Recommended Birding Stops
Traveling either north or south on Highway 97, exit northeast onto South Chiloquin Road (at the Pacific Pride card-lock gas station). About 1/4-mile off the highway, you'll see a blue Klamath County Parks sign on your right. This is the Williamson River Access, and is a popular spot for fishermen during trout season. It's also a good place to check for birds. During migration and summer, the riparian vegetation often holds warblers, sparrows and finches. Yellow Warbler is the most common breeding warbler in these parts. Also, check for roosting or flyby Green Herons. In the fall, the adjacent weedy fields often hold migrant sparrow flocks, while the river itself may feature interesting waterfowl species at any time of the year.
Closer to town on South Chiloquin Road, the weedy and brushy road shoulders can make for a very productive hike. During migration periods, large feeding flocks of sparrows may be present. Chipping and White-crowned Sparrow are the most common, but look for Golden-Crowned, Song, Fox, Lincoln's, Vesper, Savannah, Brewer's and others. Chickadees, nuthatches, creepers, kinglets and warblers are often seen and heard in the pines. Local surprises such as Ash-throated Flycatcher and Hermit Warbler have occurred here.
Just a bit farther north on the same road is Applegate Street. Turn left onto a dirt road just before the power substation. This road borders the south side of fenced-in Spinks Park. Follow Applegate to its end, and you'll reach the perimeter of the Chiloquin Airport. Between South Chiloquin Road and the airport, tall pines mix with open areas. This is another good area for migrant sparrows (I've even seen Black-throated Sparrow here). Check any tapping noises in the trees; almost any of our local woodpecker species may be found here, including White-headed and Lewis'. Both Mountain and Western Bluebirds usually nest nearby. Breeding sparrows include Chipping, Brewer's and Vesper, with the latter two species less common and sometimes heard singing from the open airport and park fields. Most of our finch species may also be found in this stretch, including Red Crossbill in the fall. Surprise birds have included American Pipit and Townsend's Warbler.
Continuing north on South Chiloquin Road, make the sweeping right-hand curve at the Catholic Church. You are now on Chocktoot Street, heading east. You'll pass a bookstore, curio shop, restaurant (The Table) and small market (Clyde's). Park in one of the gravel lots adjacent to the restaurant or market, and get out to do some walking. Just east on Chocktoot is the bridge across the Williamson River. If it's not crowded with swimmers, take a look up and down the river for waterfowl and Green Heron, and investigate the riparian trees for songbirds. If you see or hear a chickadee, check to see whether it's Mountain (more common) or Black-capped (rare in much of the Klamath Basin). Lots of swallows are present during migration and nesting season. Regrettably, Purple Martins don't seem to be here anymore. Just west of the bridge, between Chiloquin Open Door medical clinic and The Table Restaurant, Wasco Avenue heads south. At the end of Wasco (3 blocks south), there is a pullout on the left where you can get an unobstructed view of the Williamson River. In the winter, this is the best place in town for waterfowl, particularly during cold spells when most standing water is frozen. Diving ducks usually dominate, but a few dabblers are often present as well. Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Gadwall and American Wigeon are the usual suspects, but Redhead and Barrow's Goldeneye have also shown up. In the summer, look for Mallard, Wood Duck and Common Merganser (often females with ducklings). Some viewing of the river farther down stream is also possible by walking the adjacent roads. You're in a residential area, so be courteous and respectful of private property.
When you're done in this area, head north on Lalo Street (1 block west of Wasco). Cross Chocktoot, and you'll find that this is now the closest street to the river north of the bridge. More river viewing is possible, and sometimes there are songbird flocks in the brushy areas and conifers.
Continuing east on Chocktoot across the bridge (you may want to just leave your car parked and walk this one), the first cross street is Klamath Avenue. Head north (left) and pish your way through the bushes before reaching the large grain elevator. Especially in migration, the spilled grain may attract multi-species flocks of blackbirds as well as resident California Quail and Mourning Doves. Western Meadowlark and Western Bluebird also hang out here on occasion, and a few Violet-green Swallows are semi-regular in spring. Surprise species have included Northern Shrike, Horned Lark, Common Yellowthroat and Tricolored and Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
Back on Chocktoot Street, continue east over the railroad tracks. If you're walking, take the first dirt road to the right after you cross the tracks. This disturbed area is good for Savannah Sparrow and Western Bluebird during migration. You'll be skirting the back side of the new Chiloquin Community Center (home of the Chiloquin Branch Library and Two Rivers Village Arts) and the Chiloquin Plaza and Post Office. Check the small willow patches and seasonal wetlands near the railroad tracks for sparrows and warblers.
If you drive, continue east on Chocktoot and bear right at the large flag pole. You'll be turning onto First Street in downtown Chiloquin. First Street skirts the front side of the Community Center and plaza, and is home to several store fronts including Kircher's Hardware and the Family Food Center. After you pass the Post Office, turn right onto Second Avenue. Second Avenue leads to the elementary and high schools. Please follow school zone speed laws and be respectful (it may be best to bird this area outside of normal school hours). Probably the best tactic is to continue to the end of Second Avenue and park in the graveled area at the far end of the football field.
This area sits on the bank of the Sprague River. Walk downstream along the river, checking the riparian area as you go. Green Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, Western Wood-Pewee, Bullock's Oriole and Yellow Warbler are just a few of the common breeding species found here. In migration, almost anything can show up (past finds have included Red-naped Sapsucker, American Dipper, Bank Swallow, Horned Lark, American Pipit and White-throated Sparrow). Continuing downstream, you will enter the Chiloquin Mill site. This abandoned "brownfield" is an eyesore but also a prime birding area. Currently, a plan is in place to clean up hazardous waste on the site and possibly to improve riparian habitat and provide an access trail along the river. On the downside, it looks like some of the open areas will be developed for business use. Please obey any closure signs, etc. and use caution when on the site. When access is open, it is possible to walk along the Sprague River all the way to the railroad tracks. Note the Osprey nest platform on the other side of the river. The riparian area is usually productive; swallows (including Northern Rough-winged) and House Wren are often easy to find in season. At other times of the year, migrant sparrows and waterfowl are common. Don't ignore the open areas back from the river, especially those with some vegetation. The willows and seasonal wetlands bordering the sports fields and railroad tracks are some of the best sites for migrant songbirds. Again, use caution, as there is a lot of debris in the area including hidden pieces of rusty metal. Hopefully, we can come out of the cleanup process with a site that works for both nature and humanity.
Upstream, the Sprague River borders the high school grounds. Beyond the high school, there is a short interpretive nature trail constructed by high school students. Dirt roads lead upstream past the former site of the Chiloquin Dam (removed in 2008 to improve fish passage). The interface between coniferous forest and riparian vegetation in this area provides a rich species mix. Hummingbirds, flycatchers, Cassin's and Warbling Vireos, migrant Varied and Hermit Thrushes, warblers including Nashville and MacGillivray's, and Fox Sparrow are some of the "specialties" of this area. Upstream from the dam is a transition forest that includes Douglas-fir and true fir. I have found Pileated Woodpecker here on several occasions. The river here often hosts breeding ducks including Mallard, Wood Duck, and Common and Hooded Mergansers. Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant and American White Pelican often drop in on the flat water behind the dam.
Return to the high school via one of the other dirt roads. You may end your tour of the town at the school, or explore further. Chiloquin Drive and Valley Street border Chiloquin Ridge and have an interesting mix of residential and wild habitat.
My other favorite birding spots near Chiloquin are Wood River Wetland, the Fort Klamath area, Collier State Park and Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. For more information on these sites, see the Klamath Basin Birding Trail home page.