FALL 2009


Coyote Point / Redwood Shores 09-19-09 POSTED
Monterey Bay Seabird 09-27-09 POSTED
SFBBO Fall Challenge with Team DeDUCKtions 10-03-09 POSTED
Point Reyes (Outer Point) 10-10-09 POSTED
Natural Bridges / Antonelli Pond 10-17-09 POSTED
Moon Glow Dairy / Moss Landing / Struve Slough 10-24-09 POSTED
Andrew Molera / Carmel River State Beach 10-31-09 POSTED
Merced NWR / O'Neill Dam Forebay 11-07-09 POSTED
San Matio Coastal Stops 11-14-09 POSTED

Note: The trip reports below are organized in reverse chronological order (more recent report first).



San Mateo Coastal Stops 11-14-09

This was our last field trip of the fall term, and a last minute-change from the previously scheduled Bodega Bay trip—a trip which would have probably been too early for the season, and too far for most folks. So, with our small group of high-spirited birders, we moved from San Mateo County coastal stop to coastal stop quickly and easily, and enjoyed sunny mild weather all day.

After meeting at the Gazos Creek State Beach parking lot we consolidated vehicles and caravanned to our first stop, the famous brussels sprouts field at Cascade Ranch. Three years earlier a remarkable variety of uncommon Warblers and Sparrows assembled to feast on insects attracted to the rotting crops that had been dumped around the field after harvest. Today, the usual Zontorichias were present, along with two Melospizas, and a Passerella species. Nothing rare for our list however, not yet at least... We found amazingly tame Yellow-rumped and Townsend's Warblers, much to everyone's delight, especially the photographers among us. There were also one or two Orange-crowned Warblers found, and a single bright yellow, grayish-headed Warbler that flew to the tree tops and disappeared. We can probably assume this was the recently reported Nashville Warbler, and indeed it was spotted by Jennifer Rycenga and her friend Peggy just moments after we left. A few other species were logged, such as heard only Wrentit, a male Merlin, two Red-breasted Sapsuckers, a Belted Kingfisher and a Downy Woodpecker, but no hoped-for surprise.



Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Brooke Miller

We returned to Gazos Creek State Beach to retrieve a couple of cars, and then made our way to the Pigeon Point Lighthouse for lunch. By now it was very sunny and beautiful. Below us in the bay, we found all of our Ducks, Grebes and Cormorants for the day. Surbirds and Black Turnstones appeared as well. Strangely absent were any Alcids which are so often located here. Time of year perhaps...



Photo: Brooke Miller

Next it was Phipp's Ranch to explore the natural garden. By now, the activity was slowing down, but we found several Eurasian Collared Doves in flight (and in cages), and scores of American Robins. We searched among the fruit trees for something unusual, but it wasn't until we were headed back through the open field that we were rewarded. Among the many White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows, were a few Dark-eyed Juncos and finally a lone White-throated Sparrow. This bird was a dark tan-striped individual, but very saturated. We all noted the more golden-brown back, with its strong striped pattern, and more importantly, it's longer, flatter head than the Zonos keeping it company. It proved a perfect bird on which to end our day. The only additional bird we found was a single Western Bluebird on the hillside above the Goat Store, where a few of us purchased some delicious cheese for our drive home!



Photo: Brooke Miller


Canada Goose
Mallard
Surf Scoter
California Quail
Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Loon
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Brown Pelican
Brandt's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
Killdeer
Black Oystercatcher
Willet
Black Turnstone
Surfbird
Least Sandpiper
Heermann's Gull
Ring-biilled Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Forster's Tern
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared Dove
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-breasterd Sapsucker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Hutton's Vireo
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Wrentit
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler (probable)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
California towhee
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
Pine Siskin
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow





Merced NWR / O'Neill Dam Forebay 11-07-09

Today's weather was clear and wonderful. Except for a cool breeze that kept some birds in hiding, it was pretty much perfect. Being early in the season however, Waterfowl numbers were undertandably lower than they will be next term, but Sandhill Cranes were in abundance, perhaps even bigger numbers than we had seen before. Great numbers of them were criss-crossing the ponds when we arrived and giving their primordial rattle calls. Today was in fact also the beginning of the Sandhill Crane Festival this week, and because of this there was a huge tour bus parked near the platform that was carrying festival goers on guided tours of the preserve. A ranger was standing there with a clip board handing out new 3-preserve checklists and marking people off of a list. We let them get a head of us so we could go at our own pace.

While waiting for the festival tour to get going, we did our normal thing and began birding the cottonwoods and creek. As expected, the breeze made smaller birds a little more difficult to find, but we managed to get most of usual species. Both Zonotrichias, Song, Lincoln's and Fox Sparrows were located near dense cover. Yellow-rumped Warbler and Black Phoebe were impossible to miss. Hermit Thrush and American Robin were found along the entrance road. A nice discovery was Red-shouldered Hawk that took off from the trees, and not long after that we found a Great Horned Owl. Among the many Greater White-fronted Geese flying over us, a small number of Snows and Canadas also showed. No Ross's yet... We had an interesting mammal sighting here too—a larger-than-usual bright reddist bat with dark wings and pale flesh-colored fingers. Easy, I thought. But a quick look at my various mammal field guides has left my thinking Empidonax identification is child's play compared to the challenge of Bats...



Photo: Ashutosh Sinha


Photo: Ashutosh Sinha

We returned to the lot and began our radio-assisted caravan around the preserve. A second tour bus headed out just before us giving us sufficient room to do things at our slower pace. As mentioned, Ducks numbers were somewhat low, as were Shorebirds. Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets, Long-billed Curlew, Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Killdeer and a single fly-over Wilson's Snipe were our only species in this group. We had a lot of White-faced Ibis however, and in some way they sort of fit in with these other birds. A Loggerhead Shrike was working the stubble field, and our old friend the Great Hornbed Owl was hiding exactly where we left him last year.

Rounding the back corner some members of the group spotted a Blue-winged Teal among the many Northern Shovelers and Northern Pintails. Very few Gadwall were seen, and Green-winged Teal were much less numerous than Cinnamons. When we finally reached the pond where most of the Geese were congregated, we found many Greater White-fronted, Snows and a small number of Ross's Geese. Also present here were a few sleeping American White Pelicans, which at first I thought might be Tundra Swans...

The Meadowlark Trail has been completely cleared of marsh vegetation. No cattails whatsoever remain, and the pond is completely exposed. Even the trees seem thinner than before, and while no Barn Owls were found, yet another Great Horned was spotted. At one point a Red-shouldered Hawk made an agressive dive at it, forcing to leave its perch. Northern Harrier, Northern Flicker, Red-winged Blackbirds, Yellow-rumped Warbler and even a Great Egret also made threatening dives at the grounded Owl.

Sadly, this beautiful area, a place where we have found Amercan Bittern in the past, will probably not support that species any longer, or any other marsh skulkers. I have to question the wisdom of all these reed clearing efforts... What is the reason? Is this to provide more waterfowl habitat? In any case, we did find a female Merlin here, which dove toward two Greater Yellowlegs and a group of American Pipits. The nearby field still hosts thousands of Red-winged and Tricolored Blackbirds. Among them were also Brown-headed Cowbirds, Brewer's Blackbirds and a few Great-tailed Grackles. Killdeers were in abundance on the barren depression where cattails once thrived.



Photo: Ashutosh Sinha


Photo: Ashutosh Sinha

The pond near the second platform is now nearly dry, and it appears will not be filled again. A new picnic bench has been installed beneath the platform at just inches above traditional water level. As such, no Waterfowl were gathered here, but many Western Meadowlarks, Loggerhead Shrike, a Peregrine Falcon and a few Great Egrets. One smaller Cattle Egret was found among them. We enjoyed our lunch and enjoyed a distant view of the birds from here.

After leaving our lunch stop, we searched unsucessfully for Burrowing Owl, and returned to the first platform. From there we caravanned to the O'Niell Dam Forebay to pick up hundreds of Lesser Scaup, a few Greaters, Common Goldeneye, all of our Grebes and two remaining Gulls. One Say's Phoebe just managed to be included on the day'
s final list.

Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Ross''s Goose
Canada Goose
Gadwall
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Canvasback (ODF)
Redhead (ODF)
Greater Scaup (ODF)
Lesser Scaup (ODF)
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye (ODF)
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billled Grebe
Eared Grebe (ODF)
Western Grebe (ODF)
Clark's Grebe (ODF)
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant (ODF)
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret
White-faced Ibis
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon
Sora
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Long-billed Curlew
Least Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Ring-billed Gull (ODF)
California Gul (ODF)
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Barn Owl (desceased)
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe (ODF)
Loggerhead Shrike
Yellow-billed Magpie (Sandy Mush Rd)
American Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark (Turner Island Road)
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow






Andrew Molera State Park / Carmel River Mouth Overlook 10-31-09

It's a long drive to this beautiful area for sure, especially when you have to contend with early morning coastal fog. But eventually the fog burned off, the sun warmed us all, and by lunch we were shedding layers and enjoying the shaded picnic tables. As is often the case in fall/winter, the Big Sur River was swollen and the bridge across it had been removed. So before lunch we birded the campground, the lovely river trail and the overlook at the mouth of the river.


Highlights in the oak woodland included several Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Townsend's Warblers among the many Yellow-rumped Warblers. Orange-crowned Warblers were seen in various places along the trail, and Petersen even spotted a very late Cassin's Vireo. On our return through the woods befor lunch, we added Brown Creeper.

In the campground we scanned the groups of Sparrows along the edges in the hope of finding something unusual, but alas, it was not meant to be. Both Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers were found in the eucalyptus grove, as well as Nuttall's Woopecker and Northern Flicker. There was evidence of a lot of Sapsucker activity, but only one was spotted, a Red-breasted as it flew over the trail.

We reached the open area known as the mesa. The coyote bush provided us looks at Wrentit, Bewick's Wren, Fox Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, and California Thrasher. Later in the day we would also find a Bobcat patrolling the field. In years past we have found a few notable birds in this area including Tropical Kingbird, Northern Parula and even Crested Caracara. Today, we had yet another uncommon bird—a small, short-billed Sage Thrasher perched on the ridge, inconveniently facing away from our scopes, but seen well enough to identify. It got a way before we were all satisfied, and despite a concerted effort on our part to relocate it, it did not appear again. We did find our first Say's Phoebes here.



Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Petersen

Continuing along the river trail and up to the overlook we found a male Hooded Merganser and 4 Black-crowned Night Herons on the river, Peregrine Falcon perched on the cliff and a few diving birds including Common Murre, Red-throated Loon and Surf Scoter beyond the surf. There was an abundance of Gulls on the water, but we could not find Herring among them. Instead we logged Western, California and Mew. The main rock where the Peregrine scanned its surroundings we found Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorant, and two Black Oystercathers. Oddly, the only Black Turnstones we detected by voice only. They were twittering from somewhere below us. Odder still, was a Great Blue Heron perched on one of the rocks, and a Great Egret foraging from a kelp bed 200 yards out.



Photo: Brooke Miller

After a group picnic by the entrance, we stopped briefly in the banding station and talked to the banders. We were also invited to see the Condor exhibit in the barn, which proved very interesting, especially since that was our next target species. We saw the skull of a Condor, a massive primary feather and many maps and updates on the status of the efforts to save this critically endangered species.

We caravanned south on Hwy 1 for about 10 miles to a large pullout that often provides looks at the Condors. The birds were not as close as they often are, but we did see at least one. After about ten minutes of scanning the cliffs, trees and sky, a lone adut with gleaming white underwing coverts appeared high over the ridge. It disappeared a few times, and then reappeared somewhere else along the ridge. With some patience, everyone got looks at it and we had ample opportunity to compare its shape and behavior to that of the more comon Turkey Vulture. Later we saw what may have been a second bird because the coverts appeared somewhat less briliant, a younger bird perhaps. Also seen here were two Geese that landined hundreds of feet up the arid slope. I'm quite certain they were Nene... what else could thay have been?? well, maybe not...

For those folks who wanted to visit the Carmel River mouth we drove up the coast to Ribera Road, turned right on Calle La Cruz and parked in the cul-de-sac and hit the trail to "cross hill". From there we added a few other birds such as Bufflehead and Ring-necked Duck. Still no Hering Gulls, but more than enough Heermann's, California and Western Gulls to sort through. One first-cycle Ring-billed was among them. As I type this report I'm impressed with how few Shorebirds we saw today, only two, and just barely.



Photo: Petersen


Photo: Brooke Miller

There was a surprise at the end. We found anoher Sage Thrasher. This one was much more satisfying. It first appeared along the trail, and was pushed toward us by a jogger. It seemed very tame, and posed cooperatively in plain view repeatedly. It even walked and ran on the ground, which reminded several of us of American Pipit. The last bird of the day was a heard-only Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, pretty much where we left it last year.
(Note: the last Sage Thrasher we saw in Monterey County was on February 12, 2005 at Moss Landing)

Canada Goose
Nene
Mallard
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Surf Scoter
Bufflehead
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
California Quail
Red-throated Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Brandt's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
Turkey Vulture
California Condor
Osprey
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrieer
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
American Coot
Black Oystercatcher
Black Turnstone
Heermann's Gull
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Western Gull
Common Murre
Rock Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Annna's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Acorn Woodpecker
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Cassin's Vireo (1)
Hutton's Vireo
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Brown Creeper
Bewick's Wen
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (H)
Hermith Thrush
American Robin
Wrentit
Northern Mockingbird
Sage Thrasher
California Thrasher
European Starling
American Pipit
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Purple Finch
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch








Moon Glow Dairy / Moss Landing / Struve Slough 10-24-09


This field trip was rescheduled because of the heavy rain two week ago. It was my hope that waiting another week would allow the trails at Moon Glow to dry out a bit and make the drive in a little less muddy. We knew the tide would not be ideal for Shorebird numbers however, but what I didn't plan on was the heavy fog we encounterd along the coast. Temperatures were mild, but it was a veritable "gray out" at Moss Landing, with many fewer sightings as a result. Still, we picked up many of the expected species, but had to rely a lot on GISS to identify. Dunlin and Western Sandpiper were essentially differentiated in silhouette, as Whimbrel and Long-billed Curlew as well. Overhead we had very few birds, but small numbers of medium-large Gulls, most likely Western and California challenged our structure recognition skills. One small Gull with a tiny bill for example, was probably Mew. After noticing the roost was essentially birdless, and that the folks at the end of our line were all but invisible through the fog, we decided to move to Moon Glow Dairy two hours earlier than orginally planned.



Photo: Sonny Mencher

Moon Glow was also foggy, but we added Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel, Red-winged and Tricolored Blackbird, as well as Brown-headed Cowbird and Western Madowlark on the way in. Activity was especially high in the fennel patch just beyond the parking area. There we found Hermit Thrush, Fox and Lincoln's Sparrows. Townsend's Warbler was calling in the eucalyptus trees over the and quick search provided good looks at that as well. We headed out on the levy trail, working through the small collection of Shorebirds in the channel. Among the species we had already logged were new birds such as Greater Yellowlegs and Semipalmated Plovers. The weedy east-west stretch was crawling with Yellow-rumped Warblers, as well as both Zonotrichias, Song, and more Lincoln's Sparrows. We also came across two new Warblers, a Yellow and at least two Orange-crowned. The reed brake was very active with vocal Marsh Wrens, Common Yellowthroat and abundant Brown-headed Cowbirds. Most exciting for us were two cooperative Virginia Rails and a Sora that posted for spectacular photo documentation.



Photo: Brooke Miller

The slough provided us two species of Loon. One flythrough Common and a very close range Red-throated (e had already logged a single Pacific, flying across Jetty Road). Both Brown and American White Pelicans were making use of the calm waters of the slough, and we also got looks at two Elegant Terns fishing. Swimming birds included many Aechmophorus Grebes, Eared and Horned, Brandt's, Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants, Ruddy Duck, Surf Scoter... It was a busy place, in other words. Brief looks at a Merlin and Northern Harrier caused momentary panic among the smaller birds, including a few Eurasian Collared Doves associating with the Rock Pigeons near the cattle yard. My main target, one that we have found here before, Palm Warlber, was no where in evidence.

After finding a Red-necked Phalarope, Snipe and Green-winged Teal in the ponds, we reversed our course and began thinking about lunch. In the lot we met up with Kent Van Vuren, longtime Monterey County birding giant and a very nice person, shared with us his discovery of a Magnolia Warbler in yet another fennel patch. He led us to the spot where he had only moments earlier seen the bird, and stayed with us until it showed up again. It was an active little thing, but with a bit of patience everyone in our group managed to get great looks. Thanks to Kent, several members of our group got a lifer today, and despite a slow start everyone felt the fog-challenged day was a huge success. Time for lunch at Phil's!



Photo: Sonny Mencher


Photo: Sonny Mencher

After enjoying clam chowder and what-not at Phil's, we stopped along the harbor road to admire the resident Peregrine Falcon perched on the guideance system of a small boat. It called a few times and then flew off, later returning to the same perch. Next we caravanned to Sturve Slough off of Harkin's Slough Road in Watsonville. By now the fog had completely burned off and visibility was back where we like it. We added Great-taled Grackle and White-faced Ibis within minutes, and later spotted two Sharp-shinned Hawks high over the slough. One potentially awesome bird, a Tropical Kingbird was spotted fleetinly in a treetop. It flew the instant we had it's location and never reappeared. Mary Ann however, got all we needed to lock the identification down however, namely the bright yellow breast, and flared/notched, deep greenish tail, to put it on the list.

Canada Goose
Gadwall
Mallard
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Lesser Scaup
Surf Scoter
Bufflehead
Ruddy Duck
Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Brandt's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
White-faced Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon
Virginia Rail
Sora
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Ploveer
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Whimbrel
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Black Turnstone
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Dunlin
Short-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Red-necked Phalarope
Heerman's Gull
Mew Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Western Gull
Elegant Tern
Forster's Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Tropical Kingbird (probable)
Loggerhead Shrike
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
Pygmy Nuthatch
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch








Natural Bridges / Antonelli Pond 10-17-09


Expectations were high for this coastal trip. We had switched the itinerary around on Monday night to avoid the deep Moon Glow mud resulting from the recent rains. This was a wise decisioin I think, and Natural Bridges is a location known for interesting sightings. But we feared the clear, windless nights late in the week might negatively impacted our chances at any vagrant Passerines. No matter, this would have likely be the case no matter where we went. Still, the Palm Warbler and Dusky Warbler found here exactly a year ago, made for a higher-than-usual bar for us to clear, and the question was remained on my mind... Would we find something new, or unexpected? Well, the day lived up to that challenge for sure, and we enjoyed wonderfully mild and pleasant conditions, even with somewhat different results than anticipated...

As we assembled on Delaware, we heard and saw several species such as Red-shouldered Hawk, Eurasian Collared Dove, Wrentit and a surprising female Yellow-headed Blackbird. Not everyone got on this last bird unfortunately as it flew high overhead and away, but it is fairly unusual for this location.
It was flying behind a small group of European Starlings and Red-winged Blackbird, and as it turned, the yellow throat and head became obvious, if only for an instant. It then the bird was gone.

We then walked to Antonelli Pond where be began to find a few Warblers. Townsend's, Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned and Common Yellowthroat were foraging in the willows and cattails. Several Sparrows also presented themselves. Among them Golden-crowned, White-crowned, Song, Fox and Lincoln's. Nothing unusual however. The water provided similarly common birds. One less expected bird, a Virginia Rail called a couple of times from the reedbrake below the trail. We tried taping for Sora as well but had no luck. We found Great Egret, Great Blue Heron and Black-crowned Night Herons, as well as Pied-billed Grebe, Mallard and American Coot. Overhead, both American and Lesser Goldfinches were seen/heard and the faint calls of American Pipits.

Petersen had meanwhile disappeared up ahead, as he often does. A few moments later, he reappeared from within the willows. "I have a Saw-whet Owl," he proclaimed. There was an electric silence from our group as we hurried our way to his location. Leading us down through the narrow, willow-choked tunnel to an even tighter area by the water's edge, he stopped, pointed, and in the thickest part of the trees, a commotion of mobbing birds was dancing around his Owl. It was only visible through a small window in the tangle of branches, but it glared back at us, awake, yellow-eyed and fierce. The relentless attacks of smaller birds were no doubt annoying for the tiny Owl, which probably wanted nothing more than a little peace. It was the sound of this mob infact, that first attracted Petersen's attention. They squawked and scolded frantically showing us exactly where to search. One by one we stepped up to the scope trained on that same spot. It was probably a mere 15 feet away from us, but only visible from some very awkward angles. Eventually we all got satisfying, scope-filling views at the Owl, a "visual lifer", if not an out-right lifer for many members of the group. It was the first time we have ever had one on a class field trip. After more than ten years of our class, we're still adding birds to our list thanks to the many sharp-eyed birders in our group! Interestingly, this bird has not been recorded at Antonelli Pond prior to this, and it is uncertain whether it is a migrant or a local bird wandering from its breeding grounds in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In any case, we were certainly happy to admire it.



Photo: Sir Robert Pavey

Today shares one very important quality with last year—an early highlight pretty much eclipsed everything that followed... We found a number of expected species during the remainder of our trip, but as feared, no vagrants were logged. After covering the entire area, come noon we moved to the marine station at the end of Delaware, and had a relaxing lunch by the bluff overlooking the ocean by the museum. It was sunny and warm, and from the overlook we scoped the water, finding the majority of our swimming birds, most notably, a Red-throated Loon and a Pigeon Guillemot. All in all, not a bad day.

Mallard
Northern Pintail
Surf Scoter
Ruddy Duck
Red-throated Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Brandt's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk

Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Virginia Rail
American Coot
Killdeer
Black Oystercatcher
Willet
Whimbrel
Black Turnstone
Sanderling
California Gull
Western Gull
Heermann's Gull
Elegant Tern
Pigeon Guillemot
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared Dove
Mourning Dove
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl (it's worth saying again!)
Anna's Hummingbird
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
Pygmy Nuthatch
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowend Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Wrentit
Northern Mockingbird
California Thrasher
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch





Point Reyes (Outer Point) 10-10-09


In the hopes of intercepting some of the less common southbound migrants we birded the Outer Point today. There had been a drop in vagrant reports the past week so it was uncertain we would find much of note. But on Friday the wind shifted to the southwest and the forecast was for overcast conditons, so the stage was set...

We met at Drakes Beach, losing count of how many Red-tailed Hawks were seen along the entrance. Peregrine Falcons were actively forming aerial bait-balls out of Starlings and Blackbirds. The cypress grove contained several Barn Owls which delighted our group. Some of the birds appeared to be young, awkwardly holding their wings out as they balanced on the branches. Several dozen small birds worked the trees, among them Yellow-rumped and Black-throated Gray Warblers, Bewick's Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Bushtit. Western Bluebirds were also found in the area. The biggest excitement was when we examined the group of Sparrows feeding on the lawn. Golden-crowned and White-crowned were numerous, but there was also Fox and Song. A smaller Sparrow joined them exhibiting the small head, dainty proportions and long tail of a Spizella. It was a shockingly beautiful Clay-colored Sparrow with markings of pale gray, honey and gold. As we continued to search the edges of the willows, a White-throated Sparrow also appeared from the shadows. It was turning out to be a great day already!



Photo: Rob Pavey


Photo: Rob Pavey

On the way to Menoza we had a surprise Lewis's Woodpecker perched on a fencepost beside the road. Apparently it had been reported earlier, but I hadn't heard about it so it was complete surprise to me. We continued to Mendoza ranch where we hoped to retrieve some more Warblers. We found Eurasian Collared Dove, Great Horned and Barn Owls. There were numerous Yellow-rumped Warblers and Black-throated Gray again. A Vermivora species eluded identification but appeared somehow different than the nearby Orange-crowned Warbler. Could it have been a Tennessee? The lighting just wasn't going to cooperate... We found our first of many Golden-crowned Kinglets in the cypress trees, and in the cattle yard abundant numbers of Tricolored Blackbirds were hard to miss. We bumped into Sal Salerno's group and exchanged reports. They had seen a juvenile Ferruginous Hawk back a few miles as well as a Merlin. Just before we pulled away from the grove, we spotted a "Western" Flycatcher flitting around in the lowe branches of a cypress.



Photo: Rob Pavey

Nunes was quiet except for the European Starlings doing their various immitations of other birds, and more Golden-crowned Kinglets. At the bottom of the grove, a lone Western Tanager appeared briefly, and several female-plumaged Purple Finches. We also saw a very dark Merlin perched beneath the canopy and allowing close approach. It was at this point we heard some tantalizing reports from various birders about a recentlty sighted Sage Thrasher and Vesper Sparrow along a side road. We got "directions" to the spot...



Photo: Brooke Miller

Instead of pursing those two birds, we chose to head to the Chimney Rock parking area in hopes of finding the Tropical Kingbird, which was the very first bird seen as we pulled to a parking space. It was perched on the fench just a few yards from our car! Exploring the trees above the residence we found a Western Wood Pewee and another "Western" Flycatcher. Further exploration of the grove provided world-class looks at the recently reported Rose-breasted Grosbeak. This bird was an excellent example of a first-winter male, showing what at first appeared like Black-headed coloration. Closer examination revealed the rosy underwing coverts, barely visible along the leading edge of the wrist. When it flew, the rose color was stunning. Good bird! Overhead more Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumps and a Townsend's Warbler. A little farther along the road we found our only Lincoln's Sparrow of the day, detected first by voice. Still, we had seen no unusual Warblers, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Next we ate lunch overlooking the beautiful Drakes Bay. Surf Scoter, three species of Loons and three species of Cormorant.



Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Rob Pavey

We then followed the "directions" we had gotten, realizing quickly we were missing some important details, like exactly where to go... Failing once, we tried again down a different road... same results. I wish I had written something down, or drawn a map or something... Oh, well. We abandoned the effort to find the Sage Thrasher and Vesper Sparrow and made our way to the Lighthouse trees. There we found more Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumps. The Tennesse Warbler reported moments earlier by some other birders remained unseen by our group. We did however, find a second White-throated Sparrow on the residence lawn, a Peregrine Falcon on the cliff and a Herring Gull over the water. As we left a Cooper's Hawk flew high overhead.



Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Brooke Miller

Finally, we found the correct spot for the Vesper Sparrow, thanks to Cricket, who had apparently been listening to the instructions... A walk through the lupines provided us great looks at the bird, which foraged along the trail and allowed full review of fieldmarks, including white outer tail feathers, bold eye ring, and pale centered auriculars. No Sage Thrasher however, but this area looks good for future visits.


Photo: Brooke Miller

Our final stop was the RCA grove. There we found no additonal specis, but were serenaded by a pair of Great Horned Owls. Also seen was a Barn Owl. We were tired at this point and it was time for dinner in Point Reyes Station for a final review of the day's list.

Mallard
Surf Scoter
Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Brant's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon
California Quail
Killdeer
Black Oystercatcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Heermann's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Barn Owl
Great Horned Owl
Anna's Hummingbird
Lewis's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Western Wood Pewee
"Western" Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Tropical Kingbird
Violet-green Swallow
Barn Swallow
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Brewick's Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Hermith Thrush
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Hutton's Vireo
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Western Tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Clay-colored Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow





SFBBO Fall Challenge with Team DeDUCKtions 10-03-09


The recent reports of vagrant Warblers at Sunnyvale Baylands Park were just too tempting to ignore! So we changed gears a bit and met at Sunnyvale Baylands at 7:00 am (one hour earlier than originally planned also) in order to work those trees while things were still active. We managed to find all of the expected migrant Passerines, but none of the less common front-page headline species. Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow Warbler, "Western" Flycatcher, the Zonotrichias, and two Melospizas, Black Phoebe... All good start-of-day birds. In the distance Red-tailed Hawk and Peregrine Falcon were seen, as well as flyover Candada Geese, Mallards, American Crows and radio-operated model planes.

After that, we caravanned to the Alviso EEC by way of the Jubilee Church. In the huge field we found Burrowing Owls, and a large flock of Blackbird containing Red-winged and Brewer's Blackbirds. In the distance we saw American Kestrel, another Peregrine Falcon and two Eurasian Collared Doves. Overhead we had a high-altitude group of Violet-green Swallows and Vaux's Swift. We could easily have missed that last species, as they were almost out of visible range.

Along the entrance road to the EEC we stopped to work the creek. Both Sora and Virgiinia Rail were found quickly, as well as a huge flock containing hundreds of American White Pelicans flying in a formation high over us. At salt pond A16 we reviewed the various Gulls on the island. Oddly there were no Forster's Terns, but Caspians were squawking over the marsh. Several Herring Gulls were found springkled among the many Western, California and Ring-billed Gulls. Black Skimmers were a delight to see as they rested in a prone position among the Black-necked Stilts. We returned to the lot after finding our first-of-season American Wigeons and Eared Grebe. Two Brown Pelicans were spotted over a neighboring pond.

Then we'll swung by State and Spreckles to see if any Shorebirds we missed earlier are present. We had gotten a tip about Mew Gull, but that was not refound by our group. Many Least and Western Sandpipers, both species of Dowitchers, Stilts and Avocets were present here.

At the Alviso Marina, where we can scan the salt pan for Snowy Plovers. Uhhh, nope. Our first Golden-crowned Sparrows were found in the underbrush, and a surprising group of Wilson's Phalaropes gathered on an island along with Willets, Black-bellied Plovers, and Peeps. Many Eared Grebes were located, as well as Ruddy Duck and other swimming birds.

Finally we will visit the Coyote Creek Riparian Station Shorebird Ponds. The pond was nearly devoid of birds when we arrived, but soon a few species turned up. Among them, several Lesser Yellowlegs, but no hoped for Pectoral Sandpiper. This member-only preserve is where SFBBO does its banding. The riparian corridor produced our first and only Northern Flicker as well as Nuttall's Woodpecker.

We wrapped the day up after that, having had 87 species. Not bad for our reduced schedule but a few obvious birds were missed. Still, it was great fun and the weather was beautiful. Thank you to the following team members who helped make this another great fundraising year: Eric Goodill, Susan Kritzik, Marion Crause, Ed Ehmke, Mary Jane Parrine, Jennifer Rycenga, Harold Fukuma, Juliette Bryson, Ashutosh Sinha, Jean Halford, Patty McGann and Cricket.

Canada Goose
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Mallard
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Ruddy Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Virginia Rail
Sora
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Willet
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Phalarope
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Western Gull
Caspian Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Burrowing Owl
Vaux's Swift
Anna's Hummingbird
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
"Western" Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Barn Swallow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow (heard)
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
House Sparrow




Monterey Bay Seabirds 09-27-09


Today was a wonderful day! It was the first-ever combination of Bob Power's and my Palo Alto Adult School birding classes. Our two Seabirds of Monterey Bay groups each held separate 2-hour orientations during the week in preparation for our group day on the water. Today, we filled the boat with friends from both camps, along with expert spotters Dan Singer, Todd Easterla and Roger Wolfe. It was in fact, Roger's Monterey Seabirds group and Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society worked together to make today's fantastic charter trip on the Point Sur Clipper possible.

The weather looked good on shore, but shortly after exiting the Monterey bay harbor we encountered fog. This forced us to alter our original plan somewhat and perhaps reduced our final species list just a little. Roger knows the specifics of what we did and did NOT due as a result of the change, but it worked out fine. The water was smooth and the boat ride was very pleasant all day. Birding on the bay however, is always subject to the whims of weather however, and despite the change in route, we ended up seeing nearly all of our target birds.

We set out at 7:30 with a large eucalyptus tree branch perched on the roof. This time of year, it's not uncommon to have migrant Passerines land in the branches, eager to find a resting stop on their journey. That didn't happen today, but I kep glancing up at those branches to check for exhausted songbirds. Moving on, the harbor and jetty was crowded with California Sea Lions, a few Sea Otters and of course, many Brown Pelicans, Brandt's Cormorants, California, Western and Heermann's Gulls. We also saw a few Elegant Terns, Black Turnstones and Surfbirds.

Exiting the harbor we headed past Point Piños catching a few Pigeon Guillemot and dozens of Common Murre along the way. This latter species was seen in multitudes throughout the day, usually in rafts of 8-15 birds at a time. Oddly, the Rhinoceros Auklets we saw were usually in pairs. At one point we passed a kelp bed that had hundreds of Elegant Terns resting on the surface. As we got near, hundreds of these beautiful birds rose up simultaneously and flew over our boat. Eventually, many of them settled again. It was breathtaking to see them in such numbers. One Common Loon was spotted as it flew over the front of our boat.





Soon after leaving the visible coastline behind us, mostly because of fog... we heard make the first call of Shearwater from the back of the boat. Not a Sooty, but a Buller's Shearwater was the first to arrive. It came in at 11 o'clock on the boat (that's front left...) and then crossed our bow. It then glided down our right side and passed us out back. Most people got a good look, but we had several more later in the day.



Photo: Ashutosh Sinha

Sooty Shearwaters and Pink-footed Shearwaters were more numerous when we got out a bit more. We enjoyed differentiating the vastly different flight styles of the three Shearwater species we say. On one extreme we had the Sooty with its rushed-feeling flap-flap-flap-glide style, and on the other the relaxed, languid wingbeats of the Pink-foot. Perhaps somewhere in the middle was the Buller's Shearwater with its long, very graceful glides interrupted by flap-flap glides. There was an intangible beauty and elegance to this species, in part because of its striking pattern, but also its elegant flight which was noted by many observers. We got "tickable" looks at 2 or 3 Black-vented Shearwaters, but certainly not ideal looks. Late in the day we also had a single pale Northern Fulmar. I was surprised by this as I expected to see many more on this date. Numbers should increase as winter approaches, but Roberson indicates on his checklist that numbers do fluctuate.

Strangely, in one particularly productive Shearwater spot, we also had a small group of Brant flying in the distance and a Northern Pintail overhead. Seemed a little out of place, but the fog does disorient birds... Speaking of fog, and disorientation... I thought I heard some small Songbird-type calls overhead. Could they be the confused calls of a lost Yellow-rumped Warbler. I checked the tree perhed atop the cabin. Nothing.



Photo: Tom Grey www.pbase.com/tgrey

On a grander scale, we saw several Black-footed Albatrosses of various ages. Younger birds were entirely cocoa-colored while the older birds were dusted with confectioner's sugar on the face. They lumbered in like massive B-52s and were met with shreaks of joy from everyone on board. Huge, slow moving and impressive, these birds were probably the stars of the day. Many of us got to see the famous "locked-wing" position of this large bird as it banked for a wide turn. This ability is made possible by a special adaptation of the tendons in the back and shoulders, which actually click into a locked position not unlike a folding knife that is opened with a snap.



Photo: Tom Grey www.pbase.com/tgrey





Our Storm-Petrel encounters were numerous but fleeting as expected. Roger had said we would give these tiny birds a chase, especially since fog was making visibilty in more southern areas. So after the viewing conditions pushed us to other areas, we began to see these tiny, mysterious birds crisscrossing the bow. No bigger than Starlings, but with much longer wings, they quickly moved in and out of view, appearing for an instant, then disappearing behind waves. We ended up seeing mostly Ashy Storm-Petels, but also had small numbers of Black and, one Least. Again, it was the flight style and overall structure of these birds that makes identification possible with such quick looks. Ashy has shallower wingbeats, and at times seems more bat-like than the Black, which has deeper wingbeats and a more confident flight. Color can help in good light, as can size. Least Storm-Petrel seems all but tail-less and flutters like a butterfly. Anyway, a better look is desired on all of them...

We encountered fewer Jaegers than I expected, but by the end of the day we had seen at least two Pomarine Jaegers, two Parasitic Jaegers in full on-tail chase of a panic-struck Elegant Tern, and one very uncertain, but possible Long-tailed Jaeger. The differences between these three is less than obvious most of the time. Overall structure, and if you're lucky enough to see the bird next to a known species, you can compare size. The upper wing and any visible white shafts can be useful, but mostly it's the body structure, mass and flight style that was helpful. As we watched these birds, a small Tern flew into my view, something about it didn't quite click. Unfortunately by the time I figured out what I was seeing it the bird was too far to get folks on it. I believe it was a Common Tern in basic plumage. Everything about the bird was correct. My brain was just tired.



Photo: Tom Grey www.pbase.com/tgrey

Always exciting is when the big gun shows up. We had three South Polar Skua sightings; I believe they were 2 or possibly 3 different individuals. Huge, muscular and intimidating, these highly predatory birds showed up just long enough to give the other birds something to worry about. The left the scene after deciding there wasn't much to eat, and moved on. The other birds probably shared collective sigh of relieve.

Perhaps the most exciting species we saw was a small pod of Killer Whales. Another boat alerted us to the Orcas not far from where we were, and Roger raced to meet them. Apparently, they were feeding on something before we arrived. When we got to the spot there were also two Humpback Whales here quite close to us. We saw the larger whale's tail as it dove, and on two occasions the Killer Whales breached fully out of the water. It was thrilling!



Photo: Tom Grey www.pbase.com/tgrey

At the end of our trip we disembarked, and tipped the two young girls who had taken a perfectly good Sunday and spent it throwing stale popcorn and smelly fish over the stern in the hopes of luring some interesting Seabirds into viewing range for us landlubbers. Thanks to them and the expert spotters on board, we had a spectacular day, and got some killer views of marine mega fauna as well.

Brant
Northern Pintail
Surf Scoter
Common Loon
Eared Grebe
Black-footed Albatross
Northern Fulmar
Pink-footed Shearwater
Buller's Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
Black-vented Shearwater
Ashy Storm-Petrel
Black Storm-Petrel
Least Storm-Petrel
Brown Pelian
Brandt's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Egret Egret
Black Oystercatcher
Black Turnstone
Surfbird
Red-necked Phalarope
South Polar Skua
Pomarine Jaeger
Parasitic Jaeger
Long-tailed Jaeger (possible)
California Gull
Western Gull
Herring Gull
Elegant Tern
Common Tern (probable)
Common Murre
Pigeon Guillemot
Cassin's Auklet
Rhinoceros Auklet







Coyote Point / Redwood Shores 09-19-09

Our first field trip of the term was especially nice because of the sunny clear skies. The week had been extremely hot, and while the forecast for today predicted even hotter weather, it was really very comfortable. We had several first-of-season birds (FOS) for our group, including American Wigeon, Canvasback, Redhead. Merlin,
Wilson's Snipe, White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows.

Beginning at Coyote Point for the low tide, we had the normal assortment of Shorebirds, with two Black Oystercatchers, two Black Turnstones and 4 Pelagic Cormorants on the concrete slabs. Elegant Terns were hard to miss on the sandbar, as well as numerous Black-bellied Plovers. Only one Semipalmated Plover was seen, but we did have both Western and Least Sandpiper. A small number of Dowitchers, including some easy-to-identify Short-billed Dowitchers provided good looks. The only surprise to us was two Wilson's Snipe that took off loudly from the edge of the mudflat and flew overhead. The fennel patch produced only one Common Yellowthroat.



Photo: Ashutosh Sinha

At the freshwater marsh we had two juvenile Green Herons, another Yellow Warbler, and a Western Tanager. A very nice surprise was a very dark blue-black Merlin presumably a male F. c. sukleyi, perched over the marsh. The bird was solidly dark bluish-black on the back with little or no facial pattern. Only the faintest supercilium was visible. Bold streaking on the breast, which was only seen briefly, drained into larger spotting on the flanks. The tail barring was barely discernible, and the tip was thinly finished with white. We also had a juvenile Cooper's Hawk and several Canada Geese.



Photo: Ashutosh Sinha

The eucalyptus grove near the museum had the usual Pygmy Nuthatch, Band-tailed Pigeons and both Nuttall's and Downy Woodpecker. During our walk we had several encounters with White-crowned Sparrow, mostly along the creek, but near the museum we also had a single Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Radio Road had a high count of 8 Black Skimmer, another Elegant Tern on one island, Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitcher. Ducks were numerous but the only surprises for us were four American Wigeon and an adult male Canvasback. Overhead there were many Swallows, mostly Barn, but also a few Cliff were seen. Try as we might, we were not able to relocate the recently reported Pectoral Sandpiper. As I write this, I see that another birder was successful this morning.

Finally, after the group disbanded, Eric, Cricket and I paused at the Nob Hill pond where the only bird of note was a male Redhead. According to some folks, this particular bird is all but domesticated and a year round resident to Redwood Shores, so probably not actually a countable bird, let alone an FOS. Apparently, on the opposite shore from where we scanned, a Nashville Warbler has been reported foraging in the weedy edges.

Canada Goose
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Mallard
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Canvasback
Redhead (NH)
Ruddy Duck
Clark's Grebe
Brown Pelican
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Green Heron
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Merlin
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer
Black Oystercatcher
Black-necked Stilt
Black Turnstone
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Whimbrel
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Sanderling
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Western Gull
Elegant Tern
Forster's Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Black Phoebe
American Crow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Pygmy Nuthatch
European Starling
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Western Tanager
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer's Blackburd
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
House Sparrow