WINTER 2008


Hayward Shoreline 01-12-08 POSTED
Gray Lodge and Sacramento NWR 01-19+20-08 POSTED
Alviso Salt Ponds and SWPCP 01-27-08 POSTED
Panoche Valley 02-02-08 POSTED
Charleston Marsh and Shoreline Lake 02-09-08 POSTED
Venice Beach and Princeton Harbor 02-16-08 POSTED
Natural Bridges and other SMC coast stops 02-23-08 POSTED
Point Reyes 03-01-08 POSTED
Joseph D. Grant County Park 03-08-08 POSTED

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




Joseph D. Grant County Park 03-08-08

After concentrating on wetland and coastal areas for much of the term, it seemed like a good idea to jump into spring with a visit to Grant Park. It was a change in plans from the scheduled trip to Monterey county, but in light of several recent posts, we hoped to find a few spring migrants, and perhaps more evidence of breeding behavior. As usual, the winding Mount Hamilton Road provided spectacular views of the bright green Hall's Valley. The weather was clear and warm, just perfect for our trip. Most of us saw groups of Wild Turkeys, either along the main road or just inside the park, as well as Yellow-billed Magpies. Our car drove into the valley with the windows open and songs were heard continuously. American Robin, Dark-eyed Junco, Spotted Towhee, Purple Finch, and Orange-crowned Warbler were all in full voice. Perhaps it is still a bit early for Black-headed Grosbeak... but soon.

The area around the farmhouse was budding with new growth and in the underbrush we located several lingering Sparrows such as Fox, Lincoln's and both "crowned" Sparrows. We were also treated to views of a singing California Thrasher and a Selasphorus Hummingbird species. Western Bluebirds were hard to miss and we saw them house hunting along side the Tree Swallows. It looked like both buyers were pretty serious, but we'll find out soon enough whose offer was accepted... Another lingering species was a single Say's Phoebe we spotted along barbed wire fence. Perhaps the best bird in this area was a bright Red-breasted Sapsucker foraging in the huge oak in the courtyard. I wonder how long we can expect to see this, or the other wintering species in the area.



Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Patty McGann


We made our way through the coyote bush basin and over the small bridge through the patch of dried teasel. This area produced more looks at Anna's Hummingbird, Lesser Goldfinch and Song Sparrow, but was otherwise quiet. We checked above frequently for any Golden Eagles. So far we had found loudly calling Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks doing their courtship displays which involve dangling their feet and circling slowly, and of course numerous Turkey Vultures.



Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Patty McGann


A stroll through past the picnic area often produces the Sapsuckers, but today none appeared. A few Yellow-rumped Warblers and both Brewer's and Red-winged Blackbirds were feeding in the meadow. Eventually we reached the side trail that leads back behind the field. A very interesting Northern Flicker, showing obvious golden-yellow underwings had us considering whether it might be a pure Yellow-shafted or an intergrade. The lack of either a nuchal patch or a malar suggests a female bird, while the gray face, brown crown and nape supports the idea that it's likely an intergrade, showing traits from both populations. In this area we got our first good looks at Orange-crowned Warbler, although it took a bit of work and a lot of patience. Several of us also saw the orange crown as the male sang from a sunlit perch!



Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Patty McGann


It was about lunchtime, so we ate near the cars. I could hear some Band-tailed Pigeons in the trees overhead, but they never showed themselves. Typical... We were hearing a lot of songs actually, and it was very good practice for the season.

Next stop was the lake. We caravanned up the road, finding the parking lot completely full, so we had to park on the shoulder. The lake had a few new species for us. Among them were both Common and Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Bufflehead, Western and Pied-billed Grebes. There was also Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, and of course Mallard. I hoped we might find some new Swallows and indeed we did. After a thorough search we managed to find at least two Northern Rough-winged Swallows, and a single Cliff Swallow. Of all the common Swallows, only Barn remains uncounted this spring for us. Plenty of time for that, I expect.

A few nice surprises at the lake were an Osprey and finally an adult Golden Eagle. It was very far up the ridge and as we watched it we also spotted Cooper's Hawk and White-throated Swift. There was real excitement when a Prairie Falcon flew right over us and remained there long enough for us to get a long look at its dark underwing markings. Somewhere in there, a few people also saw a Belted Kingfisher. It was a pretty complete day!




Photo: Patty McGann

After the group trip, I also made a quick visit to Smith Creek to scout out the area for an upcoming trip. The area was quiet because it was early afternoon, but several Brown Creepers were heard, as well as singing Purple Finch. A nice surprise was Wood Duck, which flew before it was in view, but the female called loudly as she disappeared down stream. Band-tailed Pigeon were seen at Twin Gates, but it's still too early for Orioles, Grosbeaks, or Kingbirds. Soon though...


Canada Goose
Gadwall
Mallard
Northern Shoveler
Bufflehead
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Wild Turkey
California Quail
Pied-billed Grebe
Western Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
White-tailed Kite
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
Prairie Falcon
American Coot
Killdeer
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
White-throated Swift

Anna's Hummingbird
Selasphorus species
Belted Kingfisher
Acorn Woodpecker
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Hutton's Vireo
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
Yellow-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Chestnut-backed Swallow
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Bewick's Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Wetern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Wrentit
California Thrasher
European Starling
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch








Point Reyes 03-01-08

It's the first day of March, and spring is clearly at hand. Today was warm and clear, but afternoon winds kept many birds in hiding. Still, we found several examples of seasonal behavior like breeding and nest building.

Our day began at the Bear Valley headquarters where the haunting songs of Varied Thrush and Hermit Thrush could be heard in the grove of tall trees. A bit of exploring produced good looks at the species in the riparian section of the earthquake trail. Above us we could hear the zipping call of a flock of Pine Siskins. Other highlights of the morning were several Golden-crowned Kinglets that flashed their blazing gold caps at each other and us. We heard the echoing song of Winter Wren briefly here too, but were not able to view the bird. The high-pitched trill of Selasphorus Hummingbirds was heard repeatedly but the birds moved so fast we had difficulty finding them. Eventually, we were able to see two males quite well. One had copious amounts of emerald green on its back suggesting it was an Allen's, the expected breeder here. The other bird appeared to have no green, suggesting it might be a Rufous, a familiar migrant. Of course, without examining the tail feathers closely, it's hard to be sure. Some would even say impossible. A happy discovery was a flock of Lincoln's Sparrows. Typically we only see on at a time, but today we saw five foraging close together along the trail. Also present in Bear Valley were American Crows building a nest in the upper branches of a redwood, and a pair of copulating Red-shouldered Hawks. Somewhat unexpected was a very cooperative Red-breasted Sapsucker which allowed close approach as it foraged in a huge bay laurel. The enclosed meadow produced a pair of Western Bluebirds and a female Tricolored Blackbird, which was associating with several Brewer's Blackbirds. The Turkey Vultures were beginning to stir as it warmed up, and among them was an Osprey. Perhaps it has a nest somewhere over the ridge...



Photo: Pati Rouzer


Photo: Pati Rouzer


Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Patty McGann


From here we caravanned to Olema Marsh where we hoped to find a few early Swallows. In fact, we found gobs of Violet-green and Tree Swallows, many of which were busy exploring, or fighting over nest boxes. It was exciting to see them again, and soon, we should see the remaining Swallow species, which arrive later in spring. We saw an Osprey again here, maybe the same individual, and while activity in the weed patch was slow, we were able to locate singing Purple Finch across the pond.



Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Patty McGann

Limantour Beach was next. Before birding, we ate our lunches in the parking lot and admired the bright blue ocean. The wind was stiff here and the waves were large and white, with mist flying off of each crest. The estero produced a few additional birds, most of which were quite far. Included were Gadwall, Long-billed Curlew, Great and Snowy Egret, Sanderling and California Gull. The walk back along the beach was more lovely than productive. The wind from behind us swept over the flat hard sand, creating slowly bending streams of countless sand particles before us. Very few footprints were visible and almost no one was around. It was startlingly beautiful, and with the water's blinding sparkles to our right... well, it hardly mattered that the birds were somewhere else.



Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Pati Rouzer


Photo: Pati Rouzer

We returned to Sir Francis Drake to make our way toward Inverness, stopping first at Waldo's Dike. We discussed how and when to search for Black Rail in this famous winter stop. The tide was very low, and of course no Rails were found, but at least everyone knows where to search next January. Inverness, by contrast was very active. We found several new species from the Inverness Store. Highlights were the many Waterfowl feeding in the center of the bay. Great numbers of Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, two Eurasian Wigeon, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck and both Western and Clark's Grebes. A nice surprise was a group of American White Pelicans that descended on the bay. Many of them showed the breeding bump on their bright yellow bills.

The RCA towers provided a nice place for afternoon tea and cookies. By now, the wind was audible and the great branches of the cypress trees bent and squeaked against it. On the platform, which rises from the large field, the pair of Osprey was fully into the breeding season, frequently visiting the bulky nest and crying loudly to each other. One held a wriggling fish and perched in full view of our tea party. The other side of the entrance road contained many Western Bluebirds, Dark-eyed Juncos and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Oddly, very few Sparrows were found here, an area where we are usually overwhelmed by Zonotrichias. I guess spring really is here.



Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Patty McGann

Our final stop was the Johnson's Oyster Company on Scooner Bay. We picked up Willet and got better looks at Glaucous-winged Gull, but it was windy, we were tired and it was time to head home. The only additional bird we found on the way home was an immature Ferruginous Hawk along Sir Francis Drake. It put on quite a show for our car, but sadly, the other cars were already past us.


Pied-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Canada Goose
Green-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Mallard
Northern Pintail
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Eurasian Wigeon
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
White-winged Scoter
Surf Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Bufflehead
Ruddy Duck
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
American Kestrel
California Quail
Wild Turkey
Virginia Rail
Sora
American Coot
Killdeer
Willet
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Sanderling
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Anna's Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird (probable)
Allen's Hummingbird
Acorn Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Black Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
Pygmy Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Bewick's Wren
Winter Wren
Marsh Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
Varied Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Wrentit
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Commo Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Purple Finch
House Finch
Pine Siskin
House Sparrow





Natural Bridges 02-23-08


Weather forecasts for today were foreboding to say the least: rain likely with southeast winds 35-40 mph. Gusts up to 50 mph... Recent rains meant the ground was also quite saturated and the possibility of falling trees was a real consideration. My warnings to the group convinced most people to stay home where it would be warm and dry, but three intrepid birders decided to attend. Bundled up and hopeful in the drizzling cold, five of us explored Natural Bridges State Park where even the birds seemed to be waiting for the storm to pass.

A pre-trip visit to Antonelli Pond, just down the road from the rear entrance of the park, produced a few birds we did not find elsewhere. Pied-billed Grebe, Black-crowned Night Heron and Marsh Wren were among them. The willows were in bud, casting a beautiful light green color to the edges of the pond. It should be wonderful in spring, when migrant Passerines will exploit such habitat for its supply of insects.

Before we entered Natural Bridges, we found two Eurasian Collared Doves perched along Delaware Road. Their large size and paler coloration distinguished them form the more numerous Mourning Doves. They called several times as well, and this was our first hint they were in the area. Also present here were several Pygmy Nuthatches, which called repeatedly, but took a little work to get good looks at.

Yellow-rumped Warblers were heard everywhere, especially along the entrance road to Natural Bridges. Occasionally, we also heard, and eventually saw Townsend's Warbler mixed in. American Robins were abundant, and we were able to pick out the soft "chup" call of a Hermit Thrush in the tangled underbrush. Northern Flicker and Red-shouldered Hawks were also seen in the upper branches of the trees, but generally, things were rather quiet. We moved quietly, frequently pausing to listen for anything different.



Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Ken Lillis

We worked our way through the dell, where huge numbers of Monarch Butterflies gather in season. A Red-shouldered Hawk pair, perhaps the same ones we had detected earlier, perched directly above us. After climbing out of the sunken observation area, we came into the open where the meadow and coyote bush produced several new species for the day. Wrentit, Anna's Hummingbird, American Kestrel and a fly-through Merlin. We got additional looks at Pygmy Nuthatches here as well.



Photo: Ken Lillis

The trail led us back into the dense cover again and we spotted Hutton's Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Oak Titmouse and our first Black Phoebe. A small Wren, most likely Winter Wren appeared briefly, and responded to the recorded call note but refused to show itself fully. Also found here was Bewick's Wren, but it was considerably larger and more vocal than the other Wren.

From here it was off to the beach via the chaparral trail. Again, the willows were budding, and all I could think about was the Warbler show that would probably begin in a month or two... The beach was a good place to practice Gull recognition as there were only a small number of them, and it was easy to get everyone to look at a particular bird. Most common were Ring-billed Gulls, followed by Mew, California and Glaucous-winged. At first only one Western was found, but that changed as additional birds came in for a break from the heavy winds. Oddly, we also found a first winter Heermann's Gull. It's uniform chocolate plumage made it easy to pick out from the others. Willets and Marbled Godwits were foraging among the Gulls too. The rocks just off the beach held Gulls of several species, all three Cormorants, Surfbirds, Black Oystercatchers and Black Turnstones.



Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Ken Lillis


Photo: Ken Lillis


We opted to make stop along Westcliff Drive because the rocky shelves might give us better looks at the Surfbirds, and perhaps even Rock Sandpiper. Neither of these species was located however, and the wind was fierce. We stayed a while and marveled at the Gulls flying below us. So we wrapped things up here and made our way home. Eric, Kelly and I made a quick stop at the mobile home community in Scott's Valley, where previous winters there has been a Tufted Duck. He wasn't there today, but we did manage Common and Hooded Mergansers, as well as a Green Heron.

Mallard
Surf Scoter
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Loon sp.
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Western Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Brandt's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Snowy Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
White-tailed Kite
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Black Oystercatcher
Willet
Marbled Godwit
Surfbird
Black Turnstone
Heermann's Gull
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared Dove
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Hutton's Vireo
Western Scrub Jay
Steller's Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
Pygmy Nuthatch
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren
House Wren
Winter Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Wrentit
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch




Earlier reports for winter term 2008