The Sierra Valley is a natural treasure trove that lies just east of Nakoma and can be easily accessed via Hwy 70. This 120,000 acre wetlands is about the size of Lake Tahoe and supports an astonishing diversity of bird life. Over 230 species make the valley their habitat, in addition, the valley is part of the Pacific Flyway for hundreds of migratory birds who travel north-south seasonally.
Mid-March through early May are ideal times to view thousands of migratory birds making their way north. My personal favorite is the Sandhill Crane which makes a decidedly un-birdlike guttural sound and has quite the distinctive dance steps in its mating ritual. These are large birds that travel in enormous flocks that you hear coming long before you can spot them hundreds of feet overhead. It’s not unusual to find cars pulled to the side of Hwy 70 watching these magnificent birds organizing themselves into a broad V to continue their annual migration.
In the fall, the valley supports an equally enjoyable variety of raptors. Bald eagles and Red-tailed Hawks are commonly seen, and Golden Eagles have also been spotted. Bird watchers report that migrating flocks of waterfowl and songbirds can also be seen in the fall.
The Valley is also home to a variety of wildlife. A herd of Pronghorn can be seen regularly along Hwy 70 and deer and coyotes are also a common sight.
The Sierra Valley has a rich history and is largely made up of privately-owned ranches, many of which have been placed into conservation through the Feather River Land Trust to preserve the land from future development. The valley forms the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Feather River, which is part of the California State Water Project, a system that provides drinking water to over 20 million Californians. The Land Trust is dedicated to protecting this water source for both drinking water and the wildlife that depend on it.
For more information, contact the East Sierra Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Photos by S. Pettengill