Spring Birding Hot Spots in South Tahoe Area
by Sue Stevenson, South Shore artist and avid birder
If you want to see colorful birds, hear plentiful birdsong, and witness fascinating breeding behaviors, now is the time to go out in the field. Two locations are especially fruitful for spring birding: the south end of Christmas Valley and the restored Cove East area.
At the south end of South Upper Truckee Road, one can park by the bridge and birdwatch along the road in both directions as well as along the path to the Hawley Grade trail. Right now the pastel colors of the new aspen leaves, the dogwood shrubs, and riverside willows are a delight to the eye. Warblers dressed in colors similar to the new leaves are busy with nesting and breeding in this riparian habitat. Redwing Black-birds sing above their territories at the river’s edge and Song Sparrows, Robins, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Chipping Sparrows, and Mountain Chickadees repeat their songs.
It’s breeding season and they are singing loudly to attract a mate or to repel intruders from their territories. If you are really lucky, you might glimpse a Wood duck gliding among the grasses, or see the Mallard ducklings swimming behind their mother. Watch for the American Dipper and its mate as they works over the fast flowing waters, bobbing up and down and diving underwater to feed. Back in the aspen grove on the way to the Hawley Grade, check out the trees for round holes, the entrances to the nests of Red-breasted Nuthatches, Mountain Chicadees, House Wrens, and various woodpeckers and sapsuckers. Listen for the similar calls of the Red-shafted Flicker and the Pileated Woodpecker. In the sage, there could be a White-crowned Sparrow, a Green-tailed Towhee, or several Juncos feeding on the ground.
The Cove East walk is at the north end of Venice Drive in the Keys along the restored marsh area where Trout Creek and the Truckee River flow out to Lake Tahoe. This highly successful project has restored the natural flow of the river while protecting wildlife and providing excellent wildlife viewing for the public. The walkers keep their dogs on leashes and clean up after them and the wildlife goes about the business of survival without disturbance; it’s a win-win situation for all involved.
Birding in Cove East in Spring can provide opportunities to watch Osprey working over the river and the lake, flying by with fish, calling, and soaring overhead. Also, Bald Eagles frequent the marsh, often perching on the Jeffrey Pines on the Al Tahoe side. Flocks of White-faced Ibis and White Pelicans may fly over. Several Swallow species can be seen perching on the boat wires. Mountain and Western Blue birds, the Yellow, Wilson’s and Audubon’s Warblers, plus Flickers, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and Sparrows can be found among the wildflowers, the sage, and the willow shrubs.
At the lake’s edge, there’s a chance of seeing Gulls, Cormorants, several species of Ducks, Shorebirds and occasional migrants, such as Loons. Birders are hoping to see raptors such as the White-tailed Kite and the Red-shouldered Hawk visit the Marsh again this year. Every visit offers a different surprise, such as the rare Eurasion Collared Dove.
If you are interested in joining other birders for field trips in the South Tahoe area, consider joining the South Tahoe Birding Yahoo Group Listserve. To subscribe email: SLTBirdingemail@example.com.