Just as sure as the leaves fall and ice begins to coat basin wetlands, they will arrive. Each year during the month of November, bald eagles begin to appear en masse on their Klamath Basin wintering grounds. Having traveled from as far away as Northwest Territories in Canada and Glacier National Park, these birds quickly settle into a daily routine of waterfowl scavenging throughout the Basin’s marshes by day and locating sheltered roosts at night. The best viewing occurs during January and February when numbers may peak at over 500 birds. During this time, an observant visitor should be able to easily spot dozens of these majestic raptors along the Tule Lake and Lower Klamath auto tours. It is not uncommon to see over 50 eagles from one spot!
Why expend the energy to fly from Canada to our area? The main attraction of the Klamath Basin to these eagles is the extensive marshes with their abundant wintering waterfowl. Winter is a tough time to be a duck in the Klamath Basin. With injuries, weakness, and diseases such as avian cholera claiming many waterfowl, the table is set for the eagles. It is easy to catch a dead duck or goose, and the eagles make quick work of them.
After consuming their fill of waterfowl, most eagles will leave the valley bottoms by late afternoon and head to sheltering night roosts. These roosts are invariably timbered with large, open-crowned conifers, providing easy landings and takeoffs. Located on northeast facing slopes, night roosts protect the eagles from prevailing winter winds. The most important roost was protected in 1982 as Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge. In reality this refuge is not a valley, but an old-growth forested hillside west of hwy 97 near Worden, Oregon. Bear Valley NWR is closed to public access and the land surrounding it is privately owned. In addition the roads leading to Bear Valley NWR are privately owned and have restricted access.
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In spring songbird season, birders like to spot the colorful Western tanager in and around Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.