This would be a great time to visit Shoreline Lake again! For the past week there has been a Common Loon there, allowing very close looks while it forages on the side closest to the San Antonio Road Parking lot. As well, a flock of up to 30 Common Goldeneyes and one Barrow's Goldeneye have gathered there. Last winter, Surf Scoters and a Red-necked Grebe spent the winter, so it's just a matter of time before they might show up again.


Yesterday, a drive along Little Panoche Road produced some nice birds. I entered the area from HWY 5 and in the dry grassy area above the small stream (just below the reservoir in other words) there was a Roadrunner. About two miles further (away from 5) there were two male Mountain Bluebirds. Perhaps two dozen Vesper Sparrows were present in various locations on the road along with uncountable numbers of Lark Sparrows. There was a Merlin at Mercy Hot Springs and at the Junction with Panoche Road I had a Ferrugionous Hawk.

Today at Merced Wildlife Refuge our group had all the usual Sandhill Cranes, White-faced Ibis, Snow Geese, Ross' Geese, and Greater White-fronted Geese. We had another Merlin at the refuge, as well as an unexpected adult Bald Eagle which was soaring in the midst of hundreds of geese and ibis before it exited the area. We had good looks at two Barn Owls pearched along the new riparian trail. There was another Ferruginous Hawk near Los Banos, as well as Cattle Egret just west of town.


An afternoon trip to the Central Valley produced some interesting birds. The Sandhill Cranes are in position at Merced Wildlife Refuge, though not in the huge numbers we'll later in the season. I saw perhaps 100 birds flying toward the reserve as well as in the fields along the auto loop. Many Snow and Ross' Geese were in the ponds as well. Small numbers, perhaps 50, Greater White-fronted Geese kept to themselves on one side of the marsh. Hundreds of Dunlin and a few Lesser Yellowlegs fed actively in the shallows as well as about a dozen Common Snipe.

Leaving the reserve I saw even larger groups of geese and cranes entering the area and gathering in the surrounding ponds. I found only one White-faced Ibis but I expect we will see more when we visit there next week. A single Ferruginous Hawk was sitting on the ground in a plowed field between Merced and Los Banos. Perhaps the most fun, though, was seeing 3 Golden Eagles sparring above the windmills near the San Luis Reservoir and two elsewhere on the same road!


Just before 9:00 this morning, a Rough-legged Hawk flew overhead from the Recycling Facility near Byxbee Park toward the Palo Alto Duck Pond. It was being harrassed by two ravens and as they chased it out of the area, I was able to see the hawk from a variety of angles. This rare winter raptor was a well-marked adult female. Elsewhere at Byxbee, we got great looks at 4-5 Burrowing Owls, many American Pipit, Western Meadowlark, Western Grebe, Bonaparte's Gulls and White Pelican.

At the Palo Alto Flood Control Basin, 11 Redheads stayed in a tight group in the first pond on the left as we walked out. Only one Blue-winged Teal could be found among a group of Shovellers.

At Charleston Slough, two female Hooded Mergansers and a Eurasian x American Wigeon hybrid were in the area before the metal bleechers. The wigeon looks very much like a full Eurasian, but has a substantial amount of green behind the eye. A Loggerhead Shrike made a brief visit to the area and rested for a minute in the same shrub as two White-tailed Kites. The number of Canvasbacks and Scaups on the slough has increased significantly in the last few days.

A trip to the coast later in the day turned up a female Oldsquaw at Princeton Harbour in Half Moon Bay. There were also many Surf Scoters a few Buffleheads, Mew Gulls and a single Lesser Yellowlegs.


If anyone is interested in participating in one of the many Christmas Bird Counts in the area, the Golden Gate Audubon Society has posted a list of them on their site. This is a great way to participate in a very important event, meet great people and learn a lot about birds. Details on where to meet etc. are available from the contact person assigned to each census area. You can go get more information at the following address: http://goldengate.ca.audubon.org/index.htm

On another subject, Cedar Waxwings seem to have returned to the Palo Alto area in significant numbers. I've had small flocks both at home and at work. Their thin, wheezy calls are often the only indication of their presence, as they forage in the tops of trees looking for berries or other food.


After class tonight, while I was carrying books back to the car, a Barn Owl flew overhead and gave its distinctive call (a loud, drawn-out raspy screech). If I had let class out just a little later, we would all have heard it from the classroom. Oh, well...

The male Wood Duck continues at the Palo Alto Duck Pond. As well, among the many Mallards, Ruddys, and Shovellers there is a female Lesser Scaup. This bird is easy to pick out of the crowd, being the only entirely dark brown duck with an indistict white patch at the base of the bill.