McDonald leads bird walk
“Let’s get some of the birds in our binoculars instead of just listening,” said McDonald.
Each summer McDonald leads bird walks the third Saturday of each month, meeting at the Lassen County Visitors Center—Westwood Station. In June, she took a group to Mountain Meadows where she has created a Bluebird trail with several nesting boxes. In July, the walk encompassed the area around Indian Ole Dam at Mountain Meadows Reservoir to look for birds that inhabit the pine trees on the west shore.
On Aug. 16 participants began to focus their binoculars on the birds on Mountain Meadows Reservoir as they approached the water. McDonald quickly identified the western grebe and ruddy duck. Often she flips through a field guide she carries to show those on the walk the identifying characteristics of each bird. For example, the ruddy duck has a blue bill and cinnamon color. Also its tail sticks straight up, which is one of its identifying features.
The field guide pinpoints distinguishing features about each species that help bird watchers determine if they have sited a yellow warbler or an orange-crowned warbler.
Near a small island several feet from the shore, a Great Egret was spotted and McDonald quickly focused a telescope she carries on the large bird. She mentioned that the National Audubon Society was founded at a time when the feathers from these birds were fashionable on hats and therefore the egret population was being disseminated. Since that time, the population has rebounded.
A group of white pelicans on a far shore also caught the attention of all the bird watchers.
McDonald said it is best to stand in the line of trees offshore while watching water birds because as soon as a person steps out into the open the birds will take flight. She also told the group that if a large flock of birds takes flight upon their approach then a few seconds later another flock takes flight they are probably two different species of birds. Frequently, during the walks McDonald gives tips that novice bird watchers can use when they go out on their own.
Closer to land were the Red-winged blackbirds gathered in the bulrushes. McDonald said the noise from these birds were the insistent call for food from the young that hadn’t yet learned how to get their own even though they could fly.
One participant, Carol Kleiman, a resident of Pinetown, said she was always amazed at the variety of people who accompany McDonald on the walks. They come from throughout the Lake Almanor region and Susanville area.
“We are so blessed to have such diverse areas of habitat and someone who is familiar with it like Suzanne. I love being out in nature and having someone guide me and show me the special, interesting places locally to see birds,” said Kleiman.
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