Lockwood Park, March 7 2015.

Chasing birds: A walk at Lockwood Trailhead

In Truckee River trails, Wildlife by KelseyFitzgerald1 Comment


On Saturday morning I took my dogs for a walk out at Lockwood Trailhead, a Washoe County Park located along the Truckee River about 10 miles east of downtown Reno.

About twenty years ago, the Lockwood property was the site of a trailer park. The land sat vacant through the late ‘90s and into the ‘00s, then was converted into a county park during 2008-09 through a joint effort by Washoe County, The Nature Conservancy, Otis Bay Ecological Consultants, Q&D Construction and others.  To improve habitat for native plants and wildlife, a new river meander and two backwater wetland areas were created, using heavy machinery to dig a new channel and close off the old channel.  Hills and low areas were constructed to add complexity to the habitat, and the park area was replanted with native vegetation.  I worked out there during large portions of that project, so I enjoy coming back to see how the site changes over time.  The slide-show below shows the changes that took place at the Lockwood restoration site between 1994 and 2014:

Lockwood Park, 1994-2014. Click left or right side of photo to advance slideshow.  

This Saturday morning, the air at Lockwood park smelled faintly of chemicals (I think this is related to the sewage treatment plant upstream) and you could hear the sound of cars rushing by on I-80, but the river channel was busy with birds.  I headed down a trail with my dogs, who bounded through the bushes like a bunch of overcaffeinated jackrabbits, hot on the trail of nothing and thoroughly enjoying it.  As we reached the river, they raced into the water for a drink, spooking a Great Blue Heron and a fantastic selection of ducks, including Green-winged Teal, Common Goldeneye, Common Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Mallards and Canada Geese.  In the large cottonwood trees across the river, a pair of Red-tailed Hawks looked out over the chaos. Resolving to never again to let my dogs out of the yard, I returned them to the car and continued alone.

Green-winged teal (Anas crecca) at Lockwood Park, Mar. 7, 2015.

Green-winged teal (Anas crecca) at Lockwood Park, Mar. 7, 2015.

A wetland area at Lockwood Park, Mar 7, 2015.

A wetland area at Lockwood Park, Mar 7, 2015. 

Hooded mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) in Lockwood Park, Mar.7, 2015.

Hooded mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) in Lockwood Park, Mar.7, 2015.


On my second lap down the Lockwood trail, I was able to see a bit more, and the experience was more peaceful without all of the cursing at rowdy dogs (whose enthusiasm for splashing is most appreciated when I’m not trying to take photos of ducks).

I noticed that the trunks of Fremont cottonwood trees that were planted back in 2009 have grown immensely, and are now almost as wide as the wire cages placed around them to keep the beavers from gnawing them down. The cottonwood buds look plump and ready to burst, but so far, no leaves have emerged, and everything out here still has the brown and bare look of winter.

Further upstream, I again encountered most of the ducks that had scattered earlier.  In the trees near the channel I saw Downy Woodpeckers, a Bewick’s Wren, three Northern Flickers and a Belted Kingfisher.  Several noisy flocks of gulls passed over, in V-formations, heading east.  I saw many gnawed-down tree trunks, but no beaver today.  It’s fun to see so much wildlife living at this site, and the changes that are taking place as the land slowly recovers.

Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii) at Lockwood Park have no leaves, yet. March 7, 2015.

Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii) at Lockwood Park have no leaves, yet. March 7, 2015.

Bewick's wren (Thryomanes bewickii) in Lockwood Park, Mar. 7, 2015.

Bewick’s wren (Thryomanes bewickii) in Lockwood Park, Mar. 7, 2015.

A flock of gulls (California gulls?) heads east over Lockwood Park, Mar 7, 2015.

A flock of gulls (California gulls?) heads east over Lockwood Park, Mar 7, 2015.

A downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) in Lockwood Park, Mar. 7, 2015.

A Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) in Lockwood Park, Mar. 7, 2015.

I think that a beaver has been hanging around Lockwood Park. March 7, 2015.

I think that a beaver has been hanging around Lockwood Park.  March 7, 2015.


Directions and Details:
Want to visit Lockwood Park?  From Reno, head east on I-80 until you reach Exit 22, for Lockwood.  Turn right at the end of the off-ramp, and as you come down a hill, you will see the park off to your right.  Continue past Lockwood Road, and turn right onto a dirt road at the sign for Lockwood Trailhead.  If you cross the bridge over the river, you’ve gone too far.  The park has picnic benches, a bathroom, parking area, a boat-launch area and nice trails to explore.

Lockwood Trailhead, a Washoe County Park.

Lockwood Trailhead, a Washoe County Park.

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