. An area I now think of as Chipping Stumps was alive with chippies, Juncos, a Green-tailed Towhee and Townsend’s Solitaire.
The trip ended mid-afternoon with good views of Lazuli Bunting: This marmot was trying to hide, but finally scurried into a culvert. Can I call his exit “marmotion?” Tree Swallow above, Vesper Sparrow below. Today we heard some sing their lilting melody. By summer they will be quiet and hiding in the meadows where they nest on the ground. Other birds we put onto our day list included: five Sandhill Cranes, Wilson’s, Yellow, Nashville and Orange-crowned Warblers, Pileated (heard), Western Meadowlark, Hermit Thrush, and an Olive-sided Flycatcher in the oaks along lower Shale City Road. no doubt he retreated downslope from the snow-covered conifers in order to find food.