This popular birding hotspot in the heart of redwood country attracts huge flocks of shorebirds, as well as Peregrine Falcons, White-tailed Kites, rails, gulls, phoebes, sparrows, hummingbirds, and bitterns.
By Jeffrey Rich | Published: 6/25/2010
The City of Arcata treats its wastewater here through a complex and innovative system of oxidation ponds, treatment wetlands, and enhancement marshes. Birds love it. I go especially for the numbers and diversity of shorebirds. Thirty-nine shorebird species have been seen over the years.
Huge flocks of Western and Least Sandpipers stop over in fall and spring. Their kaleidoscopic flights are mesmerizing, and during high tide, they flock together in groups that you have to see to believe. Even better is the sight of a Peregrine Falcon scaring up the shorebirds. Watching a successful hunt is something I’ll never forget.
The area also is a wintering or rest stop for Brant, Aleutian Cackling Goose, and other waterfowl. Birding is good all year and includes raptors, hummingbirds, and songbirds. For the best land birds, visit the trees along the north side of Mount Trashmore (the old city dump site) and the willows and alders around Butcher Slough.
Rarities I’ve seen here include Tufted Duck and White-winged Dove. My favorite time is early April, when shorebirds in breeding plumage stop over en masse. — Jeffrey Rich
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Freshwater, salt, and brackish marshes, tidal slough and mudflats, and grassy uplands.
Flat. Gradual slopes along 5.4 miles of well-maintained walking and biking trails. Car birding on road through the marshes.
317 species. Resident: Great and Snowy Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Virginia Rail, Willet, Marsh Wren, Brown Pelican, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Harrier, Red-shouldered Hawk, White-tailed Kite, American Bittern, California Quail, Mew, Western, and Glaucous-winged Gulls, Caspian Tern, Anna’s Hummingbird, Black Phoebe, Orange-crowned Warbler, Savannah Sparrow. Migratory: Least and Western Sandpipers, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, both dowitchers, White- and Golden-crowned Sparrows, Ring-billed Duck, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Green-winged Teal, Horned and Pied-billed Grebes, Lesser and Greater Scaup, Lincoln’s Sparrow.
When to go
Spring and fall for huge numbers of shorebirds and chance of rarities.
Godwit Days festival every April. Checklist and recent-sightings list at Interpretive Center. Redwood Region Audubon leads bird walks Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. Blinds available.
Municipal wildlife sanctuary. No entry fee. Open every day from 4 a.m. until one hour after sunset. Interpretive Center open Tuesday through Sunday 9-5, Monday 1-5.
Best shorebirding occurs in the two hours before and after high tide along mudflats. At high tide, birds roost on islands in Klopp Lake.