DIRECTIONS: Take Highway 132 east out of Modesto to La Grange Road. Turn left (north) and go to Cooperstown Road. Turn left (northwest) and continue 9 miles to Willms Road. You can then turn right to get to the junction with Rock River Road, which continues to the Tuolumne County line, or you can turn left and follow either Crabtree Road back to Highway 132 or Warnerville Road to Oakdale.
Cooperstown Road, Rock River Road, Crabtree Road, Willms Road, and the first few miles of Warnerville Road offer excellent birding. While there are no public access or restroom facilities in this area, the roads are uncrowded and offer many places to pull over and park safely.
HABITAT: The area is mostly rolling foothills in short grass pasture, with the first few southern miles of Cooperstown Road being blue oak savannah. Of note is the proximity of the area to the Sierra Nevada.
Winter: This area is superb for raptors. Ferruginous Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcon, and Merlin are relatively easily seen. Great Horned Owl may be expected at dusk. The Sierra spills over small, but regular numbers of Mountain Bluebird. Lewis’s Woodpecker can be reliably found in the blue oaks. Vesper Sparrow can occasionally be found among the flocks of Savannah Sparrow.
Fall and Spring Migration: In the spring, and less in the fall, Lesser Nighthawks can be found along Cooperstown and Willms Roads.
Year-round: The usual grassland and blue oak savannah species in season, such as Burrowing Owl, Say’s Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Horned Lark, Yellow-billed Magpie, Western Meadowlark, and Lark Sparrow. Crabtree and Willms Roads have been the sites for large flocks of Tri-colored Blackbirds.
Rare and Uncommon Birds : Lesser Nighthawks may be found at dusk over the pond on Willms Road, a few miles south from Highway 120. Piñyon Jay, Sage Thrasher, and Lark Bunting have been rarely seen here. Brewer’s Sparrow has been found on Crabtree Road and Hazeldean/Tim Bell Road, near the Modesto Reservoir. There was a single sighting of Grasshopper Sparrow on Crabtree Road in 2000.