There was a Western Tanager calling repeatedly this morning at the corner of Tyrella and Flynn Avenues in Mountain View. Kelly and I lost the bird after it moved into the trees behind an apartment complex.
We had just come from a bike ride along the Stevens Creek trail, which is only a few blocks from our new home.
Cricket and I drove to Lodi on Thanksgiving morning in record time. It helped that we hit the road at 6:30, but still the hour-and-a-half drive time surprised us. We made a quick stop at the Woodbridge Road Crane Preserve and found hundreds of Sandhill Cranes, but few Waterfowl. Cricket spotted a Loggerhead Shrike and a few White-faced Ibis along the road and occasionally large groups of Long-billed Curlews flew overhead. When we reached the end of the road the pools were full and many Tundra Swans were visible on the far end. At time, many of the Swans were also flying overhead as were Greater White-fronted Geese. Generally speaking very few "White Geese" were seen, and those that were present were too far to identify. Cackling Geese, including many "Aleutian" forms were numerous in one particular field.
On Friday we decided to visit the Robinson/Flannery Road area in Solano County in search of Mountain Plovers. We spotted a group of about 20 birds flying along Hwy 12 but could not stop. There were also huge numbers of Geese present, but fast moving traffic prevented further investigation. Once in the calm surroundings of Robinson Road we spotted a huge group of maybe 50 Mountain Plovers but they were too distant to satisfy. Horned Larks were also found in patches, as well as a lone Prairie Falcon, but otherwise the area was a bit slow.
Today I rushed over the hill to Pescadero for the Yellow-billed Loon at the creek mouth. When I arrived several people had already seen the bird from the trail that leads beneath the bridge about 100 yards up creek, but it had moved upstream before I got there. We waited for the bird to work its way back toward the bridge but it seemed to be taking too long to reappear. Ron Thorn then suggested we hike the trail on the opposite shore that overlooks the creek so we reparked at the corner of Pescadero Road and Hwy 1 and searched again. Along the trail Eric and I spotted a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher but the other members of our search party Ron Thorn, Dan Singer and Al Eisner were farther ahead. Finally Dan spotted the bird back by the bridge late moring, so we rushed back to the cars, re-parked in the lot and were able to see the bird wonderfully well from the parking lot overlook. We should never have moved I guess... Anyway, we watched it along with about 10 other birders from directly above, seeing the bird quite well for more than 15 minutes. We were able to get very satisfying looks at the necessary fieldmarks. As far as I know, the Loon remained there after we left.
After picking up some of that delicious artichoke herb bread at the Pescadero Store, Eric and I followed Ron and Al's advice to drive Stage Road. We parked a few times to look over the area and almost immediately spotted a Ferruginous Hawk as well as Red-tailed Hawk, White-tailed Kite, Northern Harrier and American Kestrel. As we finished our tour of the area we stopped near the intersection of Stage Road and Hwy 84. There overhead was a beautiful dark phase Rough-legged Hawk. It was entirely dark on the topside with pale flight feathers on the underside, tiny yellow feet and a broad dark subterminal bank on an otherwise pale tail. The carpal patches seemed slightly darker than the deep chocolate underwings, but this was only visible when the bird banked to illuminate the underside. It also dropped its legs briefly, allowing us to see that the legs were dark and feathered.
Yesterday, Brian Christman and I relocated the male Harlequin Duck at Coyote Point. The bird was associating with 3 female Surf Scoters on the near side of the concrete blocks visible from the harbor mouth. We also noticed quite a few Black Turnstones and two Black Oystercatchers. Buffleheads and Common Goldeneyes were present in good numbers as well.
We then stopped at Redwood Shores to look for Hooded Mergansers, which we did not find along Radio Road. There were however 12-15 Black Skimmers as well as numerous expected Waterfowl species and an adult Peregrine Falcon. Phil Lacroute from class was there and had just returned from the San Antonio Valley where he had located his target bird, Lewis' Woodpecker! Along Davitt Road we had a high count of 5 Barrow's Goldeneyes (1 female and 4 males), Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye a Greater White-fronted Goose but not previously reported Redhead.
I visited Coyote Creek Field Station (CCFS) Shorebird Pond this morning to look for the American Golden Plover. Pati Rouzer and Patty McGann, who were just leaving as I arrived mentioned they had seen the bird a few minutes earlier in the area previously reported. When I seached the area I could not relocate it. I did however see a Ruff (thanks Emily!), Pectoral Sandpiper and Wilson's Snipe . Also present were multitudes of Dowitchers, Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets and a few dozen Dunlin and Least Sandpipers. Two Lesser Yellowlegs were foraging along the edges, and two Soras were calling in this area. I later got a look at one of the Soras (thanks Dave!). A Cooper's Hawk made a brief appearance as did Loggerhead Shrike and Golden Eagle.
Things were quiet at the Environmental Education Center (EEC) in Alviso, but I did locate a House Wren in the coyote bushes near the outhouse, several Fox Sparrows in the underbrush and the Peregrine Falcon was perching on the power tower along the entrance road.
I had a few minutes at lunch time check out Geng Road in Palo Alto. I had hoped to find a few Hooded Mergansers, but instead found 3 Greater White-fronted Geese and an immature Snow Goose. The birds were among the large flock of Canada Geese foraging near the pond which is visible on the other side of the chainlink fence at the end of Geng.
This morning I led my Palo Alto Adult School birding class to Andrew Molera State Park where we spotted the Crested Caracara in the open area beyond the campground around 10:00am. The bird flew in from the south, perched in the cypress trees and remained for about 30 minutes. We left it there and walked to the overlook where a flock of Black Turnstones contained one Ruddy Turnstone . On our return trip we relocated the Caracara in another cypress tree along the headlands trail closer to the ocean. We managed to get a few digiscope images but I haven't received them from the attendees yet. The Caracara eventually flew off in the direction of Point Sur where perhaps it will be refound.
Other birds of interest were two Peregrine Falcons, one immature, one adult, and possibly two American Dippers along the creek. One Dipper sighting was near the campground entrance, and the second (?) bird was near the banding station, showing a distinctive white mark on one wing and a somewhat different back pattern... we assumed they were different birds, but no telling for sure.
Two House Wrens were seen during our walk to the ocean, and Townsend's Warblers were numerous as were Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Hutton's Vireos. No Condors were seen unfortunately, but a Merlin was seen near Point Sur as well as two Bobcats.