Lema Ranch – A Northern California Birding Hotspot
Lema Ranch is one of Northern California’s birding hotspots. It is located in Shasta County, in the northern most part of the Sacramento Valley, in the city of Redding (pdf map here), about 160 miles north of Sacramento. The property is the headquarters for the McConnell Foundation, a philanthropic organization working for the betterment of our community.
There are three paved loop trails, covering over four miles and encompassing five ponds on the 200 acre ranch proper, and another four miles of unpaved trails known as the Churn Creek Trails on the adjacent 180 acres of natural habitat (pdf trail map).
It’s a great place to bird for several reasons. Ease of access and fairly flat terrain make it easy to hike, there are a variety of habitats including oak savanna, mixed forest, pond and marsh areas, plus our Audubon members have observed over 125 species at Lema Ranch (species list)!
In the past few weeks a good birding friend who lives near the ranch has kept me updated on sightings there and I have been lucky enough to observe some shorebirds and rails out in the open. The rails have been coming out of the bulrush to forage in the mudflats for invertebrates.
On the way to Mule Pond there is a shallow inlet off Lema Pond where a Common Moorhen was leisurely munching on some vegetation.
When I got to Mule Pond, I spotted the Virginia Rail right away.It was keeping company with a Sora that was foraging in the same areaThe very next day, when I went out to see what else might be skulking around the mudflats, I found a Wilson’s Snipe hiding in the reeds behindthis Long-billed Dowitcher which is noticeably missing from the Lema Ranch list.It was interesting to watch them work so hard for their food. The dowitcher was poking its bill in and out of the mud with that sewing machine type probing motion while the rails were digging their way through the mud to find those yummy morsels.
I shot some video so you could see the way the Virginia Rail worked at getting its food. It wasn’t easy to see what they were eating until I viewed the video where you can see the actual worm-like invertebrates getting pulled out of the ground.
Lema Ranch is also the location of one of my Bluebird Trails. There are many cavity nesting birds that breed every year on this property including Western Bluebird, Tree Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Oak Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Acorn Woodpecker and Nutall’s Woodpecker. You can read more about bluebird trails here.