Central Valley Birding Club and Altacal Audubon Society joined up to scour Butte County on this mobile, fast-paced field trip in search of raptors, grebes, waterfowl, and other Butte County birds. Several CVBird members made the trek north to join and Altacal, and we were ecstatic to share our local birding hotspots with our fellow bird-lovers!
With a meet-up time of 10am, the morning started off a little chilly with a strong breeze contributing to the discomfort. Before long the wind picked up quite a bit, but the group was undeterred! Our first destination was the Mendocino Genetic Resource Center located on the outskirts of Chico. We walked the path and found Hermit Thrush, Hutton’s Vireo, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Phainopepla, Red-shouldered Hawk, White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows, Oak Titmouse, Lesser Goldfinch, Western Bluebird, Bushtit, heard a Brown Creeper, Black Phoebe, fly over Cedar Waxwings and Turkey Vulture.
Our second destination was Cottonwood Road between Hwy 99 and Hwy 70. On our way there, we noticed close to 50 Sandhill Cranes on the side of the road. Once on Cottonwood Road, raptors found included American Kestrel, several Red-tailed Hawks, and Turkey Vultures. We were also able to spot a darting Merlin that landed on the ground 100 yards out offering great views through our scopes. Two Burrowing Owls gave us excellent views and photographic opportunities as they perched on the ground in an old abandoned cattle corral.
Also seen were Western Meadowlark, American Pipit, Horned Lark, Red-winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds, Say’s and Black Phoebes, Northern Pintail, and Savannah, White-crowned, and Golden-crowned Sparrows. It was quite the experience!
Moving on, we turned south on Table Mountain Blvd. and headed west on Nelson
Avenue, where we found Western Scrub-Jay, Northern Mockingbird, and a covey of California Quail in the Nelson Avenue Middle School’s athletic field. We stopped at the bridge over the Thermalito Forebay and scoped both sides of the bridge finding three Common Loon, Common Horned Grebe, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Mallard, Canvasback, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, and Ruddy Duck.
As we continued onto the gravel portion of Nelson Avenue, we had a continuous flow of both juvenile and adult Bald Eagles soar over, as well as a Golden Eagle. As we drove down the road we spotted a Prairie Falcon coming straight at us with a full head of speed. The bird crossed the road in front of us and proceeded in an aerial acrobatic maneuver while trying to catch a retreating Western Meadowlark. Alas, the Meadowlark survived but it was a great show and worth the price of admission for many!
At the end of Nelson Ave., we spotted a handful of Tri-colored Blackbirds and a Brown-headed Cowbird in a mixed flock of Red-winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds.
From here, we traveled to the Forebay where we scoped Double-crested Cormorants, Horned and Eared Grebe, and a Clark’s Grebe.
From here many of us travelled to the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. At the parking area we spotted White-faced Ibis, Snow Geese, Cinnamon Teal, Green-winged Teal, 3 male Blue-winged Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, and American Wigeon. On the auto-loop tour, we had Northern Harrier, Ring-billed and Herring Gull, Common Gallinule, American Coot, Ring-necked Duck, Horned and Eared Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Ruddy Duck, Wood Duck, Double-crested Cormorant, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Ross’s Goose and hundreds of Snow Geese and Greater-white fronted Geese. There was also a spotting of an albino deer!
All in all, everyone had a tremendous time! We saw and identified 92 species! It was great to interactive and meet with many old acquaintances and new faces! We will be leading another joint field trip this summer with CVBirds in search of the higher elevation, mountain birds of Butte County!