DIRECTIONS: From downtown Modesto, drive down H Street to 5th Street and get onto Highway 99 south. Go 2.0 miles to Hatch Road. Take a right from the off ramp, get into the left lane, and make the first left onto Morgan Road. After you turn right at the next stop sign, travel for 3.0 miles to the facility entrance.
FACILITY USAGE: This water treatment plant, consisting of ten oxidation ponds of varying depths, has an easier policy for allowing visitors than that of the Modesto sewage pond facility. You simply walk in and sign in at the office ledger.
There are, however, some cautionary notes. First, when you drive up to the office, if you see a red flag on the flag pole, that means the Ceres police are using that facility as a shooting range; you must exit the premises. Second, vehicles are prohibited from driving along the levee of the deep pond north of the office. Third, you must keep your vehicle on the paved portion of the road, so as to avoid driving over sprinkler heads. Fourth, you must finish your birding by 3:30 p.m. at the latest, since the plant closes at 4:00 p.m. (Never dispute any policies with operations staff.) Last, remember to sign out as you leave.
This facility is open from Monday through Fridays only. It is possible, however, to bird a few of the ponds with a spotting scope after hours or during the weekend, either from the Morgan Street side or along the eastern boundary on Blaker Road. It is not permitted to park along the south end road by the orchard.
BIRDS: This is one of the better places in Stanislaus County to find shorebird migrants. You could expect to see Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Western and Least Sandpipers, Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson’s Snipe, Wilson’s and Red Phalaropes. Where there are shorebirds, there could be a Peregrine Falcon, found sporadically at these ponds during any season except summer. Bonaparte’s, Ring-billed, California, and Herring Gulls often make their appearance there.
Some of the wintering or year-round waterfowl include Gadwall, American Wigeon, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, and Ruddy Duck. The summer may have a few resident birds, but this season is the least interesting at these ponds for birding.
RARE AND UNCOMMON BIRDS: There are a few records here for Snowy Plover, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Short-billed Dowitcher, Eurasian Wigeon, Western Gull, Franklin’s Gull, and Mew Gull. There is one record for Tufted Duck. The first county record of a Ruff was recorded in 2008.