Chipmunks of Northern California
Venkat Sankar sent me this helpful note on some sites for Chipmunks and other stuff (including Fishers… be still my beating heart… in Northern California)
Given the interest in finding Chipmunks in CA, I thought I’d provide an update on Chipmunk viewing in the state from a recent trip I made to NW California.
Siskiyou Chipmunk – a great spot for seeing Siskiyou Chipmunk (and probably more accessible than both Oregon Caves and Grayback Road) is Church Tree Road near Crescent City, CA. Just drive to the end of the road, park and watch the feeders at the house on the right; they should be pretty easy to find.
Allen’s Chipmunk – very easy to see on the road across South Fork Mountain (locally called Forest Route 1); it is a 2 hour drive between Mad River and Horse Mountain and pretty good for all kinds of mammals (Black Bear and Western Gray Squirrel especially). If you don’t want to do the whole thing, they are easy to find near the start of the road at Horse Mountain Saddle.
Sonoma Chipmunk – a good site for this species is the dense Ceanothus/Manzanita chaparral and scattered Ponderosa pines around the area where Friday Ridge Rd intersects with 299 in the Trinity River Canyon. Just drive up Friday Ridge Rd from 299 a little (less than a mile), park in a pullout, and walk the road. If you squeak, you should be able to get decent looks as they dash from the dense vegetation. I found a couple within a minute of getting out of the car.
Yellow-pine Chipmunk – easier in other places but if you want this species in NW California, the top of Forest Route 1, especially near Blake Mountain in the Red Fir forest is quite good. Squeaking and sharp eyes while driving should yield sightings.
Yellow-cheeked Chipmunk – this drab lurking species can sometimes be tricky to find but the picnic area in the California Federation of Women’s Clubs Grove in Humboldt Redwood SP is a very reliable spot; they should be easy to hear squeaking in the maples and you should be able to track them down from there without too much trouble; they often frequent the tables looking for food.
Finding other mammals in this part of the state is tougher, but a couple of notable things I thought I’d mention are: 1) Tolowa Dunes SP is probably the best place in CA to see North American Porcupine – the trail between Kellogg Rd and Yontocket is the best site, but they can be seen pretty much anywhere (Cadra Point, Pacific Shores, etc.); and 2) the road between Hoopa and Red Cap (Big Hill Rd, becoming Red Cap Rd in the Six Rivers NF) is I suspect the best place in the west to try for Fisher – a biologist I know sees them regularly while driving the road doing fieldwork and once saw 3 in a day (on one pass of the road)! I tried to get in touch with some people regarding Sonoma Tree Vole, but didn’t get any info.
A little known recreational trail (Stagecoach Hill Azalea Preserve) near Big Lagoon is a great place to see Western Red-backed Voles at night. In June 2014, the forest floor was full of various fungi and if you walked around at night on the trail quietly, listening for rustling/scurrying, you could track the voles down. The forest is dense Sitka Spruce with a relatively sparse understorey and lots of decaying matter. It’s also a reasonable spot for Northern Flying Squirrels, but you need to be lucky (or put in a lot of effort).
To get there, drive up Kane Rd just N of Trinidad/Big Lagoon and after 0.5 mi turn left at a junction. I’m not sure if the sign is still there but there should be a poor (but short) gravel track that will take you to a small parking area in the spruce. Just take the trail there.