While not yet known as a Mecca for bird watching, Groveland has a movement on the wing in this direction! The Groveland area recently formed its own Christmas Bird Count Circle, under the auspices of the Audubon Society, covering an area that had never been surveyed before. Our local sector circles include all of Groveland, Cherry Lake, and Moccasin Creek which includes a significant part of Lake Don Pedro.
Following is more information about the three birding sites provided by our local birder, Bill Zachman.
Groveland Community Services District (GCSD) - authorized access needed
This 250-acre GCSD property includes almost half of the birds that can be found in Tuolumne County at some time during the year. However, public access must be through the GCSD Office or with a few local birders, such as Bill, who have been authorized to escort others while on the property.
The property includes untreated and treated sewage water ponds, and spray fields which produce low vegetation, and oak, willow and pine trees. The smallest tertiary level treated pond is where most of the shorebirds occur. The large, lake-like secondary level pond holds most of the waterfowl to be found. Three Wood Duck nest boxes are installed on tall metal poles sunk into the bottom of the pond around the most remote edges of this large pond.
The GCSD and community members will conduct continuing studies of not just birds, but also plants, mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians too!
Take California Highway 120 to Groveland. Go through downtown and past the park on the left - then turn left on Ferretti Road. Go approximately 1/2 mile to the entrance to the GCSD property on the left. You must be accompanied with the local Groveland Audubon Society Leader, and a waiver must be on file. The local chapter meets on the first Wednesday of the month. You may call the District at 209-962-7161 where we can direct you to the appropriate contact person for this group.
Cherry Lake Road
The entire spot is characterized by scrub brush, dead tree snags and dry grasses on steep slopes along the road. Most of the sightings occur down-slope from the road. The site ends just beyond the lone pine at the top of the hill, where there are a few pine trees at the edge of the oak forest.
Take Highway 120 East from Groveland. You will go through Buck Meadows and pass a Vista Point on the left. After a descending curve and crossing a bridge watch for Cherry Lake Road on the left. Caution is required because the turn is blind, and it is difficult to see oncoming vehicles on Cherry Lake Road. Proceed through the residential areas until you see the Yosemite National Park - Hetch Hetchy Area sign. This is where the site begins.
The Moccasin Creek birding spot starts at and includes the Moccasin Fish Hatchery, and all the land and creek habitat owned by the Don Pedro Recreation Department from the Fish Hatchery to the outlet into Lake Don Pedro. The road leading onto the Moccasin Creek campground, along the "old highway" until just past the abandoned boat ramp is also part of the area in which the data has been collected.
The habitat includes oak and pine forest, willows along the length of the creek, mine tailings along the creek bed. and grasslands and mudflats along the shoreline of Lake Don Pedro.
Proceed on Highway 120 toward Groveland from Highway 108 at Yosemite Junction. Go across the bridge over Lake Don Pedro that is a sweeping turn to the left and watch for the intersection at the Moccasin Fish Hatchery where Highway 49 turns right towards Mariposa. At this intersection TURN LEFT on the short spur road that leads to the Ferretti Memorial grotto. Park anywhere along this road and begin birding. There are multiple gates and entry points to access the area from the road leading to the Ferretti Grotto monument where the road deadends.
For more information about these three birding sites and current bird counts and species, please visit Bill's website at http://www.whzerd.com/tcchecklists.htm, and contact him for a guided tour of the region. And great news, since last year's count GCSD has seen 123 species so far, Mocassin Creek has 83 in only 7 months of surveying, and Cherry Lake Road has 70 after 15 months.
The Central Sierra Audubon Society serves both Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, which encompasses Southern Tuolumne County and the Groveland area, and is a chapter of the National Audubon Society and affiliated with Audubon of California.