Birding Through the Sacramento Region

October 1, 2011 12:00 AM

Photo Credit: Walt Carnahan – Sierra Foothills Audubon Society

By Linda J. Bottjer

A massive movement occurs over the heads of many Sacramentans: and most know nothing about it.We live under the Great Pacific Flyway. Over 250 species of birds migrate from winter havens in South and Central America en route to summers in Alaska. Other feathered residents live here year-round.

Grab your binoculars and join groups like the Audubon Society or plan your own winged friend encounter at the places listed here.

wood duck Birding Through the Sacramento Region

Photo Credit: Chris Conard Sacramento Audubon Society

Sacramento County
American River Parkway
Carmichael, CA
Daily sunrise to sunset
Parking fee: $5.00 weekdays/$8.00 weekends and summer holiday weekends

The American River Parkway’s 23 miles cuts through Sacramento County with birding opportunities year-round for enthusiasts of all degrees.

Inside the ARP, in Carmichael, the Effie Yeaw Nature Center’s trails wander from woodlands to the river. Seeing Purple Martin and Yellow-billed Magpies is a rare thrill. Swainson’s Hawks are found between March and September.

Periodically the Sacramento Audubon Society chapter holds free weekend activities for children.

placer owl Birding Through the Sacramento Region

Photo Credit: Walt Carnahan – Sierra Foothills Audubon Society

Placer County
Try: Folsom Lake Recreation Area
7806 Folsom-Auburn Rd.
Folsom, CA 95630
(916) 988-0205
Hours: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Price: $10

From desert-like conditions of the Central Valley to the western Sierra Nevada Placer County offers a wide range of birds unlike most other areas in the U.S.

One of the country’s largest concentrations of raptors are found from late Fall to early spring outside of
Lincoln. Brewer Road east of the city attracts them. Freshly harvested rice fields also lure McCowans and Lapland Larkspurs.

The Sierra Nevada Audubon Society advises Blackpoll Warblers abundance in oak trees during autumn. One of the best viewing areas is where Moore Road crosses Auburn Ravine Creek.

76706722 Birding Through the Sacramento RegionSolano County
Lake Solano County Park
8686 Pleasants Valley Road
Winters, CA
(530) 795-2990
Hours: Daily 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and until 6 p.m. weekends
Pricing: Parking fees $5.00

Birds flock to the lake and Putah Creek year-round.

Come early before park activity builds. Golden and bald eagles soar overhead as scrub jays dart along trees looking for food. Listen for acorn and nutgall woodpeckers in trees while egrets and other waterfowl line the shoreline.

European Widgeon are ducks. The male has a distinctive black and white patterned head. During the winter hundreds of them are seen skimming atop the lake’s surface.

71390224 Birding Through the Sacramento RegionSan Joaquin County
Stockton Constructed Wetlands
2500 Navy Drive
Stockton, CA
(209) 937-8852
Hours: Mon to Thurs – 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Friday 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Closed every other Friday, Holidays and Furlough Days

See a vast array of 55 species that live by a former oxidation pool at the Stockton Wastewater Treatment Tertiary Facility year-round or as migrating birds.

To visit the lush constructed wetlands requires a week’s advance reservation.

The reward for the wait is hearing the birdsong from western meadowlarks and finches while viewing herons and egrets strut along the shoreline and cormorants dive for food. Geese and pelican winter here.

73942746 Birding Through the Sacramento RegionNevada County
Try: Bridgeport State Park
17660 Pleasant Valley Road
Penn Valley, CA. 95946
(530) 432-2546
Hours: Daily sunrise to sunset

Come winter and waterfowl rule.

Westbound Grass Valley’s Main Street becomes the Rough and Ready Highway. Look for Bitney Springs Road. The springs provide the water for marshes and ponds where Northern Pintails and others live. Marsh Wrens sing day and night, but are hard to spot.

Near Nevada City Round Mountain is accessed off Rock Creek Road. The birds in this oak forest region include Nashville Warblers and Western Tanagers. At night the blood-curdling screams of a hunting Western Screech Owl can be heard.

harlequin ducks Birding Through the Sacramento Region

Photo Credit: Linda J. Bottjer

Yolo County
Yolo Wildlife Area Exit I-80 westbound at Chiles Rd in Davis turn right, circle under I-80 and drive left up levee.
(530) 757-3780
Hours: Daily sunrise to sunset

Mate seeking male red winged blackbirds herald spring’s arrival while Sandhill Cranes and Tundra Geese are harbingers of the area’s placid winters.

Drive slowly on the roads to see birds in natural surroundings. Trek along wetland trails during the winter and spring months. Walk softly to see dabbling, stiff-tailed and perching ducks in the water. Even the smallest sound sends them flying into the air.

Don’t miss February’s Duck Days. And if you like to get out of the city here are some tips on the best escapes from Sacramento.

Linda Bottjer is a full-time writer who enjoys discovering the wonders of California wildlife. Her work can
be found at