Birding the West Slope: South Yuba River S.P.

Every time I am at my mother’s house in Penn Valley, I make an early morning trip down Pleasant Valley Road to South Yuba River State Park.

This park includes the settlement of Bridgeport and the 1862 Bridgeport Covered Bridge that spans the Yuba River. This bridge is noted for being the longest covered bridge in the world. It has now been taken apart and is in the process of restoration.

But I was not here for the bridge, I was here for a chat. The yellow-breasted chat. This is a bird that is most often heard rather that seen. In fact these warblers are notoriously difficult to get good looks at this sulky bird tends to keep dense vegetation between itself and any viewer. They have quite a repertoire of songs and they sing very loudly but for such a big, bright yellow warbler, they are tough to spot. Pete Dune says of the chat, “Both a histrionic showoff and a shy skulker”.

When I arrived at 7:30 AM, I could already hear the chatty chat singing and calling from the dense riparian trees near the cemetery. Now I was going to try to locate the source of the song.

I headed down the riparian path and tried to find the singing chat in a top of a tall oak. Then I saw a chat launch into to the air and down down to the oak in a rowing wing motion. This was a chat in a flight display. I was able to locate the chat and I got great view and I was able to get some photos before the bird flew off to another tree.

This is the first photo I took of the singing male yellow-breasted chat.

After getting my fill of chats, I headed down to the South Yuba River where the song sparrows were in full song and on the opposite bank I spotted a spotted sandpiper, teetering up and down while it forages.

The real highlight a visit to the Yuba, especially where waters are at their most turbulent, is the appearance of John Muir’s favorite bird. A small, short-tailed, and dark gray bird, the American dipper.

I spent about 20 minutes with the dipper, watching it dip, forage, and preen amongst the white water of the South Yuba River.

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