Birdwatching is one of the faster growing outdoor activities on lands administered by the BLM. Many people consider it quite a challenge to be able to identify the different species. California, with more than 450 species of birds, is a wonderful place for this sport.
All that is needed for birdwatching is a pair of binoculars and a guidebook to the different species. Often, birdwatchers make a list of the ones they see on their trips. Many birdwatchers keep a life list, a record of all the different birds they have identified over the years. Among birdwatchers, a life list of over 300 species is considered a great accomplishment.
Birdwatching can be enjoyed anywhere in the Mother Lode Field Office. Most of the Public Land parcels, however, are not unusual, but provide habitat typical of their elevation in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Quality of the different habitats also varies, ranging from nearly pristine to badly damaged. The variety of birds which can be seen increases dramatically with proximity to water. Areas which contain ponds, streams, or portions of rivers are usually better for birds than areas that don't have these features. The presence of oak trees attracts many species. Sites with more than one habitat type are also good places for birds.
Several areas within the Mother Lode Field Office are of special interest to birdwatchers.
The Cosumnes River Preserve is the best birdwatching site we have. The Preserve contains freshwater marshes, agricultural lands and fallow fields, and riverside riparian habitat including a native stand of valley oak. Thousands of ducks, geese, and other migratory birds spend the winter there. The area is especially noted for wintering sand hill cranes. A check list is available.
The Red Hills in Tuolumne County are composed of a massive serpentine outcropping. The soil is poor, supporting a foothill pine-buckbrush habitat with no oak trees. Wildlife are few. It is however, one of the few places outside the California Desert where roadrunners can be found. In the winter, bald eagles are occasionally seen along the shore of Lake Don Pedro.
Red Hills Bird Checklist
The Dave Moore Nature Area in El Dorado County near Coloma offers an opportunity to walk a trail through typical Sierra foothill habitat, including the South Fork American River. The birds are those found in a forest habitat, including woodpeckers, quail, Cooper's hawk, warblers, and flycatchers.