Posts Tagged ‘Trumpeter Swans’

winter ridge oregonSummer Lake, Oregon, has magic on the wing. All four of us feel it, winding through the Wildlife Area at the north end of the lake. It’s the sense of wonder that comes with being this close to hundreds of wild birds as they stop here on their long trip north. Binoculars in hand, driving over 8 miles of dikes, John and I and our friends John and Susan search the water and clusters of grasses and reeds, looking for the flash of a wing.

“Two Sandhill Cranes! Over there, in the tall grass.” There they are,sandhill cranes huge birds with red hats and fluffy tail feathers. Suddenly one hops into the air and spreads his wings wide, an 80-inch wingspan. He does it again, and again, while the other watches. We’re witnessing a mating dance, and it’s an amazing spectacle. The female doesn’t seem as impressed as we are. She turns and pecks at the grass, ignoring him. Maybe she’s being coy. Eventually the two of them amble away from the gawkers and we continue along the gravel dike road, eyes peeled.

There are 18,000 acres of open water, marsh and meadow in the northwest corner of Oregon’s Great Basin drainage, 100 miles southeast of Bend. Summer Lake Wildlife Area was established in 1944, the first wetland wildlife area in Oregon, at the foot of snow-dusted Winter Ridge. Some 280 bird species have been spotted, along with 40 types of animals, from marmots and squirrels to weasels and bobcats.

snow geese“Snow geese!” Heads swivel, binocs adjust.  A flock of the big white geese with black wingtips rises from a pond and settles again. Further on, we see dozens more. Also Great Egrets, Blue-winged Teals, Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and Barn Swallows. Gorgeous white pelicans, mallards, cute little black coots with white bills, seagulls–a long way from the sea–and another thrill, Trumpeter Swans. Bird song everywhere, and more geese, white against the gray, cloudy sky.

Finally we head across the road to The Lodge at Summer Lake. lodge at summer lakeThis community gathering place offers a little of everything–motel-style rooms (quite comfortable), cabins, a restaurant, and a gift shop. The people are friendly and the food is hearty, country-style, and excellent, all made from scratch: homemade soups, salads, tender filet mignon, hamburgers, and herbed chicken that comes with chunky mashed potatoes and a pool of melted butter. Desserts include Annie Oakley Peach Pie, Billy the Kid Fudge Brownie Sundae, and Wyatt Earp Apple Pie. I can vouch for the peach pie; it’s flaky, fruity and delicious. The owners, Jan and Gil Foust and Marie and Gary Brain, know how to take care of their customers.

This area is full of interesting geological formations, caves, petroglyphs and fort rockhot springs.  One is Fort Rock, where we hike around the enormous, curving wall of jagged rock rising from the flat high desert, and ponder the people who lived here when it was an island in a shallow sea. Sandals made of sagebrush, found in a nearby cave, date back more than 9,000 years. And I thought my shoes were old.

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