Trip Report: Burney Falls
Here's a summary of my trip to McArthur-Burney Falls State Park
on Sunday, July 3, 2005. Like most birders, the main reason
I went there was to look for Black Swifts, which would be
a life-bird for me.
Heading from Redding to Burney Falls in the morning, I
decided to first check out the Bank Swallows in Fall River Mills.
En route, at the intersection of Hwy-89 and Hwy-299,
a pair of Western Kingbirds were a pleasant surprise.
The Bank Swallows could not be any easier to locate.
I have never seen this species so well before.
There were plenty of adults buzzing about the nests, and
there were also quite a few chicks in view in the nest holes.
Burney Falls state park seemed busy and parking was tight when I
got there at 11 AM. But there were hardly any birds overhead.
I quickly went to the overlook near the entrance station, and
after scanning for a few minutes saw two small black birds
flying around near the falls. Much relieved, I went to grab a
quick lunch at the park store before heading out for a better look.
Around noon, as I was eating lunch at a picnic table,
activity seemed to pick-up. Numerous Black Swifts were overhead,
calling, chasing each other and performing their aerial antics.
When I went back to the overlook, I could spot an American Dipper
on the rocks on the vertical face of the falls, foraging.
Heading down the trail to the falls, I stopped at the viewing
area at the switchback for about 30 minutes. There were now
a number of Black Swifts flying around the falls and I carefully
studied their comings and goings, trying to find a nest where
I could get a better look at them through my spotting scope.
I was impressed by how they actually flew through the falling
water to get to their nest. It was clear that they were nesting
both on the left as well as the right edge of the falls, and
I would have to go lower down to try to find a nest.
Of course, only the nests on the left would be visible,
if at all, from the trail.
Walking lower down, I stopped at the large Douglas fir tree
to the left of the trail, and scanned some more. From there,
I could see a few swifts landing at eye level, although it was
so dark that my scope revealed nothing. But I was encouraged
and kept tracking each bird that seemed to land behind the falls.
I noticed about three birds fly into this one spot and I
searched it thoroughly with my scope, and bingo!
I found three nests, and watched the changing of the guard at
two of the nests. In the third one, for some reason,
while one bird sat on the nest, the other bird did not leave
but just perched on the edge of the nest in typical swift fashion.
I watched these four birds on the three nests for the next
half hour, and also took some digi-scoped photos for the record.
Photographing them was very difficult with their size and color,
the distance, the lack of light, the intervening waterfalls,
all made worse by the mist rising from the falls.
The view improved slightly when I went all the way to the
edge of the plunge pool, except for the sporadic spray that
obscured and soaked everything. Nevertheless, I managed one
half-decent shot for the record, showing one bird on a nest,
and with a bit of imagination, the nest with two birds.
After a cooling swim in Lake Britton inside the park,
it was time to declare victory and head back home.
I did notice a Bald Eagle soaring over the lake.
Mountain View, CA