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295. Lake Yosemite Regional Park, Merced County, California

This park in Merced County surrounds a deep-water lake and includes grasslands, woodlands, and other birdy habitats.

Located next to the newest University of California campus, Lake Yosemite Regional Park’s diverse habitats make it a near cross-section of Merced County. When birding the eucalyptus grove during the spring and summer, keep an eye out for nesting Great Horned Owls, Ash-throated Flycatchers, and Bullock’s Orioles.

During migration seasons, the oak and willow groves host warblers, vireos, and flycatchers. The lake itself is a haven for deep-water birds including Common Goldeneye, Clark’s and Eared Grebes, American White Pelican, Herring Gull, and Caspian Tern. Osprey are common year-round, and a pair of Bald Eagles winter annually, usually perched in a eucalyptus tree on the north shore.

Meanwhile, the grasslands surrounding the park are prime habitat for Long-billed Curlew (sometimes in the hundreds), Prairie Falcon, Burrowing Owl, and Horned Lark. During wet years, an ephemeral pond adjacent to the park hosts shorebirds and nesting Cinnamon Teal. Swainson’s Hawks can be seen during spring and summer. Next to the entrance, a small marsh-like section adjacent to an irrigation canal can host Song Sparrow, Marsh Wren, and Sora.

295. Lake Yosemite Regional Park, Merced County, California

Directions

Lake Yosemite Regional Park surrounds the Lake Yosemite reservoir near Merced. From Merced, which is located between Modesto and Fresno in the San Joaquin Valley, take G St. north to Bellevue Rd. and turn right. Go 2 miles to Lake Rd., turn left, and continue for about half a mile into the park.

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At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
37°22’13.83″N 120°25’54.82″W

Habitat

Deep-water manmade lake, open grasslands, ephemeral ponds, light woodlands, irrigation canals with some riparian areas.

Terrain

Flat. Most of the core part of park accessible by car, and whole park can be walked.

Birds

More than 140 species. Year-round: Clark’s Grebe, Snowy Egret, Loggerhead Shrike, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, California Scrub-Jay, Common Raven, Rock Wren, Lesser Goldfinch, Savannah Sparrow, Western Meadowlark. Winter: Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Eared Grebe, Greater Yellowlegs, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Say’s Phoebe, Hermit Thrush, Phainopepla, Orange-crowned Warbler. Breeding: Swainson’s Hawk, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Bullock’s Oriole, Black-headed Grosbeak. Migration: Warbling Vireo, Wilson’s and Black-throated Gray Warblers, Western Tanager. Rare: Cackling Goose, Common Loon, Forster’s Tern, Lesser Nighthawk.

When to go

Good year-round; best mid-March to May and mid-September to February.

Amenities

Drinking fountains, restrooms, and picnic tables. A boardwalk next to the main picnic area allows for easier viewing of the northern portion of the lake.

Access

County park. Automobile entrance fee of $6. Open from sunrise to sunset.

Tips

Wear sunscreen and have a hat from March through November. During winter, be careful when driving to the park on foggy mornings. A spotting scope is recommended to view the northern part of the lake and the surrounding grasslands from the park. 

For more info

Lake Yosemite County Park
Fresno Audubon Society

Sites nearby

Fahrens Park
5 miles southwest of Lake Yosemite. A suburban park where Green Heron, Wood Duck, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-breasted Sapsucker, and winter sparrows are reliable. Also good for migrant warblers and flycatchers.

Merced National Wildlife Refuge
17 miles southwest of lake. During winter and spring, ducks, Sandhill Cranes, Greater White-Fronted, Snow, and Ross’s Geese and many other birds congregate in huge numbers.

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Nathan Parmeter

Nathan Parmeter, a birder originally from Fresno, California, is a graduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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