The Little River Airport has been my local patch almost since I first moved to the Woods (a senior housing community owned by NCPHS) in Little River, CA during October of 2005. The Woods is across the road. The airport is bordered on the south and west by Redwoods and on the north, east and southeast by the world famous Pygmy Forest. The airport’s flora is pretty degraded due to airplane safety but because of two drainage ditches on the north and south sides there is a fair amount of marshy area especially in the northwest area. I have found Virginia Rails and Marsh Wrens(in the Winter) there.
Mendocino County owns the airport while the Little River Golf Course owns most of or all the ponds on the west end which they use as a water source. The golf course is Audubon certified. After a mysterious path clearing several years ago I was able to get access to all the ponds. Some history of the airport can be found here
As of this writing I have found 116 total bird species. Bobolink (2 times), and Sage Thrasher being the most rare in Mendocino. Only the second coastal record of Townsend’s Solitaire, a mountain bird. There is a large population of Bewick’s Wren (rare on the coast) and the locally rare Red Crossbills can be found, sometimes in flocks of over 20 birds. Although not rare, I always enjoy the Hooded Mergansers that can be seen in late Fall and Winter.
My normal birding route is 1.9 miles around the Northwest corner of the airport. In March I will have 5 years of Ebird data for the area.
As a side note-Because of the adobe soil of the Pygmy Forest, the trail over to the airport can flood. I would normally drive to the terminal to start my birding if that happens. Since the start of this experiment I now walk the distance, about a mile round trip.
Using the word “playground” in the title is a reference to a news article in the local paper. It’s dated before my arrival but towards the end it refers to older people who have made the airport their playgound. You can read about the troubles at the airport here.
This post has been edited to include the following: On February 11th, a Barrow’s Goldeneye was discovered at the Willits’ Waste Treatment Plant (WWTP). Barrow’s Goldeneye are very rare in Mendocino County. The WWTP was a favorite birding location for a Willits’ birder by the name of Mike Curry. He would post on the local birding site (Mendobirds) about the birds he was seeing there and would alway give directions to the WWTP. Apparently because of the increase in excited birders coming to see the BAGO, authorities have closed the site to birders. Have no idea why. Maybe liability issues or maybe employees having to take too much time out of their day. In any case there hasn’t been a posting from the WWTP since February 22nd. I have not heard any comments from birders in this area that they are sorry it’s been closed or that Mike Curry has been shutout from his favorite birding spot. Maybe he can get back in in the future. I hope so. BUT…based on the fact that I don’t want to get “Curryed” at the Little River Airport I will not be posting any rare birds I find at the airport until well after they’ve gone. I will be very selective about who I tell about birds I’ve found and I will not encourage people to bird there.