Cricket and I made a last-ditch effort to find newly arrived spring migrants before class begins again on Monday. We were successful in finding a Western Kingbird at Ed Levin Park on the barbed wire fence above the dog run. We also hiked up to the sycamore gulch and found nesting House Wren. We'll have to visit again for the Rufous-crowned Sparrows, and I simply cannot wait for the Lazuli Buntings to show up again. Will this year see a return of the Blue Grosbeak?
On my way home, I spotted two Northern Rough-winged Swallows investigating the Shoreline underpass of Alma. I couldn't stop because of traffic, but I plan on going back to check if they are nesting.
I visited Ulistac Nature Area in Santa Clara, hoping to relocate Ashutosh's Western Kingbirds from last week. No luck with those, but another Bullock's Oriole and a lingering Fox Sparrow in the native garden area. Later a stop at Charlston Slough produced two Violet-green Swallows flying north and three Black Skimmers on their usual island among hundreds of Marbled Godwits, Dowitchers and Willets.
Cricket and I visited Stevens Creek Park before the rain began. There were many Orange-crowned Warblers singing along the creek and throughout the park. We also found our FOS Warbling Vireos, FOS Pacific-slope Flycatchers, and a FOS Wilson's Warbler.
Most interesting perhaps was a Purple Finch doing uncanny imitations of several other nearby birds. The imitations were so exact that for a moment we believed that 6-8 different species were all vocalizing from one small tree. In addition to his own familiar song, some of the imitations we heard from the Purple Finch were Wrentit, White-breasted Nuthatch, Steller's and Western Scub Jay, Oak Titmouse and Chestnut-backed Chickadee. I'm sure there were other mimetic phrases squished in there too, but they were too fast to ID. As with mimetic strings I've heard from Lesser and Lawrence's Goldfinches, the various songs were given softly, and tightly packed with no perceptible pause between. We wouldn't have believed it if we hadn't seen his bill and throat moving with every sound. Quite amazing. BNA mentions that Purple Finch is capable of such mimicry, but I hadn't every heard it first hand. Interestingly, Lesser and Lawrence's Goldfinches are frequently sited as including mimicry, however American Goldfinch is not... Very curious.
At McClellan Ranch we were treated to a brilliant male FOS Hooded Oriole moving between the large central palm and the sycamore trees along the creek. A Lincoln's Sparrow remains in the garden area among quite a few lingering Zonotrichias.
I got my wish today, and found my first of season Bullock's Oriole, a beautiful male, by the Palo Alto Duck Pond during lunch. No one at work will understand....
I just remembered something... I forgot to clean out the nest box last fall. As I see the Chestnut-backed Chickadees going in and out of the box in our Wrenwood backyard again, I'm reallizing it's too late to fix my mistake. This will be an interesting experiment. Will they build on top of last year's nest, or remove the old material first...? Will they reuse some of the old twiggery?? I can't wait to open it up after the season is over.
Anyway, Eric Goodill, Petersen and I went out today to search for the Brown Thrasher (again). We began searching at the far end of the Quarry parking lot at Coyote Hills Regional Park. Having no success there we split up and at about 9:45 Eric radioed back to us that he'd found the Brown Thrasher along the entrance road, on the marsh side directly across from the north end of the parking lot. It was in plain view when he first found it, but by the time Petersen and I and several other birders reached him, the bird had moved deeper into cover. A few minutes of searching produced more looks at the bird for us and several other birders.
Also of note, an intergrade "red-shafted x yellow-shafted" Northern Flicker was present near the picnic tables by the interpretive center. Rob Pavey got some nice shots of the bird during yesterday's visit. They can be found at: www.pbase.com/robpavey/spot_coyote_hills
We did not find any Varied Thrush today, however yesterday we saw two in this same area. As well, as many as four Orange-crowned Warblers were singing in the willows and Hoot Hollow.
A single Rock Wren was located at the large rocky cliff above the interpretive center. I forgot to mention that in addition to a few Tree Swallows, yesterday and today there were also at least two Barn Swallows over the main pond at Coyote Hills Regional Park. The female Merlin was stationed on her tree on the north side of the Quarry parking lot. What a beauty!
There's lots of singing going on out there these days! Around our house it's Oak Titmouse, American Robin and Dark-eyed Junco mostly, but a nice surprise was Yellow-rumped Warbler in full song today by my office in downtown Palo Alto. Other seasonal excitement includes Chestnut-backed Chickadee investigating the backyard nest box given to us by my Palo Alto Adult School class this past Saturday, and what appeared to be a very bright lutescens Orange-crowned Warbler at Palo Alto Baylands last Wednesday. Lesser Goldfinch are also going nuts around the office with their tightly-compressed imitations of nearby birds. It's so amazing to hear an Emerson Street Goldfinch throwing out a long stream of White-breasted Nuthatch, Chestnut-backed
Chickadee, House Sparrow, House Finch, Western Scrub-Jay, Oak Titmouse, American Crow and Killdeer calls in jubilant rapid-fire! So close to University Avenue too...
Big news at "Wrenwood" was that the Chestnut-backed Chickadees were investigating the nest box out back again. This will be the third year...