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Birding in Sierra County

At dusk, bridges in Downieville are likely to produce bats and swallows foraging for food. Kingfishers and osprey also feed in the vicinity. If you’re lucky you can spot river otter by the Downie or North Yuba rivers as they flow through Downieville. The Empire Creek Trail near Downieville passes through large areas of older forests inhabited by pileated woodpeckers, northern goshawks, pine marten, and California spotted owl.

The Sand Pond Interpretive Trail in the Lakes Basin features wheel chair accessible wooden boardwalks that follow fern-lined paths and cross stretches of shallow, clear water. This trail near Sardine Lake Campground is barrier-free and provides viewing opportunities of a wetland that has been enlarged by a family of beavers. The path also allows visitors to view trout and summer mallard broods close up. Bald eagles and osprey fish on the many lakes, and pine martens forage in nearby meadows. Many of the meadows in this area such as Church and Howard meadows provide viewing of songbirds like the willow flycatcher and various types of warblers.

The San Francisco State Sierra Nevada Field Campus is located a short distance east of Bassetts. The Field Campus is dedicated to promoting an understanding and appreciation of geology and the ecological diversity of life through the study of the many Sierra Nevada ecosystems by means of education, research, and applied ecology. They provide a large number of summer classes open to the public spanning flora and fauna. Learn about fungi, birds, drawing, sketching & painting, natural history, ecology and much more. More info on classes»

The Yuba Pass area provides excellent bird-watching in addition to the wildflower viewing opportunities.

The Sierra Valley is home to grouse, chucker, and California mountain quail. The Carman Valley north of Calpine has 30 to 40 acres of vernal habitat during spring and early summer. This area is an excellent place to view nesting waterfowl, including wood ducks and shorebirds. Steel Bridge, located over the headwaters of the Feather River, provides an opportunity to view Canadian geese, great blue heron, sandhill cranes, numerous ducks, and songbirds. This is private property, so please stay on the road.

Jackson Meadows Reservoir entertains broods of Canada geese, mergansers, mallards, and green-winged teal. Several meadows offer good evening views of mule deer and bald eagles visit in the late fall. Kyburz Marsh off Hwy 89, 10 miles north of Truckee, is approximately 200 acres and provides wildlife viewing for waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, numerous species of hawks, osprey, and bald eagles. Several waterfowl nesting islands are located within the area.


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The Great Backyard Bird Count is held in mid-February each year. This annual event takes place world wide and is your chance to help scientists track the health of our bird populations.

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