The photo above, taken from the refuge access road, shows the Lower and Upper Duck Ponds at Modoc National Wildlife Refuge with the Warner Mountains in the background. The photo blind can be seen in the middle right of the photo.

The blind is probably eight feet wide and ten long with a six foot ceiling. It has viewing ports that open on the three sides facing the lower pond and a sliding back door which faces the upper pond. It also comes equipped with a rolling swivel chair (bring your own photographic equipment).

Modoc NWR Photo Blind

I photographed several species on this visit to the refuge so I will be focusing on birds seen from the blind in this post. I will follow up on my next post with imagery from the auto loop and Wigeon Pond.

There is a large snag in front of the blind that gives birds a place to rest and preen and sing. My day in the photo blind began with the early morning song of a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor), which I discovered later on the auto loop are plentiful on the refuge due to a nest box program that they have here.

Tree Swallow

The ponds were awash in Gadwall (Anas strepera), several pairs foraging and flying from one section of this large pond to another.

Gadwall Pair

Of course what body of water would be complete without a few American Coots (Fulica americana). I found this one foraging in the little inlet right next to the hide.

American Coot

There is a refuge staff access road behind the blind partially visible from the west side window. This Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) must have had a nest back there somewhere as it was occasionally vociferously sounding off.


Out on one of the submerged logs near the blind, Western Pond Turtles (Actinemys marmorata) basked in the morning sun. These rare turtles are listed by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as vulnerable (VU).

Western Pond Turtle

Another morning songster decided that the snag was a perfect location to broadcast its message to the refuge’s abundant surrounding wildlife. This Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) could probably be heard for miles (don’t worry, I have created a video montage located at the end of this post so you may enjoy not only the sights of Modoc National Wildlife Refuge but the sounds as well).

Western Meadowlark Singing

You may notice some specs in some of the images on this post. Those specs are actually midges; tiny, non-biting, flies that can be plentiful in marshy areas, loved by insectivores and sometimes creating large clouds. This is what they look like close up.


Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) was involved in some aerial display right in front of the blind. The midges are also much more visible in this photo as I was shooting through the “cloud” in front of the blind.

Ring-billed Gull

A Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) was swimming back and forth between a grassy area to the left of the blind and another on the shore, on the right side of the blind.


There were several Ruddy Ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis) in the distance exhibiting pairing and mating behavior and a pair of Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) that would fly in toward the blind and then look intently, right at me, as if they could see me sitting in the blind.

Lesser Scaup Male

They finally gave in to their curiosity and swam close enough for me to get a decent photo of them, the male above and this female below.

Lesser Scaup Female

The most exciting experience for me on this day however, was when an inquisitive pair of Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors) swam closer and closer toward the blind. The beautiful female shown here…

Blue-winged Teal Female

And the drake below, both swam right past the blind and briefly foraged in the little inlet where the Coot was earlier.

Blue-winged Teal Drake

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