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 Ukiah Field Office area. Most of the Public Land parcels, however, are not unusual, but provide habitat typical of their elevation in the Coast Range. 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 Ukiah Field Office offer excellent birdwatching opportunities:
The Cache Creek Natural Area includes over 70,000 acres in Lake, Colusa, and Yolo Counties. The heart of the area is the remote Cache Creek Canyon, where bald eagles are found year-round, but most often observed during winter months, when numbers often exceed fifty individuals. Many other riparian-dependent species including waterfowl and wading birds are found along Cache Creek, North Fork of Cache Creek, and Bear Creek. Extensive oak woodlands near the creek and on the recent Payne Ranch acquisition offer the best diversity for birdwatching and support a variety of passerine and non passerine migratory birds, upland game species, and raptors. April through June are the best months to observe the greatest diversity of bird species here.
(Click Here for a Checklist of Cache Creek Birds)
Indian Valley Reservoir in eastern Lake County is best known for fall and winter opportunities to observe migrating waterfowl, wading birds, and some seabirds. Limited oak woodlands on the western shore of the reservoir provide springtime opportunities for observing migratory neotropicals. The North Fork Cache Creek leading into the north end of the reservoir offers viewing of riparian-dependent species throughout the spring and summer.
The Little Darby Environmental Area east of Willits has trails which offer birdwatching opportunities in a Douglas fir forest setting, as well as the adjacent California chaparral habitat. Species observed in the fir forest include the threatened spotted owl and some of the more common species such as stellars jays, several species of woodpeckers, and a variety of passerine birds . Common chaparral species sighted here include the California thrasher, wrentit, and California towhee.
The 1,132 acre Stornetta Public Lands, located along the Mendocino County coastline just north of the town of Point Arena, offer a unique opportunity for birders. This area presents an interface of many different habitats, such as coastal wavefront, estuary/salt marsh, riparian, coastal prairie, and coastal pine forest. Species observered here include tundra swan, common egret, brown pelican and numerous raptors.
The California Coastal National Monument consists of more than 20,000 rocks, islands and pinnacles along the coastline of California. Many seabirds and shore birds use these rocks for roosts and rookeries. Petrels, pelicans, cormorants, egrets, murrelets and gulls cans all be found here, as well as many others.