Posted by: atowhee | May 23, 2021


We seen the news that there will be no Klamath Basin water for irrigation this year. Next door the Tule Lake Basin just inside California is very dry. My friends, Kirk Gooding, has been visiting there for decades–never seen the water level so low, the dry lake bed so exposed.

The low water levels, many dry “ales” in region led to highly concentrated waterfowl population that, in turn, fueled the avian cholera epidemic there this past spring. Now the drought is hurting creatures from fish to farmers.

Kirk’s wife, Shannon, then sent me this email: ok, here is a question.  we went to the end of the klamath lake auto route to see the great egrets.  for the past two months, there has been a lively rookery.  when we were there two weeks ago, lots of birds were on the nest and there was nest building going on still.  then today: nothing. no birds.  empty nests.  ok, so i have 3 hypothesis.  #1 the egrets have an innate wisdom that the drought will mean no food for babies hence abandon the nest, #2 ravens were hanging out en masse (though i did not see that) and were waiting to trounce on the eggs and eat them, #3 that people viewing the nests made the egrets vulnerable.  i find this one hard to believe because humans have been visiting rookeries over all my years of birding and the egrets and herons carry on just the same.  ok, would any of you want to weigh in on these.

I know many larger birds do NOT nest when the spring food supply is bad or nil–cranes, cormorants, gulls, Great Gray Owls. I would be inclined to suppose that the adult egrets are having a hard time feeding themselves and so the no egg, no nesting self-protection buzzer has sounded for this season in that place,

Audubon Society summary of birds and drought effects.

Here is science paper on breeding of long-legged waders in Everglades, makes it quite clear that food supply is a crucial element in the birds’ breeding, or not.


Here in the Willamette Valley we are not as water-bereft. Most birds are going about their usual spring business–some images from Albert Ryckman to prove that point:

Then this stunner of a Barn Swallow from Marty Karlin in Jackson County:

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