Northern Plumas County Guide to Birding
Helen Green, Dan Airola
The following sites are some of the best birding areas in the Lake Almanor area. To reach Almanor take Hwy. 5 north to Red Bluff and Hwy. 36 east to the town of Chester, or Hwy. 5 north to Orland and east on Hwy. 32, through Chico, to Hwy. 36, then east to Chester.
Lake Almanor is about 4500’ elevation and lies just a little south of the point where the Sierra ends and the Cascades begin. It is also about 15 miles west of where Great Basin country begins; so it can provide an interesting mix of species. [See the checklist for the best time of year to see species listed.]
Highway 36 Causeway (east of Chester about 1 mile): best place to see large numbers of waterfowl, wading birds and shorebirds, including Canada Goose, Tundra Swan, dabbling and diving ducks, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, American White Pelican, Bald Eagle, Osprey (be extremely careful of traffic).
Feather River in Chester: One of the best walks in town is along the railroad tracks to the Feather R. Access is from First Street. Drive south to the tracks and park. Walk northeast along the tracks until you come to the Feather R. You can continue this hike by dropping down into a meadow and continuing to parallel the river. This can get wet and muddy (and snowy) in certain seasons, but with the right footwear you can get to the mouth of the Feather. The walk along the track is much more civilized. Birds seen here include Wood Duck, Red-shouldered Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Hairy & White-headed Woodpeckers, Willow Flycatcher (nesting area), 4 species of Swallows, Pygmy Nuthatch, MacGillivray’s, Yellow, Wilson's, Orange-crowned Warblers, Lesser Goldfinch, Evening Grosbeak, and more. A few unusual birds here include Virginia Rail (Christmas Bird Count), Blue Grosbeak, Bullock's Oriole, Swainson’s Thrush, W. Scrub-Jay.
Chester Sewage Ponds are located off First street which is just east of the Feather River. Take First Street south. The ponds are just past the railroad tracks on your left. Wood Ducks, diving and dabbling ducks (including Barrow's Goldeneye occasionally in winter). View from adjacent road outside fence or ask permission to bird there at the office on Main Street (Hwy. 36) next to Ayoob’s Dept. Store which is west of the Feather R. on Hwy. 36. They are creating a bit of a wetland south and east of the sewage ponds and could become used to birders, but permission needed because of liability, as I understand it.
Almanor West Inlet is reached by driving west from Chester on Hwy. 36 to Hwy. 89, then proceeding south. There are several dirt access roads east of the highway. Good for ducks, swans, Bald Eagle, Osprey, shorebirds, flycatchers, woodpeckers and other landbirds among the trees.
Prattville-Almanor Campground--south along Hwy. 89 about 5 miles from Hwy. 36 is a turnoff to the campground and Prattville. Osprey, Pileated and White-headed Woodpecker, Mountain Bluebird, White-breasted Nuthatch
Rocky Point and South End of Lake : loons, grebes, Osprey, Bald Eagle, diving ducks, shorebirds, woodpeckers, flycatchers, swallows, Hermit Thrush, finches.
Hamilton Branch--along river above lake is reached by driving east from Chester to A13 (about 5 miles), then southeast about 4 miles. The branch is just before the junction with Hwy. 147. It's a good place for dipper, Common Merganser.
Last Chance Campground Rd. is reached by going east on Hwy. 36 about 1.5 mi. from Chester. It goes north from the highway. Bird all the way to the Lake stopping in various habitats. The opposite side of Hwy. 36, toward the Lake, is also accessible. As you drive south from this same junction (with Last Chance Campground) you will take an immediate left (east). This becomes a fairly bad dirt road. You can either park, or drive parallel to Hwy. 36 until it curves south and park. There is a private campground to the west which is off limits. The Lake edge (I believe to the 5000’ level) is PG&E property and is accessible if you can get to it.
Butt Valley Reservoir--the road to the reservoir is about 8 miles south on Hwy. 89 from junction with Hwy. 36: nesting cormorants, Bald Eagle, Osprey, diving and dabbling ducks, American Dipper (Butt Creek)
Domingo Springs is reached by driving north from Chester from the Fire Station (opposite First St.) following signs to Drakesbad. At the Drakesbad junction take the left fork and continue on to Domingo Springs. It is about 8 miles from Chester. Mt. Quail, Goshawk, N. Pygmy-Owl, Pileated Woodpecker, Gray Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, kinglets, dipper, warblers, finches are all possible at Domingo. Or, take the right fork to Drakesbad which is also good birding.
Bailey Creek Road (10 Road) --go east from Chester to A13 (about 5 miles). Turn left. Go a very short distance and turn left again. You will cross over Bailey Creek. In about 1/4 miles turn right and you are on Rd. 10, a dirt road: higher elevation forest birds including the uncommon Williamson's Sapsucker, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Gray Jay.
Also in northern Plumas Co.:
Round Valley (make a loop from Hwy. 89 south of Greenville by driving east on A22 toward Taylorsville, north, then back to Hwy. 89 on Stampfli Lane (good for your Black-billed Magpie if you haven't found it elsewhere, and other lower el. birds).
Quincy Sewage Ponds. These will be on your left as you approach Quincy from the north on Hwy. 70. Good place for Black Phoebe. Worth checking for migrants.