The Big River Bird Surveys–Laguna Marsh


Thursday morning was my second of three legs of Big River Surveys. This time it was Laguna Marsh. Laguna Marsh is a beautiful place to bird but very few birders get a chance to bird there because it’s a hard place to get to. I haven’t been there in over three years.

Four of us left the main Big River parking lot at 6:00AM and traveled up Comptche-Ukiah Rd. for about 9 miles to a locked logging gate (far right red arrow). Beyond the gate was Conservation Fund property. Down a logging road we went to a second locked gate (left red arrow) behind which was California State Parks property and Laguna Marsh. Another way of getting there is a trail (green arrow) about 7 miles up Comptche-Ukiah Rd. I hear that it’s very steep and you have to cross over an old falling down bridge at the bottom. You can also walk or ride your bike 8.3 miles up the Big River Haul Rd. and ford the river (yellow arrow). There are other logging trails into the marsh but you would need an ATV and a good sense of direction. The blue arrow is the last survey point on the Big River East Haul Rd. survey. It’s 1.83 miles by straight line, 2.2 miles by trail to the marsh from that point. The actual survey points at Laguna Marsh are shown below.

The Mendocino Land Trust has this to say about Laguna Marsh. “60-acre Laguna Marsh, an unusual inland and extensive fresh-emergent wetland representing one of the most productive habitats on earth.” I could not find much else in the literature and study’s available on the Big River area. 

Some of the attractions for birders visiting Laguna Marsh are the Wood Ducks and Purple Martins, a California Bird Species of Special Concern. Wood ducks during the survey route were abundant but unfortunately we could find only two Purple Martins (a pair going in and out of a hole) towards the end of the route. Normally we would find 6 to 8. One of the main snags that we’ve alway found Purple Martin in was quiet. In fact there was almost no swallow action during the whole survey with just a few Violet-green Swallows and one Barn Swallow seen. It seemed strange because the mosquito population was huge. Another California Bird Species of Special Concern is the Olive-sided Flycatcher. They have always been present at the marsh with 3 or 4 present during our surveys. They were very active during our visit. Another California Bird Species of Special Concern that has been found at the marsh is the Vaux’s Swift. None were found during this survey. A review of Ebird records for them shows that they are very rare in Mendocino County this year, especially along the coast.

We made it out alive without too much blood loss and next up will be the Big River–East Haul Rd. survey.


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