Posted by: Sandy Steinman | June 28, 2013

Northern Sierra Birds, Wildflowers and Butterflies – updated

Update: Problems with photos have been corrected

I just returned from a six-day trip in the Northern Sierra Nevada. I participated in a Birding Identification by Sound Class at San Francisco State Sierra Nevada Field Campus taught by Jim Steele and assisted by   and did a number of wildflower hikes on my own. The areas covered included the Lakes Basin, Yuba Pass and Sierra Valley. The Sierra Nevada Field campus is located near Yuba Pass and has access to many habitats. including Sierra Valley, one of the top birding areas in California, Yuba Pass and Lakes Basin. In the course of five days we identified by sound and sight 117 birds. The highlight for the entire group was seeing a night-time trip where we saw and heard two Spotted Owls.

The Lakes Basin is also one of the best wildflower areas in northern California. Wildflowers were past peak in lower areas but were peaking with good displays at Yuba Pass and about one half mile up the Pacific Crest Trail on the trail to the Sierra Buttes.

Click read more to see a master bird list from the class and my lists of flowers, butterflies and daily birds found.

I have yet to identify all the butterflies but will post separate slideshows of butterflies and wildflowers. Below are a few bird photos.

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Master Bird List: of all species identified by birding class (by sound and sight):

  1. Pied-billed Grebe
  2. American White Pelican
  3. American Bittern
  4. Great Blue Heron
  5. Great Egret
  6. Black-crowned Night-Heron  (seen by Kitty, Kathy, Patrick and Sandy)
  7. White-faced Ibis
  8. Canada Goose
  9. Wood Duck
  10. Mallard
  11. Northern Pintail
  12. Cinnamon Teal
  13. Northern Shoveler
  14. Gadwall
  15. Ring-necked Duck
  16. Turkey Vulture
  17. Osprey
  18. Bald Eagle
  19. Northern Harrier
  20. Northern Goshawk
  21. Swainson’s Hawk
  22. Red-tailed Hawk
  23. American Kestrel
  24. Peregrine Falcon
  25. California Quail
  26. Mountain Quail
  27. Virginia Rail
  28. American Coot
  29. Sandhill Crane
  30. Killdeer
  31. Willet
  32. Wilson’s Snipe
  33. Ring-billed Gull
  34. California Gull
  35. Rock Dove
  36. Band-tailed Pigeon
  37. Mourning Dove
  38. Burrowing Owl
  39. Spotted Owl
  40. Calliope Hummingbird
  41. Lewis’ Woodpecker
  42. Red-breasted Sapsucker
  43. Williamson’s Sapsucker
  44. Hairy Woodpecker
  45. White-headed Woodpecker
  46. Black-backed Woodpecker
  47. Northern Flicker
  48. Pileated Woodpecker
  49. Olive-sided Flycatcher
  50. Western Wood Peewee
  51. Hammond’s flycatcher
  52. Dusky Flycatcher
  53. Gray Flycatcher
  54. Horned Lark
  55. Tree Swallow
  56. Violet-Green Swallow
  57. Cliff Swallow
  58. Barn Swallow
  59. Stellar’s Jay
  60. Scrub Jay
  61. Clark’s Nutcracker
  62. Black-billed Magpie
  63. American Crow
  64. Common Raven
  65. Mountain Chickadee
  66. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  67. White-breasted Nuthatch
  68. Brown Creeper
  69. Rock Wren
  70. Canyon Wren
  71. House Wren
  72. Winter Wren
  73. Marsh Wren
  74. American Dipper
  75. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  76. Townsend’s Solitaire
  77. Swainson’s Thrush
  78. Hermit thrush
  79. American Robin
  80. Sage Thrasher
  81. Solitary Vireo
  82. Warbling Vireo
  83. Orange-crowned Warbler
  84. Nashville Warbler
  85. Yellow Warbler
  86. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  87. Black-throated Warbler
  88. Hermit Warbler
  89. MacGillivray’s Warbler
  90. Wilson’s Warbler
  91. Western Tanager
  92. Black-headed Grosbeak
  93. Lazuli Bunting
  94. Green-tailed Towhee
  95. Spotted Towhee
  96. Chipping Sparrow
  97. Brewer’s Sparrow
  98. Vesper Sparrow
  99. Savannah Sparrow
  100. Fox Sparrow
  101. Song Sparrow
  102. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  103. White-crowned Sparrow
  104. Dark-eyed Junco
  105. Red-winged Blackbird
  106. Western Meadowlark
  107. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  108. Brewer’s Blackbird
  109. Brown-headed Cowbird
  110. Purple Finch
  111. Cassin’s Finch
  112. House Finch
  113. Red Crossbill
  114. Pine Siskin
  115. Lesser Goldfinch
  116. Evening Grosbeak
  117. House Sparrow

On 6/9/13 I went wildflower hunting in the Lakes Basin area in Plumas County.

Flowers by Frazier Falls were already starting to Mt. fade out. Currently in bloom are Mule’s Ears, Lupine, Single-stemmed Groundsel, Penstemon, Mt. Pride, Ceanothus, Coyote Mint, Prickly Phlox, Scarlet Gilia, Alum Root, Applegate’s Paintbrush, California Helianthella, Horse Mint.

Birds I was able to identify included American Robin, Raven, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Turkey Vulture, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Scrub Jay and Stellar’s Jay.

As it was sunny and warm, butterflies were active including Blues, Fritillaries, Sulphurs and Checkerspots. The only one I could get to Species was a Pale Swallowtail.

Next I drove up above Packer’s Lake and walked about a half-mile up the Pacific Crest Trail toward Sierra Buttes Lookout. I reached a very flowery spot that I have visited in the past. Flowers were looking very good here. The star of the show was the Balsam Root. Also in bloom were Paintbrush, Pinemat Manzanita, Currant, Gooseberry,Wallflower, Yellow Lomatium, Prickly phlox, Pussypaws, Blue-eyed Mary (tiny), Black Elderberry, and Whitneya. Birds included American Robin and Juncos. Butterflies included Pale Swallowtails and Orange-tips.

6/10/13 I was birding in the Sardine Lake and Salmon Lake areas of Lakes Basin with a Birding Identification by Sound Class at San Francisco State Sierra Nevada Field Campus taught by Jim Steele. Birds identified today included:

  • Western Tanager
  • Western Wood Peewee
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Stellar Jay
  • Mt. Chickadee
  • Fox Sparrow
  • Yellow–rumped  Warbler (Audubon’s)
  • Mt. Quail
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Green-tailed Towhee
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Black-headed Grosbeak
  • Swainson Thrush
  • Tree Swallow
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Northern Flicker
  • Song Sparrow
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Red-breasted Sapsucker
  • Fox Sparrow
  • Western Tanager
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Stellar’s Jay
  • MacGillivray’s Warbler
  • Cassin’s Vireo
  • Black-backed Woodpecker
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher
  • Western Wood Peewee
  • Brown Creeper
  • American Robin
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Williamson’s Sapsucker
  • Goshawk

Flowers seen at included:

  • Paintbrush
  • Tobacco Bush Ceanothus
  • Buckwheat
  • Dogbane

This afternoon I went to Yuba Pass to do some flower photography and listen birds. The to meadows had a lot of bloom and included displays of Whorled Penstemon, lots of  Yampah. Other flowers in bloom included:


Slender Cinquefoil

a small yellow monkeyflower in a damp area


Shooting Stars

Elephants’ Heads

Marsh Marigold

Purple Aster

Single-stemmed Groundsel

Blue Larkspurs

Slender Cinquefoils

White-rein Orchid

I also identified by sound Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-breasted Sapsucker, and Warbling Vireo.

6/11/13 Another early morning start took us first to Sierra Buttes Rd. near Buttes #8 Private Road above Sierra City. Birds we identified included
Western Tananger

Spotted Towhee

Band-tailed Pigeon

Black-throated Warbler

Black-headed Grosbeak

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)

Nashville Warbler

Nest we drove to Yuba Pass which was pretty windy today. Bird identified were:

Evening Grosbeak

Dark-eyed Junco

Mountain Chickadee

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)

Hermit Thrush

Hammond’s Flycatcher

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Hermit Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

Cassin’s Finch

Pine Grosbeak

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Lazuli Bunting

Brown Creeper

Warbling Vireo

White-headed Woodpecker

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Brown-headed Cowbird

MacGillivray’s Warbler

Hairy Woodpecker

Dusky Flycatcher

After lunch I went to Gray Eagle Lodge and took the trail to Long Lake for about a half mile to two wildflower meadows. It was sunny and breezy so it was not good for flower photography. However, the flowers were out, the butterflies were very good, there were good bird sightings including a dipper.

Flowers seen:

Mt. Spirea

California Helianthella

Coyote Mint

Applegate’s Paintbrush

Sierra Onion’s

Showy Penstemon


Nuttall’s Linanthus


Arrow-leaved Balsam Root

Tobacco Bush

Larkspur (blue)

Spring Gold (Lomatium utriculatum)

Pretty Face

Mt. Dandelion

Sticky Cinquefoil

Fender Meadow Rue

Western Blue Flax

Bear Buckwheat

Snow Plant

Butterflies included:

Western Tiger Swallowtail

Pale Swallowtail

Clodius Parnassian

Lorquin’s Admiral

California Sister

Mourning Cloak

Propertius Duskywing

And unidentified

Checkerspot, Blues and Fritillaries

Birds identified included

Calliope Hummingbird

Mountain Chickadee

Mountain Quail

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)

Swainson’s Thrush

White-headed Woodpecker

American Robin

Chipping Sparrow

Dusky Flycatcher

Warbling Vireo


6/12/13 The birding destination for today was Sierra Valley. As always this is one of my favorite birding spots in California. A highlight was seeing two Sand Hill Crane Adults with one very young one and getting very close to a Virginia Rail. There was also a lot of Suncups in bloom right along the road.

Birds identified in Sierra Valley included:


Horned Lark

Sage Thrasher

Western Meadowlark

Brewer’s Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

Red-winged Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Marsh Wren

Brewer’s Blackbird

American Coot


Sandhill Cranes with baby

Wilson’s Snipe

Wood Duck

American Bittern
Savannah Sparrow

Virginia Rail

Northern Pintail


White Pelican

Gull sp.

Ruddy Duck


Next we drove up the canyon road to Frenchmen’s Lake Hwy 284.  The highlight here was watching a Peregrine Falcon chase an Osprey

Birds identified included:


Rock Wren

Black-headed Grosbeak

Violet-Green Swallow


Warbling Vireo

Yellow Warbler

Mt. Chickadee (nest)

Song Sparrow

American Robin

House Wren

Turkey Vulture

Peregrine Falcon

Flowers seen in the Canyon were:

  • Sulphur Buckwheat
  • Larkspur (tall blue)
  • Rose
  • Lupine
  • Creek Dogwood
  • Yarrow
  • Mule’s Ear
  • Waterleaf Phacelia

6/12/13 evening. We went out at night near Yuba Pass to look for Spotted Owls. We successfully saw and heard a male and female owl. We had excellent looks.

6/13/13 This morning the Birding Identification by Sound Class took a practice point to point survey. We drove and Forest Rd. 450 until the intersection of 860 and turned left back to the main highway.  We would drive for about a mile than listen for three minutes and see what birds we could identify at each stop. We than took a few minutes to discuss what we heard and discuss identifications. We heard and saw many of the birds we have already come across earlier in the class. A few highlights were a good look at a Green Towhee, seeing Mt. Bluebirds, watching a Nighthawk fly overhead, a Calliope Hummingbird, an American Kestrel, Lewis’s Woodpecker, hearing Wilson’s Snipe, good looks at Mt. White-crowned Sparrows. We heard many Brewer’s Sparrows and Western Wood Peewees.

After a lunch stop in Loyalton, each group was to go back on their own. My car group (Kitty, Partrick, Kathy and Me) decided to head back to Sierra Valley and do more birding. Around Loyalton we saw a Red-tailed Hawk and a Northern Harrier. We than started towards the Marsh and saw:

  • Horned Larks
  • Northern Harrier
  • Brewer’s Blackbird
  • Cliff Swallows
  • Barn Swallows
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • A pair of Gadwalls
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Several Great Egrets
  • Black-crowned Night Heron
  • Piedbilled Grebe w/baby
  • Double-crested Cormorants
  • Red-winged Blackbirds mobbing Ravens and Willets
  • Brewer’s Sparrow
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • American Coots with babies
  • Turkey Vulture

We also heard a Virginia Rail in the same exact spot as we did on an earlier day with the group, but no visible sighting this time even though we were only a few feet away.

  • Twelve-spotted Skimmer (dragon fly)
  • Five-leafed Clover
  • Fringed Water Plantain


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