For October, the starting time will be at 6:45 am. We will meet at the McFarland Ranch parking area. If the gate is locked when you arrive, Chris, you guided will be there shortly to open it.
The Orr Ranch parcel of the Cosumnes River Preserve is a mix of valley oak riparian forest similar to the Tall Forest, open grassland, forb-dominated seasonal floodplain, and willow-lined seasonal sloughs. The summer and fall route visits a portion of the Cosumnes River, while in winter and early spring, access varies considerably depending on water levels on the floodplain. This monthly survey began nearly 30 years ago, led by Terry Ronneberg. Chris Conard has been leading it since 2007.
The Orr Ranch bird survey provides the only regular access to this rarely-visited portion of the Preserve. Participants should be aware that most of the route is open country walking, manageable for reasonably fit hikers, but it mostly lacks established trails. With care, patches of poison oak can be avoided, but it is quite common on sections of the route. Stickers, ticks, and mosquitoes (especially in spring and summer) can be a nuisance. The full route is about 5.5 miles and lasts about as many hours. It is mostly flat, but with some uneven ground, vines, and logs to negotiate.
As with many bird surveys, this one begins a half hour before sunrise, just as it becomes possible to see without a flashlight. The start-time changes throughout the year and will be posted on the Preserve's website. Every outing is different, but the most rewarding times of year are likely from September to early winter before major flooding limits access. Spring can be wonderful too, but mosquitoes can be particularly annoying then. June and July are usually the slowest times but can have surprises too--for several years, the route hosted a singing Summer Tanager from May to August.
Long plans are a must and a long-sleeved shirt is helpful to avoid scratches from blackberries as well as biting insects. This outing is not recommended for children less than 10 years of age. Recommended footwear changes with the season. Hiking boots usually suffice in summer and fall, though Chris always wears rubber knee boots. These shed wet grass and stickers, limit ticks (ticks are possible, but rarely encountered on this route), allow for shallow wading as necessary, and avoid the potential of getting poison oak oils on boot laces (rubber boots are really quite liberating, though they can be hot by the end of the walk, and uncomfortable if you don't have a well-fitting pair).
Especially in the wet season, check the website for footwear recommendations. Non-birders are welcome (please bring binoculars--you'll have a much better time if you do), but should know that we move rather slowly and quietly, searching and listening for birds. This is also a great approach for seeing much of what the Preserve has to offer in terms of other wildlife, plants, and the Cosumnes Rivers' dynamic nature.