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Colder temperatures will cause remaining water bodies to freeze up nearly completely during the coming weeks, resulting in most waterbirds leaving the area. Wintering raptors have arrived and you can spot them soaring and feeding around agricultural fields throughout the Harney Basin.
As fall progresses, look for deer, elk, and antelope to remain active for longer periods of the day. Mule deer rut has begun and deer will beginning to transition to winter ranges. Deer will begin to move into lower elevations as severe weather events increase in frequency and daylight hours dwindle. This annual transition into winter ranges often makes large animals more visible, and may provide opportunities for viewers and photographers.
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.
Rough-legged hawks are beginning to show up from northern breeding locations and are easily found foraging around agricultural areas throughout the basin. Look for red-tailed hawks and northern harriers in agricultural areas as well.
Bald eagles have begun moving into the Klamath Basin. Good areas to view wintering bald eagles are 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 Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges offer excellent viewing opportunities during the fall. Shoalwater Bay located along Eagle Ridge accessed from Hwy 140 is a great spot for viewing this time of year. Ducks, geese, and shorebirds are the main attraction now.
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.
Deer have arrived on lower elevation wintering grounds. Drivers should be extra vigilant while deer are more concentrated on winter ranges.
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 .
Duck species found on the area at this time are: mallard, northern shoveler, gadwall, canvasback, redhead, cinnamon teal, American green-winged teal, northern pintail, American wigeon, ruddy duck, wood duck, ring-necked duck, bufflehead, common and barrow’s goldeneye, ruddy duck and common and hooded mergansers. American coot are numerous at this time.
Flocks of western Canada geese are scattered across the area and will continue to show up in greater numbers as winter progresses.
Shorebirds, waders and other waterbirds
Great blue herons and American bitterns are scattered around the area.
Killdeer can be a common site.
Pied billed and eared grebes are still common on the area. A visitor recently spotted a loon on the river next to Miller Island.
Double-crested cormorants are in the area.
Look for great horned and barn owls at dusk. Red-tailed hawks, rough-legged hawks, northern harriers, cooper’s hawks, American kestrels and prairie falcons are foraging throughout the wildlife area. Eagle numbers are low, but a few young and one or two pairs are on Miller Island.
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, dark-eyed juncos, American robins, spotted towhees, black-billed magpies, western meadowlarks, horned larks and northern flickers continue to be a common site throughout the area. Brewer’s and red-winged blackbird numbers have decreased, but there may still be a few around.
Look for marsh wrens and song sparrows in dense stands of tall emergent hard stem bulrush and broad-leaf cattail; savannah sparrows in the uplands, and belted-kingfishers in trees near ditches and canals.
Black phoebe are common throughout the area.
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.
This time of year, visitors may see muskrat around dusk. The may also spot beaver, river otter, mink, long-tailed weasel, coyotes, stripped skunk, black-tailed jackrabbit, mountain cottontail and raccoon using the Wildlife Area. Deer are also occasionally spotted on the area.
If you have any questions, please contact Klamath Wildlife Area at (541) 883-5732.
Motorists should remember that mule deer movements continues from transition to winter ranges. Mule deer rut (breeding season) has begun and bucks are in search of does and are distracted motorists should be extra vigilant during this time. Mule deer will move along Hwy 31 between La Pine and Silver Lake, along the Bear Flat Road between Antelope Flat and Silver Lake, along Hwy 31 between Summer Lake and Paisley, and along Hwy 395 from Valley Falls to Lakeview. In addition, mule deer will cross Highway 97 from Bend to Klamath Falls.
Motorist are asked to slow down and watch for mule deer crossing highways particularly in the early morning and evening. Check out .
Fall staging is nearly over with most migrants having moved south to wintering areas.
Western Canada and greater white-fronted geese are around at this time. Western Canada geese are widely distributed across Lake County. Look for family groups and broods on the larger impoundments and ponds or in agricultural fields.
The peak of migrant trumpeter and tundra swans has probably occurred and numbers will continue to decline as winter conditions continue. Some local trumpeter swans 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.
Most shorebird species and large flocks have departed towards wintering grounds further to the south and coastal areas. Wintering killdeer and Wilson’s snipe may be observed. American bittern, black-crowned night-herons and great blue herons are present in low numbers. Great egrets and white-faced ibis have mostly departed south.
A few American bittern, black-crowned night-herons and great blue herons may still be in the area. Great egrets and white-faced ibis have mostly departed south.
Gulls (ring-billed and California), terns (Caspian and Forster’s) and double-crested cormorants have mostly departed but a few remain. American white pelicans remain scattered throughout Lake County.
There is a variety of raptor species distributed throughout all vegetation types including bald and golden eagles, northern harriers, red-tailed hawks, Cooper and sharp-shinned hawks, and American kestrels. Winter and migrate rough-legged hawks have recently been observed. Ferruginous hawks, Prairie and peregrine falcons can occasional be seen.
Passerine species, especially white-crowned and golden crowned sparrows and dark eyed juncos, are around with the best diversity in riparian areas. You may still spot American and lesser goldfinches, house finches, spotted towhees, black-billed magpies, western meadow larks, norther flickers, American robins, varied thrushes, loggerhead shrikes, Steller’s and scrub jays numbers are increasing.
This time of year, visitors will see flocks of migrant warblers, flycatchers, sparrows and other passerines. Typically, rarities and vagrants show-up now, so keep a sharp eye out and scan flocks.
As the winter progresses, deer will remain active for longer periods of the day. Most deer have moved into lower elevations as severe weather events increase in frequency and daylight hours dwindle. Mule deer rut (breeding season) has begun and bucks are in search of does and are distracted providing opportunity for viewing and photography.
Motorists should remember that mule deer movements continues from transition to winter ranges. Mule deer rut (breeding season) has begun and bucks are in search of does and are distracted motorists should be extra vigilant during this time. Mule deer will move along Hwy 31 between La Pine and Silver Lake, along the Bear Flat Road between Antelope Flat and Silver Lake, along Hwy 31 between Summer Lake and Paisley, and along Hwy 395 from Valley Falls to Lakeview. In addition, mule deer will cross Hwy 97 from Bend to Klamath Falls. Motorist are asked to slow down and watch for mule deer crossing highways particularly in the early morning and evening.
Please consider using binoculars or spotting scopes to watch deer from a distance to reduce disturbing wintering deer as much as possible. Because deer are most vulnerable during winter, private landowners along with state and federal agencies have cooperated to create the Cabin Lake/Silver Lake Road Closure, to reduce harassment to wintering mule deer. All roads within the closure are closed to all motor vehicle use from Dec. 1 through March 31. Forest Service roads 27, 28 and road 2516 to Mowich Spring are open to travel, and provide opportunities to observe wintering mule deer. A copy of the map can be found .
Pronghorn antelope prefer to winter in open sagebrush and agricultural fields, at low elevations. As the winter progresses, look for large groups of pronghorn antelope to remain active for longer periods of the day.
The occasion to notice and watch wildlife makes for a great learning experience for children and families. Use binoculars or spotting scopes to watch pronghorn antelope from a distance, in order to disturb them as little as possible. Many of these wintering areas are private property, so watch pronghorn from a vehicle or the roadside to avoid trespassing and landowner conflicts.
Look for wintering pronghorn antelope herds in the agricultural fields surrounding Fort Rock, Silver Lake, Valley Falls and Lakeview. There also visible in the low sage flats on public land around Duncan Reservoir and the desert areas south of the Wagontire road and west of Hwy 395 around Horse and Euchre Mountains.
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 with the new horn grown by the middle of March.
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.
If you see a group of pronghorn remember to check behind the group. The dominant buck is often following well behind the group.
This section was updated on Dec. 3, 2019
Game bird hunting seasons are underway at this time. However, wildlife viewing opportunities are in still available in those same areas. However, the opportunities are only fair at this time due to mostly frozen-over winter habitat, occasional inclement weather conditions and generally low numbers of wintering birds.
The Schoolhouse Lake Wildlife Viewing blind provides an excellent opportunity to see a wide variety of waterbirds. Hunting is not permitted in this area and viewing access is confined to the blind only.
Winter conditions are in full force with sometime harsh (frozen-over) weather and habitat along with low bird numbers are occurring now.
Posted refuges are closed to viewing access at this time.
Wildlife Area Parking permits are required for all users of Summer Lake Wildlife Area. The cost is $10.00 daily or $30.00 annually and permits are valid on all ODFW Wildlife Areas. Find out . 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.
Motor vehicle access on the Wildlife Viewing Loop and major dike roads (Bullgate and Windbreak) and Work Road are closed to motor vehicle access for the remainder of the year.
A small number of fall migrants remain, but most have already moved south to wintering areas in California, especially over the past week when harsh winter conditions arrived to the area. Over 95 percent of the area’s wetlands have frozen over.
A small number of wintering western Canada geese will remain widely distributed across the wildlife area. Nearly all greater white-fronted geese have departed to wintering areas in California but visitor might see a few stragglers. Lesser snow geese have largely departed too, except for a few small flocks.
We’re probably approaching winter swan population levels now, many appeared to have migrated south over the past week. Still, viewers can expect to find 1,000-2,000 wintering swans, including several hundred trumpeters.
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
Very few shorebirds remain and diversity is sparse. Visitors may see a very small number wintering killdeer and Wilson’s snipe at this time and rarely a few other hardy species.
A few American bittern, black-crowned night-herons and great blue herons are around but in low numbers.
American coots numbers have declined dramatically with most departing recently to wintering areas to the south. Sometimes the occasional wintering Virginia rail and sora can be found.
Very few grebes around this time of the year when frozen conditions occur, but sometimes hardy individuals of four species (Clark’s, eared, pied-billed and western) can be found. Look for them in large open bodies of water such as Ana Reservoir, North Bullgate Refuge and North Levee Impoundment.
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 are increasing, many will spend the winter here. Bald and golden eagles are also around on a regular basis, since both species frequently hunt the waterbirds staging in good 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 are beginning to call at night on a regular basis. Common-barn owls are roosting in buildings at Headquarters and sometimes call at night. Look for short-eared owls in early morning or evening hours.
Upland game birds
Visitor sometimes see California quail and ring-necked pheasants at Headquarters and north end upland areas. Quail are forming large coveys especially around agricultural fields and old homestead areas.
Songbirds and other passerines
Eurasian collared doves remain very numerous at Headquarters Complex. Mourning doves have largely departed for warmer climes, but a few may still be in the area.
Nearly all swallows have left the area, although late migrants, especially barn swallows, may still be around.
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 sapsuckers, downy and hairy, recently.
Look for wintering sparrows such as golden-crowned and white-crowned at the Headquarters feeder along with American and lesser goldfinches and dark-eyed juncos.
Visitors will find fair 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. They might also see migrant and wintering sparrows along dikes and roads and at Headquarters in increasing numbers.
Red-winged blackbird numbers have declined dramatically, but there are still a few, along with Brewer’s blackbirds, scattered across the wildlife area especially around campgrounds and homestead sites. Western meadowlarks numbers have declined, with just a few individuals around.
Facilities and Access
The 33rd Annual Summer Lake Christmas Bird Count takes place on Tuesday Dec. 17, 2019. Participation is open to all, regardless of skill level. Counters are to meet at the Wildlife Area Headquarters at 7:30 am. For more information, contact the count compiler, Marty St. Louis at Summer Lake Wildlife Area (541) 943-3152 or by email (email@example.com).
Summer Lake Wildlife Area requires a $10 daily parking permit or a $30 annual parking permit. Find out . 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.
Motor vehicle access on the Wildlife Viewing Loop and major dike roads (Bullgate and Windbreak and Work Road) are now closed for the remainder of the year.
Check out the Schoolhouse Lake Viewing Blind to observe waterbirds in a refuge area where hunting is prohibited. Access is permitted to the blind but the dike road continuing into the refuge is closed to all entry to avoid disturbance to birds in the sanctuary.
All access into posted refuges is prohibited during hunting season except to retrieve lawfully taken wildlife.
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.
Most of the area’s wetland units are frozen over and ice-covered at this time. Most of the area is currently without snow cover. Summer Lake proper is increasing in size at this time and will continue to grow as winter progress.
Most emergent vegetation has lodged-over and turned brown. Visibility into many marsh areas is improving due to recent snow accumulation.
Upland habitat is in fair good condition, but covered with a few inches of snow at this time. Tree and shrubs in plots and orchards have set an abundance of berries and fruit providing bountiful food sources and sheltered areas to many species of wildlife.
Please contact Summer Lake Wildlife Area at (541) 943-3152 or e-mail for additional information.