The Inside Scoop on Local Wildlife Viewing Spots
As we enter summer here in Reno, spring migration is complete, and all of the birds have settled into their nesting grounds. This time of year is the perfect time to view not just these birds but mammals, bugs, reptiles, amphibians, and more! Since the daylight hours are long and the temperatures are high, wildlife activity will be at its peak of the year in the summer. I like to venture out at least once a week by myself with a camera and binoculars in hand to capture some stills and videos of the wonderful wildlife that is active right now! I am going to share a few ~ wetland technician insider spots ~ with you that don’t get talked about very much when it comes to birding and animal viewing.
One of my favorite spots is located in Verdi and is called Crystal Peak Park. This park features the rushing water of the Truckee River flowing right through the middle of it! It also features a few fishing ponds and some breathtaking views of Verdi Peak to the west. This is one of the most accessible spots in the Reno area that combines the mountainous pine tree aesthetic with the floodplain cottonwoods and riparian plants. Because of this and its proximity to the Sierras, Crystal Peak Park features a lot of biodiversity for the area that it’s in. Many woodpeckers, nuthatches, and finches from the higher elevations can be seen here alongside the typical waterfowl and blackbirds that inhabit the Truckee Meadows. You might even be lucky enough to see an osprey or a bluebird! As for mammals, deer are abundant in this area. This is a great and well-maintained park to visit year round for wildlife viewing! (I would also like to recommend a snowy visit here in December.)
Another unique area, also in Verdi, is located off of Dog Valley Road just across the California border. Starting from the trailhead, a rocky path starting in a scrubby area with occasional pines will ascend into a beautiful pine forest after about a mile and a half. You must veer onto a dirt road for about a quarter mile in the middle section of the trail before it begins again. Bald eagle and red-tailed hawk sightings in this area are not uncommon. You will also hear an abundance of mountain chickadees, woodpeckers, and scrub jays fluttering about in the trees. This is one of my personal favorite spots to snowshoe in the winter and observe the chickadees doing their thing caching seeds. Being only a 15 minute drive from downtown and capturing the entire Tahoe vibe, this is a spot that I really wish more people knew about!
My most favorite spot that nobody talks much about is located off of Hoge Road on Peavine Mountain in Northeast Reno. This area is mostly shrubs with a few pines, willows, and cottonwoods interspersed with the sage and desert peach. I first noticed it on a hike and thought it would be a great location for birding. And sure enough - I was surprised at the amount of wildlife lurking in this seasonal creek just off of the Stagecoach/Keystone Classic trail! Bullock’s orioles, western kingbirds, and northern mockingbirds have claimed this mini wetland as their home for the summer. A few other unique visitors like lark sparrows, ash-throated flycatchers, and spotted towhees have also surprised me at this location recently. In the spring/summer, you can also observe all the pollinators hard at work on the desert plants. This location makes it easy to view both the birds and bugs due to the lack of big trees. However, if you do continue to follow the creek west, you will find a grove of pine trees housing more orioles, magpies, northern flickers, and more! I was so surprised at the amount of biodiversity surrounding this one creek. You may even be graced with the presence of a coyote or a Great Basin rattlesnake!
Other locations that I like to view wildlife are pretty well-known secrets. Oxbow Nature Study Area and Swan Lake Nature Study Area are both great options that don’t have as big of crowds. Rancho San Rafael Park is also an amazing place to observe birds and bunnies in the winter time when less people are out. And lastly, I cannot forget the Rosewood Nature Study Area! Our marmots make for entertaining wildlife viewing from February to October, and the birds, beavers, muskrats, and frogs are all observable year round!
I hope this blog helps you find some new places to bird and observe wildlife LOCALLY that you hadn’t heard of before! Happy Hiking!
GPS Coordinates for the parking locations:
Crystal Peak Park: (39.5148284, -119.9945563)
Dog Valley Road - California Trail: (39.5243738, -120.0126240)
Stagecoach Trail Wetlands: (39.5730984, -119.8462091)
About the Author:
Hayden is from Shingle Springs, CA, and I am currently enrolled at UNR. He grew up on a nature preserve, and my ultimate career goal is to be a watershed management/restoration ecologist. The mission of TMPF really resonated with him since it fits perfectly into the fields he is interested in. He is looking forward to learning about Nevada plants. In his free time, he likes to go trail running, fishing, and hiking. He really enjoys traveling and exploring new places with friends. This is Hayden's second term as a Wetland Restoration Technician!