Memoirs of a Bird Watcher – Kayaking On Walker Lake
Walker Lake, Westwood, CA
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By Jan Cox
Mountain Meadows Reservoir, also named Walker Lake, just outside of Westwood, is a playground not only for birds, but for those who love to watch them. Let me tell you about one summer day when we did just that.
The day was pleasantly warm, with the deep blue sky common to the mountains. My friend, Linda, was new to this area. She had never experienced this lake, so it was with great anticipation that we slipped the canoe into the clear water at the boat ramp and silently paddled around the corner to our left. We were primed for adventure.
As we rounded the bend, we looked across a small expanse of water toward an arm of land projecting into the lake. Swimming along the rush-lined bank was a flock of large, white birds. Their bills were long and very thick. They swam smoothly and silently. As we watched, these pelicans took off—not as a flock but two by two as if being given instructions from the tower of an airport. Lifting their large bodies into the air, they joined up and circled overhead in graceful flight.
We paddled closer to where the pelicans had been and then stopped quickly. There on the shore, partially hidden by the reeds stood another large bird, bluish in color with long legs. Well camouflaged, the Great Blue Heron intently watched the water. Then swift as an arrow, it shot its long neck forward into the lake and rose again with a frog dangling from its bill. As we silently watched, the frog was jostled into position and swallowed down the long outstretched neck. We paddled away, leaving the heron to its lunch.
What a day this was turning out to be. We then decided to go across to the south side of the lake hoping to view the eagles which nested in that general area. As we neared the shoreline, we saw what looked like a prehistoric bird with a long incurved bill walking along eating where the water lapped onto the sandy shore. Aware that there was a flock of White-faced Ibises at the lake at this time, I knew that we were seeing this uncommon bird for ourselves. We came as close to it as we could and drifted with the ibis as it continued along the shore, only its feet making a sound as they splashed at the water’s edge.
Just then we looked up to see a large doe on the bank wade out into the water. Perhaps she was curious about us or maybe just washing away some deer flies. Nevertheless, we didn’t wait around to find out and paddled for the boat-ramp, very contented with our day on the lake.
As we returned, a shadow suddenly moved across the canoe and we instinctively looked up. Not only was there a beautiful bald eagle making its way to a nearby tree but this one was followed by another. We watched as they landed in a tall pine and surveyed their surroundings. When we could finally take our eyes off the eagles, my friend said, “I have been alive for fifty some years and this is the first time I have ever seen a bald eagle, let alone two!”
With that, our day on Mountain Meadows Reservoir was complete and would now become a special memory of this beautiful place in Lassen County.
To get to Mountain Meadows Reservoir, take highway 147 between Clear Creek and Westwood. From Clear Creek, follow one of two dirt roads on the right, staying to the left until you reach the dam. A walk across the bridge over the dam is invigorating in itself.