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Southeast Zone wildlife viewing report, April 30

HARNEY COUNTY

Waterfowl spring migration has slowed and most white geese and white-fronted geese have headed migrated north. Pintail, shoveler, wigeon, mallard, gadwall, green-winged teal, cinnamon teal and a variety of diver species can still be viewed in good numbers. Sandhill cranes can be found in agricultural fields throughout the Harney Basin.

Breeding shorebirds have arrived in good numbers. Lesser yellow legs, killdeer, avocets, black-necked stilts, white-faced ibis, curlews, willets, pelicans and western grebes are some species that have arrived. A large number of franklins, ring-billed and California gulls can also be found.

The best viewing opportunities are near Burns/Hines, where flood irrigation of wet meadows is occurring. Viewing at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge will continue to improve as migration continues to develop and many species of migrant passerines will be moving through the region.

Raptors continue to be found throughout the area. You should be able to view golden eagles, bald eagles and a variety of hawks perching on telephone poles and fence posts throughout the district. Resident raptors such as northern harriers and red-tailed hawks are very easily observed in open agricultural areas along with rough-legged hawks and an occasional ferruginous.

Sage grouse are still attending leks. Binoculars or spotting scopes are needed to observe sage grouse as getting close to the leks will flush the birds.

Bighorn sheep have moved up into the steeper country. They will be widely scattered and secretive this time of year as they prepare for lambing. Sheep can be viewed with a good pair of binoculars or spotting scope along rocky outcroppings south of Frenchglen and along the east side of the Steens. 4/29/14.

KLAMATH COUNTY

Klamath Falls Area

Spring migration in the Klamath Basin is in full swing with white-fronted geese, lesser snow geese, Ross’ geese and tundra swans now returning in large numbers. Greater sandhill cranes have returned from southern wintering areas. Best viewing opportunities are at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. Several large flocks of cranes have recently been observed in the Alkali Lake area and Langell Valley.

Canada geese are into the nesting season and the first broods should be hatched in the coming weeks.

The Link River offers great viewing for common merganser, bufflehead, common goldeneye, lesser scaup, and great blue heron. The Link River trail provides great viewing opportunities. 4/1/14.

Klamath Wildlife Area

A Wildlife Area Parking Permit is required to park on the Wildlife Area. Cost is $7 daily or $22 annually. Free with purchase of hunting license. Buy online or at an ODFW office that sells licenses or at a license sales agent. Learn more.

Klamath Basin waterfowl numbers are available on the US Fish and Wildlife website.

Overnight camping is not allowed on the Miller Island Unit. If you have any questions, please contact Klamath Wildlife Area at (541) 883-5734. 2/3/13.

LAKE COUNTY

Access: All native surface roads are still very muddy. Motor vehicle travel should be restricted to all weather roads.

Spring migration is in full swing. April, and early May is the best time to see a variety of bird species. The shore bird migration continues and the number of different species returning to the county is changing, almost daily. The most recent arrival is white-faced glossy Ibis. Bald eagle numbers are increasing as the spring migration progresses. The Chewaucan and Summer Lake basins have shallow flooded hay fields and wetlands and will provide the best viewing opportunities for early migrants. Goose Lake is very low and most of the Warner Valley lakes are dry or very low.

Lake Abert is very low and there isn’t enough snow pack to substantially increase water levels. The low water will result in reduced invertebrate production so there will not be large concentrations of shore birds and water birds as is usual for this time of year. Most of the common species will be present but in substantially reduced numbers.

Bighorn sheep have moved into their lambing areas. You can still see sheep along Abert and Fish Creek rims but good binoculars or a spotting scope will be needed. 4/29/14.

Summer Lake Wildlife Area

This section was updated on April 29, 2014.

Summer Lake Wildlife Area requires a new calendar year 2014 $7 daily parking permit or a $22 annual parking permit. Parking permits can be purchased at any ODFW license agent or through the ODFW website. Locally, parking permits can be purchased at the Summer Lake Store, 1.3 miles north of Headquarters.

Vehicle access to the Wildlife Viewing Loop remains open, but major dike roads (Bullgate, Windbreak and Work Road) are now closed to reduce disturbance to staging migrant waterbirds and early breeding waterfowl species. Non-motorized access is permitted, and the Wildlife Viewing Loop will remain open to motor vehicle travel until early fall.

Wetland conditions are excellent; all of the wildlife area’s wetlands are open and sizeable areas are shallowly flooded and receiving heavy waterbird use. Emergent vegetation is beginning to grow.

Spring migrants continue to return in good numbers at this time and some species should continue to increase in number and diversity as the season progresses. Many breeding species have yet to return while several early migrants have already departed the area.

Early breeding species such as Canada geese and mallards are incubating nests and broods are beginning to appear at this time. If birds are flushed off nests, please move away to reduce disturbance. Also, area users are reminded that running or training of dogs is prohibited, except by permit.

Waterfowl

Waterfowl populations are declining, arrival and staging of northward migrants has slowed down. Birds are widely dispersed across the entire wildlife area due to excellent habitat conditions.

Duck numbers declined from the previous week with about 6,000 being observed during the weekly count. A majority of these represent the wildlife area’s breeding population, however considerable numbers of lingering migrants remain. Staging northern shoveler, ruddy duck, American green-winged teal and bufflehead numbered about 1,200, 800, 600, and 450, respectively were counted on the April 23 survey. Pairs of the three most abundant breeding species (gadwall, mallard and cinnamon teal) are widely scattered on breeding territories across the entire wildlife area.

Canada geese are widely scattered across the wildlife area’s wetlands at this time and many are continuing to establish nesting territories. Incubation is well underway and broods are becoming more apparent. Lesser snow geese have largely departed the area now, but a few stragglers along with a handful of Ross’ geese were still present last week. Greater white-fronted geese are departing rapidly, over 400 were present last week.

Resident trumpeter swans are about 15-20 non-breeders, part of restoration efforts, can be found scattered across the wildlife area. All of these birds will be neck-banded with green collars and white alphanumeric symbols. Viewers are encouraged to “read” the collars and report them to wildlife area personnel. Collars will have the Greek letter Theta (Ѳ) and two side-ways laying numerals that are read from the body toward the head.

Shorebirds, waders and other waterbirds

Shorebird numbers and species continue to increase as spring migration progresses. Spring migrants such as marbled godwit, solitary and spotted sandpipers and Wilson’s phalaropes arrived last week. American avocet, black-necked stilt, dunlin, long-billed dowitchers and long-billed curlew numbers continued to increase. Breeding pairs of killdeer are spreading out across the entire area and should begin initiating nest scrapes soon. Other spring migrant and returning breeding species should be arriving soon and numbers should increase.

Both California and ring-billed gulls remained in good number, over 300 were observed. Gulls are beginning to occupy the nesting island in E. Link Unit and nesting should begin soon. Franklin’s gull arrived last week.

American white pelican and double-crested cormorant numbers continue to increase.

Sandhill crane numbers have stabilized and most pairs have returned to their breeding territories at least 13 pairs were noted across the area. Territorial calling is very prevalent throughout the day. Non-breeders and other migrants continue to stage as well, over 20 were found in the Foster Place grain fields.

American coot numbered over 3,600 on the weekly count and are wide spread onto breeding territories.

Migrant and breeding grebes continue to increase; eared, western and pied-billed, and Clark’s grebes are increasing in number. Pied-billed grebes are becoming very vocal now.

A few American bittern, great blue herons and white-faced ibis (about 170) were observed over the past week. American bitterns are beginning to make their territorial “pumper-lump” calls.

Raptors and others

Resident raptors, especially red-tailed hawks are scattered throughout the Wildlife Area as well as on private lands along Hwy 31. Swainson’s hawk should be returning from wintering areas soon.

Migrant accipiters, especially Cooper’s hawk are fairly common now.

Northern harriers are commonly observed over marsh and hay meadows and males are preforming their ritual courtship flights.

Bald and golden eagle numbers have declined dramatically. Only a few locally nesting pairs and a few late migrants can be found hunting across the area.

Ospreys (3 pairs) have returned to nesting platforms and are incubating at this time.

Great horned owls can be found scattered across the entire wildlife area, especially in the trees at campgrounds. Breeding season is underway; newly hatched chicks were observed in one nest and night calling remains fairly common.

Upland game birds

California quail and ring-necked pheasants are widely scattered across the north end of the wildlife area.

Passerines

Now is the time to look for returning spring migrant species.

Tree swallows numbers increased over the past week and many can be found exploring nest boxes scattered across the area. Barn and cliff swallow numbers are increasing as well. Violet-green and rough-winged swallows are seen occasionally.

Eurasian collared doves remain very numerous at Headquarters Complex and a few migrant and breeding mourning doves have arrived.

Sparrows are making a strong showing now; large numbers of white-crowned a few golden crowned were found at the Headquarters feeder during the past week. American and lesser goldfinches continue to be observed in good number. The immature Harris’ sparrow was observed over the past weekend.

American robins, Townsend’s solitaires and cedar waxwings are fairly abundant. Yellow-rumped warbler numbers have increased dramatically over the past weekend and other species should be present as well.

Marsh wrens and song sparrows can be found in dense stands of tall emergent hardstem bulrush and broad-leaved cattail and are very numerous.

Brewer’s, red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds continue to increase, and many males are beginning to establish nesting territories in emergent marsh areas.

Facilities and Access

Please remember: Calendar year 2014 parking permits are required!

Summer Lake Wildlife Area requires a $7 daily parking permit or a $22 annual parking permit. Parking permits can be purchased at any Point of Sale Agent or through the ODFW website.

Locally, parking permits can be purchased at the Summer Lake Store, 1.3 miles north of Headquarters.

The Wildlife Viewing Loop is open, but major dike roads (Bullgate, Windbreak and Work Road) are now closed to reduce disturbance to staging waterbirds and early breeding waterfowl species. The Wildlife Viewing Loop will remain open until early fall.

All secondary roads and dikes continue to remain closed and cross-country travel is prohibited.

Camping is permitted at four sites on the Wildlife Area. Campgrounds are primitive but each has vault toilets, trash barrels and a few picnic tables.

Also, area users are reminded that running of training of dogs is prohibited, except by permit.

Habitat

Currently nearly all of the wildlife area’s wetlands are well flooded. Bullgate Refuge remains dry in preparation for wetland enhancement work to take place in spring and early summer.

Emergent wetland vegetation is mostly lodged over due to strong winds resulting in increased visibility into wetland areas. New growth of broad-leaf cattail is progressing rapidly, in some areas it is 2-3 feet tall.

Upland habitat remains in excellent condition with considerable residual vegetation and extensive new growth of grasses and forbs that is providing high quality food and cover for many wildlife species. At present, all areas are snow free.

Planted tree and shrub plots are providing excellent sheltered sites for many wildlife species. Nearly all species are leafed out and many are flowering at this time.

Please contact Summer Lake Wildlife Area at (541) 943-3152 or e-mail martin.j.stlouis@state.or.us for additional information.

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