WOODWARD RESERVOIR REGIONAL PARK
DIRECTIONS: Woodward Reservoir (14528 26-Mile Road) is located north of Oakdale. Proceed west from Oakdale on Highway 120, and then take 26-Mile Road north. The park entrance is about 4 miles north of Highway 120. Entrance to the park requires a fee, which is $10.00 per car at the time of this writing; the senior rate is $5.00. A map may be obtained at the entrance station. Current information about park rules, fees, and a map of the park may also be found at the Stanislaus County Parks web site. Inside the park, a paved road goes around the west side of the reservoir, ending just before the dam, also going around the south and part of the east sides of the reservoir. There are numerous places to stop and examine the coves along the shoreline. These points may afford good views of marsh birds, waterfowl, and wading birds. A spotting scope will be necessary for birding at this reservoir.
You may also drive around the reservoir without entering the park via 26-Mile Road (west side), Eastman Road (north side), 28-Mile Road (east side) and Dorsey Road (south side). This route affords an opportunity to view many birds of the open grasslands, including raptors. The bridge on 28-Mile Road is one area where portions of the reservoir are visible without entering the park. At the bridge and along the road are places to view shorebirds, waterfowl and other water birds on the reservoir and on the east side of the road, which is frequently flooded. The portion of the reservoir visible from the bridge often has good birding, as boating, fishing, and hunting are prohibited in that part of the reservoir.
On Eastman Road, a farm north of the reservoir has a heron rookery in the large eucalyptus trees around the ranch buildings. Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons nest there. On 26 Mile Road, a parking area just north of the dam provides a good point of access for looking over the portion of the reservoir near the dam and the shoreline to the north and east of the dam. This is often a good spot to look for loons and grebes in winter. You must pay the day use access fee to enter these areas.
The roads north of Woodward Reservoir to the Stanislaus County border are infrequently visited by birders. Several ponds are located along Sonora Road, both to the east and to the west of its intersection with 28 Mile Road. These ponds provide habitat for waterfowl and wading birds, as well as other marsh birds, including Tri-colored and Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Tri-colored Blackbird colonies have been observed along Milton Road and also to the east on Dunton Road, which intersects Milton about 2 miles south of Highway 4.
HABITAT: Woodward Reservoir provides open water habitat of varying depths, and several small islands that can provide resting sites for birds if they are not unduly disturbed. The deepest part of the reservoir is near the dam. When the reservoir is drawn down in winter, large areas of sediment may be exposed, attracting shorebirds. The largest numbers of waterfowl and shorebirds are often in the protected area on the east side of the reservoir. There are small patches of marsh vegetation located at various points along the shoreline. Trees planted around the margin of the reservoir provide habitat for land birds, as well as perch sites for raptors.
YEAR-ROUND BIRDS: Woodward Reservoir is home to a number of water birds that are year-round residents, including Pied-billed, Clark’s and Western Grebes; Double-crested Cormorant, American White Pelican; Great Blue, Green, and Black-crowned Night Heron; Great and Snowy Egrets, American Coot, Canada Goose, Mallard, Ring-billed and California Gulls. Raptors that may be seen year-round include Osprey, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, White-tailed Kite, and American Kestrel.
The open terrain around Woodward Reservoir supports such birds as Mourning Dove, Western Bluebird, Loggerhead Shrike, Lark Sparrow, Savannah Sparrows, Western Meadowlark, and Horned Lark. Pockets of marsh may yield sightings of Marsh Wren, Song Sparrow, and Red-winged Blackbird. Areas with trees around campgrounds and picnic sites have birds such as Eurasian Collared-Dove, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Western Scrub-Jay, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Lesser and American Goldfinches, and House Finch.
SUMMER: Some of the typical summer land birds of the region may be found at Woodward Reservoir in the summer, including Western Kingbird and Bullock’s Oriole. Caspian and Forster’s Tern may be seen during migration or summer.
MIGRATION: Most of the wintering water birds and shorebirds may also be seen during migration. Fall migration is probably the best opportunity to see the rare Common or Black Tern.
WINTER: Water bird diversity increases during the winter, including such birds as Common Loon, Eared Grebe, Snow Goose, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked and Ruddy Duck. Bonaparte’s, Ring-billed, California, and the occasional Herring Gull will
be present. Shorebirds that may be seen on exposed shorelines include Killdeer, Snowy Plover, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Least Sandpiper and (rarely) Western Sandpipers, Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Greater Yellowlegs. Open country birds that appear in the winter include Say’s Phoebe, Mountain Bluebird, and American Pipit. Wintering sparrows such as White-crowned, Golden-crowned, Lincoln’s, and Dark-eyed Junco join Yellow-rumped Warblers in the areas with trees or shrub cover. Bald Eagles are frequently sighted in winter. Merlins may be seen, and occasionally a Ferruginous Hawk. Tree Swallows may be seen at any time of year, though they are most common in migration and summer. A Rock Wren has been seen in winter at the bridge on 28 Mile Road.
RARE AND UNCOMMON BIRDS: Several rare birds have been found at Woodward Reservoir, including Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Pectoral Sandpiper, Black Tern, Common Tern, and Hooded Merganser. A Red-necked Grebe found in 2008 is the county’s only record of that species. The second historical record of Brown Pelican in Stanislaus County was found that same year. Blue Grosbeak has been seen at the bridge on 28-Mile Road.