Nevada County offers endless possibilities for you, your family or group to spend quality restorative time communing with nature. The Sierra Nevada foothills are known for their striking rugged beauty, dotted with an abundance of beautiful lakes, streams and the stunning Yuba River..
First and foremost, print out a list of the birds that you will be keeping an eye out for. There are numerous species indigenous to this area, many of which are endangered. The Sierra Nevada Audubon Society offers one of the most complex lists, which can be found here.
Next, grab some appropriate gear at a local Nevada County retailer. Mountain Recreation located at 491 East Main Street in Grass Valley offers a year round selection of quality outdoor gear and apparel. If you’ve already made your way up into the Sierra try Mountain Hardware, (530) 587 4844, located at 11320 Donner Pass Rd. Truckee, CA Once you are properly outfitted and have your binoculars focused, fill up your gas tank and hop in your car to one of the many birding hot spots in Nevada County.
Western Gateway Park is located between Highway 20 and Penn Valley Dr. in Penn Valley. While there is no direct entrance from Highway 20 either the Pleasant Valley Rd. or Penn Valley Dr. may be followed a short distance South from 20 and then proceed along Penn Valley Dr. to the park. The address is 18650 Penn Valley Dr. Penn Valley, Ca 95946
This park was the most fruitful in number of birds of all the sites visited in this spring’s early morning migratory bird walks. A bird list would include Bullock’s Oriole, Western Kingbird, Olive Sided Flycatcher, Scrub and Stellar’s Jays, Western Tanager, Acorn Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Nashville and other Warblers, black and yellow billed Magpies, bluebird, Northern Flicker and Red-breasted Sapsucker. Several raptors may be seen there including the American Kestrel and Red tailed Hawk. There is a Red Shouldered Hawk nesting with vocal young near Squirrel Creek that runs through the park.
2. The Spenceville Wildlife & Recreation Area
The Spenceville Wildlife & Recreation Area lying along the western boundary of Nevada County is a bit remote but well worth the extra travel time. To reach Spenceville travel on West from the Lake Wildwood turnoff until you see the sign for Beale Air Force Base. Turn South on Smartville Road and bear to the left for 6.5 miles until you cross the Waldo bridge, a good place to start birding as Snipe are seen here. The best hikes begin 2 miles further at the old copper mine. The trip to Fairy Falls along Dry Creek usually is particularly rewarding.
An additional reason to visit is the threat to Spenceville posed by the proposed Waldo Dam, which would flood a major portion of the area including Fairy Falls. That is, if the prospect of viewing some of the 80 species of birds that nest at Spenceville or the 175 species of migratories that have been seen there are not reasons enough.
A partial listing of birds would include Nuttalls and Acorn Woodpeckers, Anna’s Hummingbirds, Band-tailed Pigeons, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western and Mountain Bluebirds, California Quail, Kingbirds, Northern Orioles, Purple Finch, Lazuli Buntings, and White Breasted Nuthatches. Raptors observed include Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, White-tailed Kites, Turkey Vultures, Coopers Hawks and the American Kestrel.
3. Mathis Pond
Mathis Pond is a charming pond on the west side of Lower Dog Bar Road between Krystal Court and Carrie Drive in the area known as Alta Sierra. The diminutive pond is owned by the Nevada County Land Trust and maintained with the assistance of the Sierra Foothills Audubon Society. There is a Kiosk, benches overlooking the pond and a short gravel trail along with nine bluebird boxes and a wood duck box. Conveniently located for Grass Valley residents this is a great place to slip away from a daily schedule for a few moments of birding. Besides Bluebirds the avian population includes Titmice, a variety of finches, nuthatches, Towhees, Juncos, flycatchers, warblers and a Yellow Chat has been reported in the area.
Either Marya Miller or another birder offers a bird hike on the last Sunday of every month at 9a.m.. Sitting astride the South Yuba River it is the seasonal home to a considerable variety of birds. The wide variety of avian life found throughout the year at Bridgeport is one of its prime attractions. While incomplete, a list would include several varieties of woodpeckers, swallows, owls, wild turkeys, black phoebes, hummingbirds, warblers, wrens, vireos and a wide variety of raptors, including golden and bald eagles.
For more information on bird watching in Nevada County check out the link below.