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 today.


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 26 others.

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 the wild*.

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.