Cricket and I toured Graylodge over the holiday. We'd been in Lodi for Thanksgiving and were treated to hundreds of Sandhill Cranes along Woodbridge Road and a Loggerhead Shrike, but Gray Lodge was the highlight of our weekend. After the fog burned off around noon, thousands of Geese descended onto the ponds. Most exciting for us as a high-count of 8 Eurasian Wigeons widely spread around the auto loop. We also had three American Bittern lift out of the reeds as we hiked the nature trail. Earlier we had a nice show from the many hundreds of Tundra Swans gathered in the ag fields along Pennington Road.
Before leaving the area entirely and continuing to Sacramento Wildlife Refuge we made a sunset tour of Road Z. There we had another 2 Eurasian Wigeons for our highest one-day count of 10 drakes.
At Sacramento Wildlife Refuge we encountered an immature and adult Bald Eagle, one of which was being harassed by a Peregrine Falcon. Waterfowl numbers were astounding, especially Snow and Ross's Geese.
More than once, enormous flocks of Geese would lift off as one of the Eagles passed overhead. Thrilling!
On the way home we toured Zamora Road finding three Burrowing Owl in the fields, and a lone Rough-legged Hawk . It wasn't until we stopped along Flannery-Robinson Roads that we finally found a two Prairie Falcons, Ferruginous Hawk and a single Mountain Plover. A Merlin was also in same area...
Today we had a new bird for our house--a Red-breasted Nuthatch was calling from the redwood trees out back. I could hear it clearly from the front driveway and then it relocated to the trees above the house. I never saw the bird however. We're on our way to Lodi now for the big Thanksgiving diner.
Eric Goodill and I enjoyed 2 Northern Waterthrushes at Charleston Marsh this morning. Charleston Marsh is a wonderful, underutilized birding spot. It is off of Charleston Road (which is off of Shoreline Blvd). Habitat here is well suited for the Waterthrush, as well as Green Heron, Hooded Merganser, Wilson's Snipe and maybe, possibly, perhaps some day... a Swamp Sparrow.
If you want to look for the birds, they keep low, often walking close to the water and the base of reeds, but when alarmed will perch at eye-level and call loudly, bobbing their tails constantly. The sound is REALLY loud for such a small bird. It is a very loud single, metallic "TINK!". It was very similar to the nearby Fox Sparrow, and almost as loud as a California Towhee, and similar in some ways. The Towhee sounds more like a smoke alarm with a low battery, while the Waterthrush sounds more like two flat metal rulers being slapped together. It's hard to imagine such a small bird making such a sound!
The birds are very excitable and quickly respond to pishing. If you start pishing near the parcourse #3 you'll be exactly where I have most often found the birds. It's a nice mix of cattails, and small willows. The bird starts low in the marsh and then rises into view when responding to pishes. If you have no luck here, go back to Charleston Road, (only a matter of 40 yards from #3) and continue walking clock wise around the marsh. When the trail takes a sharp 90-degree left, start pishing again, and continue until the trail reaches Shoreline Blvd. I've had Northern Waterthrush no less than 10 times between these two locations, and given that there were two yesterday, your chances will be very good. They might be more vocal... I guess it's possible a vagrant Lousiana Waterthrush would find this area attractive too, so it would be good to have your field guide handy...
visited Shoreline Lake. From the boathouse lawn we scoped two Barrow's Goldeneyes (one male, one female). With not much more time, we then stopped on the overlook of pond A1 where a huge assembly of American Wigeons also contained at least 4 drake Eurasian Wigeons, and a possible fifth. One curious pale-headed male could well have been a hybrid American x Eurasian.
I've seen an individual exactly like this bird before, last winter at SWPCP so I believe it might be the same male and an adult. The bird had white on the forewing, a tannish breast and grayish sides--perhaps not as defined as a full Eurasian male but more grayish than tan. The color on the head was peculiar, a very pale honey color (not rust or pumpkin-color like a full Eurasian), with an even paler yellow forehead. I don't recall seeing any green on the head or much in the way of streaks on the face, but the cheeks were noticeably paler than the area around and behind the eye, which was very cinnamon. This cheek-to-eye contrast is something I associate with American Wigeons and yet there was an unexpected amount of cinnamon... My suggestion that it "might well be a hybrid" was because of the pronounced contrast between the cheeks and post ocular area, and the presence of so much unusual and apparently unstreaked honey-color on the head. None of the normal plumages of adult males, females, or immatures of either species match exactly. The immature male Eurasian in NGS is much darker and lacks the pale cheeks than I observed. An image that approaches what I saw is the lower AmericanXEurasian hybrid on page 85 of the big Sibley guide.
It was a great morning out there!
A group of 20 or so Lapland Longspurs continued on the exposed earth and short grass hillside near the bathtub located between Mendoza and Nunes Ranches. The heavy rain and wind kept us inside our car and we watched from about 10:00 on as they started to arrive. Their calls were easily heard when we finally got out of the car and walked along the road. Some allowed close approach and seemed unconcerned by our presence. As reported by others, many of the birds are still quite colorful.