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News, notes, trip reports, and the lighter side (of the wilder side) of the Oregon environmental and conservation movement.

Showing blog entries tagged as: Waters
Spring Migration on the Pacific Flyway!

Spring Migration on the Pacific Flyway!

Oregon Wild members braved rain, sleet, snow and wind to view thousands of migratory birds in the Klamath Basin. This kicks off a new phase of Oregon Wild's Klamath campaign. Keep an eye out for upcoming announcements. And consider joining us on one of our summer trips!

Springtime in the Klamath Basin brings sunshine...and sleet...and wind...and rain...and snow...aaaaaaand a tiny bit of thunder. But no one attending Oregon Wild’s recent birding trip seemed to mind this atmospheric multiple personality disorder. After all, it’s been a painfully dry winter, so the Basin can use every last drop of water. Besides, we were really there to see the spectacle of birds in full migration mode along the Pacific Flyway.

And it was quite a spectacle. I’ve read the statistic that an estimated 80% of waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway use the Klamath Basin’s refuges along their migratory journey. But I couldn’t put that number into perspective until I witnessed thousands of geese take flight over Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Klamath Geese 2014

It’s really something to watch a dark mass of waterfowl floating calmly on a lake start to churn, and then become a dark mass of squawking and beating wings overhead. Though I found myself desperately hoping my head wouldn't become a target -- and had to remind myself to keep my mouth closed when looking skyward -- it really was an incredible sight.

Rough-legged hawk

Together, we visited four of the Klamath Basin’s National Wildlife Refuges: Upper Klamath Lake, Klamath Marsh, Lower Klamath, and Tule Lake. We spent two days exploring -- with binoculars permanently affixed to our faces -- and two nights trading stories in a warm cabin near Klamath Marsh. During that time, our group of expert (and aspiring) birders identified 79 distinct birds species. (See below for a detailed list.)

Looking at the refuges that weekend, it’s hard to believe that the Klamath Basin once supported 350,000 acres of wetlands. In the last century, commercial agriculture has reduced that habitat to 80,000 acres. Yet, what remains of those wetlands represents some of the most important waterfowl habitat in the United States.

And for that remaining refuge habitat and the wildlife that depends on it, 2014 is shaping up to be a rough year. Governor Kitzhaber declared drought all the way back in February. Last year, drought wasn’t declared until April, and by the end of summer over 12,000 birds at Tule Lake had died of avian botulism and Lower Klamath was completely dry.

LKNWR Spring 2014This year, as April rolled in, snowpack in the Klamath Basin hovered around 30% of average. Tule Lake had already experienced an outbreak of avian cholera. Lower Klamath had only about half the water it normally expects in April -- and some of its major wetlands were already drained to flood fields for next year’s grain crops. Before the end of the summer, Lower Klamath will be completely dry.

Since Oregon Wild’s birding trip, a water agreement was reached between the Klamath Tribes and irrigators in the basin. Governor Kitzhaber and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are lauding this agreement as a solution to the Klamath Basin’s water woes. While the agreement is no small achievement, it does nothing for the National Wildlife Refuges that make up the very heart of the Pacific Flyway. A solution that does not include the refuges is no solution at all.

This year Oregon Wild is working with partners to make sure the US Fish & Wildlife Service prepares and implements a management plan that puts wildlife first. I mean, it’s in their name, for crying out loud. With a rather grim outlook for wildlife and wetlands this year, why are we focusing on preparation of a management document? First, a management plan for the refuges is an embarrassing 18 months overdue. Second, it will initiate a public process that will finally give all of us who care about wildlife a way to participate in and influence what happens on the refuges.    

Klamath trip group 2014

Please stay tuned for more information on our Klamath campaign. We think there are exciting things ahead. Also, I urge you to consider joining us on one of our upcoming trips to the Klamath Basin this summer. And if you do, bring your kids! Or your grandkids! The Klamath Basin is a special place, and visiting its refuges is perhaps the best reminder that its remaining wetland habitat is incredibly precious.


Wendell and QuinnBird Species Identified:
For the birders out there, here is a detailed list of the birds we saw during our spring migration trip. As a disclaimer, it is probably prudent to mention that, though I am capable of distinguishing a bird from, say, a deer, I defer to the birding experts (like Wendell Wood, pictured here) on these matters.

  • Loons, Grebes

    • Pied-billed Grebe

    • Horned Grebe

    • Eared Grebe

    • Western Grebe

    • Clark’s Grebe

  • Pelicans, Herons

    • American White Pelican

    • Double-crested Cormorant

    • Great Blue Heron

    • Great Egret

  • Waterfowl

    • Tundra Swan

    • Greater White-fronted Goose

    • Snow Goose

    • Ross’ Goose

    • Canada Goose

    • Wood Duck

    • Green-winged Teal

    • Mallard

    • Northern Pintail

    • Cinnamon Teal

    • Northern Shoveler

    • Gadwall

    • Canvasback

    • Ring-necked Duck

    • Lesser Scaup

    • Common Goldeneye

    • Bufflehead

    • Hood Merganser

    • Common Merganser

    • Ruddy Duck

  • Raptors

    • Turkey Vulture

    • Bald Eagle

    • Northern Harrier

    • Cooper’s Hawk

    • Red-tailed Hawk

    • Rough-legged Hawk

    • American Kestrel

  • Gallinaceous Birds

    • Ring-necked Pheasant

    • California Quail

  • Rails, Cranes

    • American Coot

    • Sandhill Crane

  • Shorebirds

    • Killdeer

    • Black-necked Stilt

    • American Avocet

    • Marbled Godwit

    • Dunlin

    • Short-billed Dowitcher

  • Jaegers, Gulls

    • Ring-billed Gull

  • Doves, Pigeons

    • Rock Pigeon

  • Woodpeckers

    • Downy Woodpecker

    • Northern Flicker

  • Larks, Swallows

    • Tree Swallow

    • Barn Swallow

  • Corvids

    • Steller’s Jay

    • Scrub Jay

    • Clark’s Nutcracker

    • Black-billed Magpie

    • Common Raven

  • Chickadees, Bushtit

    • Black-capped Chickadee

    • Mountain Chickadee

  • Nuthatch, Creeper

    • Red-breasted Nuthatch

    • White-breasted Nuthatch

  • Wrens, Dipper

    • Marsh Wren

  • Kinglets

    • Ruby-crowned Kinglet

  • Thrushes

    • Mountain Bluebird

    • American Robin

    • Varied Thrush

  • Starling, Vireos

    • European Starling

  • Warblers

    • Yellow-rumped warbler

  • Sparrows

    • Spotted Towhee

    • Song Sparrow

    • White-throated Sparrow

    • Golden-crowned Sparrow

    • Dark-eyed Junco

  • Blackbirds, Orioles

    • Red-winged Blackbird

    • Yellow-headed Blackbird

  • Finches

    • House Finch

    • Red Crossbill

    • Lesser Goldfinch

  • Weaver Finch

    • House Sparrow

I miss the call of the ducks and the geese in spring

I miss the call of the ducks and the geese in spring

Posted by Marielle Cowdin at Apr 12, 2014 12:00 AM |

Life-long Klamath Basin resident wrote of the loss of the waterfowl he once knew and loved.

By Wendell Wood:

The following is a poem written by life-long Klamath Basin resident John E. “Bud” Harris. The poem, along with stories of Mr. Harris's early life in Lorella (in  Klamath County’s Langell Valley east of Klamath Falls), first appeared in an article titled “Life and times on Cheese Factory Road,” and appeared on Bud Harris’ 80th birthday on April 12, 2004.

While Mr. Harris passed away eight years later in August 2012, conservationists believe he and his poem should be remembered (now 10 years later) on the 90th anniversary of his birth.
I miss the call of the ducks and the geese in the spring

I was born and raised in Langell Valley,

where the ducks used to rally

by the thousands in the valley in the spring.

Read More…

Preserving O&C Lands Speaks to Priorities All Oregonians Value

Preserving O&C Lands Speaks to Priorities All Oregonians Value

Moving 1.6 million acres of federal lands out of the public trust and into the hands of private industry so timber companies can log them the way they log their own lands is no bargain for the forests or citizens of Oregon.

Legislation put forward by Congressmen Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader to put over 1.6 million acres of Oregon's public O&C lands into a private logging trust for exclusive timber industry use was, regrettably, added to an already bad public lands bill in July.

Designated HR 1526, the public lands legislation was authored by the notoriously anti-environmental House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings of Washington state. Congressman Hastings routinely scores in the single digits when it comes to organizations like the League of Conservation Voters, and even Republicans for Environmental Protection (now known as ConservAmerica) are only able to muster an eight percent rating for Congressman Hastings.

Read More…

Wild Pacific Northwest: Ecoregions of Oregon

Wild Pacific Northwest: Ecoregions of Oregon

Guest blogger, scientist, and Oregon Wild supporter Ivan Phillipsen explores the natural wonders of Washington and Oregon.

By Ivan Phillipsen

Vast expanses of coniferous forest are a distinguishing feature of Oregon's natural environment. But this state contains a remarkable diversity of ecosystems besides the dense, rain-soaked forests of the Coast Range and Cascades. There are deserts here too – as well as alpine meadows, grasslands, oak woodlands, coastal sand dunes, deep canyons, huge wetlands, and barren mountain peaks ringed by glacial ice. Oregon is truly a wonderland of geological and ecological marvels.

Read More…

Water Disaster Set to Unfold This Summer In the Klamath Basin

Water Disaster Set to Unfold This Summer In the Klamath Basin

Only a full-scale overhaul of the Klamath Project will begin to address the acute problem of too much water promised to too many entities in the basin, with native wildlife and fish paying the steepest price.

By Tommy Hough

As the Klamath Basin heads into a cataclysmic drought year with less than 33 percent of the region's normal snowpack, it is a foregone conclusion the natural marshes of the basin's National Wildlife Refuges will be left perilously high and dry in 2013.

The scope of this summer's coming toll on the Klamath Basin is hard to fathom. Water levels are so low it will even shock veterans of the 2001 and 2002 "low water" years, when 60 percent of normal snowpack resulted in chaos. Governor Kitzhaber and irrigators are already flying the drought emergency flag, though state help only goes to farmers and ranchers. In the Klamath Basin, native and migratory wildlife are on their own, even as they are robbed of water.

Read More…

Annual Water Shortages Degrade Klamath Marshes

Annual Water Shortages Degrade Klamath Marshes

Thousands of acres of National Wildlife Refuge wetlands in the Klamath Basin will go without water this year. All signs are pointing to an unprecedented disaster.

By Wendell Wood

Sadly, 2013 will see a repeat of one of the most devastating symptoms of the Klamath Basin's numerous water problems: thousands of acres of crucial National Wildlife Refuge wetlands in the Klamath will be without water.

Unfortunately, this sad state of affairs reflects the norm in the Klamath Basin, where too much water has been promised to too many interests. Even in years of abundant water flow, this annual refuge de-watering represents the continuation of a policy of favoring agribusiness interests while avoiding cost-effective, long-term solutions which would bring water demand in the basin into balance with actual supplies.

Read More…

The Best Process for Removing Klamath River Dams

The Best Process for Removing Klamath River Dams

In a strange twist, the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) has become the greatest impediment to the proposed removal of Klamath River dams.

The billion-dollar KBRA isn't going anywhere, gives false hope to interests which would benefit from it, and is causing state and federal agencies to ignore worsening conditions for wildlife and endangered species in the basin for fear of upsetting the deal.

As long as there appears to be some hope for the KBRA and the money that would come with it in Congress, government agencies and stakeholders in the Klamath Basin will continue to allow PacifiCorp to continue with their fish-killing status quo. No Act of Congress is necessary to remove the dams.

Read More…

Wild Pacific Northwest: Small Streams Are A Big Deal

Wild Pacific Northwest: Small Streams Are A Big Deal

Guest blogger, scientist, and Oregon Wild supporter Ivan Phillipsen explores the natural wonders of Washington and Oregon.

While hiking Oregon's mountains, you usually can't walk very far before a small, burbling stream cuts across your path. Most of these streams are narrow enough to hop across. They are cold, clear, and often overshadowed by trees, shrubs, and ferns. They're great places to fill your water bottle on a hot summer day.

These are headwater streams. They are born as rivulets of melting snow or as springs, at the upper edges of the watershed.

Scientists have yet to agree on a single way to define a headwater stream. The issue is more complicated than you might think. To keep things simple, let's say a stream is a headwater if it is a terminal branch of the stream network. If you think of the network as having the shape of a tree, with a big river as the tree trunk and smaller streams as the branches, headwaters are like the outermost branch tips of the tree.

Read More…

Water-Starved Klamath Basin Refuges Forced to Drain Marshes

Water-Starved Klamath Basin Refuges Forced to Drain Marshes

Klamath-area National Wildlife Refuges are being forced to drain massive amounts of water, while nothing is being asked of industrial irrigators.

By Wendell Wood

It has come to our attention Lower Klamath and Tule Lake NWRs are being required to deliver 5,600 acre feet of water from the refuge to the Klamath River. The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) maintains this is being done so the agency won't have to otherwise release additional water from Upper Klamath Lake.

While the BOR claims it needs to do so to maintain Upper Klamath lake levels for endangered species purposes, it is also doing so for the principal purpose of "recharging" the lake to its maximum elevation prior to the onset of the 2013 irrigation season.

Read More…

A Lack of Clear Vision In Waldo Lake Management

A Lack of Clear Vision In Waldo Lake Management

The great-grandson of Waldo Lake's namesake expresses his concern over the Oregon Aviation Board's desire to allow seaplanes to land and take off from the pristine lake.

This letter was submitted by Bruce A. Johnson of Bend to Governor John Kitzhaber. Mr. Johnson is the great-grandson of Waldo Lake namesake and early Oregon conservationist Judge John B. Waldo.

Dear Governor Kitzhaber,

I am writing to urge you, as the elected Governor of the State of Oregon and member of the State Land Board, to lead an effort to establish a permanent and binding preservation of Waldo Lake in its pure and natural state.

This lake, of remarkable clarity with water considered among the purest in the word, and enjoyed by respectful recreationists for its solitude and natural qualities, is at risk of being gradually degraded due to the lack of a single, unified effort to protect it from detrimental activities.

Read More…

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