The Western Tanager was still present on Flynn Avenue in Mountain View this morning. It was foraging in the redwood trees and calling frequently. As I mentioned yesterday, today is exactly one year after our first enounter with this bird in our new house!
Later, Brian Christman and I visited Palo Alto Baylands for today's high tide. We hoped to find some Rails and/or unusual Sparrows. We had no luck with the Rails unfortunately, but others reported Clapper Rail along the boardwalk. We were successful with the Sparrow's though! After admiring the Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow with Ken Schneider and several other birders along the main trail, we drove up to Skylawn Cemetary where we easily found as many as 10-12 Red Crossbills. Among them were also perhaps 40 Pine Siskins and a female Merlin.
Kelly and I had a very vocal Western Tanager in our back yard this afternoon. I only got a glimpse of the bird, but the call was unmistakable "prid-di-tick!" It remained fairly hidden in a pine beside the garage, and then flew to the redwoods behind the house. Oddly enough, a year ago tomorrow, we had a WETA less than a block from today's bird.
While Kelly and I were trying to make use of this morning's high tide, we visited the 3rd Street Marsh before heading to Coyote Point. The construction now makes it difficult to search for Sparrows along the "levy", but there was still a lot of activity at the base of the power tower. We were hoping for something unusual, but were not rewarded.
We did however, see what appeared to be an sick, and oiled Black-bellied Plover. It was struggling to remain above the rising water, and nearby a male Northern Harrier was monitoring its progress. Soon, the Harrier made a pass and grabbed the Plover and alighted on a small bush only to be harassed by two Peregrine Falcons. The Harrier lost his grip of the Shorebird and fled toward dry ground. The female Peregrine returned to check on the Plover, but was then chased away by a juvenile California Gull. With the Gull having chased one Falcon away, it then had to deal with the aggressive return of the other Peregrine, the male. It soon left the scene. Seconds later, a Red-shouldered Hawk came from the trees in to claim the abandoned prey. It was exciting overall, and slightly strange to see a Red-shouldered Hawk "land" in the flooded marsh, but at least it had found a meal.
I have no idea if the Hawk will be contaminated by any oil on the Plover, but I expect perhaps it will be. It would indeed be a a tragic demonstration of how far reaching, and all consuming oil spills can be.
Late afternoon Kelly and I spotted a female-type American Redstart foraging in the pines on the east side of the Monarch Butterfly observation area at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz. With it were several Yellow-rumped and Townsend's. Also in this same area was a female Merlin.
Kelly and I visited Merced NWR on Thanksgiving Day and found a Rock Wren by the first platform. The bird was directly beside the water on a log a few feet from the platform. A strange place for the species we thought, but we got an excellent look at it. Also present were two House Wren in the woods by the bathrooms. Along the auto loop we encountered a Peregrine Falcon by the first plowed filed and two Cattle Egrets foraging beside several Sandhill Cranes. We managed to flush a Barn Owl along the Meadowlark Trail. Waterfowl numbers were good, but will likely increase between now and January. White-faced Ibis were hard to miss in the ponds.
Along Sandy Mush Road we located a Ferruginous Hawk and a Prairie Falcon on the phone poles.
Yesterday, was an exciting day! I attended the press check for the soon-to-be-released Breeding Bird Atlas of Santa Clara County. It was exciting to see the full-color cover roll off of the huge press, as well as the black and white text pages. I made a few on-press adjustments, but otherwise the proofs were beautiful and there were no problems. Press checks are fun and very interesting, but can be stressful when things go wrong. Luckily, nothing did. The books will be bound next week and available as early as December 1 at the Audubon open house. Those of you who read the recent Avocet article know the author, Bill Bousman will be speaking about his book on December 7 as well as signing copies at McClellan Ranch! Be sure to get your copy (while supplies last). This will be a major resource for our county, not only because of the obvious breeding bird data, but also because of the information on geology, plant-community and human development of our county. It's wonderful and BIG! I can't wait to get my copy!
I also received my copy of Rare Birds of California published by the Western Field Ornithologists http://www.wfo-cbrc.org/ At first glance, the species covered are overwhelmingly rare, and the thought of finding them is daunting indeed. Why would anyone need a book dedicated to these impossibly rare species?? Birds like Little Shearwater, Eye-browed Thrush and Olive-backed Pipit seem hopelessly out of reach for the average birder. But then I examined the list of species more thoroughly and found that we, I mean members of OUR CLASS, have seen quite a few of the bird in this new book. Some species were even seen during class outings. Just take a look at this initial list and you'll see what I mean:
Little Blue Heron
Greater Sand Plover
Eurasian Collared Dove
Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow
So you see, we are all RARE bird watchers! And these birds are not actually out-of-reach... What makes the heavy book especially worthwhile is the wealth of hard data about the rare bird sightings. Maps, dates, locations, photographs (many in color) and field sketches. We can see how rare birds are documented, the reports evaluated and either accepted or rejected. It's fascinating, and very informative. The maps and accompanying data quickly bring an overall picture into focus--where are the hot-spots, and during what time of year are they most productive..? Anyway, it's wonderful!
Tempted by the growing flotillas of Scaup, I decided to search Redwood Shores for anything unusual, like a Tufted Duck... Well, I wasn't successful with that effort, but I certainly got to see a wide variety of winter Ducks. Along Davit Lane I relocated the male Redhead, found quite a few Common Goldeneye, a Red-breasted Merganser and hordes of Bufflehead. At the Radio Road ponds there were many of the same species, plus a few Hooded Mergansers, as well as a greater number of Dabbling Ducks such as Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Gadwall and a single Blue-winged Teal.
This morning, Eric Goodill and I found a Rock Sandpiper in Princeton Harbor near the rock jetty. We parked at the Maverick's lot and walked out to the beach and found the bird feeding on the harbor-side rocks close to the beach. With it were Surfbirds, Black Turnstones and Sanderlings. Unfortunately, our excitement was dampened when we came across an oiled Western Grebe and Black Scoter. Both of these birds seemed to be managing (the Scoter actually flew once), but neither was making the normal number of feeding dives. Instead, they were preoccupied with the busy task of preening.
Earlier in the day, at footbridge along Pilarcitos Creek behind the Burger King, we found two Nashville Warblers among the more numerous Yellow-rumped Warblers. Also present were at least two Orange-crowned Warblers. And at Venice Beach we spotted an "Aleutian" Cackling Goose and a Red-breasted Merganser along Frenchman's Creek.
On our way home we stopped at Skylawn Cemetery to search for Red Crossbills. We weren't successful with that, but we did find a flock of perhaps 50 Pine Siskins in the conifers, and a few Western Bluebirds.
As of 7:30 this morning, the juvenile Sabine's Gull was still present on the northeast corner of salt pond A13.
The are can be reached by hiking (biking) north from the marina parking area to the second levy (which separates A13 and A15). The solitary bird was quite close to shore and very beautiful indeed!
While scanning the huge Scoter collection at Shoreline Lake I located a female White-winged Scoter , but did not find the Black Scoter. In the bushes overlooking the Mountain View Forebay, (on the west end of the lake) I also found a White-throated Sparrow foraging with several Golden-crowned and White-crowned Sparrows beside the garbage can. Look for the metal bike rack and bench along the main trail a few feet before the lake.
I stopped at the pond at the end of Geng Road during lunch. In addition to a flock of 100 or so Canada Geese, there were several Northern Shovelers, Ruddy Duck and a single male Hooded Merganser, my first of the season!
This morning at about 9:30 Kelly and I relocated the Lapland Longspur on the wide grassy area above the first parking lot. As reported earlier, it was associating with a flock of American Pipits. The bird is streaky overall with a strong facial pattern, and some darkness on the upper breast. We noted the generous rufous coloration on the greater coverts and even a hint of rufous on the nape. As the bird foraged, its more hunched posture helped us notice it, as well as its slower movement over the ground. The flock moved several times, and last we saw the Longspur, it was moving toward the lower larger grassy field where we lost it.