Posted by: atowhee | February 14, 2015


GHO MALE UPThe purpose of today’s field trip fort a group of Klamath Bird Observatory supporters was the elusive Great Gray Owl.  We made leisurely start as the evening was going to be the crucial period for the day.  But on our way up into the Cascades we stopped at the local Great HORNED Owl nest along the road.  Mon is on the eggs and barely visible over the edge of the nest.  But one of our group earned his lunch-time glass of wine by finding the male.  Mr. GHO was in tree right by the road, and irritated at our interest. GHO MLASE UP2 PF0This Prairie Falcon surprised us all by his presence.  Atop a large snag in an oak-ponderosa forest at 4000′ elevation along Shale City Road.  Dining on Robin.  Pirate of the Plains?  Sagebrush swashbuckler?  Grenadier of the grassland?  Overlord of the oaks, perhaps.  PF1 PF2 PF4 PF5 PF6 Western Meadowlark, one of several serenading the winter sun and celebrating the plum blossoms, gnat swirls and early arrival of Tree Swallows. Frogs were calling from bogs in the sunny mid-day.  One other sign of the early spring: manzanita blooming at 4600′.  What will the Calliope Hummingbird find when he returns in two months.  I’ve always thought of manzanita blooms as Calliope’s main course when he first returns.WEME ON POLEWestern Meadowlarks were singing and we saw one pair in a courtship flight.  Valentine’s Day, you know.CORA UPPRaven watching us watch birds at Greensprings Inn where we had a great lunch after chasing a Pileated Woodpecker through the woods.  He won the race.

Hyatt Lake, Little Hyatt Lake and Keene Reservoir were ducky: Common and Barrow’s Goldeneye, Lesser Scaup, Common and Hooded Merganser, Ruddy, Buffle, and those ever present Canada Geese.  Two pairs of Bald Eagles.  We invited Mountain Quail to a join us at a public appearance …alas, they refused.

In two locations we heard Pygmy-Owls calling, neither was seen, of course.  Toots from the woods.  And before the trip began I heard one of our local Screech-Owls calling outside our home well before dawn.  It’s been weeks since one had been seen or heard nearby.

Oh yes, the Great Gray who caused this whole day-long expedition…at one meadow a Great Gray lifted softly up from the grass as our first car arrived.  A few limber flaps of five-foot wings and the owl vanished into the bordering forest.  A soggy trek across one finger of the meadow and into the woods yielded…more trees.  About half our group had gotten a glimpse of the ghost those we spent 90 minutes touring the meadows most likely to yield a clear, lingering view.  Chalk up one more mysterious. here-and-gone act for the Great Gray.  Great HORNEDS are so much more accesible.


Here’s email comment I got from fellow birder, Dick Musser: “It is very unusual to see a prairie in a woods—-but it is perched out in the open, and I’ve seen this before. If this bird is eating a robin (I can’t quite tell)—it’s a male prairie—a female would appear larger when compared to the quarry. It is about the correct time of year to see the male prairie falcons follow the migrants north. In my experience, when the RWBBs and horned larks start returning, they are shadowed by male prairie falcons. The female prairie falcons, who have been doing all of their own hunting thru the winter, are awaiting the arrival of their male counterparts—-who will select a partner, feed, and protect her. With the males’ arrival, also comes a big food supply of smaller birds, but the female isn’t nearly as successful capturing these smaller, more agile quarry, as is the little male. An example is the differential ability in hunting sparrows—-females have a very difficult time (because they can’t turn as well), while the males are very good at this. It was at this time of year when I saw a prairie falcon in an incorrect context, but I attribute this to the transitional period. “


  1. I have dibs on the front car for next weekend !!! We had a great day at Winter Wings today at the Demystifying Ducks field trip.

  2. Unless my monitor’s color is so far off, your Prairie Falcon is a Peregrine Falcon. Prairies are brown.

    • In the dim gray morning light we studied this bird through scopes, much better views than my camera shot, the facial stripe was too vague not a dark apostrophe, the back color too brownish and pale for Peregrine…but the bird was strongly backlit which makes the camera image less reliable than direct observation by a group of 13 birders including several very familiar with both species that are common wintering birds in our area…I can only apologize that there was no better image of the bird.

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