2019-08-17 Klamath Veterans Park

Double-Crested Cormorant - Phalacrocorax auritus
Immature bird catching a meal at Veteran’s Park by the Link River (a.k.a. Klamath River) in Klamath Falls is a *go-to* destination for me when I’m in Southern Oregon.

The story of Veteran’s Park this stay was the midges. Millions of black flying bugs too small to provide much of a meal were hovering low over the waters of the river flowing into Lake Ewauna. All the birds not committed to a fish diet were pursuing these winged morsels. These insects were ⅝” long from head to wingtip, and their antennae were ¾” long. Their bodies were not much bigger than a large mosquito.

Most of the gulls were Ring-Billed, but I found a couple of California gulls here. The gulls ranged in age from hatch year birds to adults. They were either plucking the fallen bugs from the water’s surface, or snatching them from just above. I spent a few hours on Saturday watching and photographing the gulls and other birds feasting on the winged quarry.

There were a couple of distractions. While watching the waters for avian subjects I noticed herons working the far shore. Great Egrets, Black-Crowned Night-Herons, and Green Herons sparred and chased each other from perch to perch. Later I was treated to a little show when a family of River Otters lingered at the river’s edge opposite my position. The group included one parent and three half grown young. The smaller otters must have been paying attention to the lessons of their parents, because I saw one of them bring up a six inch fish and devour it.

American White Pelicans swam by in their stately elegance, but none that I saw had the knobs on their beaks that would indicate a breeding bird. Double-Crested Cormorants were there in the hundreds, but most perched on power lines that crossed the river or on a prominent pine snag overlooking Lake Ewauna. I presumed that most were foraging at night and loafing by day. Some fed on the river’s bounty by day.

These cormorants were shy. Even as I was sitting at the water’s edge in my Samurai, I could tell as they surfaced in front of me, they were not sure if they should go or stay. I watched them as they’d surface from a dive, keeping an eye on me while drifting away. The fishing seemed good in the waters in front of me. They’d pop up from the dive with a small fish and swallow it within a few seconds. It was tricky to capture the bird with its prey and it required anticipation of where they might surface. Not all dives resulted in dinner, but I got lucky snapping a closeup of a young cormorant with a fish.

I stayed long past the good morning sunlight and I left the park to explore a location south of town called the Klamath Wildlife Area. There wasn’t much bird activity there, but I’m sure in a month or so, when the southern migration begins in earnest, things here will liven up. While I found the location a good place for the birds, it did not offer the photographer much access to capture images. All the views I saw were distant or blinded by dense cattail stands.

I booked a room in the early afternoon and went to work on the images I captured in the morning. I found during the first round of image culling I didn’t get as many shots of the gulls snatching bugs from the air. I hadn’t yet explored the rest of the Klamath Basin, so Sunday morning I booked the room for another night and I headed back to Veteran’s Park to try on capturing that behaviour.

But that story will have to wait for the next installment of my 2019 Klamath adventure.

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