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Murphys, Calaveras County


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This coming weekend I’ll be in Murphys as my parents are currently scoping out retirement locations. Because of that I won’t be able to bird all too much but I still have several birds I would like to see, mainly sierra foothills specialty, any good spots will be welcome as well as this county does not have a lot of birding coverage. We’re already planning on going to Calaveras Big Trees on Sunday.

Nashville Warbler : Never seen one.

Green-tailed Towhee : Need pictures and need for my CA list.

Lawrence’s Goldfinch : One of my favorite bird species, also never seen one.

Phianopepla : Beautiful bird, never seen one.

American Dipper : I love these, shame they’re disappearing from the coast. 

House Wren : Surprisingly rare in my home county, would be new for me.

Red-breasted Nuthatch : Should be fairly easy, they seem quite common.

Cassin’s Vireo : Missed this one in Marin, time for try number 2.

Dusky/Hammond’s Flycatcher : Never snagged one during migration, try 2.

Pileated Woodpecker : Missed in Marin, try 2.

White-headed Woodpecker : Somehow lost my photos of this species, gotta get some more.

Red-breasted Sapsucker : Only seen the holes, would be nice to see it’s maker as well. 

Caliope Hummingbird : Never seen one

@Aidan B is the only person on here who I know has experience here.

Edited by MichaelLong
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I've done a little birding in Calaveras, but not much. Here's just a few suggestions, they're less spots and more general suggestions as I'm currently up in Modoc right now and can't really look for spots to easily on ebird. 

1. Nashville Warbler -- look for areas of Oaks or possibly areas of thick shrubs around burned forest. Familiarize yourself with their song beforehand, in the right habitat they are often among the most common bird species.

2. Green-tailed Towhee -- Scrubby areas in higher elevation, should be around Calaveras big trees. Listen for them, they can be fairly vocal.

3. Lawrence's Goldfinch -- Good luck, it's been a very poor year for them along the sierra foothills. 

4. Phainopepla -- Oak woodland areas and chaparral, look for them perched up on top of things. Vocalization is very distinct.

5. American Dipper -- Look along creeks, been though this year with all the high water flows. 

6. House Wren -- listen for them in Riparian areas, oak woodland areas, should be fairly common. 

7. Red-breasted Nuthatch -- should be everywhere, listen for them anywhere with conifers. 

8. Cassin's Vireo --Kind of everywhere in low numbers, best areas are pretty similar to NAWA areas, High elevation oaks. 

9. Dusky Flycatcher -- Aspen Groves, smaller short conifer forest. Listen for them singing

10. Hammond's Flycatcher -- tall conifer forests that are widely spaced. 

11. Pileated Woodpecker -- listen for them drumming, should be around forests with big trees. 

12. White-headed Woodpecker -- should be all around Calaveras Big Trees.

13. Red-breasted Sapsucker -- Aspen groves, conifer forests with big trees. 

14. Calliope Hummingbird -- tough and patchy, meadows with aspens and lots of flowers. 

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The day started out with a short walk around town where I got a nice serving of classic California chaparral birds, the highlight here would have to be a Oak Titmouse singing as if it’s life depended on it, note : the sidewalks in Murphys are terrible! They have a tendency to just start and stop at random, with seemingly no meaning in the placement of them. After breakfast it was on to the tours of properties, the first, on Ponderosa Way was definitely the birdiest with the first woodpeckers of the trip, I probably would have seen even more birds if not for the torrential rain and thunderstorm that occurred about halfway through the walk. The second property however, was just awful, there was barely a single Chickadee, this sentiment was shared by my parents who said that was their least favorite of the four properties we looked at. The third property was fine, not great not bad, due to this property being further up the Sierra the forest here transitioned from Scrub and Valley Oak dominated to Gray Pine and California Black Oak dominated, this change was also reflected in the birds with Stellars Jays showing up instead of Scrub Jays. The fourth and final property had a few Western Tanagers and Audubon’s Warblers, this property had more developed old growth pine forest which is likely the cause for the difference in bird abundance at this property despite both properties 3 and 4 being at around the same elevation. After the property tours we headed over to Columbia State Historic Park to give my brother the 4th grade gold rush field trip he never got to experience (due to Covid lockdowns). After Columbia we headed over to Tuttletown Recreation Area, by this time the sun had gone out and my comfortable overcast skies were no more. The highlight here was a singing Lark Sparrow near the Heron Point day use area, I’ve never actually seen an adult before!
Note : The checklist for Tuttletown is split into two, I accidentally ended the checklist halfway through my hike.

Happy Birding everyone!!

Edited by MichaelLong
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Writing this early due to a small family emergency my parents have to attend to.

Sooo it turns out I was wrong about Murphys sidewalk situation, the sidewalks in downtown are just fine, my hotel just happens to be in one of the least walkable parts of town! Anyways today started at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The park was noticeably cooler than Murphys and we actually had to put on our jackets, we started in the North Grove area where I was treated with an abundance of little birds in massive trees. Pacific Wrens and Golden-crowned Kinglets were heard everywhere but despite my efforts I would not actually see a single individual of either species. On the Grove Overlook trail I added some more warbler species to my trip list Hermit, MacGillivray’s and Yellow-rumped Warblers could be heard from the treetops below. On the surrounding trees were a pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches and a Brown Creeper, a Black-headed Grosbeak provided a surprise as I thought these birds were only found in Broadleaf dominated forests. Despite the Oaky understory and the patches of recently burned areas (prescribed) I neither heard or saw a Nashville Warbler. Soon we headed back into the shadows of the Giant Sequoias where I heard even more Hermit Warblers and saw a couple of White-headed Woodpeckers with one curiously perched on a fallen tree. Soon a MacGillivary’s Warbler perched in a bush right in front of me, providing me with some fairly good looks and some decent photos, although nowhere as good as certain other young birders photos 😉. Soon we reached the visitor center and headed off to our next stop on the North Fork Stanislaus River. The river trail turned out to be almost completely devoid of birds, with only a lone Black Phoebe making an appearance. This was made up by the numerous butterflies that flitted around and I also got to see a huge swarm of ladybugs all clustered together. After this however, the trip had to be cut short as my Grandmother had fallen ill and had to be admitted to the hospital. ☹️ 

Happy Birding everyone and stay safe out there!!

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