Steve Hampton's on-line guide to
Yolo County, CA
because all birds are more beautiful when seen in Yolo County
There's not much original habitat left around here-- all ag fields, channelized rivers, and a whole lot of non-native vegetation. Four of the historically prominant riparian breeders (Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Willow Flycatcher, Bell's Vireo, Yellow Warbler) are extirpated or only pass through as migrants. And finding rarities can be like getting water from rock. But there are --and deservedly so-- quite a few habitat restoration projects, some very large, that provide great birding opportunities.
Local specialties? Yeah, we got a few: lots of Swainson's Hawks in summer, plenty of Yellow-billed Magpies, Tricolored Blackbirds and Ross' Geese if you do some searching, good spots for Common Poorwill, coastal Sage Sparrow, and Lesser Nighthawks, and some of the best shorebirding in North America when water levels are right.
I hope this page can answer some your questions.
A mandatory Yolo County birding resource is the Checklist of Birds in Yolo County.
The latest revised 2004 edition is available at Yolo Audubon Society meetings. It has every species' status by month with bar graphs,
as well as some information on places to go birding in Yolo County.
MOUNTAIN PLOVER SPOT
barren fields in winter.
the fields around Rds 102 and 16 are the traditional spot (and several miles in all directions), but this area has not hosted birds in years. This species is getting much harder to find. County Line Rd near Colusa County has been more reliable in recent years.
see Mountain Plover under the species list to the right; Ferruginous and Rough-legged Hawks may also be found here.
OLD WOODLAND SEWAGE PONDS
marshy ponds and mud flats amidst dirt mounds, but now rarely has water.
w of Rd 102 between Kentucky and Beamer; access
difficult, may be viewed from Kentucky
good for Cinnamon Teal and large waders, shorebirds, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
best birds: Blue-winged Teal; Solitary Sandpiper
CACHE CREEK SETTLING BASIN
riparian areas, with a large lake, mudflats, or ag fields, depending on water levels.
this is the area inside the high levees, east of
the Sugar Ponds, north of Main St (hwy 16 east of
Woodland), and west of the Trestle Ponds; access
is from over the levee at the old Sugar Ponds (Kentucky) or
from the north off Rd 17. Some of it is privately farmed in summer.
good for ducks in winter, occasionally for shorebirds, and Blue Grosbeaks and
Lazuli Buntings in summer.
best birds: Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Swamp Sparrow
nesting Spotted Sandpipers, possible nesting Yellow-breasted Chat
marshy ponds and fields, sometimes flooded or mudflats.
n. of the train tracks and Main St (hwy 16) between
Woodland and the Sac River in the Yolo Bypass; best
access is near the easternmost pond where a yellow
gate is visible through the trestles, about 200 yards
west of the east levee of the bypass (but may be flooded).
good for shorebirds and waterfowl, depending on
water levels; many rarities reported.
best bird: Curlew Sandpiper
WOODLAND WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT [CLOSED MAY-SEPT 2016 due to construction]
large manmade lakes/mudflats with levees.
e on Gibson from Rd 102, park in "birder parking
area" and sign in at near gate (combo is "700"); do not go to the office; access only M-F
7:30 AM to 3:30 PM. Closed on holidays.
excellent birding spot at most times of the
year; many rarities recorded here.
best birds: Franklin's Gull, Sabine's Gull, Snowy Plover, Ruddy Turnstone,
Sanderling, Red Knot, both golden plovers at the same time
MODEL AIRPLANE PARK
barren park with a lake/mudflats.
e side of Rd 102, between Davis and Woodland.
can be good for shorebirds at low water levels.
HUNT WESSON-YOLO AUDUBON HAWK AND OWL RESERVE
Note: Hunt-Wesson has closed its plant in Davis and these fields are no longer irrigated.
nw of Rds 28H and 104, ne of Davis; bird from Rd
good place for Short-Eared Owls after dusk in winter.
HERON AND EGRET ROOKERY
row of eucalyptus trees.
in tall trees along Rd 103, north of Rd 28H.
hundreds of nests; all three white egrets nest here.
YOLO COUNTY LANDFILL
garbage dump with adjacent marshy fields.
birder access is restricted; birding can be done from
the adjacent Davis Wastewater Treatment Plant or the levee above Rd 28H (scope is needed).
heaven for gull aficionados, as thousands winter here.
best birds: Iceland (glaucoides) Gull, Slaty-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull;
"Kumlien's" Gull, Western Gull, and Glaucous Gull are annual
DAVIS WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT (formerly known as Sewage Ponds)
large and small manmade lakes with levees.
at Rds 105 and 28H, ne of Davis; bird from road
or sign-in at office and walk around when it's open
popular birding place in winter; many rarities.
best birds: Surf Scoter; Common Tern; Arctic Tern; Sabine's Gull; Franklin's Gull; Snowy Plover; Ruddy Turnstone
manmade lakes with barren terrain.
on south side of Rd 29 (not 29H) across from the Hawk and Owl Refuge; constructed as catfish ponds-- but used for waterskiing; view from the road.
can have shorebirds or diving ducks, depending on water levels; nesting Yellow-headed Blackbirds in summer.
best bird: Red-necked Grebe
extensive restored wetlands with nine ponds, many with islands, opened to the public in June 2000, some ponds are deliberately managed for shorebirds from July-October and may attract thousands of birds each day during this period.
open daily 7am-1pm Feb 16-Aug 31; Mondays only Sept 1-Feb 15; accessed at east end of Rd 29H, just past the Davis Wastewater Treatment Plant.
one of the premier birding site in the county
best birds: Common Ringed Plover; Little Stint; Snowy Plover; both Golden-Plovers; Hudsonian Godwit;
Ruff; Ruddy Turnstone; Stilt Sanpiper; Buff-breasted Sandpiper; Long-tailed Jaeger; Little Gull; Franklin's Gull; Least Tern; Common Tern; Northern Shrike
YOLO BYPASS WILDLIFE AREA- Causeway Unit (formerly "CalTrans area")
weedy fields, some tree lines, ponds and mudflats
after rains, canals with trees. New riparian areas planted in 1998.
between I-80 and the railroad tracks, inside the
Yolo Bypass; park at the end of East Chiles Rd,
walk up and over the levee, down the dirt road
parallel to the freeway between the freeway and
the railroad tracks (mountain bike is good); also
accessible from Parking Lot A of YBWA. Foot and bike traffic
many buntings and Blue Grosbeaks; shorebirds, terns,
gulls, and waterfowl possible when water is there.
best birds: Grasshopper Sparrow
YOLO BYPASS WILDLIFE AREA (also called Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area)
fields, mudflats, or flooded fields, depending
on water levels.
vehicle access is from levee near freeway; auto tour loop is well-marked; further access in non-hunting season
thousands of ducks, diving ducks, shorebirds,
waders, depending on water levels; managed for shorebird habitat primarily spring and late fall; marsh birds.
best birds: Tufted Duck; Long-tailed Duck; Ruff; nesting Snowy Plover; nesting Wilson's Phalarope; Red-necked Stint; Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (including adult); Eastern Kingbird;
nesting Savannah Sparrow; Chestnut-collared Longspur; Swamp Sparrow; Sage Thrasher
GRASSLANDS REGIONAL PARK (ARCHERY RANGE/HORSESHOE PITS)
wooded park in middle of fields
at Mace and Tremont s. of Davis (to avoid archers, go on weekdays before 9am)
excellent for songbirds in migration, especially flycatchers; Burrowing Owls near radio towers.
best birds: Common Poorwill in migration; Least Flycatcher; Tennessee Warbler; Grasshopper Sparrow;
Rose-breasted Grosbeak; Green-tailed Towhee; Townsend's Solitaire
SOUTH YOLO BYPASS (ROAD 155)
marshy and flooded fields.
east of Mace (Rd 104) and n. of Rd 105, also along Rd 107;
may be flooded in winter.
excellent for ducks, geese, swans in winter (especially when the Yolo Bypass has flooded; nesting Savannah Sparrow in summer and
worth checking for nesting Grasshopper Sparrow
best bird: Greater Scaup; Mountain Plover
ELKHORN REGIONAL PARK
riparian cottonwoods and willows.
along Old River Rd. just south of I-5; also try
along the railroad tracks (not in use) north and
south and along the Rd 124 slough heading west.
good for migrant songbirds; some rarities recorded.
weedy fields, long canal bed with old willows and
tall old growth cottonwood canopy, canal with tules
and scattered trees.
between I-5 and I-80, between Sacramento River and
Yolo Bypass; from the River Road, go west on Rd 126, park where the road drops off the levee and walk south over the levee or west along it.
this place has potential; Long-eared Owls may be
here in winter.
best birds: Chestnut-sided Warbler; Baltimore Oriole; Indigo Bunting; nesting Short-eared Owl and nesting Yellow Warbler
PORT OF SACRAMENTO
large open water turning basin in the Deep Water Channel for ships
access is now limited to nature trail from Jefferson Blvd.
can have Western and Clarke's Grebes; heron rookery on the west side
WOOD DUCK PONDS (BEE LAKES)
ponds, riparian canopy, mixed woods.
on west side of S.River Rd just s. of Linden in W. Sac.
very popular birding spot for migrant songbirds;
earning a reputation as a vagrant trap.
best birds: Blackpoll Warbler; Northern Parula; Indigo Bunting, Summer Tanager
riparian strip along slough.
s. on S. River Road to Babel Slough Rd. No parking on Babel Slough Rd; park along the River Rd.
another good spot for migrant songbirds
best birds: Zone-tailed Hawk; Blackpoll Warbler; Chestnut-sided Warbler; Ovenbird
NORTH POND IN DAVIS
urban wildlife pond.
north of El Grande and west of F Street in N. Davis.
some waterfowl and shorebirds; Common Moorhen.
best birds: Solitary Sandpiper; Ruff; Blue-winged Teal; Northern Shrike; Tropical Kingbird; Red-eyed Vireo; Northern Parula
UC DAVIS ARBORETUM
manmade oxbow lake with concrete sides, wide
variety of trees.
runs e-w through the s end of campus.
nesting Green Herons, occasionally migrants.
best birds: Northern Waterthrush; Bohemian Waxwing; Palm Warbler
SOLANO PARK GARDEN
community garden plots and sunflowers.
on campus s of Parking Lot 5 (and near the University
Club), which is at the s end of A St, s of 1st St.
excellent in fall migration for songbirds, especially warblers; some rarities recorded here;
don't bother going in spring and early summer.
best birds: Bobolink; Palm Warbler; Brewer's Sparrow; Clay-colored Sparrow
SLIDE HILL PARK
large residential park with lots of trees.
east of Tulip in E. Davis.
good for migrants and winter rarities.
best birds: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker; Clarke's Nutcracker; Gray Flycatcher
small riparian area behind Putah Creek Park in
South Davis at the end of Willowbank Rd.
good for migrant songbirds, especially in the live oaks.
best birds: Black-and-white Warbler; Chestnut-backed Chickadee
WEST POND IN DAVIS
urban wildlife pond.
between Arlington, Lake, Covell, and Shasta in W.
Davis; bird from the bike path that begins near the
corner of Arlington and Shasta.
some waterfowl, marsh birds, and shorebirds. Hooded Merganser in winter.
best birds: all three phoebes at once!; Ash-throated Flycatcher in winter; Green-tailed Towhee
UC DAVIS LANDFILL
birder access allowed during business hours;
check in with office first for instructions about where
gulls in winter, though in smaller numbers than the county landfill.
best birds: Northern Goshawk; Glaucous Gull
PUTAH CREEK RIPARIAN RESERVE AT UC DAVIS
river and riparian strip
park at Putah Creek at Pedrick Rd, Hopkins Rd, or along Levee Rd; a path along the river and a dirt road above connects them.
good spot for migrant songbirds and summer and winter
best birds: Orchard Oriole; Baltimore Oriole; Yellow-billed Cuckoo; Bobolink; Black-and-white Warbler; Blackpoll Warbler; Tennessee Warbler; Clay-colored Sparrow
PUTAH CREEK/WINTERS BRIDGE
river and riparian strip thick with willows and oaks.
park near the bridge of Railroad St at the s end of
downtown Winters, descend to the river bed, newly restored area is downstream, short trail is
good spot for migrant songbirds and summer
VESPER SPARROW CORNER
grassy hillside and young orchard
bend of Hwy 128 west of Winters; pull off and beware of fast traffic; birds may be on
inside or outside of bend, usually on edges of orchards with small trees.
lots of sparrows and other birds in winter
best bird: Clay-colored Sparrow
large manmade lake with a few wooded islands.
access from Lake Solano Co. Park on Pleasants
Valley Rd or along the s shore of the lake.
good in winter for ducks, including Barrow's
Goldeneye and Hooded Merganser (upstream).
best birds: Common Loon; Red-necked Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser; Swamp Sparrow
riparian oaks and cottonwoods along a river.
well-marked parking areas along the s side of
hwy 128 w of Lake Solano (w of Winters); they are numbered #1-#4 (and there's a fifth one) about 1/2-1 mile apart.
great migrant spots, varied habitat, with a
history of rarer birds in the county (Winter
Wren, Hairy Woodpecker, Rufous-cr Sparrow,
Golden Eagle, Yellow-br. Chat).
best birds: Taiga Flycatcher; Steller's Jay; Townsend's Solitaire; Chestnut-backed Chickadee
STEBBINS-COLD CANYON NATURAL RESERVE
wild oak and chaparral canyon.
take hwy 128 w toward Lake Berryessa, park 100
yards after the road crosses to the s side of
Putah Creek, the trail begins at the gate at the
s-most curve in hwy 128. Note: this is Solano Co.
great for chaparral species and migrants.
large concrete dam between two cliffs, lake; small pond below dam.
on hwy 128 about 10 miles w of Winters.
good for swifts and Rock and Canyon wrens.
best birds: Snow Bunting; Red-throated Loon; Red-breasted Merganser; Black Swift
RD 94B BRIDGE OVER CACHE CREEK
a wide river bed with gravel bars and some riparian vegetation (some the focus of restoration projects)
from the bridge, one can walk down under the bridge along the river; DANGER NOTE: in winter, the flow of Cache Creek can exceed the Sacramento River!
nice at dusk for Lesser Nighthawks; chapparal and migrant species also.
best birds: Red-breasted Merganser in June; nesting Spotted Sandpipers
RD 89 AT CACHE CREEK
high bluff overlooking river and gravel beds.
turn north on Rd 89 from hwy 16; descent into the riverbed is possible.
good place for Bank Swallows and (at dusk) Lesser Nighthawks
LONGSPUR CORNER AND DUNNIGAN HILLS
rolling hills with pasture immitating shortgrass prairies;
Rds 16 and 90B are "longspur corner"; Rd 12A is also nice;
may have prairie species such as longspurs, raptors of all kinds, Mountain Plover.
best birds: Chestnut-collared, McCown's, and Lapland Longspurs; Grasshopper Sparrow; Lark Bunting; Greater Roadrunner
CAPAY CEMETERY AND VICINITY IN ESPARTO
trees and orchards along a narrow creek;
from Esparto, take Rd 22 sw of town.
good for migrant songbirds.
best bird: Steller's Jay, Black-throated Sparrow
CAPAY VALLEY SIDE ROADS
oak canyons, steep creeks, chaparral.
from hwy 16 nw of Woodland, try roads 81, 78A, 78, and 70.
Here is the status of the longer roads:
Rd 40 (Rayhouse)(see more info below): closed to vehicles at the low water bridge over Cache Creek; open to foot/bike only beyond that point.
Rd 41 (Sand Creek): open for 1.8 miles; then closed to vehicles (but open to foot/bike) from here to the Yolo/Colusa County Line at the summit (about 2 miles more); it can be driven from the Colusa side to the Yolo County line.
Rd 53 (Guinda west side up to Casey Flats): recently closed to vehicles; open to foot/bike only; gate is padlocked.
Rd 57 (Guinda east side): still open for 3 miles to vehicles, although just after the new Cache Creek Bridge locals have posted deceptive "no trespassing" signs on the cattle gate to make it appear private, although it is really public; the gate is not locked, only latched. After 3 miles it is private property.
interesting all year round; Lawrence's Goldfinch
best birds: Greater Roadrunner; Sage Thrasher; Grasshopper Sparrow
oak canyons, steep creeks, chaparral, pond and lake.
continue up hwy 16 to the lower picnic area of Cache
Creek Co. Park; it is now closed to vehicles at the low water bridge over Cache Creek, open to foot/bike only beyond that point; the road climbs through the canyon for about 5 miles, then
descends to Davis Creek Res.; you can go left (south) at the summit
half mile to Fiske Creek Lake (a pond).
the premier spot for migrant songbirds (down lower) and
chaparral species such as Bell's Sparrow and Common Poorwill (at
best birds: Green-tailed Towhee; Black-chinned Sparrow;
nesting Pileated Woodpecker; Band-tailed Pigeon; Greater Roadrunner; Steller's Jay
- CATTLE EGRET -among cattle along Rd 102, 103; Rd 103 Rookery; new rookery at west end of UC Davis Arboretum.
- AMERICAN BITTERN -marshes with high tules; Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area; Davis Wetlands.
- LEAST BITTERN -Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area; Rd 30 Marsh, at the east end of Rd 30.
- WATERFOWL -Davis Wastewater Ponds, Davis Wetlands, Woodland Wastewater Ponds,
Sugar Ponds, North and West Ponds, and Lake Solano and
Putah Creek upstream from the lake, South Yolo Bypass.
- BLUE-WINGED TEAL -Davis Wetlands; Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area.
- HOODED MERGANSER -Lake Solano and upstream; West Pond in Davis.
- BARROW'S GOLDENEYE -Lake Solano and upstream.
- EURASIAN WIGEON -Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area; Davis Wetlands.
- SWAINSON'S HAWK -anywhere on the valley floor; they nest within the cities of Davis and Woodland.
- GOLDEN EAGLE -hills on either side of Capay Valley.
- BALD EAGLE -Cache Creek below Rayhouse Road; Lake Berryessa in Lake County.
- OSPREY -Lake Solano and Putah Creek near Winters.
- SHOREBIRDS - best places are Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and Trestle Ponds in spring migration and Davis Wetlands in fall migration; also Davis Wastewater Treatment Plant, Woodland Wastewater Treatment Plant,
Farmers Central Pond, Model Airplane Park, North and West Ponds (all depending on water levels).
- GOLDEN PLOVERS (both) -levees at Woodland Wastewater Treatment Plant (among Black-bellied Plovers) in late fall.
- MOUNTAIN PLOVER -County Line Rd has been the most reliable in recent years. Historical sites include fields around the intersection of Rds 102 & 16 or Rds 101 & 17; or east of Zamora (Rds 16 and 87). Look around and look hard, they are very difficult to spot, as they look like dirt clods-- but with longer legs! A scope is usually needed.
- GULLS -Davis Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Yolo County Landfill pond; can be scoped from Rd 28H and the adjacent levee top.
- BARN OWL -anywhere, esp. Hawk/Owl Reserve and in Davis city.
- LONG-EARED OWL -rare in winter along Sacramento Bypass and train track west of River Road between I-5 and I-80; also around Davis Wastewater Treatment Plant.
- SHORT-EARED OWL -Hawk/Owl Reserve; Rds 104 and 27; Rd 105 near Rd 30; Longspur Corner.
- WESTERN SCREECH-OWL -in wooded canyons; lower Rayhouse Road; sometimes within Davis (e.g. Pioneer Park).
- NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL -Rd 41 and Rayhouse Rd in Capay Valley; upper Putah Creek Canyon (Fishing Accesses 1-3); Cold Canyon Preserve.
- COMMON POORWILL -top of Rayhouse Road.
- LESSER NIGHTHAWK -along Cache Creek from lower Capay Valley to Woodland, perhaps easiest at Capay Open Space Park at dusk; also from Rd 89 or Rd 94B bridge at dusk.
- LEWIS' WOODPECKER -erratic in Capay Valley and western hills in fall or winter.
- HAIRY WOODPECKER -uncommon at Fishing Accesses.
- PURPLE MARTIN -nests under the I-St Bridge over the parking lot north of the Railroad Museum in Old Town Sacramento; foraging birds
typically fly west over the I-St Bridge into Yolo County; most easily observed from the Sacramento side.
- BANK SWALLOW - regular at Davis Wetlands and Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area in late summer, often on wires with Tree Swallows (beware juvenile Tree Swallows with smudgy breasts); has nested in south bank of
Cache Creek, just downstream from Rd 89 and downstream from 505 freeway, and along Sacramento River near Fremont Weir.
- YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIE -anywhere and everywhere. Reliable places include: Russell Blvd and Pedrick Rd area west of Davis; West Sacramento near the I Street bridge.
- MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD -erratic; open country north of Esparto and Woodland are typically best.
- CALIFORNIA THRASHER -Capay Valley hills (especially Rd 41); Rds 89 and 94B at Cache Creek.
- PACIFIC WREN -possible along Putah Creek in winter.
- CANYON & ROCK WRENS -Monticello Dam, Capay Valley side roads; Rock Wren is reliable on the valley floor in winter among rip-rap levee boulders, large wood piles, or farm equipment yards-- or Buckeye Creek off Rd 2.
- DIPPER -possible under hwy 128 bridge below Monticello Dam in winter; Cache Creek Canyon in fall and winter.
- PHAINOPEPLA -across from Lake Solano campground; also in town of Capay.
- YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT -rare but possible in spring/summer at Fishing Accesses; riparian zones in migration.
- LAZULI BUNTING -Rayhouse Road; Cache Creek Settling Basin.
- BLUE GROSBEAK -any weedy fields in or within a mile of the Yolo Bypass, especially near riparian corridors and green corn; reliable at Cache Creek Settling Basin, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area near the levee, Sacramento Bypass.
- VESPER SPARROW -in the vicinity of the bend of hwy 128 a few miles west of Winters, often adjacent to young orchards, in winter; please report them if you see them; beware of Savannah and other sparrows mixed in.
- BELL'S SPARROW -top of Rayhouse Road; top of Rd 41 north of Rumsey.
- RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW - Putah Creek canyon (the steep hillside along hwy 128 upstream of milepost 0.69), and about one mile up Rayhouse Road.
- LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCH - any side roads in Capay Valley, such as 78A and others, and Rayhouse Road near Fiske Lake or Davis Creek Res. It's easiest if you know their call.
- YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD - nests at scattered locations; in winter, at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area in mixed blackbird flocks; in April at entrance of Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area near the Yolo Fruit Stand.
- TRICOLORED BLACKBIRD - erratic breeder; may nest in fields near Rd 27 and I-505;
recently nested at Conoway brood pond at Rds 103 & 25;
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area in winter in mixed blackbird flocks.
- MIGRANT FLYCATCHERS, VIREOS, WARBLERS -Wood Duck Ponds, Grasslands Reg. Park, Putah Creek Riparian Reserve (UC Davis), Solano Park Garden (fall only),
Putah Creek/Winters Bridge, Fishing Accesses, Rayhouse Road, any woodsy spot including residential Davis-- all in late Apr to early June, late Aug-early Oct.
All of Yolo County's Brewer's Sparrows have been
found since 1996. All were in nondescript weedy locations
with other sparrows. (Photo by Don DesJardin, copyright
1999). What will Yolo's next new bird be?