Shasta College Bird Walk

by Larry on September 13, 2009

Turkey Vulture photos by Larry Jordan

This Turkey Vulture was actually one of the last species we saw at Shasta College for the first bird walk of the fall season.  After weeks of hot weather and not much birding activity, I woke to overcast skies and cooler temperatures .

It was a pleasant drive down the hill toward town spotting Acorn Woodpeckers, Wild Turkeys and Lewis’s Woodpeckers that are returning to the oak savannah along the creek.  There were also several American Crows and Common Ravens feasting on a couple of unfortunate raccoons that had been too slow making their way across the road.

Fortunately, one of the highlights of my drive to town is seeing at least one of many American Kestrels along the roadside and this morning was no exception.  Later, on the way home, I would be able to watch another Kestrel playfully chasing a young Red-tailed Hawk over the vast pastures along the foothills.

Shasta College is one of the many great birding spots in the greater Redding area of Northern California.  The Wintu Audubon Society takes advantage  of this as one of the excellent local birding sites for its Saturday bird walks, which are open to the public.

Soon after arriving in the parking lot, while waiting for the rest of the group to show, some of us were treated to an interesting encounter.  We spotted a Phoebe atop a light post.  As we put our binoculars on the bird, it showed itself to be a Say’s Phoebe.  As it flew down to the pavement, it was being chased by a Western Bluebird!  Interesting behavior that I had never witnessed before.

Within the fifteen minutes waiting to see who would show, we also spotted Rock Pigeon, White-breasted Nuthatch, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Yellow Warbler, Oak Titmouse and European Starling.  One of the reasons the college is such a great birding spot is the variety of habitats existing on its 337 acre campus.  The main buildings are surrounded by various oaks as well as other deciduous and evergreen trees, shrubs and plants.

The campus has a very active agriculture department and maintains several crop fields and pasture land that makes great habitat for Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Black Phoebe and Say’s Phoebe as well as Western Bluebird and Lesser GoldfinchHouse Sparrows were seen near the farm buildings and several sparrows including Song Sparrow and this Savannah Sparrow were spotted in the hedge rows between fields.

Along Stillwater Creek, the eastern border of the college property, several species are found including raptors like the Red-tailed Hawk.  Red-shouldered Hawks, Great Horned Owls and Osprey have been seen nesting here.  This area is also home to many woodpeckers, sparrows, warblers, nuthatches and flycatchers.  While walking along the creek we saw a Belted Kingfisher,  Black Phoebe, Bushtits, Northern Mockingbird, a beautiful Western Tanager, California Quail, Anna’s Hummingbird and a Spotted Towhee.

The college also maintains large sewage ponds that always gives birders some nice surprises.  Today we found Killdeer, Great Egret, Green Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, Mallard and some Western Sandpipers.

It was a great birding day with over forty species observed!  If you want to observe more great birds, get on over to Bird Photography Weekly.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

gwendolen September 13, 2009 at 1:30 am

Very productive day indeed. The weather is changing here too, Autumn is most definitely on its way.

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bevson September 13, 2009 at 3:00 am

I love that your local college is so birdy and open to the public to wander around. What a terrific idea. I’m a little jealous of your Lewis’s, I have only had a glimpse once years ago.
.-= bevson´s last blog ..Bird Photography Weekly =-.

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Wren September 13, 2009 at 5:56 am

I hate seeing the summer birds leave. But I love seeing the unusual ones as they migrate through.

College campuses are general good birding locales, but I don’t know how many have the added bonus of cropland and water treatment facilities. Sweee-eet.
.-= Wren´s last blog ..Beauty & the Beholder (Bird Photography Weekly) =-.

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Kelly September 13, 2009 at 11:31 am

…sounds like a wonderful bird outing…and you’ve captured such lovely photos as well. The Savannah Sparrow is such a sweety. I love that little bird. Around here he’s not that common and bit hard to photograph…
.-= Kelly´s last blog ..A Carolina Chickadee catches me in the act… =-.

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Mick September 13, 2009 at 1:14 pm

That’s a great lot of birds for one day’s outing. It must indeed be very good bird habitat.
.-= Mick´s last blog ..Flowers for Honeyeaters =-.

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Larry September 13, 2009 at 1:28 pm

@Gwen an excellent birding day for sure

@Bev the Lewis’s Woodpecker is a beauty and we are very lucky in our neck of the woods to have so many good places to bird

@Wren I agree that most campuses are good birding spots and this one is exceptional!

@Kelly thank you. I love the Savannah Sparrow too. The golden yellow sets off their browns so well

@Mick cooler weather and a great habitat is hard to beat

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Amber Coakley September 13, 2009 at 7:50 pm

What a great birding day you had! That Spotted Towhee picture is captivating! I have never seen one before – look how his eye matches his rusty-colored feathers.

I’ve noticed the birds changing as well. We’ve had tons of rain the last few days, and cooler temperatures. I’m thinking the hummingbirds that have been ruling my native plant garden may soon leave.

Larry, I’m looking forward to the pictures you’ll be posting this fall!
.-= Amber Coakley´s last blog ..Coastal Cleanup Update =-.

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Neil September 14, 2009 at 12:51 am

Sounds like a great place to go birding.

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bob k September 14, 2009 at 9:51 am

Nice phot harvest you got there, Larry! The Vulture looks awesome!
.-= bob k´s last blog ..Solitary =-.

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Amy September 14, 2009 at 1:36 pm

What a great day birding! I like the Spotted Towhee. That’s new to me, had to go look it up in my Western guide. ;)
.-= Amy´s last blog ..American Avocet =-.

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Larry September 14, 2009 at 7:34 pm

@Amber it was a great birding day. The Spotted Towhee is one of our regular winter inhabitants here in Northern California. Thanks for all your support!

@Neil the college campus is a great birding spot and it’s nice to have it so close

@Bob thanks my friend

@Amy you probably see the Eastern Towhee where you are huh? As well as the American Avocet ;-)

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ramblingwoods September 16, 2009 at 7:12 am

Hello Larry…I hate that the weather is changing as our summer was wet and cold, but fall is beautiful too. You had a great time and got some great photos. And I like that you have the “Whooping Crane” badge up as I have followed them for a couple of years now. –Michelle–

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Larry September 17, 2009 at 6:21 am

@Michelle I hope to see a Whooping Crane someday. I think I will have to make a trip to Texas

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