By Brandon M Breen, Klamath Bird Observatory Outreach and Communications Specialist
Occasionally, I forget just how much fun it is to go birding. And then I venture into the woods in the morning and the forest air and peacefulness begin to creep into me and the brightness of the blue sky makes me smile and the whole scene of clear water and mossy trees and far-off forest sounds hugs me up and I literally become a different person: a person with less tension who is BAM! engaged in his surroundings. This happened to me just the other day.
I got out of my car at my birding destination at the Little Hyatt Reservoir in southern Oregon and within moments of doing so I thought, This is great. I thought that even before I arrived. I thought that as I drove on Old Hyatt Prairie Road through mountain meadows and mixed conifer woods. I was told this is Great Gray Owl Habitat. It sure looked the part, with its meadows for hunting voles and its majestic conifer limbs for majestic conifer perching.
I walked up a small hill and beheld the Little Hyatt Reservoir, spread out in front of me like a mirror filled with a beautiful upside-down forest. An Osprey leapt into the air from a dead snag and headed north. Two bright blue and white, chattering Belted Kingfishers swooped past me and out of sight into the trees, but not out of earshot. A Stellar’s Jay flew overhead.
And what’s that, at the far end of the Little Hyatt? Why, it’s a Pied-billed Grebe. Not causing anyone any trouble. And beyond him, in one of the biggest conifer trees I’ve ever seen, about halfway up, just sitting there (enjoying the view?), is a Red-tailed Hawk.
Now where are all the woodpeckers, I thought. Woodpeckers are among my favorite birds. I scanned the forest behind me for activity. It’s quiet aside from the calls of Red-breasted Nuthatches, chickadees, and Pine Siskins. Some chickadees come near me to investigate and I see, mixed in with the Mountain Chickadees, a Chestnut-backed Chickadee, a new species for me.
At the north end of the reservoir the water gives way to marsh and then finally to fields. A few Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Yellowthroats call in the marsh and I see, in the field beyond, a few flashes of blue. Mountain Bluebirds! I walk a little farther along a dirt road and then I see, rising placidly over the trees, a special bird for me, and one of the most visible birds in the continental United States, the Turkey Vulture. In my travels throughout the USA, whether I’m in Minnesota in the summer or counting birds along the Colorado River or sitting outside at a café in Oregon, I can usually spot a Turkey Vulture in flight with little effort if the weather is warm enough.
A Vesper Sparrow flushes from the grass near the road. A Northern Goshawk makes tight circles in the sky. On my way back to the reservoir I see a streak through the sky and then a flash of wings as a songbird in flight narrowly evades a Peregrine Falcon. The raptors are out today. I watch the falcon fly off, without a meal, on powerful wingbeats. I try to follow the bird, hoping to get a better look when it perches, but the falcon continues beyond the trees that line the reservoir.
Back at my car, I take one last look around. All the trees around me are alive except one tall snag. I see something perched near the top. I look through my binoculars and there it is, the Peregrine Falcon. I watch it for a while, delighted with my luck. As I’m about to leave, the falcon takes flight. It makes lazy circles above me, showing me its beautiful silhouette, its pointed wings and fan-shaped tail. And it shows me even more than that, something about richness and exhilaration.