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Dry refuge paints stark picture

My friend, Claudia, and I have been going to the Klamath Basin for birding in the spring since 2007. We have witnessed over the years a gradual drying out of the area. But even last year, when my sister joined us, we still found plenty of water and birds.

So this year when the three of us ventured there, we were shocked to go to our usual spots and find NO WATER and NO BIRDS!! At the visitor center, where there usually is a lake and creeks and all kinds of water birds, there was NOTHING. Tule Lake itself was practically DRY. Lower Klamath Lake was completely DRY.

We did find some birds in an expanse of water along Stateline, where we stopped to bird while semis thundered past. We found a few more spots with water and birds, but the difference just from last year was STUNNING!

I know the water situation there is complicated with farmers and salmon competing for water with the refuges. And the refuges and birds always come in last. From the time when the wetlands were drained for farming decades ago, the refuges with water for migrating birds have just gotten leftovers.

I keep wondering where would the birds go? When they flew to the Basin as they always have and found so little water, where did they go? Could they make it to wherever?

Such a drastic change in only a year made me realize we don’t have time to keep doing what we keep doing — hoping to just rely on new sources of energy like solar, wind or whatever to prevent disaster and allow us to live on as we always have.

Disaster is here now!

As I read in a recent Audubon magazine, we don’t just need to find new sources of energy, we need to lower our use. If we could consume less, then these stark climatic changes may slow and we would begin to stop a catastrophe that not only threatens our avian friends, but all of life on our increasingly fragile planet.

Rachel O'Neal lives in Talent.