Songs Of Summer
By Michael O'Brien
story: Michael O'Brien
Birding At Anderson River Park
Birding At Anderson River ParkLooking for a quality place to watch birds? Look no further than Anderson River Park. Its wide variety of bird species are attracted to this area’s diverse range of habitat. Freshwater marsh and ponds, a major river, open fields, streams, an oak and mixed deciduous forest, and the birds that thrive in such areas can all be encountered in just a few hours.
Where to begin when planning to explore this 440-acre park? Birding is always best in the morning or evening, when birds are most active. Plan your trip accordingly, understanding that in July, the temperature can soar to over 100 degrees by 10 am. Pack your binoculars, field guide, notebook, pencil, sunscreen and water. Wear comfortable walking shoes. Though the way is paved, you may elect to veer onto some of the many dirt paths veining off the main trail. Wear dark-colored clothing and a hat to be more approachable to birds. Visit www.wintuaudubon.org, click on the “Places to Bird” button, and go to “Anderson River Park” for a list of birds you can expect to find.
Begin your day at the south end of the park, away from the picnic areas and softball fields. Dodson Lane leads to the park entrance and forks at the park welcome sign. Take the right fork and drive half a mile to the cul-de-sac at the end of the road. You’ll hear birds before you see them. Tall trees and an open field provide two different places to begin scanning for movement, once you key in on the bird calls you note.
Check the grass in the field for the bright yellow and jet-black breast of western meadowlark, and scurrying California quail. Look for short, clipped wing beats of both species. Scan the brambles under the trees opposite the field for spotted towhee. This bird sits in camouflage and calls out a raspy “chew-eeeeee”.
Pick up the paved trail off the north end of the parking area marked by a “Park Nature Area” sign. Listen for the rushing sound of the Sacramento River as you make your way along the path, and head in that direction. About 300 yards along, the path curves north. At this spot, walk east along the dirt path toward the river. Find a spot right on the river shore in some shade, sit and watch. Tree and northern rough-winged swallows acrobatically dart over the river waves. Scan the opposite shore for great egret spear fishing, common merganser sunning on logs, and possibly wood ducks dabbling in the river eddies. Listen for the wailing call of the green heron as it stealthily patrols the shore.
Once back on the main trail, continue walking north and duck under the canopy of trees that covers this part of the path. Watch for the bright yellow/orange flash of Bullock’s oriole (like the one pictured here) and listen for the cardinal-like call of oak titmouse. Black-headed grosbeak and Hutton’s vireo also lives in this part of the forest. Many paths veer off this part of the trail back to the river. Explore a few of those and seek out Lincoln sparrow and house wren as they sound off in the cool of the shade.
Scattered along the trail are many benches, so choose one, sit still and birds will come to you. Scan the skies for red-tailed and red-shouldered hawk. Listen for the squeaking call of Anna’s hummingbird.
Eventually the trail forks; the path to the right leads to the park’s picnic area, the one to the left continues on the nature trail. At this spot, a large, dead tree provides a perfect opportunity to observe the clown-faced acorn woodpecker and perhaps a downy woodpecker.
Continue along the nature trail path and enjoy the Anderson River Park Nature Trail signs that describe the botany of the area. Consider bringing a butterfly field guide, as these insects also love this area. The trail loops around to the main road, intersecting it two-tenths of a mile west of the parking area. Follow the road back to your car, but keep your binoculars handy - as with all of Anderson River Park, birds are plentiful along this last part of your birding trip. •
For a map of the park and other information: www.sacramentoriver.org/access_site.php?access_site_id=112