We took William and Charles to the Woodbridge Road Crane Preserve in Lodi on Thanksgiving night to watch the Sandhill Cranes. A few were there, but not the great numbers we had hoped for. Still, the boys were thrilled to see them flying in the marsh, as well as a large flock of Greater White-fronted Geese directly overhead, a small group of sleeping Tundra Swans, and hundreds upon hundreds of other Ducks like Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintail, Cinnamon and Green-winged Teal. We also heard a few Wilson's Snipe. Since the moon was out, we also looked at that hrough the scope, which they loved. Jupiter was easily seen as well as its four large moons.
On Friday, Cricket and I birded White Slough with her parents and aunt. There was not much on either of the first ponds (and too many rifles being shot in our direction...) but an unexpected highlight was a very late Hammond's Flycatcher. It was an obvious Empidonax, with two obvious wingbars and typical flycatching behavior. It called only occasionally, but did give a single syllable "seep" call. We both noted the greenish back, which contrasted with strongly grayish head, dainty eye ring which was only slightly wider behind the eye, long primary projection, a narrow tail, and tiny, almost entirely dark bill. Another interesting thing was its occasional wing-flicking behavior, which recalled a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. There were several Kinglets in the vicinity for easy comparison. The Hammond's Flycatcher was in the trees halfway down the trail between pond 9 and pond 10. We left it at 11:00. Present on the large pond at the end of the trail between 9 and 10 were a dozen American White Pelicans, a few flyover Sandhill Cranes and four Tundra Swans. Sora was heard in the reeds.
The nearby Waste Water Treatment Plant, had a large group of Bonaparte's Gulls, 3 Common Goldeneyes, a Spotted Sandpiper and a few Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitchers, and Black-necked Stilts mixed in with the hoards of Least Sandpipers. The flock of hundreds of Brewer's Blackbirds also contained at least two Great-tailed Grackles, a young male and a female. The wires over the facility had several Eurasian Collared Doves .
Later on Friday, we birded Flood and Waverly and found 4 Ferruginous Hawks and a perfect female Rough-legged Hawk. Also present was a Prairies Falcon, one Merlin and several dozen Mountain Bluebirds. Loggerhead Shrikes were difficult to miss, as were multitudes of Western Meadowlarks, and a few Say's Phoebes.
Today, we also visited Camanche Reservoir Dam and the Mokelumne Fish Hatchery. Among the many interesting birds were an Osprey, a female Common Merganser below the hatchery, an American Dipper in the same area, a Lewis's Woodpecker in the oaks and a Rock Wren near the gravel dam. A single Sapsucker species was spotted off of the first lot as it made its departure flight, so no firm ID was possible. Northern Flicker, Downy and Acorn Woodpecker were also seen, making for a nice day of Woodpeckers.
The Cord and Acampo trail was very productive for our target Vesper Sparrow. 6-8 Vespers were on the fence uphill from the home on the west end of Acampo. There were also several more Mountain Bluebirds here.
We then revisited the Flood and Waverly area, finding only one Ferruginous Hawk today, and no Rough-legged Hawk, but many more Mountain Bluebird than yesterday. Today, they were near the ranches on the west end of Flood. A Rock Wren was the only other bird of note we found. It was in the drainage by the corral on the north end of Waverly. High wind made birding difficult, but we did detect a lot of Horned Larks as they flew across the road and disappeared into the fields.
Brian Christman and I visited Charleston Slough at lunch today. The American Bittern was present in the reeds by the inflow to the Mountain View Forebay. A pair of Barrow's Goldeneye were on the west end of Shoreline Lake, 4 White-faced Ibis and a minimum of 3 male Eurasian Wigeon were on A1. At Geng Road, a single Green Heron was sunning itself in the reeds on the far left of the pond.
I visited Radio Road this morning. I didn't see much unusual, but 10 Black Skimmers, and 2 Blue-winged Teal were certainly nice. I though it kind of interesting that the only Gulls on the main pond were 6 Mew Gulls.
On salt pond A1 this morning I counted 4 1/2 drake Eurasian Wigeon. The golden-headed hybrid was among them. I also saw a White-faced Ibis along the far shore, but it was moving around a lot, making it difficult to tell whether I was seeing two individuals or just one. I saw it fly toward the forebay, and refound it there later.
On Shoreline lake there were a dozen or so Common Goldeneye, as well as a pair of Barrow's Goldeneye.
At the Barron Creek Diversion Structure, which is behind the big playing field at Gunn Highschool, I counted 6 Hooded Merganser (2 male, 4 female-plumaged).
Another female Hooded Merganser was at the Gates of Heaven Cemetery pond.
Eric Goodill and I found 2 Swamp Sparrows beneath the wooden bridge on the north end of Antonelli Pond this morning. Both were calling repeatedly and were well seen. The first bird we saw was the gray-breasted adult reported by Steve G, but the second appeared to be a first winter bird. It had much warmer tones, almost honey-colored along the flanks. Both birds were visible simultaneously in the muddy, twiggy-tangled area beside the supports of the rail bridge.
Earlier in the day, we found the Rock Sandpiper still present on the shelves along Westcliff Drive. We found it at the south end of Fair Ave. It was socializing with Surfbirds and Black Turnstones as usual.
We also visited Cascade Ranch. We found nothing unusual in the way of Warblers or Sparrows, but the area is shaping up nicely. Among the hoards of Townsend's Warblers, we also had a single Orange-crowned Warbler. Several Lincoln's Sparrows were nice, as well as a few Fox Sparrows. Just before we left the area a male Merlin flew over us back toward the farm house. Wrentit and Belted Kingfisher also appeared, or rather made themselves known by voice.
A quick stop at Skylawn provided good looks at a single male Red Crossbill perched on a pine tree near the metal sculpture. Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Hermit Thrush, Western Bluebird, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Fox Sparrow, countless American Robins and a handful of Dark-eyed Juncos were also present.
When Eric and I pulled into the driveway, the Merlin was perched on its favorite redwood tree. It's close to being a daily bird here now, but this evening was special. Instead of allowing itself to be displaced by an American Crow, it turned around and chased it away, to reclaiming its perch.
I made a quick lunch stop at the south end of Faber Place in Palo Alto. Short walk on the dirt trail that branches off of the paved trail brought me to a small willow tree. There I found no fewer than 6 Lincoln's Sparrows in the branches of the one tree, and there were several more coming and going from the nearby bushes. I counted no less than 12 Lincoln's Sparrows in this small area. There were in fact more of them here than the Song, White-crowned or Golden-crowned Sparrows combined. While this isn't a rare species, I can't say I've ever seen such a concentration of them in one small area. If you want an opportunity to see Lincoln's Sparrows up close and personal, as well as hear their distinctive buzzy chip-call over and over again, this is a good place. Also present was a Say's Phoebe and a White-tailed Kite foraging over the field.
Today I counted 7 1/2 Eurasian Wigeons at salt pond A1. All were brightly- colored males. The half-Eurasian, half-American was similar to the one I have seen on previous occasions in the same pond. It had a golden-yellow head, minimal green shading behind the eye and a pale whitish-yellow forehead and crown. Also present were several Scaup of both species, and a female Red-breasted Merganser.
At Charleston Road Marsh, I relocated the Northern Waterthrush about 20 years from the wooden trellis on Charleston Road, which marks the trail head. The bird was calling loudly from the thick reeds at the "FINISH" marker of the par course and appeared briefly in response to pishing. To reach this area, take the left-hand trail from the trellis, and shortly you will see the par course sign that indicates you have finished the course. Other than this loud bird, the area was fairly quiet this afternoon.
As we were leaving for our field trip to Pescadero, we saw the Merlin was perched on its redwood tree. Looks like this might be around for a while since it's appeared three or four times this season.
While running errands at lunch, I made a quick stop at Geng Road. Among the many Canada Geese on the golf course pond was a single Cackling Goose, very possibly the recently reported "Taverner's" race. I saw no ring around the neck on this one, and a medium dark upper breast. Also present in the eucalyptus trees was a Yellow Warbler and many Yellow-rumped Warblers. A Peregrine Falcon was perched on the power towers toward the back corner of the course. Several Lincoln's Sparrows were in the underbrush by the trailhead.
Brian and I visited the Palo Alto Baylands today at 12:30 pm in search of the recently reported Nelson's Sparrow (formerly called Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, and some time before that simply as Sharp-tailed Sparrow. Interestingly, this bird was previously considered conspecific with the now Saltmarsh Sparrow of the east....) Anyway, we didn't find it, nor did any of the other 8-or-so birders hoping to catch a glimpse of this mash dweller during the high tide. We did however, see three Cattle Egrets in the marsh beyond the "X" mark on the trail. This is a high count for me, I'd only seen one at a time here before. I've been visiting this area during lunch-hour a lot recently, hoping to find the Swamp Sparrow along the airport runway trail. Another day perhaps.