January: Herding deer. Black-tailed Deer gather in small herds of females and young during lean winter months. Survival in the wild requires a herd of deer to remain alert for danger with their keen eyesight, great hearing and superb sense of smell. Optimal browsing involves knowing when and where edible plants are available – even in someone’s backyard.
February: Overwintering eagles. Bald Eagles can skillfully hunt for fish and other animals, but more-often-than-not resort to piracy to scavenge a meal. Klamath Basin hosts the largest winter gathering of bald eagles in the Pacific Northwest. Some eagles are year-round residents in Klamath Basin and regularly roost in conifers at the Running Y Ranch Resort. Winter Wings Birding Festival in Klamath Falls celebrates bald eagles and other migratory birds.
March: Stopping over waterfowl. Tundra Swans fly at relatively low altitude in order to save energy, while Snow Geese fly in close formation allowing trailing birds to use less energy in flight. What triggers the onset of their journey north is a flock secret. Most likely it is their biological clock, driven by the length of day, that stirs them to migrate to arctic breeding grounds. Tundra Swans and Snow Geese rest and feed on farmlands adjacent to Running Y Ranch Resort during their northbound migration (February-April)
April: Traveling cranes. Sandhills Cranes are a “flagship” species – one that attracts public attention to their plight. These symbolic birds are noted for the fact that mated pairs stay together for years. Migrating cranes descend on wet meadows and open fields standing head and shoulder above feeding geese. The presence of flocks of migrating cranes attracts enthusiastic birders to Klamath Wildlife Area (just south of Klamath Falls off of Highway 97).
May: Racing grebes. Western/Clark’s Grebes are famous for their courtship dance attracting birdwatchers from all over the world. Courtship begins in late-April culminating in breeding by late-June. A male bird, as if to demonstrate worthiness to a female, carries a small fish as a gift – functioning as a currency of intimacy. When a pair of birds arches their necks upward it’s a sure sign, a flamboyant courtship dance is set to begin. They engage in a tandem race on their lobbed-feet, treading water across the surface of Upper Klamath Lake at Moore Park (Putnam Point).
June: Arrival of goslings. Canada Geese mate for life returning to same natal breeding sites. The visual expression of male “body language” with head extended low and forward is incipient to an attack on a rival. When threatened by a predator, an incubating goose will flatten herself out on her nest as the gander charges forward. Young geese and ducks hatch in spring and in short order they are able to swim on Running Y’s Golf Course ponds.
July: Wading birds. Great Blue Herons are patient hunters lurking motionless on stilt-like legs in a “wade and wait” style of fishing. Great Egrets are regular summer visitors standing out along the shoreline of golf course ponds. One would expect that they nest on the ground, instead, they congregate in tree top rockeries - a colony of roosts in trees along Lakeshore Drive.
August: Cooperative feeding by Pelicans. American White Pelicans are social by nature whether nesting on isolated “protected” islands or feeding in shallow water. These ponderous birds cooperatively herd fish with their wings outstretched. They dip their bills in unison scooping up aquatic organisms and water. The bill pouch shovels up several gallons of water then close, seining out fish and things. This ubiquitous iconic summer bird on Upper Klamath Lake is a thrill to watch.
September: Caching food for winter: Steller’s Jays gather seeds into their sublingual pouch (under their tongue), later regurgitate seeds into winter food caches. But, more often than not, they raid the caches of other squirrels and jays. Steller's Jays are most noted for their raucous call and obnoxious behavior toward anyone in their territory, seemingly communicating to others to “go away”. Stellar’s Jays seem to dominate over other birds at backyard bird feeders.
October: Migrating forest birds: Mixed flocks of forest birds migrate from high cascade forests down to forests around Upper Klamath Lake. Mountain Chickadees, when flushed, will freeze while sounding ventriloquism calls to confuse a predator. If a Slate-colored Junco finds some seeds, the rest of the flock intensify its search the area - one for all and all for one. Gray jays move to lower elevation forests in winter.
November: Migrating waterfowl: Pintail Ducks and White-fronted Geese are the first to arrive in September as northern regions begin to freeze over. By November over a million ducks, geese and swans are flying over Klamath Wildlife Refuges. Hawks (such as Rough-winged Hawks) migrate greater distances from northern regions to overwinter in Klamath County.
December: Drifting duck flotillas: Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and Mergansers have streamlined bodies designed for under water pursuit of fish. If someone had to pick a diving duck that epitomizes swift-flowing stream habitat they would certainly consider the Common Merganser. These weighty birds sink low in the water, preferring diving to flying. Diving ducks remain in Upper Klamath Lake until freeze up, then depart for the Williamson and Klamath Rivers.