WINTER 2003

Steven's Creek Tidal Marsh 01-11-03 POSTED
Coyote Hills Regional Park 01-18-03 POSTED
Princeton Harbor 01-25-03 POSTED
Arastradero Open Space Preserve 02-01-03 POSTED
San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex 02-08-03 POSTED
Joseph D. Grant County Park 02-22-03 POSTED
Ogier Ponds 03-01-03 POSTED
Point Reyes National Seashore 03-08-03 POSTED

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



Point Reyes National Seashore 03-08-03


In keeping with all previous trips this term, we were blessed with perfect weather--sunny skies, warm temperatures and astounding scenery. Andy pretty much summarized the situation when he said dryly, "well, it's another damn day in paradise." We began, as usual, in Bear Valley where we cleaned up on Passerines. Most notably, my favorite Turdid, the Varied Thrush, which was easily located foraging on the forest floor. As well, we had the first Pygmy Nuthatch of the term and a heard-only Winter Wren, who's cascading song echoed through the conifers. There was much excitement also when an Allen's Hummingbird caught the morning sun just right, igniting his flame-colored throat feathers and amazing us all. We observed several examples of nesting behavior, including an Osprey carrying nesting material to trees on the other end of the field, Red-shouldered Hawks entering their twiggy eucalyptus nest, and Western Bluebirds bringing food to a cavity in the same tree. All of this was in the first hour! From there we proceeded to Olema Marsh where we added, among other species, Ring-necked Duck, Belted Kingfisher, Barn Swallow, and Lincoln's Sparrow. Inverness was next where some people bought sandwiches and we paused to find our first Gulls and Shorebirds as well as another Osprey. We then gathered at Drake's Beach to take the shuttle to Chimney Rock where the real fun began. A quick lunch while we scanned the bay for Black Scoter and listened to a White-crowned Sparrow sing not five feet from our shoes. Our hike to the point, where we saw a Peregrine Falcon, strains the ability of words to capture the sheer beauty of it all! Suffice it to say that several members of our happy group were inspired to sing familiar songs from The Sound of Music while we returned to our shuttle and admired the multitude of colorful wildflowers along the way. What a day! I almost forgot, there was also that little encounter with Mountain Lion near Oyster Point...

Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Brandt's Cormorant
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Canada Goose
Mallard
Gadwall
Northern Pintail
American Wigeon
Cinnamon Teal
Canvasback
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Surf Scoter
Black Scoter
Bufflehead
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle (Fairfax)
Osprey
Merlin
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
California Quail
Wild Turkey (San Geronimo Valley)
American Coot
Killdeer
Black Oystercatcher
Willet
Greater Yellowlegs
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Western Gull
Mourning Dove
Rock Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Acorn Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker (heard only)
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Hutton's Vireo
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
Common Raven
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Barn Swallow
Oak Titmouse (heard only)
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Pygmy Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Bewick's Wren
Winter Wren (heard only)
Marsh Wren
Wrentit (heard only)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (seen by one)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Varied Thrush
American Robin
Hermit Thrush
Northern Mockingbird (San Geronimo Valley)
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Western Meadowlark
Brown-headed Cowbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch (heard only)
House Sparrow (from car in Inverness)



Ogier Ponds 03-01-03

This was the first time our group visited this area and despite the noise from the model airplane field, the birding was productive and enjoyable. Startng out quite cool and overcast with even a sprinkle or two, it became warm and pleasant by late morning. We saw several examples of courtship behaviour from the aggressive territorial displays of White-tailed Kite and American Kestrel to the graceful aerial dance of Red-tailed Hawk. We even saw groups of Tree Swallows reeling above us in full song, entering their newly chosen nest holes in the sycamores. Raptors were numerous, highlights included good looks at a pair of Merlin sparring across North Pond, a high-flying Osprey and loudly calling Red-shouldered Hawk. The ponds were dotted with dozens of Ring-necked Ducks and Greater Scaup but most interesting were perhaps the Common Mergansers showing with their distinctive straight-as-an-arrow flight. Shorebirds were scarce, but we did find the first Spotted Sandpiper of the term. Also new were Northern Rough-winged and Cliff Swallow, welcome harbingers of spring. My apologies again, to all those who did not see the glorious Wood Ducks as they exited, stage right...

Pied-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
American White Pelican (near golf course)
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Cinnamon Teal
Canvasback
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Bufflehead
Common Meganser
Ruddy Duck
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
White-tailed Kite
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Killdeer
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Black Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren (heard only)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (heard only)
Western Bluebird
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee (heard only)
California Towhee
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark (heard only)
Brewer's Blackbird
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch



Joseph D. Grant County Park 02-22-03

It was an absolutely beautiful morning (sunny warm and clear) in the valley before Mount Hamilton. This wonderful park features wide grassy hillsides, open oak woodland, dense streamside tangle, weedy teasel-choked thicket, patches of coyote bush, a good-sized fresh water pond and of course, the great big sky... Our group made the now familiar circuit around the farm house where we found numerous Piciformes, including a brilliant, apparently male, Red-breasted Sapsucker and 8 Northern Flickers perched in a row. Passerines were also abundant, with a Hermit Thrush, 2-3 Fox Sparrows and several Spotted Towhees working intently in the leaf litter. We were treated to lengthy looks at a female Purple Finch and fleeting glimpses at a somewhat early House Wren also. Many people got their first good looks at Cedar Waxwings, a common but hard-to-see-well species. Later we travelled to the lake where the day's Anseriformes were found. A male Common Merganser accompanied by three females, a flock of about 20 Ring-necked Ducks, numerous Ruddy Ducks and Bufflehead were seen on the opposite side of the lake as were Canada Geese, American Wigeon, Gadwall and Mallard. We had brief looks at a female Belted Kingfisher as it whizzed past us and perched on a distant snag. Our list of Raptors was incomplete but nice surprises were a single Sharp-shinned Hawk and an extremely distant Golden Eagle. Yellow-rumped Warbler, a common winter Passerine, was conspicuous in its absence.

Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
Canada Goose
Mallard
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Ring-necked Duck
Scaup (species)
Bufflehead
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Turkey Vulture
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle
Wild Turkey (heard only)
California Quail
American Coot
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Acorn Woodpecker
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Nuttall's Woodpecker (heard only)
Downy Woodpecker (heard only)
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow (possible)
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
Yellow-billed Magpie
American Crow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Varied Thrush (on road before park)
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling
Hutton's Vireo
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark (heard only)
Brewer's Blackbird (upon leaving parking lot)
Purple Finch (female)
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch



San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex 02-08-03

Without a doubt, this was one of the most successful and enjoyable field trips our class has ever had! Thanks to all those who attended for their keen observations and valuable contributions to the running hand-radio commentary. The 14-hour day began with a glorious sunrise over the San Luis Reservoir, followed by a crisp, cool and sunny morning in the valley. Highlights included almost everything we saw and it's hard to know where to begin a summary! At Merced NWR there was a phenomenal lift-off of perhaps 10,000 Snow and Ross' Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, scores of Sandhill Cranes, White-faced Ibis and untold numbers of other birds too distant to identify. Falconiformes were conspicuous at every turn with Red-tailed Hawk and Northern Harrier dominating the stage. We admired a magnificent adult Bald Eagle for several minutes as it perched a half-mile away. We flirted with the idea of Broad-winged Hawk, but the confusing end-of-day Buteo eventually had to be "down-graded" to an immature Red-shouldered Hawk. Another memorable encounter was with a Great Horned Owl (the first of 7 throughout the day) that was determined to be seen... it actually moved several times to different trees, allowing us to get better and better looks each time. Ciconiiformes were numerous with the star of the show being two American Bitterns flushed from the a large reed brake. Anseriformes were abundant as expected and members of the group who continued to San Luis were treated to good views of 5 Tundra Swans. Notable Charadriiformes included several Wilson's Snipe feeding close to the auto loop, a lone Long-billed Curlew and hundreds of Black-bellied Plovers. Various Passerines were seen as well. We were able to compare three species of Sparrow in a single bush, with Fox, Lincoln's and Song posing cooperatively. Many species considered "occasional" were located including two early Orange-crowned Warblers. It was truly a more-than-wonderful day!

Pied-billed Grebe
American White Pelican (SL)
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Black-crowned Night Heron
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret (Los Banos)
White-faced Ibis
Tundra Swan (SL)
Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Ross' Goose
Green-winged Teal
Mallard
Northern Pintail
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Ring-necked Duck (SL)
Ruddy Duck
Turkey Vulture (SL)
White-tailed Kite (SL)
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk (probable, SL)
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk (SL)
American Kestrel
California Quail (SL)
Virginia Rail (heard only)
Sora (heard only)
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Black-bellied Plover
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Long-billed Curlew
Least Sandpiper
Dunlin
Long-billed Dowitcher
Common Snipe
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Anna's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher (SL)
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Yellow-billed Mapgie
American Crow
Common Raven (Los Banos)
Western Scrub Jay
Bushtit (SL)
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin (SL)
Northern Mockingbird (SL)
American Pipit
Loggerhead Shrike
European Starling
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee (SL)
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
House Finch
House Sparrow



Arastradero Open Space Preserve 02-01-03

The gray clouds and brief episodes of drizzle seemed to reflect the sadness we all felt after the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and it's crew of seven astronauts in the skies over eastern Texas this morning. Rick Husband (father of two), William McCool (father of 3), Mike Anderson (Navy surgeon), Kalpana Chawla (born and educated in India), David Brown (on his first space flight), Laurel Clark (mother of one on her first space flight), and as if to punctuate recent struggles in the Middle East, Israel's first space traveller, Ilan Ramon (father of four), were all lost. Our group shared a moment of silence and then continued with our walk. I like to think that walking together and finding life around us helps us deal with sad events like today's, perhaps you agree.

In any case, by noon the weather had cleared and the sun reluctantly appeared. It was a day of instructive comparisons, first a distant female Merlin and nearby female American Kestrel. We were able to observe the heavily barred tail on the Merlin, which was in sharp contrast to the fine narrow barring on the Kestrel. When we entered the closed portion of the trail we had an opportunity to compare Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Hutton's Vireo, both visually and by voice. The most cooperative bird of the day was a Picoides species which worked diligently on a phone pole for several minutes. We got all the visual cues we needed to confidently identify it as a male Hairy Woodpecker. Other highlights included uncommonly good looks at White-breasted Nuthatch and telescope views of a a White-tailed Kite clutching a mouse. It turned out to be a wonderful walk and I'd like to thank all those who helped keep our collective spirits up on this difficult morning.

Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Mallard
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
American Coot
Gull (species)
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Common Raven
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
White-breasted Nuthatch
Bewick's Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
American Robin
Wrentit (heard only)
California Thrasher (heard only)
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling
Hutton's Vireo
Yellow-rumped Warbler
California Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch



Princeton Harbor 01-25-03

The weather was perfect, sunny, warm and clear for our first trip to the coast this term. Excitement was high from the start when we seached the breakwater at the end of the dock for the continuing Brown Booby. It was first reported about two weeks earlier and has attracted many hundreds of birders from throughout the state ever since. Within minutes of arriving we located this rare Mexican species among the great numbers of Brown Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants (most likely there were also Brandt's Cormorants present but we did not log any). All of us had great scope looks at this first-ever winter record of this sub-adult Sulid which shows every indication of remaining in our area for a while. From the dock we continuted toward the harbor beach which produced good numbers of Shorebirds and five species of Gull. Many more Shorebirds were encountered near the Maverick's Beach tidepools, most notably the rock-loving species such as Black Oystercatcer, Surfbird and Black Turnstone. The Long-tailed Duck, which has not been seen for several weeks, seems to have moved on. After birding, about 20 of us went to the Brewery and had lunch together.

Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Brown Booby
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
Mallard
Greater Scaup
Surf Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Bufflehead
Ruddy Duck
Acciptiter (species)
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Killdeer (heard only)
Black Oystercatcher
Willet
Whimbrel
Marbled Godwit
Black Turnstone
Surfbird
Sanderling
Least Sandpiper
Dunlin
Heerman's Gull
Mew Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Forster's Tern
Rock Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
European Starling
Hutton's Vireo (heard only)
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Brewer's Blackbird



Coyote Hills Regional Park 01-18-03

Early morning fog cleared by 8:00 (just in time for us to find the entrance to the park locked again...) becoming warm and very pleasant by noon. We birded for a few minutes while we waited for the ranger to open up and quickly found a Northern Flicker, two Red-shouldered Hawks, a Lesser Yellowlegs and a Loggerhead Shrike right along side our long caravan of cars. Not a bad beginning! Once inside, we opted to go directly to Hoot Hollow where we had a lively discussion about the identification of a very cooperative Accipiter. After much scrutiny, the bird was decided to be an immature Cooper's Hawk. Later in the day we found another Accipiter which was quite clearly a Sharp-shinned Hawk, rounding out the genus for our day list. As well, the Hollow produced a well-hidden Great Horned Owl which most everyone got to see. Five new species of Anseriforms were added for the term, a single Ross' Goose (flying high overhead with a group Canada Geese), American Wigeon and Red-breasted Merganser as well as Northern Pintail and Cinnamon Teal. Both of these last two species were inexplicably missed the week before. What makes this location so special is the nice mix of habitats, from the open grassy areas where Loggerhead Shrike and Say's Phoebe were found, to the wide open and seemingly empty salt ponds where we found distant Mew Gull and Brown Pelican. In between of course there is the large fresh water marsh that poduced some unseasonable Barn Swallows, and the closed mixed oak woodland where the majority of the Passerines were seen.

Pied-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Ross' Goose (indv. in flock of flying CAGOs)
Canada Goose
Green-winged Teal
Mallard
Northern Pintail
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Bufflehead
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Ring-necked Pheasant (heard only)
Virginia Rail (heard only)
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Killdeer
Lesser Yellowlegs
Willet
Least Sandpiper
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
White-throated Swift
Anna's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher (heard only)
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
American Pipit
Loggerhead Shrike
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark (heard only)
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch



Steven's Creek Tidal Marsh 01-11-03

Our first trip of the term proved successful, but muddy... Recent rains made the Burrowing Owl area pretty mushy but the weather during our walk was only partially clouded and otherwise pleasant. The Burrowing Owls were not located, which is disturbing, but perhaps not surprising. The nearby construction may be to blame for their absence as this threatened species is extremely sensitive to disturbance. Waterfowl and Shorebirds were in abundance though, and conditions for observing them were good. The tide was quite low, revealing the muddy feeding area where an overwhelming number of Dunlin, Least and Western Sandpipers foraged. Long-billed Curlews were numerous as well but relatively few Marbled Godwits were logged. Only one Whimbrel, a fly-over, was found. At one point we had a nice side-by-side comparison of two American Avocets that showed obvious sexual dimorphism. We had three encounters with the secretive Sora, one of which allowed extended views as it worked the weedy edge of the marsh. Being an open and watery habitat, it's no surprise we saw very few Passerines, but it does seem odd that no American Pipits or Red-winged Blackbirds were found. Equally odd, was that not a single Cinnamon Teal or Northern Pintail was seen... It's just evidence that birds move freely from one area to another within their range and habitat, as conditions like tide and weather change the "food landscape" in very subtle but important ways.

Pied-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Canada Goose
Green-winged Teal
Mallard
Northern Shoveler
Gadwall
Canvasback
Greater Scaup
Bufflehead
Ruddy Duck
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-necked Pheasant
Sora
American Coot
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Whimbrel
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Dunlin
Dowitcher (species)
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Western Gull
Forster's Tern
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Black Phoebe
Common Raven
Marsh Wren
European Starling
Common Yellowthroat
Californnia Towhee (in parking area)
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Western Meadowlark
House Finch