Tricolored Blackbird, photo by Alex Lamoreaux

#GlobalBigDay 2020 – Klamath Basin Big Day

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May 10, 2020 | by Alex Lamoreaux

Our Big Day route around the Klamath Basin on the border of Oregon and California.

Lauren diBiccari and I chose to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day, the eBird Global Big Day, and our own Wildside Big Sit events by running a loop of the Klamath Basin near our home in southern Oregon yesterday. These events are held on the second Saturday of May each year, and it has rapidly grown into being the biggest day of birding on Earth. eBird is currently showing sightings for an astonishing 6,303 species reported on May 9th!! Lauren and I managed to rack up a really nice list of 151 species around the basin during 14 hours and 130 miles. Most of our local breeding species have returned to their usual haunts, and many waterbird migrants were on the move. The weather was great although it was a bit windy in the afternoon – but we can’t complain much since it seems East Coast birders endured a reversal into winter this weekend!

Our morning started with birding up the west shore of Upper Klamath Lake where we found 8 western warbler species and other neotropical migrants that have all recently returned to their forest and riparian breeding locations. A pair of Mountain Quail put in a brief appearance along the road, Ruffed Grouse drumming from aspen stands, and we could hear the bugling of Sandhill Cranes nearby. Black Terns and Franklin’s Gulls were plentiful in the marshes and these were our first sightings of those species this spring! Around Fort Klamath we found Swainson’s Hawk, a nice flock of Tricolored Blackbirds, and Black-billed Magpies. Vaux’s Swifts, Evening Grosbeaks, Cassin’s and Purple Finches, an American Dipper, and a late White-throated Sparrow were nice songbird pick-ups. Lauren spotted a Great Horned Owl being mobbed by blackbirds, and we noted multiple nesting Osprey. Down along the dryer east side of the lake we enjoyed a few of our tiniest species – Calliope Hummingbirds, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Bushtits. In Klamath Falls, where Upper Klamath Lake flows through the city to Lower Klamath Lake, we found a huge collection of waterbirds highlighted by Common Goldeneye, Black-necked Stilt, Long-billed Dowitchers, and Eared Grebes. Great-tailed Grackles are rare this far north, but we found a male singing! Both Clark’s and Western Grebes gather around Klamath Falls this time of year for their intricate courtship routines. Once they find a mate, they move off to the marshes and mountain lakes nearby for nesting. We caught a few Clark’s Grebes doing their amazing courtship ‘runs’ at Putnam Point and it was sort of hard to leave…

Tricolored Blackbird, photo by Alex Lamoreaux

Three Red-breasted Sapsuckers interacting in a huge, old White Fir, photo by Alex Lamoreaux

Prairie Falcon cruising the cliffs are Petroglyph Point, photo by Alex Lamoreaux

Heading down through the agricultural lands south of Klamath Falls, we picked up some lingering Greater White-fronted Geese and a Barn Owl was poking out of a nestbox in a hay-barn. Ring-necked Pheasants and California Quail were numerous along the dusty roads. We visited Petroglyph Point near Lava Beds National Monument, and quickly spotted huge White-throated Swifts and a single Prairie Falcon riding the updrafts off the cliffs. After taking a few moments to enjoy the beautiful petroglyphs carved into the rocks, we shot off towards a known Golden Eagle nest site where we found the adult pair perched majestically near their nest! Driving through the expansive sagebrush country of Lava Beds, we found our first Horned Larks of the day. Tule Lake NWR provided our first Western Sandpipers, and American Bittern were calling from the thick cattail marshes!

We wrapped up our Big Day at Sheepy Lake literally *on the border* of Oregon and California, and picked out a few final species – Peregrine Falcon, Western Willet, and Northern Pintail. As the sun was setting we began our drive back toward home, and flushed a Common Poorwill off the edge of the road – our final species of the day, #151. This ties our Big Day in the Rogue Valley of Oregon in 2019, but I think the potential for a *really* high count is highest here in the Klamath Basin… maybe next year we will plan (and scout) a bit harder and see if we can get closer to 175. Whatever the case, it is clear this region is of huge importance to a LOT of migratory bird species and I encourage all birders and nature-lovers to visit the basin if they ever get the chance!

American White Pelicans, photo by Alex Lamoreaux

Black-billed Magpie, photo by Alex Lamoreaux

Clark’s Grebe, photo by Alex Lamoreaux

Of course any day in the field is sure to turn up animals beyond birds and we had a nice list of mammals, herps, and butterflies throughout the course of the day. Highlights included an incredible view of a Western Pocket Gopher excavating a burrow, a brief view of a Short-tailed Weasel scurrying across the road in Klamath Basin NWR, and a herd of 21 American Elk early in the day out in the meadows near Fort Klamath.

Western Pocket Gopher, photo by Alex Lamoreaux

Two Western Pond Turtles celebrating World Migratory Bird Day, photo by Alex Lamoreaux


Here’s our species list for May 9th, 2020:

Calliope Hummingbird, photo by Alex Lamoreaux

  • Greater White-fronted Goose
  • Canada Goose
  • Wood Duck
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Gadwall
  • American Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • Northern Pintail
  • Canvasback
  • Redhead
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Bufflehead
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Common Merganser
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Mountain Quail
  • California Quail
  • Ring-necked Pheasant
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Eared Grebe
  • Western Grebe
  • Clark’s Grebe
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove
  • Mourning Dove
  • Common Poorwill
  • Vaux’s Swift
  • White-throated Swift
  • Rufous Hummingbird
  • Calliope Hummingbird
  • Virginia Rail
  • Sora
  • American Coot
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Black-necked Stilt
  • American Avocet
  • Killdeer
  • Least Sandpiper
  • Western Sandpiper
  • Long-billed Dowitcher
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Wilson’s Phalarope
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Willet
  • Franklin’s Gull
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • California Gull
  • Caspian Tern
  • Black Tern
  • Forster’s Tern
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • American White Pelican
  • American Bittern
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Black-crowned Night-Heron
  • White-faced Ibis
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Golden Eagle
  • Northern Harrier
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Bald Eagle
  • Swainson’s Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Barn Owl
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Williamson’s Sapsucker
  • Red-breasted Sapsucker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • American Kestrel
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Prairie Falcon
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher
  • Western Wood-Pewee
  • Hammond’s Flycatcher
  • Dusky Flycatcher
  • Pacific-slope Flycatcher
  • Western Kingbird
  • Cassin’s Vireo
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Steller’s Jay
  • California Scrub-Jay
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • American Crow
  • Common Raven
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Oak Titmouse
  • Horned Lark
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Tree Swallow
  • Violet-green Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Cliff Swallow
  • Bushtit
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Brown Creeper
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • House Wren
  • Marsh Wren
  • American Dipper
  • European Starling
  • Townsend’s Solitaire
  • Hermit Thrush
  • American Robin
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • House Sparrow
  • Evening Grosbeak
  • House Finch
  • Purple Finch
  • Cassin’s Finch
  • Pine Siskin
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • American Goldfinch
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Bullock’s Oriole
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Tricolored Blackbird
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Brewer’s Blackbird
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • MacGillivray’s Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Hermit Warbler
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Western Tanager
  • Black-headed Grosbeak
  • Lazuli Bunting

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