Alas, my friend Brian Christman and I could not relocate the Townsend's Solitaire this afternoon at Hidden Villa. A good find however, was an adult White-throated Sparrow beyond the top parking area. The bird was foraging around the vegetable garden where there is a white bath tub laying sideways on the ground. If you plan to visit this area look for the olive trees on the main path and the yellow fire hydrant in this area. Numerous Golden-crowned Sparrows and a single Spotted Towhee were feeding on fallen fruit behind the tub. We waited for our bird and it was only a matter of time before it appeared among these other birds. In the area where the Solitaire had been reported several days earlier we observed a group of about 8 Hermit Thrush and countless Dark-eyed Juncos. Almost everywhere Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Hutton's Vireos could be heard.


Cricket and I spent the Valentine's Day weekend (aka Presidents Day for the unromantic...) in Southern California at the Circle Bar B Guest Lodge in Goleta, just north of Santa Barbara. There we rode horses, hiked along a beautiful riparian corridor, played pool and gin rummy in the saloon, and failed dismally at a round of horseshoes outside our little cabin. It was great, though. Very relaxing and romantic. The area was supremely beautiful and we were far away from telephones, computers or deadlines, if only for three days. While it wasn't not a birding trip per se, we did manage to find some great birds with very little effort! Along the horse trail and by the rocky creek we saw Canyon Wren, and in the pre-dawn hours, just outside our cabin we heard Northern Pygmy-Owl singling loudly. The familiar "chick!" call of Yellow-rumped Warbler could be heard everywhere and occasionally the soft, liquid call of Hermit Thrush as well. In the hills during our ride we also detected California Quail, Wrentit, Western Bluebird and California Thrasher. The nearby Refugio State Beach had a host of wintering Gulls, mostly California and Western, but a few Ring-billed and Mew were present as well as a large group of Royal Terns. This latter species is not found in our area, but is rather common in winter in the southern part of the coast. Other birds present at the beach included Marbled Godwit, Willlet, Sanderling and Killdeer. The drive along Hwy 101 in the Bradley area produced numerous Yellow-billed Magpies and a single Ferruginous Hawk. What a great way way to spend a long weekend. Be sure to check the gallery section for some of the above listed species. (Simply rollover the feather image above and then click. It will take you directly to the image gallery!)


Along the San Fransquito Creek today I was able to relocate the White-throated Sparrow among a group of Golden-crowned Sparrows. Among the group there was also a Spotted Towhee foraging in the leaf litter. Just a few yards away, in the upper branches of a live oak there were two California Thrashers busy disassembling two squirrel nests. It was very strange to see them so high in the tree. A few Cedar Waxwings were also to be heard in the area.


I just got an email from Kay Matthews who said she saw a pair of Golden Eagles mating near the Stanford Dish this morning as well as a group of about 10 Lark Sparrows. Both great finds! Thanks for the update.


Brian and I made a brief scouting trip to the Pescadero area in preparation for our next class fieldtrip. Birding was slow, but we still managed to discover some new birds for the term. On the winding road over Skyline we saw a Varied Thrush fly past the car just before Alice's Restaurant. At Phipp's Ranch in the Natural Garden area we located a Townsend's Warbler, Fox and Lincoln's Sparrows. A picnic lunch at Pescadero Beach, overlooking the famous Bird Rock just off shore produced good looks at Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorants, Surf Scoter, Black Turnstone, Surfbird and a strangely placed group of Snowy Egrets. No Black Oystercatchers or Wandering Tattlers were seen, but we didn't stay that long. At the mouth of Pescadero Creek two female-plumaged Common Mergansers were seen.


It seems like Hooded Mergansers are rather easy to locate this winter. Today, Brian and I took a short walk at Byxbee Park at the end of Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto where we found another pair. The two, a male and female were near the dam and again I was able to get a few shots which are now posted in the gallery section.