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"Easy Birder" Driving Routes

Sutherland Dam Road

Please note: this area was severely damaged by the 2007 Witch Creek Fire, with almost no vegetation left intact.  Based on data gathered during previous post-fire surveys, most of the chaparral specialties probably won't start recolonizing until 2009-2010, but fire-followers such as Black-chinned Sparrows and Lazuli Buntings could spike in the next year or two.  Look also for an increase in Rock Wrens.  The reservoir, of course, still attracts waterfowl and even raptors.  Click here for pictures of the damage.

    Sutherland Dam Road is paved up to the dam, where the road becomes a good graded road to the intersection with Black Canyon Road.

Approximate Length:  4 miles.

Approximate Birding Time:  1 hour 20 minutes

Traffic: Very light.

Facilities:  There are restrooms at the lake itself, but this area is only open on weekends; during the week there's a porta-potty outside the gate.

Directions: Take I-8 west to El Cajon, taking highway 67 north towards Ramona, where 67 turns into highway 78 east.  Once through Ramona continue on 78 for about 6 miles to Sutherland Dam Road on your left.

This is a good road to bird in conjunction with Black Canyon Road, as the two intersect at the Black Canyon Bridge.  The road begins in rural/agricultural habitat, where you can look for Western (summer) and Cassin's Kingbirds, both Say's (winter) and Black Phoebe, Northern Mockingbird, Western Meadowlarks, Western Bluebirds, American Kestrel, Phainopepla, Bullock's and Hooded Orioles (summer), and blackbirds of various sorts.  The road then climbs into oak woodland and chaparral, where you can listen for Wild Turkey in spring, both Lesser and Lawrence's Goldfinches, White-breasted Nuthatch, Costa's and Anna's Hummingbird, Wrentit, Hutton's Vireo, Ash-throated and Pacific-slope Flycatchers (summer), Scrub Jay, Oak Titmouse, California Thrasher, Acorn Woodpecker, both towhees, Black-chinned Sparrow (summer), and California Quail.  Scan the skies for swallows in summer or migration, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Osprey, and White-tailed Kite.  Sometimes you can spot a Cooper's Hawk on the telephone lines!  Sutherland Reservoir is open only on Fridays and weekends, but you can still get a good overview of the lake along the road and scan from there; in summer the pickings are lean, but you can still look for Caspian and Forster's Terns, Mallards, Great Blue Heron, Great and Snowy Egrets, and American Avocets and other over-summering shorebirdsIn winter, coots and cormorants are abundant, and occasionally flocks of Bonaparte's Gulls can be found.  This is also a good place to look for Common Merganser as well as other ducks and grebes, and occasionally Belted Kingfisher and even both Bald and Golden Eagle on the rocks!  Listen also for Rock and Canyon Wren around the dam area, and Red-shouldered Hawks in the trees around the buildings.  Tree Swallows nest behind the dam, and Mountain Quail can be heard "quark"ing from the higher hillsides.  Listen for Common Yellowthroats from the wetland vegetation below.  Continuing on the dirt road to Black Canyon Bridge, look for more oak woodland birds such as House Wren, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Black-headed Grosbeak (summer), and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  At the bridge (which is being restored as of this writing--April 2007), listen for Yellow Warbler (summer) and Song Sparrows in the riparian areas and Rufous-crowned Sparrows in the nearby chaparral.

Oak woodland along Sutherland Dam Road

Back side of the dam

Personal Checklist  ●=small numbers  █ = large numbers (10+) 

Please keep in mind that these lists are NOT comprehensive, and that some months may have had poor overall coverage. 

  J F M A M J J A S O N D*
Eared Grebe                
Pied-billed Grebe                      
Western Grebe                
Double-crested Cormorant          
Great Blue Heron              
Great Egret              
Snowy Egret                
Black-crowned Night Heron                      
Canada Goose                    
Cinnamon Teal                    
American Wigeon                      
Ruddy Duck                      
Turkey Vulture            
White-tailed Kite                      
Cooper's Hawk                  
Red-shouldered Hawk                
Red-tailed Hawk          
Bald Eagle                    
Golden Eagle                      
American Kestrel              
California Quail            
Mountain Quail                      
Wild Turkey                      
American Coot            
American Avocet                      
Greater Yellowlegs                    
California Gull                      
Ring-billed Gull                    
Bonaparte's Gull                  
Caspian Tern                      
Forster's Tern                
Mourning Dove          
White-throated Swift                      
Anna's Hummingbird          
Costa's Hummingbird                    
Belted Kingfisher                    
Northern Flicker            
Acorn Woodpecker              
Nuttall's Woodpecker            
Ash-throated Flycatcher                
Black Phoebe          
Say's Phoebe                    
Pacific-slope Flycatcher                  
Western Wood Pewee                      
Cassin's Kingbird                
Western Kingbird                  
Warbling Vireo                      
Hutton's Vireo                
American Crow  
Common Raven    
Western Scrub Jay  
Northern Rough-winged Swallow                      
Violet-green Swallow                  
Tree Swallow                      
Cliff Swallow                
Barn Swallow                      
Mountain Chickadee                      
Oak Titmouse        
White-breasted Nuthatch            
House Wren          
Bewick's Wren    
Rock Wren                    
Canyon Wren              ●      
Ruby-crowned Kinglet                
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
Western Bluebird          
Hermit Thrush                      
Northern Mockingbird              
California Thrasher          
European Starling        
Orange-crowned Warbler                  
Yellow Warbler                  
Yellow-rumped Warbler                  
Common Yellowthroat                  
Black-headed Grosbeak                
Blue Grosbeak                      
Lazuli Bunting                    
Spotted Towhee      
California Towhee  
Rufous-crowned Sparrow                
Black-chinned Sparrow                  
Lark Sparrow                      
White-crowned Sparrow                
Song Sparrow        
Dark-eyed Junco                
Western Meadowlark                      
Brown-headed Cowbird                  
Red-winged Blackbird            
Brewer's Blackbird              
Bullock's Oriole                    
Hooded Oriole                
Pine Siskin                      
Lawrence's Goldfinch                
Lesser Goldfinch    
American Goldfinch                      
House Finch  

*This survey was conducted two months after the Witch Creek Fire.

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