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All the big game species are on summer range and females are have fawned or calved already. Female bighorns are in the lambing rocks with young of the year. Lambing habitat is very steep with rock cliffs and young bighorn are best viewed from a distance with good optics.
Spring migration is complete, and the remaining birds are actively nesting and or rearing young. Some common breeding water-birds in Harney County include white-faced ibis, American avocet, black-necked stilt, great egret, greater sandhill cranes and a variety of waterfowl species.
Raptors that can be found this time of year include red-tailed hawks, ferruginous hawks and golden eagles. Many passerine species, such as western-tanager, northern oriole and various species of warblers have arrived.
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is the summer home to some unique passerines such as bobolink, black-headed grosbeaks, willow flycatchers and many others.
Raptor and waterfowl viewing are available in the county. The Snake River corridor provides numerous opportunities to see multiple bird species associated with the river and adjacent agriculture areas, including red-tailed, northern harrier and rough legged hawk and, on occasion, golden eagles.
Many species of ducks including mallards, wood ducks, wigeon, green-winged teal, golden eyes, mergansers and bufflehead are also present.
Raptors such as red-tailed hawk and northern harriers are common in agricultural areas throughout the basin. Bald eagles can be viewed along Eagle Ridge and Shoalwater Bay accessed from Eagle Ridge Road from Hwy 140. The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge provides great viewing opportunities as well.
The Link River trail below Upper Klamath Lake and the Wood River Wetlands are excellent places to view many species of wildlife including deer, river otter, muskrat, mink, buffleheads, goldeneye, great-blue heron and great egret.
Local breeding birds such as Canadian geese and mallards with broods can be observed throughout the area. American white pelicans have returned to the Klamath Basin and can be found around area waterways foraging on fish. Pelicans are a colonial nesting species and nest in remote areas around the Basin including Upper Klamath, Lower Klamath, and Clear Lake NWRs.
Western and Clark’s grebes can be observed on the edges of larger bodies of water such as the Upper Klamath and Agency Lakes. Red-necked grebes are a fairly rare species found at Pelican Bay near Rocky Point. This is the only location this grebe uses in the Klamath Basin. Other recent arrivals include black necked stilt, white faced ibis and other shorebirds.
Lower Klamath and Tule Lake NWR provides excellent viewing for waterfowl and other aquatic birds. The auto tour route provides a loop through the refuge where many species of waterfowl can be observed. In addition, look for coyotes, beaver, river otter and muskrats. The refuge also provides several photography blinds. Contact the Refuge HQ for detailed information about their photography blinds.
updated July 7, 2020
Miller Island Unit
A Wildlife Area Parking Permit is now required to park on the Wildlife Area. Cost is $10 daily or $30 annually. Free with purchase of hunting license; just be sure to put it on your dashboard. Find out .
Canada goose broods can be found throughout the area usually in large groups. Many are molting into their adult plumage and can be hard to decipher from adults.
Dabbling duck numbers and species remain good for this time of year. Species that are readily observed this time of year are mallard, gadwall, cinnamon teal and northern shoveler.
Common diver species in the area include ruddy duck, ring-necked duck, canvasback, redhead, scaup, and common and hooded mergansers.
Broods of nesting duck species are common right now, with more seen every day.
Shorebirds, waders and other waterbirds
Great blue herons, great egrets, black-crowned night herons are all readily observed on the area. American bitterns are present, but can be difficult to find. Snowy egrets were again sighted over the past week.
Sandhill cranes are scattered around the area mostly in pairs, some may have young colts with them.
Killdeer, black-necked stilts, long-billed dowitchers, peep species, Wilson’s snipe, willet, phalarope, white-faced ibis, American avocet and yellow-legged species can be found along the edges of receding wetland areas. Long-billed curlews are occasionally spotted on the area.
American coot are now scattered throughout Miller Island. Virginia rails and soras can be heard throughout the area, but can be hard to spot.
Grebe species and numbers have increased. They can usually be found scattered over the areas wetland ponds and on the Klamath River. Western, eared and pied-billed grebes can now be found on the area.
Numbers of ring-billed gulls fluctuate between very few sightings to very common. Other gull species can be occasionally observed.
Double crested cormorants, Caspian terns, Forster’s terns and American white pelican are common sights and scattered around the area and the river.
Look for great horned and barn owls at dusk. Red-tailed hawks, northern harriers, cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned, American kestrels and prairie falcons are foraging throughout the wildlife area. Eagles are still visible on the area. Turkey vultures can also be spotted around the area.
Peregrine falcons can occasionally be seen but are rare sightings.
Upland Game Birds
California quail and ring-necked pheasant are scattered around the old homesteads and the headquarters area.
Songbirds and other passerines
Visitors will find Eurasian collared and mourning doves scattered over the area.
American and lesser goldfinches, house finches, white-crowned and golden-crowned sparrows, spotted towhees, black-billed magpies, and northern flickers continue to be common throughout the area. Visitors are seeing lots of western meadowlarks and American robins. Tree swallows are now visible in large numbers over wetland areas, barn and cliff swallows are also common especially around the HQ area. House wrens can be seen around the HQ complex. Western kingbirds and dark eyed juncos are also a common site on the area. Say’s phoebe are now common throughout the area, along with the occasional black phoebe.
Brewer’s, red-winged and yellow-headed blackbird numbers continue to be common sights throughout the area
Look for marsh wrens and song sparrows in dense stands of tall emergent hard stem bulrush and broad-leaf cattail; Bewick’s wrens in shrub/tree dominated areas, savannah sparrows in the uplands, and belted-kingfishers in trees near ditches and canals.
Shrike prefer the shrub dominated uplands of the southern part of Miller Island.
Common ravens are quite numerous right now, along with the occasional crow.
Look for downy/hairy woodpeckers at tree covered areas located at the Hooper high field and some existing parking areas on Miller Island.
This time of year, visitors may see muskrat around dusk. They may also spot beaver, river otter, mink, long-tailed weasel, coyotes, stripped skunk, black-tailed jackrabbit, mountain cottontail, California ground squirrels, yellow-bellied marmot and raccoon using the Wildlife Area. Deer are also occasionally spotted on the area.
Western pond turtles are active. They can be observed basking on logs during warm sunny days.
If you have any questions, please contact Klamath Wildlife Area at (541) 883-5732.
Duck species that can usually be found at this time include: mallard, northern pintail, northern shoveler, American wigeon, gadwall, canvasback, American green-winged teal, cinnamon teal, common goldeneye, bufflehead, ruddy duck, ring-necked duck, lesser scaup and common and hooded mergansers.
There are still good numbers of divers including goldeneyes, mergansers, canvasback, redhead, ring-necked and buffleheads present at this time, look for them in deeper water habitats such as Thompson and Ana reservoirs. Large numbers of dabbling ducks including pintail, wigeon, mallard, green-winged teal and shovelers can be seen in shallower wetland habitats. Most waterfowl found now will be breeding pairs on territories and initiating nesting. Canada geese are well into nesting season.
Sandhill cranes can be observed in agricultural fields adjacent to wetlands along Lake County road 5-13 between Fort Rock and Silver Lake and along Highway 31 in Summer Lake, Paisley, Valley Falls and Lakeview. Viewers are reminded that many of these areas are private property, so cranes should be observed from a vehicle or roadside to avoid trespassing and landowner conflicts.
American white pelicans and double-crested cormorants have been observed and can be found on area lakes and waterways foraging on fish.
There are some local trumpeter swans that are part of restoration efforts and will be neck-banded with green collars and white alphanumeric symbols. Viewers are encouraged to “read” the collars and report them to ODFW. Collars will have the Greek letter Theta (Ѳ) or the symbol “@” and two numerals that are read from the body toward the head.
Shorebirds, waders and other waterbirds
Birding will be more difficult as birds continue nesting. Yellow legged species, killdeer, American avocets, black-necked stilts, white-faced ibis, long billed dowitchers, dunlin, curlews, willets and sandpiper species are some species that can still be seen. A large number of franklins, Bonaparte’s, ring-billed and California gulls can also be found. Caspian and Forster’s tern numbers continue to increase.
Abert Lake is a particularly important closed basin, alkali lake system that provides important forage resources for a variety of migrating shore birds including various species of phalaropes, avocets, stilts, grebes and dabbling ducks.
There is a variety of raptor species distributed throughout all vegetation types. They include bald and golden eagles, northern harriers, red-tailed hawks, Cooper and sharp-shinned hawks, and American kestrels and rough-legged hawks. You also might see the occasional ferruginous hawks, and prairie and peregrine falcons.
Great horned owls are calling at night and are widely scattered across Lake County. Common barn owls and short-eared owls may be observed or also heard calling at night.
Songbirds and other passerines
Passerine species, especially white-crowned and golden crowned sparrows and dark eyed juncos, are around with the best diversity in riparian areas. You may also spot American and lesser goldfinches, marsh wrens, song sparrows, house finches, spotted towhees, cedar waxwings, evening grosbeaks, black-billed magpies, western meadow larks, norther flickers, American robins, varied thrushes, loggerhead shrikes, Steller’s and scrub jays.
Mule deer that spent the winter near the towns of Silver Lake, Fort Rock, Christmas Valley, Paisley and Lakeview to escape harsh winter conditions at higher elevations have completed their migrations back to summer ranges in the surrounding forested big game management units. Some mule deer that wintered in North Lake County migrate as far away as Crater Lake in the Cascades. They will be widely scattered and secretive this time of year as they are rearing fawns.
As fawning occurs, the occasion to notice and watch young wildlife makes for a great learning experience for children and families. Be careful not to get too close however, and don’t take any wildlife from their habitat. If you notice an orphan, if safe or unharmed, leave animal where it is found and contact ODFW. Most baby wildlife that is found, believed to be abandoned or orphaned, are simply waiting for mothers to return from foraging.
Like mule deer, pronghorn antelope migrate from winter ranges in North Lake County, to as far away as Crescent and Chemult on Hwy 97 to summer ranges. Pronghorn antelope does will become solitary and secretive this time of year as they are rearing kids.
As kidding occurs, the occasion to notice and watch young wildlife makes for a great learning experience for children and families. Be careful not to get too close however, and don’t take any wildlife from their habitat. If you notice an orphan, if safe or unharmed, leave animal where it is found. Most baby wildlife that is found believed to be abandoned or orphaned, are simply waiting for mothers to return from foraging.
Pronghorn antelope have horns instead of antlers like mule deer and elk. Both buck and doe pronghorn antelope have horns. The outer sheath is shed annually by December as the new sheath pushes the old one away. Horn growth will continue through July, making summer rains and green food resources critical to good horn growth.
A prominent prong or point on the horn can identify buck pronghorn antelope. In addition, the buck's entire nose appears black and all bucks have a visible black cheek patch. Doe pronghorn antelope do not have a prong or point and the horn is usually less than 5 inches long. A doe's nose is much lighter colored and a doe will not have a visible black cheek patch.
There are bighorn sheep on many of the peaks and rims in Lake County.
Look for sheep on rims along Hwy 395 from the Christmas Valley Highway junction south to the Hwy 31 junction. Abert Rim just above Abert Lake along Hwy 395 offers good viewing. Hadley Butte, near Paisley, also offers viewing from Hwy 31 and the Summer Lake Hot Springs.
Viewers wishing to observe bighorns should bring binoculars or spotting scopes, as sheep are generally found in steep rocky terrain and must be viewed from a distance.
This section was updated on March 31, 2020
Hunting seasons have ended and discharging firearms is prohibited, except by special permit.
Currently, a majority of the Area’s wetlands are open, but cool to cold night temperatures sometimes result in frozen conditions that persist into early afternoon. The marsh and upland areas are open and snow-free at this time.
Most wintering birds have departed the area, and spring migrants are staging in good numbers. Currently, the area’s wetlands are mostly open and ice-free and uplands are without snow cover.
Duck numbers continue to increase with the return of locally breeding species. Most early migrants such as northern pintail, American green-winged teal, northern shoveler, canvasback and American wigeon have pushed-on north. Cinnamon teal, gadwall and mallards are increasing as more continue to arrive from southern wintering areas. Drakes of most species are in their brilliant and spectacular breeding plumage now and courtship for most is well underway. Thousands of ducks can be observed roosting or loafing in large ponds or feeding in shallowly flooded seasonal wetlands. Recent controlled burns have enhanced habitat by opening previously thick and dense tall emergent vegetation and now thousands of ducks are using this area extensively for feeding.
A small number of sub-adult western Canada geese remain widely distributed across the wildlife area in small flocks and resident breeders are mostly paired-up as nesting season advances. Egg laying and incubation is well underway at this time, and the season’s first brood should be appearing soon.
Greater white-fronted geese can be found in scattered flocks and are increasing in number. Lesser snow geese numbers are beginning to decline as this arctic nesting species continues to push north to other staging areas. A few large flocks numbering in the thousands can still be seen. Look for snow goose numbers to decrease dramatically over the next few weeks, while white-fronted goose numbers will to continue to increase over the next month.
Swan (both tundra and trumpeter) numbers have declined dramatically. Most wintering birds and migrants have departed to northerly staging areas in route to arctic and boreal forest nesting areas in Canada at this time due favorable weather conditions.
A few resident trumpeter swans remain widely scattered across the wildlife area. These birds are part of restoration efforts and 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) or the symbol “@” and two numerals. Read them from the body toward the head.
Shorebirds, waders and other waterbirds
Migrant shorebirds are present and diversity is increasing. Early migrants such as greater yellowlegs, and breeding species such as killdeer and Wilson’s snipe, can be found in increasing numbers. Recently, American avocet made their first of spring appearance.
Returning breeding and migrant species, such as black-necked stilt, peeps and long-billed curlew should be arriving soon.
A few American bittern, black-crowned night-herons and great blue herons are around but in low numbers but should be increasing soon.
Very few grebes are around at this time, but migrants should be arriving soon. Four species (Clark’s, eared, pied-billed and western) are commonly found, with the occasional horned and red-necked grebes making spring appearances. Look for them in large open bodies of water such as Ana Reservoir, Dutchy Lake, North Bullgate Refuge and North Levee Impoundment.
California and ring-billed gulls have returned and can sometimes be seen on the nesting island in the East Link Unit. And, they are commonly seen foraging across the entire area. A few American white pelicans have been observed recently and double crested cormorants recently returned and are increasing in number.
Sandhill cranes have recently returned from wintering area in California and pairs are beginning to frequent traditional nesting territories. They can be found scattered across the entire wildlife area at this time and nesting is underway. About 75-100 migrants and non-breeders have been observed utilizing mowed and fall planted grain fields in the Foster Place recently. American coots are very numerous at this time and can be found in nearly all ponds and canals.
Migrant and resident Virginia rail and sora can be found and should continue to increase. Virginia rails are becoming very vocal at night.
Raptors and others
Northern harriers and red-tailed hawks are common this time of the year. Visitors may occasionally see ferruginous hawks, American kestrel, peregrine and prairie falcons. Arctic breeding rough-legged hawk numbers remain in fair numbers, but are beginning to move north. Bald and golden eagles are also around on a regular basis, since both species frequently hunt the waterbirds staging in large numbers on the wildlife area at this time.
Great horned owls remain widely scattered across the entire wildlife area, especially in the trees at campgrounds. Most pairs continue to call at night on a regular basis and nesting is well underway. Common-barn owls are roosting in buildings at Headquarters and sometimes can be heard calling at night during their foraging forays. Look for short-eared owls in early morning or evening hours, they have been observed recently along Thousand Springs Lane near the Turner Road.
Upland game birds
Visitors sometime see California quail and ring-necked pheasants at Headquarters and north end upland areas. Quail are beginning to disperse from the large coveys as breeding season nears. Rooster pheasants are beginning to crow on sunny days and early nesting should be underway.
Songbirds and other passerines
Eurasian collared doves remain very numerous at Headquarters Complex. Mourning doves may found and should increase in the near future as they return from wintering areas.
Resident and local area American robins, cedar waxwings, loggerhead shrikes, Steller’s and sometimes scrub jays are sometimes in varied numbers across the wildlife area, especially around Headquarters and old homestead sites. Look and listen for Townsend’s solitaires along the valley floor at this time. Northern flickers remain common across most of the area and we’ve seen sage thrashers, sapsuckers, downy and hairy woodpeckers, recently.
Say’s phoebe have returned and other spring migrants should be occurring soon.
Tree swallows are increasing in number and many can be found exploring nest boxes scattered throughout the wildlife area and Headquarters. Cliff swallows are increasing and other swallow species should be arriving soon.
Look for wintering and migrant sparrows such as golden-crowned and white-crowned at the Headquarters feeder along with American and lesser goldfinches, dark-eyed juncos and evening grosbeaks. Sagebrush and fox sparrows have been reported recently, and spotted towhees can be found at the Headquarters feeder. Savannah sparrows have recently returned to the wildlife area and can be found along dikes and roads.
Mountain chickadees, pine siskin and a brown creeper have been observed recently.
Visitors will find good numbers of marsh wrens and song sparrows in the dense stands of hardstem bulrush and broad-leaved cattail along dikes and levees throughout the wetlands. You might also see migrant sparrows along dikes and roads in increasing numbers.
Red-winged blackbird numbers continue to increase at the Headquarters feeder and many are beginning to move out into marsh habitats where they will establish breeding colonies. Brewer’s blackbirds, remain scattered across the wildlife area especially around farmed fields and homestead sites. The arrival of yellow-headed blackbirds should occur soon.
Wintering mule deer are present in good numbers, especially on slopes above the valley floor where green-up is occurring.
Coyotes are regularly seen in marsh and upland areas and frequently heard during evening hours. Most are paired at this time and breeding season is underway.
Belding’s ground squirrels are becoming very numerous around Headquarters. Yellow-bellied marmots can be found in the Foster Place and the tip of Gold Dike.
Muskrats remain very numerous across the Area’s wetlands, and mink and beaver are sometimes observed.
Facilities and Access
Wildlife Area Parking permits are required for all users of Summer Lake Wildlife Area. Calendar year 2020 parking permits will be required beginning on Jan. 1, 2020.The cost is $10.00 daily or $30.00 annually and permits are valid on all ODFW Wildlife Areas. Find out how to buy a parking permit.
Please purchase parking permits prior to arriving, since there are no point of sale agents in Summer Lake and internet connectivity for electronic purchases is often difficult.
The Wildlife Viewing Loop is open at this time, but major dike roads (Bullgate, Windbreak and Work Road) are now closed to vehicle traffic at this time to reduce disturbance to migrating birds. Spur and lateral dikes and levees will remain closed to motor vehicles at all times, but open for non-motorized travel. Please be aware that roads may be wet and soft due to precipitation, snow and high water levels in canals along many roads. Road edges are extremely soft.
Non-motorized travel on spur levees or lateral dikes is permitted as is cross-country travel.
As per Governor Brown’s Executive Order No. 20-12, camping is prohibited until further notice.
Vault toilets and restrooms at campgrounds are closed until further notice.
Visitor use is permitted only between the hours of 4 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Wetland units have returned to generally open conditions at this time because of somewhat warmer temperatures. However, with low nighttime temperatures ice can sometimes form, some of which persists into the late afternoon on some days. The entire wildlife area is snow free at this time. Summer Lake proper is increasing in size and will continue to grow as winter progress.
Most emergent vegetation has lodged-over due to wind and past snow accumulation. Visibility into many marsh areas has improved dramatically.
A large controlled burn has been conducted along Windbreak Dike resulting in increased visibility into the many areas and bird use in blackened areas where foraging access to many sites has been greatly enhanced.
Upland habitat remains in good condition and free of snow at this time. Green-up of grasses and some forbs is well advanced now and some trees and shrubs are beginning to bud and leaf-out. Tree and shrubs in plots and orchards provide food sources and sheltered areas to many species of wildlife.
The Summer Lake Wildlife Area Office is closed to the public at this time. For assistance and additional information, contact wildlife area staff at 541-943-3152.