01-15-03

The Rusty Blackbird has now been seen by 6 members of the class that I'm aware of: Eric Goodill, Shelia Mae Annis, Stephanie Barkey, Anne Creevy, Kay Matthews and Susan Kazul all had great views of this rare, eastern counterpart to the familiar Brewer's Blackbird! Even better is that it may remain in its Sunnyvale parking lot long enough for more of us to find. This first-ever record for the county is understandably generating a lot of interest.

For those planning to pursue it, remember Eric's warning that the bird moves around quite a bit and you may have to wait for it to appear. Details about the bird's location have been widely publicized already, but for those planning a quest, it has been seen for several days "by the Big Lots and Blockbuster stores in the parking lot at the corner of El Camino Real and Lawrence Expressway". [Mike Rogers 01/13/03] (Personally, I think it's amusing that a bird so rare and beautiful a bird would choose a parking lot for it's Santa Clara County debut! -MCD)

Anyway, another subscriber was a little more specific about his encounter: "I first saw the bird in the shrubs along the drive-up lane to the Starbucks behind the speaker where they take orders. Losing sight of it, I refound it eating pieces of bread in the parking strip with shrubs directly across from the front of the Big Lots store. This sites are at opposite ends of the parking lot. The Rusty Blackbird (along with all the others [Brewer's Blackbirds]) moves around quite a bit." [Matthew O'Brien 01/13/03]

As well, the Brown Booby seems to be dependable at Princeton Harbor so perhaps we'll get to see it as a class when we go there in a week and a half. Think positive... That would REALLY be wonderful. See the 01/04/03 for details.

A little less impressive perhaps, during my lunch-hour walk along the San Fransquito Creek near downtown Palo Alto I heard quite a bit of singing among the birds. Northern Mockingbird, American Robin, and Dark-eyed Junco were all in full, libidinous voice, as if they didn't realize spring was still more than two months away. I also got brief looks at a high-flying Cooper's Hawk near the railroad crossing along El Camino Real.



01-12-03

A scouting trip to next week's field trip destination, Coyote Hills Region Park on the east end of the Dumbarton bridge, produced some species not found yesterday at Steven's Creek Tidal Marsh. I began in the main parking area, where numerous Red-winged Blackbirds sang loudly, and walked up toward Hoot Hollow above the interpretive center where I found several Ruby-crowned Kinglets working the area. Two males showed their red crown patches at eachother in excited territorial display which was very entertaining to watch. A few Yellow-rumped Warblers fed above the picnic tables and a large flock of American Robins stormed the area like a gang of berry-eating bandits. As I proceeded up the road to the rocky outcropping, a group of 6 Tree Swallows flew overhead and appeared to be moving toward the pond down hill. Later, when I caught up to the birds, I found a single, unexpected and unseasonable Barn Swallow among them. American Pipits were present in two large groups of about 50 individuals each in the drier grassy area, and a Say's Phobe was flycatching near by as well. Atop a leafless tree near the second picnic area was a Loggerhead Shrike that allowed me to approach closely as it scanned the lawn for a meal. Most exciting, however, was a magnificent immature Peregrine Falcon on the wooden structure just beyond the No Name trail head. I was able to get within "shooting" distance, but of course I didn't have my camera... Oh, well. Toward the end of my walk, I located a few Northern Pintail on the large pond, but unlike yesterday's Pintails, these were definately not made of wood...

The threatening weather convinced me to return home early, so I was unable to check out the salt ponds on the northwest end of the Dumbarton bridge, where an astounding number of Snowy Plovers (264!) were reported two days earlier by Kris Olson as part of the Snowy Plover Survey for SFBBO/SF Refuge.



01-04-03

Today, Brian Christman and I decided to pursue the Brown Booby that was reported two days earlier at Princeton Harbor north of Half Moon Bay. Valuable information which may help you locate this bird can be found here: http://fog.ccsf.cc.ca.us/~jmorlan/broboo.htm This rare, Mexican bird proved very easy to find off the end of the fishing dock beyond the area where our group usually parks. Telescopes are recommended, but the bird was discernable with binoculars alone. This individual represents the only winter appearance of the species in Northern California with the other records, only a few, being for late summer and fall.

After finding that bird, we drove south to Santa Cruz where the ultra-rare Nutting's Flycatcher had been reported just a few hours earlier. Our information came from a combination of MBB list service emails and other posted information. Some of that information can be found at the following useful sites: http://montereybay.com/creagrus/SCZnutting.html and http://fog.ccsf.cc.ca.us/~jmorlan/nutfly.htm. I have to say that if it weren't for the immediacy of web information such as that represented on these two sites, rare birds such as this would be impossible for most people to find. As it was, when we arrived at the posted location, just 12 hours after the original message had been broadcast, a group of almost 20 people were gathered to see this, only the third-ever siting of this bird north of the Mexican border. We were all treated to extended looks as the bird foraged in an olive tree to the delight of everyone, including the Santa Cruz Daily reporter! There was also a female Merlin which chased the Nutting's Flycatcher into an olive tree and narrowly missed hitting her target. Lucky for the rest of us...



01-02-03

Kelly and I had a wonderful Christmas that was divided between our two family's homes with many gifts and food and frivolity. The day after Christmas we left her parent's home in Lodi and began our long road trip up to the Klamath Basin which straddles the Oregon/California border. We visited Lower Klamath, Tule Lake, Butte Valley and Klamath Falls before returning home via the Sacramento NWR which includes Sacramento River, Colusa and Graylodge. Our 1500 mile journey subjected us to heavy rain, winds, snow and fog but we were still able to log a great number of species, many of which had to be viewed from the car.

The purpose of the trip was to see the "Eagle spectacle" where as many as 1500 Bald Eagles gather in the Basin to feed off of the wintering Waterfowl which have exhausted themselves on their migration from the north. Tundra Swans are in abundance during this time and often fall victim to the huge, hungry scavengers. It is really quite something to see the Eagles standing watch on the frozen ponds just yards from the nervous Swans who remain close to one another, each one hoping they will not be selected by the nearby predator. We did not see as many Eagles as we had hoped, but up to 14 individuals were counted in a single grove of trees and a total of 44 were seen on our three days in the area. Raptor turnout was otherwise good with uncountable numbers of Northern Harriers, American Kestrels and Red-tailed Hawks, perhaps 10 Rough-legged Hawks, 3 Merlin, 3 Golden Eagles, a Peregrine Falcon,a Prairie Falcon, and a Ferruginous Hawk.

We did, however seen the Waterfowl numbers we expected. There were unbelievebly large clouds of spinning, swarming Snow Geese and other Waterfowl that simply defied counting. We were witness to so much conspicuous beauty while we were there however, that it is hard to describe. But imagine, if you will, what a flock of some 100 Swans might look like as it flies thought the icy haze overhead in a perfect "V" formation, their cries breaking the near silence, and you might have some idea what it was like in this wonderful wintery northern land...

The species list below includes all birds seen between Christmas and New Year's with (K) refering to birds found only in Klamath Basin and (S) for those found only in the Sacramento NWR. Especially interesting species were Rock Wren at the Sacramento NWR and Northern Shrike in Lava Beds NP overlooking the nearby Tule Lake.

Eared Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican (S)
Double-crested Cormorant (S)
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret (S)
Green Heron (S)
Black-crowned Night Heron (S)
White-faced Ibis (S)
Tundra Swan
Trumpeter Swan (heard only among Tundras, RBA confirmation)
Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Ross' Goose
Canada Goose (including "Cackling")
Wood Duck (S)
Green-winged Teal
Mallard
Northern Pintail
Blue-winged Teal (S)
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Canvasback
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Barrow's Goldeneye (K)
Bufflehead
Hooded Merganser (K)
Common Merganser (K)
Ruddy Duck
Turkey Vulture (S)
White-tailed Kite (S)
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk (S)
Cooper's Hawk (S)
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk (K)
Rough-legged Hawk (K)
Golden Eagle (K)
American Kestrel
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon (S)
Prairie Falcon
Ring-necked Pheasant
California Quail
Sora (S)
Common Moorhen (S)
American Coot
Sandhill Crane (S)
Killdeer (S)
Black-necked Stilt (S)
American Avocet (S)
Greater Yellowlegs
Long-billed Curlew (S)
Least Sandpiper (S)
Dunlin (S)
Long-billed Dowitcher (S)
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Mourning Dove
Rock Dove
Great Horned Owl
Anna's Hummingbird (S)
Belted Kingfisher
Acorn Woodpecker (S)
Red-breasted Sapsucker (K)
Nuttall's Woodpecker (S)
Downy Woodpecker (S)
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe (S)
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow (S)
Oak Titmouse (S-heard only)
Steller's Jay (K)
Western Scrub Jay (K)
Black-billed Magpie (K)
Yellow-billed Magpie (S)
American Crow
Common Raven
Bushtit
Rock Wren
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Townsend's Solitaire (K)
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird (S)
American Pipit (S)
Northern Shrike (K)
Loggerhead Shrike
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler (S)
California Towhee (S)
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow (S)
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow