Golden-crowned Sparrows have arrived!
Along my traditional San Francisquito Creek loop there were
now no less than 8 of the species, where just Friday there
were none. As well, my first Ruby-crowned Kinglet
of the season and a Hutton's Vireo were seen.
On my lunch hour walk along San Francisquito
Creek (on the Palo Alto side near the pedestrian bridge
now under construction) I observed a male Hermit Warbler.
It was slowly working its way upstream toward El Camino
Real. This uncommon species is considered very rare in the
Santa Clara County this time of year. Elsewhere in the area
was a White-breasted Nuthatch and an immature Cooper's
Hawk patroling the neighborhood. This latter species
has seemed easy to find the last few days, with one flying
over Alma Street near Palo Alto Highschool yesterday and
Kelly and I drove up to Napa to retrieve our wedding photos
from the photographer. Very beautiful... After speaking with
him, we decided to visit a couple of wineries (Luna and Darioush)
and then go birding. The Napa River Wildlife Preserve is a
lush riparian wood on the Yountville Crossroad that we've
been too several times. An overgrown trail leads across the
shallow river and through a grove of mixed oak, eucalyptus
and sycamore. In spring the area explodes with breeding Passerines
and migrants while summer is generally quiet. In winter, Yellow-rumped
Warblers and several Sparrows can be seen as well as an occasional
Merlin. Today we were pursuing the Pileated Woodpecker
which had been reported on the NBB listserve. After an hour
of leisurely walking and picnicking we heard the bird calling
not far from where we stood. Eventually, the huge Woodpecker
came into view, a female, as she worked her way up a Valley
Oak tree. In most people's California birding experience,
this species is encountered in dense old grown coniferous
woods, but here it was, in a low-lying riparian area. Reports
of it breeding in this location exist as well! In the east,
it seems this is a more common situation, but in Northern
California, it's odd indeed. She flew away too quickly for
us to admire her adequately, but we were able to find other
Woodpeckers nearby. Acorn, Nuttall's and Downy
Woodpeckers were all encountered as well as Northern
Flicker. The rattling call of a Belted Kingfisher
also could be heard down stream. Also, rather unexpected was
a Sharp-shinned Hawk was seen.
The following exciting news was taken from Elizabeth Van Dyke's
post on the MBB listserve dated 09-09-03:
Evidence of California Condor nesting has existed at
Pinnacles National Monument as far back as 1898. Wednesday
morning, September 10th, six California Condors will be transported
to their new holding pen at Pinnacles National Monument. They
are all between six months and one year old. The new pen at
Pinnacles includes areas the birds can take cover in case
of bad weather. Most of the observations of these birds will
be by biologists about a quarter mile away from the pens so
the CONDORS do not get acclimated to humans. The birds will
be in the Pinnacles holding pen for about three months, then
released into the monument's 24,000 acres of wilderness. The
holding pen and release site are not open to the public. There
is a chance the Condors can be seen in the park after they
have been successfully released, so mark your calendar for
mid-December and get your binoculars ready. In 1987, the last
truly wild California Condor was taken into captivity to join
According to the California Department of Fish and Game Habitat
Conservation Planning Branch, the population as of September
1, 2003, is as follows:
Total population = 222
Captive population = 137
Wild* population = 85
There are currently 28 chicks in captivity and 2 chicks in
This is a cooperative effort of the Ventana Wilderness Society,
Pinnacles, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife,
California Department of Fish and Game and other groups.
*"Wild" used here includes free-flying birds
assumed to be alive, nestlings in the wild, nests and temporarily
re-captured birds held in a field pen to be re-released soon.
Perhaps "Free flying" is a better term than "wild".
Brian and I made a late morning scouting trip to Anderson
Lake County and Coyote Lake County Parks. Both of these areas
provide beautiful habitat for future class trips.
Anderson is graced with a lush, but narrow riparian woodland
that offers the possibility of Wood Duck or Common Merganser.
In this area we observed Mallard, Belted Kingfisher
and Black Phoebe. The habitat also seemed a good
location for Green Heron. An expansive picnic area edging
the creek will likely produce numerous Passerines in spring.
A resident species, the Rufous-crowned Sparrow, can be searched
for anywhere in the drier portions of the park but we failed
to find it. The upper chaparral portion provided us good looks
at California Thrasher but little else. Other species
such as Blue-gray Gnatcatcher should be expected in season.
The highlight of this park was a close look at Rock Wren
calling loudly and bobbing curiously just below the dam. Above
the dam there is a large reservoir which was oddly devoid
of bird life. In winter however, we can expect numerous waterfowl
and possibly Osprey to be present.
Coyote Lake is a large recreational park with few trails for
birders. We followed a loose trail, created by the population
of resident Wild Boars, and found ourselves among the willows
on the south end of the lake. The area was quite stunning
but no suitable for our group. A highlight of the park was
a pair of male Wood Duck, which were swimming among
the Pied-billed Grebe, Mallard, American
Coot, Common Moorhen. We also observed a Red-tailed
Hawk being mercilessly attacked by a murder of American
Crows. Western Bluebirds were encountered in the
parking area, as well as White-breasted Nuthatch, Bewick's
Wren and California Quail. Several Woodpecker species
were seen, including Northern Flicker, Acorn, Downy
and Nuttall's Woodpeckers.