Snow Goose and Canada Geese

Wastewater Treatment Plants are known to birders all over the country as great birding spots. If constructed properly, these facilities can be not only a boon to birders and other wildlife enthusiasts but an obvious benefit to their local communities. One of the best examples in the world is the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary on the northern California coast. Arcata Marsh has become the poster child for how to turn wastewater into wetland restoration and effluence into affluence.

But this post isn’t about Arcata Marsh, it’s about the leaders of our local Audubon Society chapter convincing the local wastewater treatment plant to reopen to the birding community

Clear Creek Wastewater Treatment Plan

The Clear Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant consists of 10 ponds, one of which will be managed to attract shore birds and dabblers with gently sloping sides, native vegetation and shallow ponds and mud flats. You can see the facility in Google Maps here.

Clear Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

This facility had been closed to the public for at least the last five years but due to the diligence and persistence of our local Audubon leaders, the plant management decided to open the facility grounds back up to the birding community.

I snapped these photos on my first birding trip to the newly reopened facility beginning with a White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla). Click on photos for full sized images.

White-crowned Sparrow

The fence surrounding the facility is bordered by a dense mixed forest of pine and deciduous trees giving several sparrow and finch species a good location to hang out and observe the birders. There were House Finches (Capodacus mexicanus)

House Finch

a Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)

Chipping Sparrow

and several Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis)

Savannah Sparrow

As I rounded the southern end of the ponds a flock of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) flew over with a lone Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) in tow seen in the photo at the top of this post. Although not unusual to see these species in this location, considering the Sacramento River borders the East side of the plant, it seemed rather early to see the Snow Goose.

The banks along the river are covered with pretty dense vegetation which this spunky Lincoln Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) seemed to enjoy.

Lincoln Sparrow

Heading back toward the plant there was an area with shallow water and natural vegetation with Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler and these Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) taking flight

Mallards Taking Flight

I also got some nice close-up views of the Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

what appears to be a female Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) Warbler (Setophaga coronata)

Yellow-rumped Warbler

and a Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)

Yellow Warbler

Good birding at those wastewater treatment plants! Audubon Magazine gives us a list of 10 great birding spots that you probably never thought you’d want to visit.

Written by Larry
Larry Jordan was introduced to birding after moving to northern California where he was overwhelmed by the local wildlife, forcing him to buy his first field guide just to be able to identify all the species visiting his yard. Building birdhouses and putting up feeders brought the avian fauna even closer and he was hooked. Larry wanted to share his passion for birds and conservation and hatched The Birder's Report in September of 2007. His recent focus is on bringing the Western Burrowing Owl back to life in California where he also monitors several bluebird trails. He is a BirdLife Species Champion and contributes to several other conservation efforts, being the webmaster for Wintu Audubon Society and the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Urban Bird Foundation. He is now co-founder of a movement to create a new revenue stream for our National Wildlife Refuges with a Wildlife Conservation Pass.