Central Shasta County – Redding Area
The Sacramento River and associated riparian borders accessible from Park Marina and Sundial Bridge Drives in downtown Redding is a popular destination for birders especially in the winter.
Kutras Lake (by Bob Yutzy and Bill Oliver) – Kutras Lake (a bay of the Sacramento River) is across Park Marina Drive from its intersection with South Street. People feed the gulls (mostly Ring-billed) and Canada Geese in the ample parking area. Use your scope to cover the entire lake, the small-enclosed pond and the tops of the surrounding trees. A Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and Merlin are often on patrol. Up to four species of gulls are commonly seen (Ring-billed, Herring, first-year Glaucous-winged, and California), less common are Western, Thayer’s, and Mew gulls. Ducks, including Common Golden-eye, Lesser and Greater Scaup, Common Merganser, Ruddy, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck and Bufflehead are to be expected. Hooded Mergansers are sometimes seen in the small, enclosed pond. This is the easiest place to find Barrow’s Golden-eye and all four grebes—Pied-billed, Western, Eared, and Horned.
Aqua Golf Driving Range (by Bob Yutzy) – At the next parking lot to the West on Park Marina Drive the driving range staff may check you out. Just let them know you are birding. At the western edge of the parking lot, take the path that goes down to the water and check the quiet bay on your left. Then from the eastern or right edge of the lot, scope the birds on and around the white float barrels for Double-crested Cormorant and interesting gulls. On weekends you can go up on the deck of the adjacent offices overlooking Kutras Lake and look out over the water, especially out towards the main river channel. Green Heron, Redhead, and Canvasback are often seen.
Apartments with Island Pond (by Bob Yutzy and Bill Oliver) – The next stop along Park Marina Drive is a private drive to apartments overlooking a small pond. Park on a gravel area on the right edge of the entrance drive. American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck are almost always present in the winter. Redhead and Canvasback should be looked for as well. You can walk across the drives into the apartment area checking the oaks for wintering Hutton’s Vireo and looking at the water from different angles. Black-crowned Night-herons roosted in the clump of large cane on the far side of the pond until the cane was removed. Some may still be around. Hooded Orioles may be nesting in the palm trees.
Roundhouse Bay at the River Inn (by Bob Yutzy and Bill Oliver) – Another few hundred yards along Park Marina Drive is a larger pond. Scope around the round house in the middle of the pond. Eurasian Wigeon and Hooded Mergansers are possible. Walk down the paved driveway to the water and look around to the right for Green heron and Hooded Merganser. Lincoln’s Sparrow and warblers are often in the brush. Across Park Marina Drive examine the winter flowering eucalyptus trees for hummingbirds, warblers and other passerines.
Turtle Bay and Hwy. 44 Bridge (by Bob Yuzy an Bill Oliver) – Continue West on Park Marina drive and turn right on to the Hwy. 44 overpass on Sundial Bridge Drive. Just over the overpass take the right hand fork and park in the Sundial Bridge parking area. A paved trail to the right of the Sundial Bridge leads to a one to two hour walk along the bend of the Sacramento River. The River and its riparian border can be good for wintering and migrating birds. Immediately behind the Turtle Bay Exploration Park Museum are several somewhat secluded bays that often have Hooded Mergansers and Ring-necked Ducks. Eurasian Wigeon is a possibility. Scope the gravel bar for various gull species and shorebirds and American Pipit. Continue on the trail checking the water areas and cottonwoods for Red-shouldered Hawk, the resident Bald Eagles, Accipiters, warblers, woodpeckers, and the live oaks for Hutton’s Vireo.
At end of this trail turn left onto the pedestrian walkway along the North side of the Hwy. 44 bridge across the Sacramento River. The long-time, resident Bald Eagles nest in the adjacent cottonwoods. The ponds along the North side have become, together with Kutras Lake, the premier water bird viewing areas in Redding. A wide variety of wintering ducks and Wilson’s Snipe can be seen in good light from an elevated position and at close range. The River is wide here with wooded islands and gravel bars. A scope often reveals all five grebe species, Red-breasted Merganser, Common and Pacific Loons, Peregrine Falcon, and heron species. All three species of scoters (rare inland) have been seen here.
Posse Grounds – Continue along Sundial Bridge Drive to the parking area on the river North of the Redding Civic Auditorium. Check the River for Herring Gulls, water birds and American Pipits. Check the brush along the River from here all the way to the stables for land birds. At the stable area look for Brown-headed Cowbird, Lark Sparrow, and other passerines.
Turtle Bay East (by Bob Yutzy and Bill Oliver) – This city property is across the Sacramento River from Kutras Lake and extends both North and South from the East end of the Hwy. 44 Bridge. Take Bechelli Lane North off Cypress Avenue and continue down the hill to a parking area. Turtle Bay East is being developed for outdoor enjoyment by removing invasive, exotic vegetation and planting native trees and shrubs including pollinator gardens to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Walking trails border the River and offer some of the same birds as across the River but from a different angle. Follow the trail under the highway bridge to get secluded views of the many deep water birds and gulls. Common and Barrow’s Goldeneye and Glaucous-winged and Herring gulls can be seen close up.
Turtle Bay Exploration Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens (by Bob Yutzy and Bill Oliver) – Cross the Sundial Bridge to the North side of the Sacramento River and turn right over the Sulpher Creek bridge and take the loop around a natural area that includes much open land, oak woodland, river views, and streamside riparian vegetation. Species to look for along the River include Barrow’s Goldeneye, mergansers, herons and Spotted Sandpipers; in the uplands Spotted and California Towhees, sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and other passerines.
Turning left after crossing the Sundial Bridge leads to the Botanical Gardens. Here a wide variety of songbirds and hummingbirds are attracted to the wide variety of blooming and fruiting plants.
Sacramento River Trail – This 6½-mile paved trail follows the Sacramento River beginning at a large parking area at the South end of the Diestelhorst Bridge on North Court Street. Walk West on the Sounth side of the Sacramento River, cross over the River on a pedestrian bridge and follow along the North side of the River through Lake Redding and Caldwell Parks to the Sundial Bridge. Expect to see numerous woodland and riparian species. Local birders have recorded more than 120 species on walks along this trail.
Redding Memorial Cemetery – From North Market Street in downtown Redding turn East on Trinity Street to its end at Continental Street. The cemetery on the left is a good stop for migratory land birds and wintering species. Drive the perimeter from either side. Open areas are best for Western Bluebird and sparrows. Examine the conifers for Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, and occasional Townsend’s Warbler. Look down on the River for goldeneyes, Merlin, Accipiters, Osprey and Bald Eagle.
Millville Plains – Take Hwy. 44 East to Millville Plains Road just South of Millville. This treeless plain favors Horned Lark, Say’s Phoebe, Mountain Bluebird, Western Meadowlark, Prairie Falcon, Ferruginous and Rough-legged Hawks in winter. Golden Eagle is a possibility. At the southern end turn left on Dersch Road and scan the brush-covered hills for Greater Roadrunner. A Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk has spent recent winters in a dead oak further along Dersch Road. Just beyond turn left on to Leopard Drive. This very rough dirt road accesses the Southeast portion of the plains where Lapland Longspurs have been seen in occasional winters. Flocks of Savannah Sparrows and Western Meadowlarks are a near certainty.
Lema Ranch – Drive East from Redding on Hwy. 44 to Shasta View Drive. Turn North to Hemingway Drive and take an immediate left to the Lema Ranch parking lot. Lema Ranch, an oasis of open space in Redding, is excellent year-around birding. The ponds, orchards, and fields of the 200-acre headquarters for the McConnell Foundation are accessed by 4 miles of paved trails augmented by fine public restrooms.. On a 2-3 hour walk look for Common Gallenules, Marsh Wrens, Sora, Virginia Rail, Great-tailed Grackles, and Lark Sparrows. A checklist of 125 species is available.
Shasta College Campus – The campus of Shasta Community College is 5 miles east of Redding on Hwy. 299East. It offers a rich and varied habitat and is a regular site for local bird walks. The following 3- to 4-hour tour includes all the best habitats. Begin at the North Parking Lot and walk towards the Cafeteria Building, thence southeast towards the Performing Arts Center. Just before reaching the Performing Arts Center is a small pond and a group of willows that is usually good for birds. Proceed northwest between the Performing Arts Center and a classroom building to the East Parking Lot and the road bordering agricultural fields. Proceed north along this road keeping to the left towards the sewer ponds. On the left is a large field where Yellow-billed Magpies usually cavort. Opposite the sewer ponds a large group of oaks should be checked for birds. The sewer ponds often have an assortment of ducks and shore birds.
Stillwater Creek is nearby. The creek and its riparian woodland should be checked carefully, both south and north, as it is rich habitat for Brown Towhees, Lewis’s Woodpeckers, Accipiters and Buteos . Continue north along the road and when the road starts to turn west a large pond on the left should be checked for dabbling ducks. At the far end of the pond turn left (south). The road passes through a wooded area with small openings where Lark Sparrows are often seen. Return to the North Parking Lot by continuing along the road.
Whiskeytown Lake (by Bob Yutzy) – Highway 299 West towards Eureka. Stop at the visitor’s center turning left at the top of the hill for rest rooms and a small natural history shop. Scope the lake from the parking area looking for loons, geese flocks, Bald Eagles, and gulls. Continue on to Brandy Creek boat launch area. Stop at each pullout (bear right at the spillway/dam), looking for loons, gulls, ducks/mergansers and geese in winter and migration. Yellow-billed Loon was found from these pullouts. Turn right into the Brandy Creek boat launch area looking for Hooded Mergansers in the quiet fingers of the lake areas, then drive to the edge near the boat launch area and scope for water birds and Eagles. Look for Common and Pacific Loons, Bald Eagle, Accipiters, phalaropes and other water birds. Great-tailed Grackle, Laysan Albatross, Red-necked Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser have all been seen here at Brandy Creek. In summer proceed on 299 West to the Tower House and bird for Spotted Sandpiper, Yellow-breasted Chat, Rough-winged Swallow, Wilson’s and Black-throated Gray Warblers.
Whiskeytown Lake (by Phil Aldrich) – Easily accessible from Redding, you’ll find good birding and good scenery all year as the changing seasons offer something new every time you visit. In spring and summer, expect to see Bullock’s Orioles, warblers, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, and American Dippers carrying out nesting activities in the Tower House historical district. You will also hear Yellow-breasted Chat in that area and perhaps see one. Both Osprey and Bald Eagle nest in the park. The lake itself hosts numerous water bird species in fall and winter, including occasional rarities such as Red-necked Grebe and unusual gulls.
French Gulch County Park – Beyond Whiskeytown on 299 west, take Trinity Mountain Rd. and the park is on your right. This is a good place for breeding Yellow-breasted Chat, Dipper, Wilson’s and Yellow Warbler, Tree and Violet-green Swallows, and other common and uncommon breeding birds. Continue birding along the stream and road edge along the way for a few miles. To find Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Mountain Quail, Wrentit, California Thrasher, Orange-crowned and Black-throated Gray Warblers, Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting and other hillside breeders take Highland Ridge Road (the narrow dirt road to the left heading steeply up the mountain for several miles).
Shasta Lake and Harbors – Best birds are breeding Purple Martin and most swallows. Long-tailed Jaegar was found in fall 2003 near Shasta Dam. Look for gulls, loons and other water birds. Too often there are few birds on the lake.
Gilman Road – Off Highway I-5 North or East to the McCloud Bridge: This is a fairly long drive. From the crest of the hill down for several miles is good mountain owl habitat. Pygmy, Screech, Saw-whet, Spotted and Great Horned Owl have all been heard here at night or predawn. Breeding bird counts along this route get Purple Finch, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Western tanager, House Wren, Warbling Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat; Black-throated Gray, Orange-crowned, and Wilson’s Warbler, Black and Vaux’s Swifts, Bald Eagle. Eastern Kingbird was found on a breeding bird route at Ellery Campground entrance many years ago. On the far side of McCloud Bridge after the road has turned to gravel up in the large oaks and pines have been repeated sightings of Chestnut-backed Chickadee over the years. Farther on up in a few wet canyons in the pines and Madrone trees are breeding Winter Wrens and Pacific Slope Flycatchers further along the creek going down the other side. Past the second crossing of the creek, many miles in, have been breeding Calliope Hummingbird, Townsend’s Solitaire; Hermit, Nashville and Yellow-rumped Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Northern Goshawk.
Palisades Drive – Hilltop Dr. over I-5, on the west side, turn south on Palisades Dr. go to the end and park. Walk out the wet field to the cliff edge and scope below for overhead views of Barrow’s Goldeneye, White-Winged Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck, Glaucous-winged, Herring, Thayer’s and Western Gull, Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle. These same birds can more easily be seen from vacant lots at the bottom of Riverbend Rd. just to the west off Hilltop Dr. but access may be limited here in the future.
Mary Lake – Located just west of Redding, the nearest major intersection is Buenaventura Blvd. and Placer St. Go a short distance west on Placer St., then turn north onto Mary Lake Drive. You’ll find plenty of lakefront parking and a paved, but uncrowded walking trail around the lake.
Northeast County – Fall River and McArthur Area
Rat Farm Road – 299 East, in the town of McArthur turn left on Main St., just east of the Fairgrounds. A high clearance vehicle is needed at times. Follow the rough dirt road through the gate going behind the fairgrounds. At the intersection with a fairly straight road (McArthur Swamp Rd.), take the road to the right going over the channel. Briefly check the channel out for Yellow-rumped Warblers or Teal. As soon as you cross the waterway note on your right there is a small sagebrush area back in the corner along the channel. This is where Brewer’s Sparrow was first found breeding and where one of the first county Northern Shrikes was found. Brewer’s Sparrows have only been found here a few times. As you drive out the road keep your eye out for Ferruginous, Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks, Prairie & Peregrine Falcons, Merlin and Golden Eagle, especially on the telephone/power lines and fence posts on you right. You might find Swainson’s Hawk in migration if you have the timing just right. Short-eared Owl has been seen many times on the left in the fields. You will often see wintering Horned Lark flocks (and they breed here too), check out the flocks for Lapland Longspur, found here almost annually. Park at the boat launch and restroom area. Sometimes this is a good area for sparrows and the first county Harris’ Sparrow was found here. Search the waterways and marsh areas. Look for Northern Shrike, Clark’s and Red-necked Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Osprey and Bald Eagle. This is also a good place to find White-faced Ibis. Blue-winged Teal and Long-billed Curlew have been found many times in June and probably breed here. At the boat launch area and the roadway gate on the left, walk out the lava rock road, checking the waterway and the brush down on your left. Swamp Sparrow has been found here in winter. Yellow-headed Blackbirds breed here in the summer. After you pass a small inlet, about a quarter mile further or so you will see the trail curve back to the left and there are major dike repairs. In small numbers Black Terns and Wilson’s Phalaropes breed here, especially if the dam has some notable leaking.
McArthur Swamp Road – Follow the directions above to Rat Farm Road but go straight or bear left just prior to the water crossing and gate. A high clearance vehicle is definitely needed for this route! Search for wintering Lesser Yellowlegs and other shorebirds in the small channel on your right. Also look for Burrowing Owl, Short-eared Owl and Lapland Longspurs.
Lee Road – Off 299 East, past the town of McArthur, turn left on Lee Road. As soon as you turn look and listen for Pygmy Nuthatch in the big pines. Continue on Lee Road checking the roadside brush for sparrows. Burrowing Owl has been seen here. Look on the power lines, fences and in the fields for Rough-legged and Ferruginous Hawks, Prairie Falcon, Merlin, Horned Larks and Longspurs. A Lawrence’s Goldfinch was found in winter one year. At the intersection with Pittville Toten Road turn right and check the barns and fields out for Harris’ Sparrow and other sparrows which have been found here. Back on Lee Road, at the end at Bar D Bar Ranch (friendly to birder people) look for Northern Goshawk, Townsend’s Solitaire, Barn Owl, Porcupine, Tundra Swan and shorebirds and water birds in the ponds and fields.
Fall River Mills Town & Fall River Lake – Note the Bank Swallow colony in the town of Fall River Mills just east of the river crossing across from the service station. Just west of the river crossing take the side street to the right past the ball park and continue beyond all the houses and go into Fall River Lake. More Bank Swallows nest here. Across the lake Vesper’s Sparrows nest and you can sometimes see Black-billed Magpie. In winter and migration look for loons, Bald Eagle, Western and Clark’s Grebe, Evening Grosbeak, Townsend’s Solitaire, Mountain Chickadee, Purple Finch and sparrow flocks.
Glenburn Church – East of McArthur Road: Check the rice fields and fallow fields. Go straight past the Glenburn Church and check the rice fields on the left. Look for Avocet, Stilt and other shorebirds, Tri-colored and Yellow-headed Blackbird. On the right in the fallow fields check for Lapland Longspurs. Black-billed Magpies are sometimes around the ranches. A few pairs of Sandhill Cranes nest in the central Fall River/McArthur area centering around Glenburn church. At the church in the lone tiny pine tree in front Screech Owl was found on one Christmas Count. Harris’ Sparrow has been found here and at the abandoned house across the street many times in winter.
Island Road Area – Horr Road, Osprey Road and Creighton Road: North on McArthur Rd. (A19) from the Glenburn Church, turn right on Island Rd. Look for sparrows along the brushy roadsides and Rough-legged Hawk. At the first creek crossing area look for White-tailed Kite, Eurasian Wigeon, sparrows in the tall reeds and Northern Shrike. A Harlan’s Hawk was in this area for several years. Check the ranch areas and fields prior to Horr Road looking for geese, hawks and eagles. Turn right on Horr Rd. Check for sparrows, hawks and falcons, Northern Shrike, and near the end of the road look for Lapland & Chestnut Collared Longspurs with Horned Larks in the field.
Thousand Springs Road – On McArthur Rd. heading to Dana, turn right on Thousand Springs Rd. toward Timbered Crater. Look for sparrows and hawks. On your left will be a somewhat hidden view of Spring Creek, look for water birds. Tufted Duck has been found here several years. Continue along the creek and cross the bridge. Stop here and check the waterways and brush. Standing on your highest ground on the right, look off to the right and scope the waterway across the cow pasture into the Spring Creek Ranch area. Hooded Merganser, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal and Black-crowned Night Heron can be found here in winter. Black and Vaux’s Swifts, swallows and various warblers have been found here. Continue on to the next water crossing just prior to the corral and park here. Look for Pygmy Nuthatch, Townsend’s Solitaire, Purple Finch, Chipping Sparrow and Black-billed Magpie. If the corral gate is open, walk to the back of the corral and check the small pond for flycatchers, sparrows, riparian birds and mud ducks. Continue back on the road toward Timbered Crater looking for Black-billed Magpie, Bald and Golden Eagles. When the road opens up from the pines there is a tiny/small fenced impoundment area on the left. Park just beyond here and search the right side for Rock Wren, Northern Shrike and Chipping Sparrow. This is the site of one or two pairs of breeding Black-throated Sparrows in most years. Also Brewer’s Sparrows breed here. A Broad-tailed Hummingbird was in this area in migration. For a short distance you can keep looking for rocky brush birds along the road. Further on Timbered Crater is very near the county line and can have mountain woodpeckers and birds, though it is often not very birdy.
Dee Knoch & Jim Day Road – Intersection: The best place in the county for breeding Lawrence’s Goldfinch. The only county record of breeding Cedar Waxwing was here. Red Crossbills have been seen and heard here. Look for Purple Finch, Downy Woodpecker, House Wren, Western Bluebird, Chipping and other sparrows. During migration, Broad-tailed Hummingbird has been seen at the feeders around the first few houses on Jim Day Rd. Walk from the mobile homes on one side to the far corner of the fenced impoundment to the right angle turn. On the road back heading to the town of McArthur, look for breeding Wilson’s Snipe and Willet in the wet fields, and also Horned Lark. At the bridge crossing stop and bird for Northern Oriole, Lazuli Bunting, Yellow and Wilson’s Warbler; Cliff, Violet-green, Barn and Tree Swallows; American and Lesser Goldfinches, Green Heron, House Wren and Black-headed Grosbeak.
Lake Britton – Off Highway 89. Although difficult to see, Purple Martins breed here. They nest in the top of two dead tree tops on the northwest side of the lake, to the right and up above the parking area. There is a rough trail leading the ½ mile or so up to the trees. Follow the edge of the lake while going up the mountain side. Also look around the lake for House Wren, Bald Eagle, swallows, swifts, brush birds and Purple Martins.
Burney Falls Park – Off Highway 89, elevation is 3,000 feet. The park is within the Cascade Range and Modoc Plateau natural region. Burney Creek runs through the park as do five miles of forested hiking trails. Varied habitat and a large lake offer a variety of good birding. Black Swifts nest here. Stand at the lower viewpoint close to the falls and watch upward. The Black Swifts generally arrive by the first week in May and are gone by the first freeze of autumn. Outside the park on the highway one can see both Black and Vaux’s Swifts above the treetops. Hermit, Black-throated Gray, McGillivray’s, Wilson’s, Nashville, Yellow-rumped and Yellow Warblers can all be found here. Also look for breeding Red-breasted Sapsucker, Western Tanager, Cassin’s Vireo, Western Wood Peewee and Evening Grosbeak. Walk the main Falls trail on each side and bird the campground loops. Drive the park roads looking for mountain breeders, and especially, woodpeckers. Birding can also be fairly good around the boat launch and swimming area.
Hat Creek Roadside Marsh – Going north on highway 89 & 44, prior to Old Station, about 1 mile east past the entrance to Big Pine Campground, just past the intersection on the left with Forest Service Road 34N78 is a small pullout on the right by some willows. Look for Dipper; Wilson’s, Yellow and McGillivray’s Warblers; Tree and Violet-green Swallows, Western Wood Peewee, swifts, woodpeckers, Evening Grosbeak and Brewer’s Blackbirds. A White-throated Sparrow was found here in migration.
Cassel Pond & Baum Lake – Off Highway 89 continue past the tiny town on Cassel on Fall River Road to the small pond on your left. Look for Lewis’s Woodpecker, Wilson’s Warbler, House Wren, and in winter Eurasian Wigeon and other ducks. Going back to the town and post office, turn right just past the river crossing into the fishing, camping and parking area. Continue past the end of the camping area taking the back road to Baum Lake. At Baum Lake take an immediate right and go across the narrow bridge and park. Bird here looking for Black-crowned Night Heron, Dipper, Wilson’s Warbler and water birds. Drive back to the Baum Lake parking area birding the pond on your left for rails and marsh birds and the waterway on your right. The large grove of trees on your right have had flycatchers in migration and Red-naped Sapsucker. Look for Osprey, Bald Eagle, ducks and geese, snipe, other shorebirds, swallows and blackbirds. Look for Lewis’s Woodpecker around any of the roads to and from Cassel and Baum Lake.
Rising River Marsh – On the southern road to Cassel: Go north on 89 prior to the intersection with 299, take Cassel Road going east. Bird the ranches and edges of forest and field. At the river crossing park and bird the marsh and riparian area. Look for Night Herons, Wilson’s and Yellow Warblers, blackbirds, woodpeckers, swallows sparrows and Marsh Wren. Broad-tailed Hummingbird and Evening Grosbeak have been seen here. Continue on to Cassel Pond and Baum Lake.
North Shasta County
Squaw Valley Road – North of Dunsmuir on I-5 take the McCloud highway 89 exit, at the bottom of the hill take Squaw Valley Road (Highway 11). In breeding season, stop at the small marsh on both sides of the road (in Siskiyou County) listening for Willow Flycatcher so you can get its song when you check for it later at the beginning of Squaw Valley Road. Bird from the beginning of Squaw Valley Road for five miles or so. This is the only known site for breeding Willow Flycatcher and Swainson’s Thrush in the county. Look and listen for the Swainson’s Thrush in the extensive medium height marshes on the right. Nashville, Hermit, Black-throated Gray, Yellow and McGillivray’s Warbler are all along the road. Also look for Red-breasted Sapsucker, Lazuli Bunting, Hermit Thrush, Western Tanager, Cedar Waxwing, Golden Eagle and Peregrine Falcon.
Castle Crags Area – I-5 at Castella. Bird from the beginning of the road to the Castle Crags State Park entrance. The Park is good for Mountain Quail, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Western Wood Peewee, Warbling Vireo and other riparian, coniferous forest and brush birds. Go back and take Castle Creek Road further in. Check the stream for Dipper, Spotted Sandpiper and Common Merganser, and the stream side areas for Yellow, McGillivray’s and Wilson’s Warbler, Warbling Vireo. In the forest check for Cassin’s Vireo, Black-throated Gray, Hermit and Audubon’s Warbler. On the steep hillsides as you climb, note the fantastic views of Castle Crags (worth the trip any time of the year) look for Pileated Woodpecker, mountain warblers, Dusky and Hammond’s Flycatchers, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Goshawk. At the marsh just over the top of the mountain, look for breeding Lincoln’s Sparrow, Cassin’s and Purple Finch; Hermit, Yellow-rumped, Wilson’s Warbler; White-headed Woodpecker and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Go a few miles past the marsh at the top or possibly to the first bridge on the creek (for breeding Dipper) before turning around and heading back.
Lassen Volcanic National Park – Highway 44 East of Redding Lassen Park area boasts 150 miles of trails, many pull-over parking areas, and can offer birders a selection of habitat not available at lower elevations. At Manzanita Lake take the trail around the lake and bird the campground areas. Look for Dipper; Hermit, Audubon’s, Yellow, McGillivray’s, Nashville, and Wilson’s Warblers; Vaux’s and Black Swifts, Tree and Violet-green Swallows, Townsend’s Solitaire; Red-breasted Sapsucker; Black-backed, White-headed, Hairy and Downy Woodpecker. Reflection Lake is an historical spot for breeding Black-backed Woodpecker. Also look for breeding Bufflehead and Red-breasted sapsucker. At Crags Campground look for Williamson’s and Red-breasted Sapsucker, Pileated Woodpecker. At Hat Creek Lake take the trail by the lake and look for Lincoln’s and Chipping Sparrow, McGillivray’s Warbler, Spotted Sandpiper and Dusky Flycatcher. At Summit Lake Campgrounds and nature trail, spend some time looking for Williamson’s Sapsucker (best place in the county), Black-backed Woodpecker and other mountain breeders. At Bumpass Hell parking area look for Calliope Hummingbird and Blue Grouse. At Mount Lassen Peak look for Clark’s Nutcracker, Northern Goshawk and migrating hawks. Hiking the lengthy and steep trail to the mountain top may get you breeding Gray-crowned Rosy Finch over the west edge around the snow piles, as this is the only regular site in the county. At an inclement weather change, Rosy Finches were seen in the parking area.
Shingletown – Take highway 44 East of Redding, on the way to Lassen Park. Around the housing developments look for Chestnut-backed Chickadees (the best area in the county), Mountain Chickadees, Purple Finch, and Chipping Sparrow. Sometimes Lincoln’s Sparrow can be found singing in the marshy woodlands around here. Pileated Woodpecker is pretty regular around the whole area.
Lake McCumber – Take highway 44 East of Redding on the way to Lassen Park. This is a good birding area almost anytime of the year. Look for Pileated Woodpecker, Dusky Flycatcher, swallows; Wilson’s, Hermit, and Nashville Warblers; Chipping Sparrow, House Wren, Bald Eagle, Western Bluebird, Purple Finch, Dipper, Spotted Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, Wilson’s Snipe, Wood Duck, migrant shorebirds, Western Tanager, Western Bluebird, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Mountain Chickadee and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Drive the road around the left side of the lake birding where you can.
Butte Lake – Out of Old Station take highway 44 toward Susanville. Take road 32N21 to Butte Lake. This is a fairly long route that goes back into Shasta County from Lassen County. Look for Mountain Bluebird, Black-backed Woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Hermit Warbler, Hammond’s Flycatcher and other high mountain breeders.
Southwest Shasta County
Igo, Ono and Platina – Take Placer Road (A16) out of Redding. Bird the dry river crossings all along the route. Look for Golden Eagle and Lawrence’s Goldfinch. Look for oak woodland birds, including Blue-gray Gnatcatcher everywhere. At Igo, take Zogg Mine Road past the developed area and at the intersection of another road heading to the right, look for the small colony of Grasshopper Sparrows found breeding in this general area. Look for low or short grass fields with occasional singing perches on mild hillsides. The birds are often seen on the fence lines. Continue on to Platina and check the riparian area for Wilson’s and Yellow Warblers. You can continue down to Beegum birding along the way. All along the route on steep hillsides of chemise, check for Sage Sparrows and brush birds.
South Shasta County
Lone Tree Pond – On Lone Tree Road. Look for Common Moorhen, Sora, Virginia Rail, American Bittern, Yellow-breasted Chat, Marsh Wren, blackbirds, Turkey, Wilson’s Snipe, Eurasian Wigeon, Lincoln’s and other wintering sparrows.
Anderson River Park – Anderson River Park never disappoints – from the resident Wood Ducks that allow close viewing, Acorn Woodpeckers “doing business as usual,” year-round Yellow-billed Magpies, California Thrashers singing in riparian underbrush, and reliable bird activity on and near the river – to many seasonal specialties. Spring brings migrant warblers working their way along the river and Yellow-billed Magpies nesting in the large oaks near the paved parking lot. Summer finds many species nesting in the park including Green Herons, Bewick’s Wrens and other song birds. Fall sees a stream of south-bound migrants including Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers and other fruit-eaters attracted by the abundance of ripe wild grapes. Winter brings ducks and gulls to the river and ponds…perhaps even a wandering Snow Goose. Always be alert for a surprise such as Wilson’s Snipe foraging, American Pipits walking on rocks near the river, Red-shouldered Hawks circling overhead, or a Common Moorhen such as the one that spent a winter on one of the ponds. This park with it varied habitats always gives a good session of birding and often presents unusual and pleasant surprises. Bird List
Battle Creek State Wildlife Area – Directions: From I-5 just south of Anderson take the Deschutes Road (Anderson Factory Stores) exit. Turn East a mile or so on to Balls Ferry Road . Turn right on Balls Ferry Road . Turn left on Ash Creek Road where Balls Ferry Road makes a sharp right turn. Cross the Sacramento River at Balls Ferry and follow Jellys Ferry Road south along the east side of the Sacramento River . The Battle Creek State Wildlife Area straddles Battle Creek and the county line between Shasta and Tehama Counties . The Shasta County portion is more developed. To reach it, take Gover Road towards the Coleman Fish Hatchery and look for a sign, parking area and kiosk on the right. A trail leads to riparian woodlands, fields, marshes and Battle Creek itself. Spectacular runs of salmon in the late fall and winter attract dozens of Turkey Vultures and Bald Eagles. As many as 15 Bald Eagles have been observed in the air at one time. The marsh supports Wood Duck, Sora and Virginia Rails. California Thrashers are found along the edge of the field. On the Tehama County side the Wildlife Area extends both East and West of Jellys Ferry Road. Small parking areas are available on both sides of the road. The area to the West (down stream on Battle Creek ) is mostly a weedy field bordered by riparian woodland. California Thrashers and Phainopeplas have been found at the far end of the field. The East side is oak savanna on a ridge above Battle Creek that affords great views of Bald Eagles in the early and mid winter. Bird List
Reading Island – Take I-5 towards Cottonwood in Southern Shasta County. Take the Gas Point Rd/ Fourth St Exit. From the south on I-5, turn right and head east thru town on Fourth Street. From the north, turn left and head over the freeway. Stay on Fourth Street a couple of miles and it will dead end on Balls Ferry Road. Turn left, and drive a few more miles to Adobe Road, which is on your right. If you get to the turn for Ash Creek Rd (the turn for Coleman Fish Hatchery), you have gone a mile too far. Follow Adobe Rd a few miles to the end. The road dead ends right at the Reading Island BLM park. Typical oak woodland birds are here. Look for wintering House Wren, especially near the end of the trail, past the abandoned restrooms. Also, this trail looks out over the mouth of Cottonwood Creek. Combined with Lonetree pond, Anderson River Park, Coleman Fish Hatchery, Battle Creek Area, it makes a lovely morning birding Southern Shasta County. Maybe the most consistent place in the county for Phainopepla, with several repeated sightings from here. Bird List
Mouth of Cottonwood Creek –
The access trail is located near the entrance to Reading Island on Adobe Road. A small parking area is located across from Hacienda Road. Look for the car gate with the “no trespassing” sign on it. To reach Cottonwood Creek, walk away from the road on the trail between two fences that separate two private pastures.
Directions: From I-5 just south of Anderson take the Deschutes Road (Anderson Factory Stores) exit. Turn East a mile or so on to Balls Ferry Road. Turn right on Balls Ferry Road and follow it to Adobe Road. Take Adobe Road. Follow Adobe Rd a few miles. Just before reaching the end at Reading Island, there is a small unsigned parking area on the right and a long fenced trail between two cattle pastures leading to the Cottonwood Creek State Wildlife Area.
The area is at the mouth of Cottonwood Creek where it enters the Sacramento River. It consists of a broad flood plain and riparian woodlands interspersed with open fields.
Comings and Goings
Where to watch birds and what birds to look for in January & February – by Bob Yutzy
After Christmas Counts have just been completed there are good birds out there waiting to be chased and they’ve already been nailed down to a spot! All you have to do is go to the correct location, have patience and lots of good luck. Our regular wintering birds should all be in and the primary groups to be looking for this winter are ducks and geese, hawks, shrikes and sparrows. The best place for these goodies are Fall River/McArthur, Kutras Lake, Turtle Bay, Turtle Bay East, Whiskeytown Lake, Anderson River Park, Lema Ranch, Reading Island and Lone Tree pond.
You only have a month or two left to visit one of our fantastic local refuges – Sacramento NWR, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area and Tule/Klamath Refuges await your visit. Incredible numbers of waterfowl, especially near dusk and dawn, are a lifetime experience, even for non-birders. And, you won’t believe the sounds you hear, with swans and geese honking by the tens of thousands. Don’t forget, these birds leave the area and start heading North as early as March. If you have the patience, searching through wintering sparrows in the brush lands and at feeders might yield a White-throated, American Tree, or Harris’s Sparrows, especially at locations where they have been seen before like Lema Ranch, just past Bear Creek Bridge and the Shammo Ranch and at the beginning of Rat Farm Road and Horr Road in McArthur and Glenburn. This past fall has already had a good showing of White-throated Sparrows at valley feeders.
A few Red-breasted Mergansers have already returned to the Kutras Lake area. It looks like the fall Surf Scoter at Kutras did not stay with us, but scoters can be quite hard to find. Five Surf Scoters (the most ever in the county!) were seen by Ken Able this fall when they made a brief stop at Fall River Lake. By the way, we are overdue for another White-winged Scoter or a Long-tailed Duck. Don’t forget to search for Red-necked Grebe in open water, as one often winters in the county. Sometimes loons overwinter here, so look first for the commonest one, Common Loon, and then for the rarer Pacific, and maybe even the much rarer Red-throated. Whiskeytown Lake, Kutras and Eastman Lake are our best regular locations.
Be sure to search the Fall River area for flocks of White-fronted and Snow Geese and try to pick out the slightly smaller Ross’s Goose mixed in with them. This can most readily be done by carefully searching the flying geese and looking for Ross’s much shorter neck, somewhat smaller head and smaller body. One of my personal favorite winter sounds is the echoing calls of Tundra Swans. What a delight to hear! Don’t forget we are still looking for a Trumpeter Swan that we can all check out, so keep searching though all the Tundras. Unfortunately, this identification problem is complex and extremely difficult.
Finally, winter means hawk watching, so check out this winter’s crop of hawks and see what you can find. It is especially fun to find dark phase hawks and then try to identify them. A dark phase Rough-legged has already been seen in the Fall River valley this winter. Rough-legged and Ferruginous Hawks, including one or two dark phase birds, are not uncommon in the Fall River area. We are still due for our second Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk so sharpen your skills to ID this one. The Millville Plains area is a closer place to look for hawks if you can’t make it to Fall River. Our local wintering Peregrine Falcon has already put in its appearance around Kutras Lake and along the Sacramento River so keep an eye out for it. A Peregrine sighting is always a joy to behold!
Where to watch birds and what birds to look for in March & April – by Bob Yutzy
This has been a very unpredictable winter. Many winter birds have already started moving North and those first harbingers of spring, Tree Swallows, are already with us. Wintering birds lingering south of us will continue to go through our county in good numbers, we just have to try to figure out where they’ll be.
Good birds that have been seen this winter (and that are probably still out there to be enjoyed) are two Mew Gulls at Kutras Lake, two Townsend’s Warblers at the Redding Cemetery, Ferruginous Hawks at Millville Plains and in Fall River with Rough-legged Hawks, and Lewis’s Woodpeckers in great numbers along Parkville Road. The Leopard Road site above Dersch Road continues to produce Longspurs, this year including one or two Chestnut-collareds with the now expected Laplands. Listen for the rattling call of Laplands and search the larger groups of Horned Larks, especially around the edges, in front and behind the larks. It’s also a good time to look for some of them changing into breeding plumage.
Keep an eye out for Rufous Hummers, Say’s Phoebes, Hooded Orioles and Western Kingbirds, as they are our earliest migrants. The resident Rufous-crowned Sparrows have again been seen at the end of Coleman Road and they are known to breed along the road above there. Late March and early April are the time to search the arid areas for breeders, including Black-throated Sparrows on Spring Creek/Timbered Crater Road in Glenburn, Grasshopper Sparrows on South Fork Road across from Zogg Mine Road in Igo or along Parkville Road past the Bear Creek bridge by the Shammo Ranch. Sage Sparrows are seen and heard past Ono some distance up on the hillsides above Platina Road or up along Highland Ridge Road out of French Gulch. Listen for Flammulated and Spotted Owls in the mid to upper forested areas. Barred Owls from the Northeast have moved into Fender’s Ferry and similar upland forested areas.
Good birding places for the season are Fall River Valley, Lema Ranch, Trinity Mountain, Anderson River Park, Turtle Bay East, Kutras Lake, Millville Plains, McCumber Lake, Reading Island, and Whiskeytown Lake. Remember that Wintu Audubon field trips are a super place to learn our local birds and meet some great people. By the way, March is your last call to visit the local big Refuges of Sacramento and Tule/Klamath for their winter waterfowl spectacle.
Where to watch birds and what birds to look for in May & June – by Bob Yutzy
Have you had the delight of hearing a harbinger of the breeding season yet? Of course, I am talking about the melodious and variable songs of our local breeding birds. May and June are the time of territorial defense and singing, nest building, egg production and fledging of young. Even in April many of our locals are already in and doing their thing. Ash-throated Flycatchers are busy doing their “briidip” calls, sounding something like Western Tanagers in the pine forests. The monotonous “Zuweep” calls of the Hutton’s Vireo echo from the hillsides in many foothill areas. I hope you have heard the ping-pong ball dropping song of our wonderful and secretive Wrentit. Or maybe you have been serenaded by the long variable warbles of the Black-headed Grosbeak, sounding like a Robin that actually knows how to sing (while Robins just seem to practice singing.) One of my favorites sounds is the chack-chack-da-shack and whistling of the Bullock’s Oriole. If you listen carefully you might even hear the whisper-like chatterings of goldfinches all around the valley. The persistent, lightly whistled, long songs of House Finches, sometimes seem to go on and on. The super melodious Mockingbird is already in full voice but have you noticed the double note songs of the Thrasher – that sound a lot like a Mocker.
Northward migration continues for a few species at an accelerated pace through the end of May and mountain breeders will still be coming in through early June. Any patch of vegetation can be a migrant trap in May and early June, good bets are Anderson River Park, Lake McCumber, Parkview Park, the Tower House, Turtle Bay, Lema Ranch, Fall River Lake, Trinity Mountain and, of course, Lassen Park. Our magnificent local national park should be open soon and it offers great mountain birding with little disturbance from others! Western mountain specialty birds located here are Hermit, Nashville, MacGillivray’s, Black-throated Gray and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Western Tanager, Cassin’s and Warbling Vireos, Hermit Thrush, Gray Jay, Common Poorwill, Common Nighthawk, Calliope Hummingbird, Williamson’s Sapsucker, White-headed and Black-backed Woodpeckers, Cassin’s Finch, Hammond’s and Dusky Flycatcher, Fox and Lincoln’s Sparrow and the very striking Green-tailed Towhee. We always hope to spy the “mountain blues” the electric Mountain Bluebird and the Dusky (Blue) Grouse near the highest areas of the park.
The diminutive, short tailed, Calliope Hummingbird, visits lowland feeders prior to moving to their high mountain haunts in late May and June. We need to find new places for Blue Grosbeaks other than the still-closed Redding wastewater treatment ponds. Sometimes they can be found just south of the Knighten Road I-5 exit on the frontage road by the river. Don’t forget to look for the breeding antics of our small population of Great-tailed Grackles at Lema Ranch near the dam and headquarters. Purple Martins can sometimes be found at Lake Britton and are in many seldom visited sections of Shasta Lake. Burney Falls calls to us to look for Black Swifts and the “cigar with wings” or Vaux’s Swift. The park is also a good area to search for mountain breeders.
The Fall River Mills population of Bank Swallows has moved out of town somewhere, but they still are regularly seen in the area, often at Fall River Lake. Stop at the Fall River Vista Point and search the cliff side for the rarely reported pair or two of White-throated Swifts that breed there. Rat Farm Road in McArthur sometimes has a few pairs of Wilson’s Phalarope, Long-billed Curlew, Black Tern, Redhead, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Brewer’s and Vesper Sparrow and possibly Blue-winged Teal.
Yellow-breasted Chats are easily heard in wet lowlands all around the county and they are truly delightful to watch. Swainson’s Hawk is our rarest local hawk, and it breeds somewhere in the McArthur area, but exactly where is not known. Look and listen for breeding Willets, Wilson’s Snipe and the fantastic Sandhill Cranes, which also grace this area in very small numbers. And have you heard the liquid and ethereal Hermit Thrush singing in the darkest mountain forests? What a thrill that is! The beautiful whistled song of the mountain breeding Fox Sparrow belies its somewhat drab plumage.
I encourage you to go out with eyes and ears wide open, and see what’s out there. While the internet is a great resource, the great Ludlow Griscom would tell you that nothing replaces time in the field – by yourself or with others! Please tell your fellow birders of your sightings (or lack of them – that information is also helpful) at Shasta Birders Yahoo Group.
Where to watch birds and what birds to look for in September & October – by Bob Yutzy
September brings us the full swing of the migration of landbirds and shorebirds and this continues through early October. Later in the month of September through early October is the best time to find vagrants. The coast and “islands” of vegetation at inland sites like Honey Lake are usually the best sites. The last wanderings of mountain and basin breeders may still be seen. For example, a Sage Thrasher was just seen.
Later in October we should see our first winter hawks and the bulk of waterfowl. Look for them on the Millville Plains and in the Fall River valley. As usual, Kutras Lake will have early water birds, gulls and possibly a few shorebirds passing through. The best place in the county to find the best birds is Kutras Lake, followed by the Fall River and McArthur area.
The two new rice ponds on Rat Farm Road in McArthur have been quite productive. The county’s first Franklin’s Gull was there near the end of July, and in August there have been record numbers of phalaropes and Baird’s Sandpipers. It is amazing what having just a little mudflat habitat does to bring in the birds. If you are near any mountain areas, be sure to look for migrating hawks and falcons, as September and October are the times they move South, including the oddity here and there.
Birds to look for and places to find them in November & December – by Bob Yutzy
Probably more rare and unusual birds are discovered during these two months of the year than any other months. This is especially true given that Christmas Bird Count scouting and counting occur then. The bottom line here is to search for the unusual bird among the similar common ones and be ready to go when a goody is found that you might want to see.
Where do we look for our best birds this time of year? The best places year after year are Fall River and McArthur, Millville Plains, Whiskeytown Lake, Kutras Lake, Lema Ranch, McCumber Lake and East Turtle Bay. Our hottest new spot is the longspur hangout on top of the bluff at Leopard Lane off Dersch Road. Search for the Horned Lark flocks and then look around the edges of the group and in the furrows of the fields nearby for Lapland and Chestnut-collared Longspurs. November is the best month for Longspurs and numbers taper off as the fall and winter progress.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on your feeders as all the usual winter suspects keep coming in. Some lucky feeder watchers get rewarded with Pygmy Nuthatch, Purple Finch, and rarely, White-throated Sparrow (one has already been at a local feeder), Harris’s Sparrow, Cassin’s Finch or Evening Grosbeak.
The best birds to look for away from your feeders are Red-breasted Merganser, Red-necked Grebe (one is already in at Kutras Lake) Surf and White-winged Scoter, Long Tailed Duck, Tree and Harris’s Sparrow, Northern Shrike, Pacific Loon, Greater Scaup and for the hard core birders â€“ a gull goody or two. White-fronted and Snow Geese are already in the basin country. Snow Geese should always be checked for the rarer Ross’s Goose and the even rarer blue-phase Snow Goose. One of these days we should get a very rare blue-phase Ross’s Goose in the county. Tundra Swans should be searched for the rare and very difficult to ID Trumpeter Swan. Ferruginous and Rough-legged Hawks should be arriving in good numbers any day now, mostly in the Fall River valley, and a few will be on the Millville Plains along with Prairie Falcon and possibly a Golden Eagle. Remember to search through the dark Red-tailed Hawks for the rare dark phase Ferruginous and Rough-legged Hawks as we often get one or two of these.
Again this time of year I will encourage you and your family or friends to visit one of our incredible local wildlife refuges – Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Tule Lake and Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, and Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. These are at their best between November and February. Please do this at least once to appreciate the spectacular area we live in. Seeing thousands, and sometimes millions, of Snow, Ross, Canada, and White-fronted Geese, as well as Tundra Swans, is truly an exhilarating experience. If you can be there near dusk or dawn you will never forget the indelible images and magnificent sounds of these birds.
Please share your sightings (or lack of sightings for rarer birds) with Shasta Birders and, if you can, try to get in on at least one of our local Christmas Bird Counts in Anderson, Red Bluff, Redding or Fall River Mills