08-30-03

On Wednesday, an apparent juvenile Hudsonian Godwit was found in Alviso at the famous intersection of State Street and Spreckles Avenue. Because of the similarity of several Godwit species, the bird was not firmly identified until Friday morning, at which time word was sent out to the community via South Bay Birds. From work I read the reports with envy, trying to figure out how I could leave work early to see this extremely rare species. Maybe I could get a sudden and severe stomach ache... But I resisted the temptation and stayed at my desk. I decided to take my chances and wait until this morning to look for the bird with my father-in-law, Kaz Hayashi, who was visiting from Lodi. As luck would have it, he and I drove to the spot and found a dozen other birders already on the target. Within a minute or two, we had the bird in our scope as well as the previously reported Stilt Sandpiper. We admired both birds for about 20 minutes and were rewarded with good views of the Godwit's diagnostic dark underwing pattern when itflew a short distance. As we prepared to leave the group, another birder drove up and told us that a second Hudsonian Godwit had been found in a neighboring pond. Excitedly, we drove to the second location and viewed that bird as well.



08-24-03

Cricket and I went to Calero County Park today to scout it our for an upcoming class trip. We arrived at about 3:00 and it was quite hot. The reservoir was low, revealing large areas for foraging Shorebirds and Ducks. Most interesting during our brief stop was a Western Kingbird near Historic Bailey Fellows House and two large groups Wild Turkeys totaling almost 40 birds. Curiously, the Turkeys were segregated, with large males in one group, and the smaller females and immatures in another.


08-17-03

Brian Christman and I visited Mount Diablo State Park to see if we could find the Sage Sparrow again, but unfortunately had no luck with that species. Conditions were as expected, blazingly hot and dry. Plenty of good birds were located, though. Highlights of this 6-Woodpecker day included Acorn, Nuttall's, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker as well as Northern Flicker and a most surprising Lewis' Woodpecker.There were also a high-flying Cooper's Hawk, White-throated Swifts, an unspecified Selasphorus, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, White-breasted Nuthatch, Western Bluebird, two Western Tanagers, California Thrasher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Rock Wren, and Townsend's Warbler.


08-16-03

Cricket and I scouted out Elkhorn Slough in preparation for the class outing in October. We began by pulling into the Moss Landing Wildlife Area along Hwy 1. There we found a dramatic group of Terns on the dried saline ponds which included hundreds of Elegant Terns, a few Caspian Terns, Western, California and Ring-billed Gulls. In another pond in that same area, this one with water, there were several hundred Red-necked Phalaropes spin feeding in the shallows and a lone Snowy Plover along the shore. Many other expected species were encountered including Pelagic Cormorant, Brown and White Pelicans and Northern Rough-winged Swallow.

From there we drove to the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve to see what we could find there. A real highlight was passing beneath the famous Heron Rookery and seeing the scattered white feathers on the ground. Double-crested Cormorants, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and Great Blue Herons all nest in these trees, so in the height of the season it can get pretty noisy and crowded in the branches. If you're right below the birds, it's best to wear a hat and glasses just in case...

Activity was generally low in the reserve because of the season, but we logged several interesting additional species such as Black-crowned Night Heron, Whimbrel, Spotted Sandpiper, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel, Barn Owl, Downy Woodpecker, California Thrasher, Hutton's Vireo, Song and Savannah Sparrows. The path we took will likely produce a long list of species in October as both wintering Waterfowl and Shorebirds will be arriving. As well, the South Marsh Trail leads through a nice cross section of habitats including grassy slopes, salt marsh shallows, deeper water, a freshwater pond and mixed oak/eucalyptus woodland. There's also the sky...

We also made a brief stop at Moonglow Dairy to survey the Blackbird Flocks. Among the hundreds of individuals, we were able to pick out Red-winged Blackbirds, a few Tricolored Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Brewer's Blackbirds. The hoped-for Yellow-headed did not appear, but perhaps later in the season. If there is interest from the group, it might be possible to make a stop at this famous and often productive location.


08-09-03

On the way back from a birthday luncheon in Walnut Creek, Cricket and I decided to bird Mount Diablo State Park. We arrived at about 2:00, which was less than ideal as it was quite hot and bird activity was low. To help us find our way through this large area, we refered to Birding Northern California: A Falcon Guide by John Kemper. Our target species were Rock Wren, Sage Sparrow and Rufous-crowned Sparrow all of which we located exactly where the book directed us search. The Rock Wren was found along the Prospector's Gap trail, just beneath the summit. We heard its "tik-EEEER!" call faintly in the wind just before the bird alighted on a rock near the trail. The Sparrows were along the fire road above the Oak Knoll picnic area. We were able to get quite close to the Sage Sparrow as it foraged on the trail with its characteristic tail bobbing. We also noticed its unusual habit of running instead of hopping of many Sparrows. In the same general area California Quail, American Kestrel, Band-tailed Pigeon, an unspecified Selasphorus species, Bewick's Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Wrentit, Black-headed Grosbeak and California Thrasher were seen.


08-01-03

Kelly Hayashi and I were married on July 12 in Palo Alto at my family's church. My father performed the ceremony at the First Congregational Church, after which we had an small outdoor reception at Gamble Gardens. Kelly is also a birdwatcher and it was in my class where we first met. Coincidentally, her parents Kazuo and Aiko, were already familiar with me as they had been with our group for more than a year. Kelly and I have travelled together to Death Valley, Kauai, Yosemite, Klamath, Monterey and now Europe. Our honeymoon to France (07-15-03 to 07-29-03) was absolutely wonderful! We landed in Paris and visited many familiar landmarks there and enjoyed the romance you would expect from one of the most beautiful cities in the world. After that we took the TGV to Bordeaux where we rented a car and toured the Dordogne Valley, stopping at Saint Emilion, Domme, Beynac and Sarlat. Of course, we enjoyed the scenery and cuisine but we also did a bit of birding... surprise! A vast wildlife area called Le Parc Ornithologique du Teich can be found along the coast about 45 minutes southwest of Bordeaux. We spent the greater part of a day there, birding the system of freshwater ponds, riparian narrows and tidal mudflats. A list of species logged during our visit to France can be found below. Species in bold were lifers for one of us while bold/asterisc represents lifers for both of us.

Little Grebe*
Great Crested Grebe
Great Cormorant
Little Egret

Great Egret
Grey Heron
White Stork

Eurasian Spoonbill*
Mute Swan
Greylag Goose
Canada Goose
Barnacle Goose
Shelduck

Mallard
Gadwall
Pochard
Tufted Duck
Booted Eagle*
Black Kite

Hen (Northern) Harrier
Eurasian Kestrel
Common Moorhen
Eurasian Coot
Eurasian Avocet
*
Killdeer
Dunlin
Curlew Sandpiper*
Redshank
Spotted Redshank*
Common Sandpiper
Black-tailed Godwit
*
Ruff
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Yellow-legged Gull*
Great Black-backed Gull
Sandwich Tern

Rock Dove
Common Wood Pigeon
Eurasian Collard Dove
Common Cuckoo
Common Swift
Common Kingfisher

Barn Swallow (Eurasian subspecies)
Common House Martin
Eurasian Crag Martin
White Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail

Wren (Eurasian subspecies of Winter Wren)
Dunnock
European Robin
Black Redstart
Redstart
Common Blackbird
Reed Warbler
Blackcap
Chiffchaff
Willow Warbler
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Willow Tit
Eurasian Nuthatch
Tree Creeper
Eurasian Jay
Common Magpie
Jackdaw
Carrion Crow

Common (Eurasian) Starling
House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Chaffinch
Serin
Greenfinch
European Goldfinch