6 Top Birding Spots near Lassen Park

St. Bernard Lodge is lucky to have great birding available on site and several unique and wonderful spots for viewing birds nearby.

Northern California is home  to 559 species of birds.  314 species of birds have been spotted in Plumas County, 216 species of birds have been identified in Lassen Volcanic National Park with 96 species known to breed within park boundaries.  Spring and Fall are the best time for birding in the area.

Plumas County has some of the highest waterfowl diversity in North America during the winter.  The area has at least nine species of waterfowl that breed in Plumas County and another ten plus that just spend their winter here from breeding grounds further to the north.  The Hooded Merganser, Common and Barrow’s Goldeneye, Lesser and Greater Scaup, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Ring-necked Duck, Canvasback, Redhead, Northern Shoveler, and Tundra Swan can all be found in various places in Plumas County.

Plumas County Bird Checklist

6 Sites within one hour of St. Bernard Lodge for bird watching

1.  St. Bernard Lodge

We are lucky that we have a variety of birds that frequent our lodge including; Bald Eagle, Osprey, Blue Heron, Woodpeckers ( white and red-headed), Stellar Jay’s, Mallards, Wood Ducks, Canadian Geese, and Wild Turkeys and several others.

birding year-round at St. Bernard Lodge
Ducks on the pond at St. Bernard Lodge

2.  Causeway at Lake Almanor

Heading east on Hwy 36 just after the meadow Olsen Barn sits on and before you drive across the causeway is a place to pull over with a trail down to the lake or to walk across the meadow to Olsen Barn.  This area has; Dabbling & Diving Ducks, Clark’s and Western Grebe’s, ( The northern part of Lake Almanor is part of a special nesting program for the Grebe’s managed by the Plumas Audubon Society.), Tundra Swan, Canada Geese, American White Pelican, Blue Heron, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Great Horned Owl, double-crested cormarants, red-wing blackbirds, swallows, Yellow Warbler,and Flycatchers.

In a three hour period, a Bio Blitz conducted on June 25, 2016; 150 species of wildlife were discovered and observed a variety of birds including: a bald eagle, a great horned owl, redwing blackbirds, osprey, several types of swallows, a yellow warbler, and other songbirds.

There are many other great spots for birding around Lake Almanor including; Almanor  Recration Trail, Pratville-Almanor Campground, Rocky Point and Hamilton Branch.  Lake Almanor has 52 miles of shoreline and takes approximately one hour to drive around the lake.  From the south end of the lake you have amazing views of Lassen Peak and again when heading west on Hwy 36 just before the causeway.

birding near Lake Almanor
Grebes at Lake Almanor

3.  Domingo Springs

Domingo Springs is about 8 miles from downtown Chester.  Follow Feather River Drive from Chester towards Drakesbad.  Stay left at the turn to Drakesbad and continue to Domingo Springs. Mt. Quail, Clark’s Nutcracker, Goshawk, Pileated Woodpecker, N. Pygmy-Owl as well as kinglets, warblers and finches can all be found here.

Local Maidu Indians refer to this spot as the “center of the universe”  The Sierra Institute offers a guided walk with Beverly Ogle a local elder in the Maidu Tribe usually during the summer months.

Spring at Domingo Springs in Plumas County Great Birding Spot
Spring at Domingo Springs

4.  Feather River from Chester

One of the best walks in town is along the railroad tracks to the Feather River Access is from First Street. Drive south to the tracks and park. Walk northeast along the tracks until you come to the Feather River. 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.

The description is pulled from an article written by Helen Green and Dan Airala  https://fog.ccsf.edu/~jmorlan/pluplace.htm

5.  Bizz Johnson Trail

The Bizz Johnson trail is a 25.4 mile rails to trails conversion between Susanville and Westwood.  It is the longest rail to trail conversion in California.  It is also site # 34 on the California Watchable Wildlife sites.  Late October the Fall colors are amazing along the Susan River.

Nearly 100 bird species can be spotted along the Bizz Johnson Trail and nearby Walker Lake.  Visit the Mountain Meadow Conservancy website for a detailed list of birds and general information on the area.  Visit Mama’s Quail blog post for some great flower and bird photos and a nice detailed description of the Bizz Johnson Trail hike.  Songbirds best seen in spring and fall.  Birds of Prey can be seen year-round.

6. Lassen Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park is at the southern end of the volcanic Cascade Range, north of the Sierra Nevada and west of a high desert plateau.  Bird species from all three geographical regions can be found within the park boundaries. For good bird variety, try lower-elevation birding sites like Butte Lake or Manzanita Lake which play host to summer residents and migratory birds in season.

Reflection Lake is a historical breeding spot for Black-backed Woodpecker, Buffleheads and Red Breasted- sapsuckers.

Summit Lake Campground one of the best places in the region for William Sapsucker.

Bumpass Hell parking lot is a great place to spot Calliope Hummingbirds and Blue Grouse.

The Gray-crowned Rosy Finch is a rare high elevation bird which has been spotted at the Lassen Peak Trailhead.

Lassen Bird Checklist

Birder’s Report by Larry Jordan

 Local Birders Guide for sale

Feather River Birder Guide Book Cover

St. Bernard Lodge has the guide book available for sale at the lodge or you may contact FeatherRiver Land Trust to purchase the guide via mail.  Price $5.00

Waterproof guide “Birds of Central & Northern California is available at the lodge for $7.95

The lodge has a loaner book; “Field Guide to the Birds of North America” to help get you started.

How to start Birding

It is very easy to start birding and needs very little equipment.  Birding is one of the fastest growing outdoor activities in America according to a survey by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  51.3 million Americans report that they are birders and the number if growing.

All it takes it get started is to start noticing the birds around you. It could be as simple as noticing what is in your backyard at first.Then you may want to purchase a Field Guide to Birds and or download a BirdApp to your phone.  Binoculars and a simple journal.  The desire to get out and see what is around you.  This is all it takes to get started.

Because of the abundance of birds year round near St. Bernard Lodge, Lassen Park and Lake Almanor this area is a great place to start birding.  It is also a great place for experienced birders to add to their Birding Life list.  I have had several birders stay at the lodge and very excited that they had spotted a new bird that they had not seen before.

More information on the area around St. Bernard Lodge

Beginner’s Guide to Bird Watching

Local Birding Groups

We have several local birding groups which do guided bird walks in the area; Plumas Audubon SocietyAltacal Audubon SocietyWintu Audubon Society,

Guided Birding Outings 

Check back in May and June for local birding outinngs for 2023

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