Opinion Column

Birdwatch: Ken Hooles shares his adventure at the Effie Yeau Nature Centre

Ken Hooles

By Ken Hooles, Daily Observer

In late September 2014, my wife, Pat, and I travelled to Central California and the Lake Tahoe Region in Nevada. During our visit there, we hoped to take in some interesting scenery and add some new birds to my life list. Based on previous research, we determined that our first stop on this journey would be a visit to Ancil Hoffman County Park in Carmichael, California and the Effie Yeau Nature Centre located in this park. We were searching for Yellow-billed Magpie and Nuttall’s Woodpecker.

Our research paid off, as it did not take long to locate our first target, the Yellow-billed Magpie. While driving down the entrance street to the park, we observed a large flock of Yellow-billed Magpies feeding in a fruit tree. On having accomplished our first goal, we turned our attention to the Effie Yeau Nature Centre in hope of finding Nuttall’s Woodpecker.

The Effie Yeau Nature Centre is an award-winning environmental and education centre located in Ancil Hoffman Park along the American River. It is a non-profit centre that is operated by the American River Natural History Association, and it co-hosts events with the Sacramento Audubon Society. It is totally dependent on donations for its existence. It consists of a 100-acre nature preserve featuring interpretative trails, an educational centre with injured animals, a discovery shop for books and nature related toys, a replica Maidu Indian Summer village, picnic tables and washroom facilities. In the grass and woodland areas, one can find squirrels, mule deer, coyotes, raptors, owls, wild turkeys and a variety of resident and migrant birds. One of the most common birds located on this site and the logo for the centre, is the comical looking Acorn Woodpecker.

The nature centre has three self-guided trails that are equipped with interpretative signage. We began our search for the Nuttall’s Woodpecker around the nature centre itself. In this area, we located lots of Acorn Woodpeckers, House Sparrows, Western Scrub Jays, Northern Flickers, American Crows and an Anna’s Hummingbird.

From the nature centre, we proceeded along the Discovery Trail. This trail leads you along the edge of meadow and riparian tree habitats and onto a nature pond. The nature pond was completely dried up due to severe drought conditions that were occurring in California then. Along the Discovery Trail we were able to find Mule Deer, Western Bluebirds, Oak Titmice, Mourning Doves, Turkey Vultures, Wild Turkeys, White-breasted Nuthatch, California Towhee, Cedar Waxwings and the Nuttall’s Woodpecker. Our second objective was achieved.

From the Discovery Trail we entered the Observation Trail that takes you through grassland and Oak Woodlands to a grand view of the American River. Along this path, we located Starlings, Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Mountain Chickadees, American Robins and a Spotted Towhee.

Our final trail at the nature centre, the Riverview History Trail, leads you along the riverfront where settlers once lived. Along this trail, we spotted White-crowned Sparrows and along the shoreline of the American River, we identified Killdeer, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Canada Geese, Common Mergansers and a Belted Kingfisher.

Bird watching at the Effie Yeau Nature Centre was quite enjoyable and the centre staff was very helpful. It is hard to believe that in the midst of an urban area, this nature area exists. In the few hours we were there, we were able to find over 30 bird species and of course, the Yellow-billed Magpie and Nuttall’s Woodpecker. It was a great start to our western adventure!

Next week, I will relate more on the Yellow-billed Magpie. Please call me with your bird sightings at 613-735-4430 or email me at hooles@bell.net. For more information on upcoming nature events and other links to nature, I refer you to the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists website at www.pafn.on.ca.

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