Sutter County Big Day Results!

James Laughlin


Stuart Angerer and I did our annual Sutter County Big Day yesterday. This was the 14th year.  We tallied 121 species. It was tough considering the lack of water just about everywhere. Shorebirds were incredibly difficult to find until the end of the day when we found a handful in a recently flooded rice field.  We did add one bird, HUTTON'S VIREO, to the growing Big Year total (185).


We started our morning at Sutter NWR. Along Hughes Road we had a calling LEAST BITTERN and YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS. They were on the south side of the road about the middle of Hughes Road.  Heading back towards the hunter check station where Hughes Road meets the levee road to go south towards the check station we and OSPREY. There is a nest on top of what the electrical power line towers.   We then birded the top of the levee looking east over the closed zone and south of the hunter check station. Not much water here and what is left will be done soon. Here we had BLUE-WINGED TEAL, LONG-BILLED CURLEW, LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER, RING NECKED DUCK, and COMMON YELLOWTHROAT. Continuing south we birded the Sutter NWR birding trail. Here we found YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER, NASHIVILLE WARBLER, YELLOW WARBLER, ORANGE CROWNED WARBLER, RUBY CROWNED KINGLET, and BLACK-HEADED GROSEBEAK. Six warblers species total. That's a good day in the spring for us. 

Across the street from the Grace United Methods Church along S. Walton Road we had a male HOODED ORIOLE feeding from a hummingbird feeder.

At the ski pond along highway 70 and Marcum Road we had numerous AMERICAN WIGEON and two EURASIAN WIGEON.

My apologies for not revealing the locations but at two separate private locations in the Sutter Buttes we had a combined total of two CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRDS, nine RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS, and a scattering of BLACKCHINNED and ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRDS.

At the corner of N. Butte Road and Bigelow Road on the north side of the Sutter Buttes we had two LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES drinking from a pool of water next to the road. If you go to this location, the best success we've had in the past and yesterday is to find some kind of pooling water. 

Mid-day we were able to start birding Bobelaine.  Birding the north trail, we had WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH, HUTTON'S VIREO, FORSTER'S TERN (along the river), WARBLING VIREO, BALD EAGLE, AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN, BELTED KINGFISHER, WESTERN WOOD PEWEE, and WRENTIT.

Along highway 99 north of the Feather River bridge and in the Dingville area we had 19 WHIMRELS loafing on the checks. This area is usually a big time shorebird spot for us. My guess is by next weekend this will be  flooded and in some areas being drawn down creating good shorebird habitat.

Late in the day we headed to the very southwest corner of the county and birded the Sacramento river atop the levee along Garden Hightway. North of the Sacramento/ Sutter County line in Sutter County we had LEWIS'S WOODPECKER and BALD EAGLE.   

About 7:15pm we started to see LESSER NIGHTHAWKS forging on the west side of the Sutter Buttes. We had three north of Pass Road along W. Butte Road and one south of Pass Road along W. Butte Road

Just before dusk we did find one rice field along highway 20 just west of the 76 gas station south of Sutter. We were lucky to find a handful of shorebirds which included: BLACK BELLIED PLOVERS, LESSER YELLOWLEGS, WESTERN SANDPIPERS, and DUNLIN. 

Notable misses include: Wilson's warbler, Barn Owl, black-necked stilt, bufflehead, cedar waxwing, Cooper's hawk, northern flicker, semi-palmated, plover, common moorhen, and spotted sandpiper. Diving ducks were non-existent. We found one RING-NECKED DUCK at Sutter NWR.

I would like to thank Stuart for joining me yesterday.  I don't get to bird as much as I have done in the past.  Family life and work takes up a fair amount of my time these days. And although we didn't break any records, Stuart and I had a wonderful day of birding in Sutter County.  Spring is by far my favorite season! 

Thinking about doing a fall Sutter County Big Day this year!

If anyone has any questions about what we saw feel free to email.

Jim Laughlin
Plumas Lake