WINTER 2009


Arrowhead Marsh / Lake Merritt 01-10-09 POSTED
Merced NWR / O'Neil Dam Forebay 01-17-09 POSTED
Charleston Marsh / Shoreline Lake / Alviso EEC 01-24-09 POSTED
Yolo Bypass WA / Flannery and Robinson Roads 01-31-09 POSTED
Panoche Valley 02-07-09 POSTED
Venice Beach / Princeton Harbor / Skylawn 02-21-09 POSTED
Bodega Bay 02-28-09 POSTED
Moss Landing / Elkhorn Slough 03-07-09 POSTED

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



Moss Landing / Elkhorn Slough 03-07-09

After rain earlier in the week, today's sunny and clear weather was a nice change indeed. Still, conditions required a slight change in our usual plans and Moon Glow Dairy was dropped from the itinerary. So we spend the morning birding along Jetty Road and before moving to Elkhorn Slough after lunch. In retrospect, we should probably have reversed this order because of the tide situation.

The tide was on its way out when we arrived, which made for a poor Shorebird show until the mudflats started to appear. Swimming birds held our attention, and they included all the Grebes we could hope for, even 4 Red-necked Grebes off the beach. Also present were Common, Pacific, and Red-throated Loons, Surf and White-winged Scoters, Red-breasted Merganser, Pigeon Guillemot and several unfortunate Common Murres that had washed ashore. In the harbor itself we found Common Goldeneye and all three species of Cormorant, but not hoped-for Long-tailed Duck. The jetty was also relatively calm with no rock-loving Shorebirds, but plenty of Brown Pelicans and Brandt's Cormorants with all their best breeding finery. Also present were three immature Heermann's Gulls.



Photo: Karin Bredfeldt

On our way back to the cars we had another opportunity to sort through the Gulls on the beach. Despite a concerted effort we found no unexpected birds such as Glaucous or the recently reported first-cycle Slaty-backed, but we left having found and identified most of the expected species including several first cycle Thayer's Gulls, a subtle bird requiring close comparison to other pale birds... By this time the mudflat was exposed enough to attract good numbers of probing Shorebirds. We had great looks at Sanderling, Dunlin, Western and Least Sandpipers as well as a few Semipalmated Plovers. Willets, Marled Godwits and Long-billed Curlews were abundant and hard to miss, and among them was a single Greater Yellowlegs. After spotting an immature Peregrine Falcon on a distant phone pole, it was time for lunch at Phil's.

After eating, we caravanned to the Elkhorn Slough sanctuary, stopping briefly to identify the many black birds assembled at a roadside farm. European Starling was most common, but also numerous were Red-winged, and Brewer's Blackbirds. Also present were Brown-headed Cowbird and a few Tricolored Blackbirds. Along the phone lines along the road we saw close to a dozen Eurasian Collared Doves.

As soon as we pulled into the parking area at Elkhorn Slough visitors center the Tree Swallows we'd seen at a distance earlier were now much closer. In the trees behind the building a Hutton's Vireo called repeatedly. Our first and only American White Pelican flew into the slough below us, and a group of Forster's Terns was seen foraging in the distance. We soon heard several Selasphorus Hummingbirds, but it was only after a few minutes that we managed to see one perched on a bush. W e saw several more in the eucalyptus grove. The nicest surprise at the preserve were 5 Spotted Sandpipers foraging along the muddy banks of the channel by the pedestrian bridge. We made our way around the pond, passing through oak and pine trees where we picked up Acorn and Nuttall's Woodpecker as well as Northern Flicker. Pygmy Nuthatches called from somewhere in upper branches. Our only Yellow-rumped Warblers of the day were found in this area too, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet made a brief appearance.

Canada Goose
Gadwall
Mallard
Northern Shoveler
Greater Scaup
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
California Quail
Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Red-necked 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
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Spotted Sandpipeer
Whimbrel
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Sanderling
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Dunlin
Dowitcher (species)
Heermann's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Forster's Tern
Common Murre (deceased)
Pigeon Guillemot
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher

Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Hutton's Vireo
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
American Robin
Wrentit
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch






Bodega Bay 02-28-09

We met at eastern end of Doran Beach in time for low tide, and thousands of Shorebirds. The weather was overcast and quite windy, but at least not raining has had been forecast earlier in the week. The wind proved an deterrant to the Passerines for most of the day, cutting into our expected Sparrow, Warbler and other Songbird results. Among the more exciting species seen during this first hour were Ruddy Turnstone, Snowy Plover and an immature Bald Eagle. Also hard to miss were hundreds upon hundreds of Brant.

Moving up along the bay to Tides Restaurant, we spent more time with the Loons finding Common, Paacific, and Red-throated Loons. We continued to see the Bald Eagle from the overlook. There were plenty of Gulls to sort through, but nothing unexpected.

At Diekmann's store, we worked to relocate the previously reported Yellow Warbler, which we saw several times as it foraged in the dense tangle below the balcony. We also saw it hover briefly as it took insects from the bright pinkish-orange flowers. Also present in this area was at least one Selasphorus Hummingbird, but we never got a good look at them. Downy Woodpecker called from the eucalyptus trees and Red-brested Merganser was seen off the shore.

Continuing toward the Bodega Dunes Campground and horse trail, we stopped briefly at the corner of Eastshore and Westshore Roads. There we found Cedar Waxwing, Dark-eyed Junco and hoards of Yellow-rumped Warblers. One person reported Red-breasted Nuthatch.

At the horse trailhead, we missed several birds we often find here, such as Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush and Fox Sparrow. The Rail ponds were also very quiet as well, so we moved on. By now the wind was quite stiff and it was getting to be lunch time. Best bird was probably a single male Varied Thrushthat appeared briefly across
from on e of the homes along Bay Flat Road.

"Hole in the Head" was closed during construction, so we headed up hill to the eastern lot overlooking the harbor mouth for lunch. One person reported seeing a Peregrine Falconhere, but it quickly disappeared. The west lot was really active with many Gulls to look at. Most exciting to me were several Thayer's Gulls, both adult and
all manner of younger birds. We stood with the many whale watchers and scanned the rocks below. Black Oystercatcher, Surfbird, Sanderling, and Black Turnstone were all present, as well as Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorant. One particular Pelagic had a completely white belly, very strange. Offshore, we found a single Red-necked Grebe and two Pigeon Guillemots. Oddly, the hills above the road had several Great Egrets, we thought were slightly out of place up there in the wind. Last year we had seen Wild Turkey in the same area...

Owl Canyon was very quiet when we arrived mid afternoon, and very windy. About this time we bumped into Lisa Hug who informed us of the Black-legged Kittiwake at Salmon Creek. We made a frenzied detour to search for it, but found everything except the Kittiwake. Glaucous-winged, Western, Herring, Thayer's, California, Mew Gull... I think though this may have been our first encounter with Western Sandpipers for the day, which were working the creek beside Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, and a few Sanderling. Dogs and many beachcombers flushed the Gulls shortly after we arrived.

We returned to the Tides and picked up the remaining cars and made a brief stop at the Bird Walk on the south end of the bay, across from N Harbor Way. Two more Ruddy Turnstones were found among the many gathered Godwits, Willets, Dunlin, etc on the mudflats. We saw a male MERLIN take one of the smaller Shorebirds, couldn't tell exactly which but some photos may reveal, and then land on the ground. It then took off toward the trees with its prey.

The trip ended at that point and we headed home, seeing many Euraisan Collared Doves in town. Our car made a stop at Shollenberger Park in Petaluma where we were able to see three (of the four) previously reported Pacific Golden Plovers on the mud to the left of the trail that leads directly out from the PRBO office (3820 Cypress Drive, Petaluma is the street address. The trail leads out directly from the building.) About 150 yards out from the PRBO office the Pacific Golden Plovers were along the edges on the left pond. Proximity of Black-bellied Plovers made recognition of these birds especially easy. They are heavily mottled with gold on the back as well as washed with gold on the head and upper breast, strong supercilium and somewhat darker ear coverts. There was only moderate primary projection on the three birds. Quite stunning!

Canada Goose
Brant
Gadwall
American Wigeon (Shollenberger)
Mallard
Canvasback (Shollenberger)
Ring-necked Duck (Shollenberger)
Greater Scaup
Surf Scoter
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican (Shollenberger)
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Brandt's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier (Shollenberger)
Accipiter (species)
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon (seen by one)
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Pacific Golden Plover (Shollenberger)
Snowy Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Black Oystercatcher
Willlet
Whimbrel
Marbled Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Black Turnstone
Sanderling
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Dunlin
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared Dove
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Selasphorus (species)
Nuttall's Woodpeckere
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Red-breasted Nuthatch

Bewick's Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Varied Thrush
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
House Finch




 


Venice Beach / Princeton Harbor / Skylawn 02-21-09

Today was intended to focus on Gulls, as we've been discussing them in class. The weather was overcast and cool for the most part, but the rain of last week was no where to be seen. In years past, Venice Beach has hosted huge numbers of roosting Gulls, who come in from the rough offshore winds or come down from the dump located in the hills above Half Moon Bay. They are attracted by the safety of the beach and the warm freshwater that drains into the ocean from Pilarcitos and Frenchman's Creeks. Recently however, anti-Gull control efforts in the county have reduced numbers of birds on the beach. Instead of 10,000 plus individuals, we now see numbers in the hundreds. Still, it provides a good opportunity to sort through age groups and species, but with perhaps fewer surprises.

Highlight at the roost today was a first-cycle Glaucous Gull pointed out to us by Dan Singer and Al Eisner. It was conveniently seated next to a Glaucous-winged Gull for easy comparison. It was a large, light-colored Larid with fine pale tan mottling on coverts and body. Similar in size to nearby Western and Glaucous-winged Gulls, this one was considerably paler, particularly on the primaries which were nearly white and showed not contrasting spots on their tips. Dull pinkish legs, dark iris, heavy, but short (parallel edged) pale pink bill with sharply defined black tip. By contrast, the first-cycle Glaucous-winged Gulls showed longer, entirely dark, strongly hooked bills with prominent gondeal angle, quite unlike this bird.


Photo: Kris Olson

After identifying all the Gulls we could, which included all manner of plumages and ages of Western, Glaucous-winged, Glaucous, Herring, Thayer's, California and Mew, we moved on. Next we explored the willows lining the creek, and the adjacent campground. Numerous Pine Siskins fed noisily in the treetops, several Purple Finches made for interesting comparison with more abundant House Finches, and a few Pygmy Nuthatches. The happiest discovery was probably the several male Selasphorus Hummingbirds. Our best guess, based on a the generous amount of iridescent lemon-lime green on their backs was that these were Allen's Hummingbirds... probably. Moving on.

We caravanned to Denniston Creek where we searched in vain or the recently reported Northern Waterthrush. The area was very quiet, but in the harbor we found a few new birds for the day. Clark's and Western Grebes, three species of Loon, Surf Scoter and Greater Scaup. Those who hadn't yet seen Mew Gull for the day, got great looks at a small group gathered at the creek mouth. A couple of Black Turnstone put in a brief appearance, and Ken also spotted a Brant, but I don't believe anyone else was able to see it before it got a way. Time for lunch.


Photo: Patty McGann

After settling the bill for our group meal at the brewery, we tried once again for the Waterthrush. No luck. Again... So we relocated to the Maverick's Beach parking lot and awaited for enough parking spots to open up. After a short wait, we walked out to the point, finding Black-bellied Plover, Surfbird, Black Oystercatcher and Brown Pelican. We also rounded out our Cormorant collection with several breeding-plumaged Pelagics perched on the rocks. Overhead a pair of Common Raven harassed an immature Red-tailed Hawk.

After a quick stop at the Creekside Smokehouse for our traditional cold-smoked salmon purchase, we headed up to Skylawn where the Red Crossbills were easily located in the central plaza that divides the veterans of war memorial and the Asian mount. We counted only four individual Crossbills, but it included both male and female birds. Also present at the memorial park were Western Bluebirds, many Yellow-rumped Warblers in breeding plumage, more Pine Siskin and quite a few Dark-eyed Juncos. Unfortunately, no "slate-colored" was found.

Rather sheepishly, I admit defeat in our efforts to relocate the Black-and-white Warbler that four of us (Lee, Ashutosh, Kelly and I) found along Pilarcitos Creek before the trip officially began. We found ourselves with half an hour to spare before the rendez vous at Venice, so we took a side trip to the pedestrian bridge. After a few minutes I spotted a Black-and-white foraging in a mixed flock of birds.

This dramatically black-and-white-streaked Warbler was in a small mixed flock of Yellow-rumped, and Townsend's Warblers with several Bushtits as well. Obvious first were the extremely bold head stripes of white on black and compact structure. It clung to the leafless branches of the willow trees along the creek, and demonstrated a Nuthatch-like behavior of foraging "around" branches, upside down and hanging. Completely unlike the other Warblers. Its tail was relatively short and its head long and flat. The only other entirely black and white Warbler possible would be Black-throated Gray Warbler, which lacks the conspicuous back streaking of this bird, or lengthwise white stripes on tertials. Bold streaks of black on the flanks formed long lines which converged on the upper breast creating a black bib. Although the chin of the bird was white, the black patch on the upper breast and dark auriculars suggest a wintering male.

Brant
Mallard
Greater Scaup
Surf Scoter
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Brandt's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Killdeer
Black Oystercatcher
Willet
Marbled Godwit
Black Turnstone
Surfbird
Sanderling
Mew Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Glaucous Gull
Common Murre (deceased)
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Pygmy Nuthatch
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Hutton's Vireo
Wrentit
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Song Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
Red Crossbill
Pine Siskin
Lesser Goldfinch



Panoche Valley 02-07-09

Our hugely successful day in this winter hotspot was characterized not by great numbers of species, but by a small list of highlighy prized specialties. The excitement began immediately upon arrival at Paicines Reservoir and continued until the end with at Mercey Hot Springs, and a quick stop in Tres Pinos before heading home. Highlights included 2 Hooded Mergansers, 4 Merlins, 2 Ferruginous Hawks, 3 Golden Eagles, 1 Bald Eagle, 2 Chukar, 2 Greater Roadrunner, 6-8 Long-eared Owls, 1 Barn Owl, 200+ Horned Larks, 1 Phainopepla, a small flock of Lark Sparrows, and 1 Vesper Sparrow (my personal favorite bird of the day). Pictures and a more complete report will hopefully follow in the days to come.

Mute Swan
Mallard
Green-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Wild Turkey
Chukar
California Quail
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
Merlin
Prairie Falcon
American Coot
Killdeer
Least Sandpiper
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Greater Roadrunneer
Barn Owl
Long-eared Owl
Anna's Hummingbird
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Huttons' Vireo
Western Scrub Jay
Yellow-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Oak Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Bewick's Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Wrentit
Northern Mockingbird
California Thrasher
European Starling
American Pipit
Phainopepla
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
House Sparrow






Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area / Flannery and Robinson Roads 01-31-09

As is our tradition, at least once during winter term we visit the central valley. This year, we not only toured Merced NWA, but also Yolo Bypass outside of Davis. It's a long drive, but worth it because of its more northerly position which puts us in a better position for a few uncommon species. It proved very interesting to compare today's results with previous years'. Waterfowl numbers seemed to be down, and many groups of Geese appeared to be headed north, perhaps compelled by the recent warm weather.

We met at the visitors center where we strolled the modest grounds and logged a few firsts for the day. Our Zonotrichia and Melospiza Sparrows were easily located, minus the rare ones, of course. The small pond area provided good habitat for the first of our many Marsh Wrens, and the nearby trees hosted a few Yellow-billed Magpies in the middle of nest construction. As we noticed many times today, the winter situation has all but disappeared, and many expected January birds were more difficult to find. Is this a sign of an early spring, perhaps the result of climate change...? Other birders we met, posed the same questions.

After we'd found a female Purple Finch in the leafless trees along the trail, and a very distant Merlin over the barren field, we headed over to the main area of the preserve. The frontage road contained a huge flock of Blackbirds, mostly Red-winged and Tricolored, but also a few Brewer's Blackbirds and Brown-headed Cowbirds. One dull Yellow-headed Blackbird was also in the group, but was not seen by the entire group. Very close to the road a single Burrowing Owl was standing beside its burrow, allowing great photo opportunities.

At the preserve, we scanned the first pond, but finding the sun in absolutely the wrong position, we quickly decided to move on. Before we did so, however, a small group of Yellow-headed Blackbirds appeared in the trees near the entrance. Although distant from us, finally we all got look at the birds. The newly opened eastern road provided us with good looks at the Waterfowl gathered on the pond. Most exciting were two pairs of Blue-winged Teal, but the hoped-for Eurasian Wigeon could not be found. Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal and Shoveler made up the majority, with Gadwall, Cinnamon Teal and American Wigeon making up the rest of the group. Strangely, only a few Mallards were seen the entire day. The first of several Herring Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls passed overhead, and a lone Bonaparte's Gull showed up as well.

Later on this same road, we came to a soggy rice field that contained a great number of Dunlin. Also present here were Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Killdeer and a few American Pipit. Northern Harriers crisscrossed in front of us as we continued along the loop, and the pale mantled, pink-legged Herring Gulls rested on the small islands. Soon we rejoined with our traditional route and spotted Black-crowned Night Herons hidden in the reeds. One car reported hearing a Virginia Rail, but it wasn't until we reached the hunter's station that we got a look at any rails, in this case a Sora. We met the rangers here and discussed which areas were open to birders. He also answered a few questions about "bag limits". He said that 7 "takes" could include any combination of the following, as long as the total was no more than 7 per hunter: 7 Mallards (but no more than 2 females), 1 Northern Pintail (either sex), 2 Redheads (either sex), 2 Scaup (either sex, what... no distinction between Greater or Lesser?). Canvasback season is apparently closed. It's curious to me that only these species are identified in the Duck portion of the relations. Apparently, there is no special regulation for the rarest of the smaller Ducks, the Blue-winged Teal, or any vagrant Ducks such as Eurasian Wigeon or Tufted Duck... It's a bit puzzling. In addition, a total of 8 Geese can be taken, but must not include more than any of the following: 6 "White" Geese and 3 "Dark" Geese. On a strange note, the state's ONLY records of Baikal Teal (vagrant from Asia) were "taken" by hunters.

Anyway.

The last parking area produced our only Ring-necked Pheasants of the day, and the marsh just prior contained a high count of some 15 Wilson's Snipe! We made our way quickly back to the entrance after this, realizing that time was running out for our Raptor quest along Flannery and Robinson Roads.

After a quick pit stop on Mace Road, we caravanned to our next destination. Along the way we had a few new birds, including Canada and Cackling Geese, and Long-billed Curlew. The Robinson Road portion began with great looks at Loggerhead Shrike and a large Falcon, strategically placed with its head entirely blocked from view. As we got closer we caught glimpses of its head and were somewhat surprised to find that it was not a Prairie but a Peregrine Falcon...

After a long 5-mile an hour drive through the traditional Ferruginous Hawk portion of the trail we found two Rough-legged Hawks--a male perched on the ground and a second dark-bellied bird in flight. Some members reported seeing Ferruginous Hawk, but I personally did not see any that I could satisfactorily distinguish from pale Red-tailed Hawks, which were also present. At the junction with Flannery Road we paused for hot tea and cookies when the call came from Petersen who had been scanning the distant field, "Mountain Plovers!" Although a mile a way, a pale spot on the bare-earth patch ran and then stopped to reveal itself as a Plover, without stripes... We packed up and drove back to a closer vantage point, but found the Plover only slightly closer. Still, its behavior and lack of dark markings confirmed it was our bird. After that we headed home, with a list of nearly 100 species.

Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Ross's Goose
Canada Goose
Cackling Goose
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Bufflehead
Ruddy Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon
Virginia Rail
Sora
American Coot
Killdeer
Mountain Plover
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Long-billed Curlew
Least Sandpiper
Dunlin
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Burrowing Owl
Anna's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher

Nuttall's Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow





Charleston Marsh / Shoreline Lake / Alviso EEC 01-24-09

Today was a local expedition, visiting hotspots we often whiz by on our way somewhere else. The first destination was the Charleston Marsh, an under-birded freshwater gem. After a short conversation with the Google security guard, we were allowed to park our cars in their lot... but just this once. We'll work out a better system next time, but it was no problem today.

We began searching for the Northern Waterthrush first, and quickly got two individuals to respond to pishing and playback. Despite a concerted effort we were never able to view either bird, but at least we detected their presence. The marsh also contained a beautiful Green Heron, at least one Wilson's Snipe, which flushed out of the reeds, a vocal Ring-necke Pheasant and lots of "crowned" Sparrows. Song, Fox and Lincoln's were also present, but no unexpected species. A highlight was a sukleyi or "Black" Merlin perched on a power tower. We watched it fly off and noted it's powerful, direct flight. Mr. Melnick and Ms. Raymond also spotted a Red-breasted Sapsucker at one point, but most of the group had already reached the cars.



Image: Ashutosh Sinha


Image: Ashutosh Sinha

Shoreline Lake was productive and we located the male and female Barrow's Goldeneyes quickly. Other birds of interest here were a Spotted Sandpiper, a Ring-necked Duck female and several Grebes to sort through. Salt Pond 1A was disappointing in that the huge flock of American Wigeons we expected to find had moved elsewhere, leaving us little hope of finding Eurasian Wigeon. We returned to the lake and made our way to the channel leading into the forebay. Again, we were not rewarded with our target bird, the recently reported American Wigeon. A consolation was a cooperative Lincoln's Sparrow and several Black-crowned Night Herons.

Back at the lot we enjoyed lunch with some hot tea and cookies. Soon after that, the group that remained caravanned to the Alviso EEC where our targets were Burrowing Owl, Barn Owl and a rare ghost from the north. We began our search in the trees, and spotted two Barn Owls in their nest box. Moving to the pond we were treated to a wonderful view of a native Gray Fox. The island contained several new species such as American White and and Brown Pelicans, Mew, Thayer's and Herring Gulls. Before long we'd also logged Bonaparte's, Western, Glaucous-winged and California. Al Eisner was already in position scanning a large flock resting on the levy. We watched with him, and after a sufficient lull in activity, he called our attention to a large white Gull flying in from behind us. Sure enough, this massive pale bird, with rounded wings and black-tipped bill was the hoped-for Glaucous Gull. It lumbered in for a landing like a huge aircraft and took position among the flock resting in the marsh. A short time later Eric noted that a second bird nearby appeared to be another Glaucous. Yes! Not one, but two first cycle Glacuous Gulls! We continued to watch the flock for a while longer, but eventually the cold wind got the best of us and we chose to head home.

A small number of us happened to meet again at State and Spreckles where a few more birds were added to the day's list. American Avocet were sleeping among the many California Gulls, a flying group of Long-billed Curlews were joined by a single Whimbrel, and three Eurasian Collared Doves were perched together on a phone pole.

Canada Goose
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Canvasback
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Surf Scoter
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Barrow's Goldeneye
Ruddy Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin (sukleyi "Black")
American Coot
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Spotted Sandpipeer
Whimbrel
Long-billed Curlew
Wilson's Snipe
Bonaparte's Gull
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Glaucous Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Barn Owl
Burrowing Owl
White-throated Swift
Anna's Hummingbird
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
California Towhee
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow






Merced NWR / O'Neill Dam Forebay 01-17-09

The morning fog made for a strange, slow beginning to the day. Everywhere a pale gray hung in the trees, found its way slowly to the ends of each branch, and dripped to the ground in an unhurried manner. Above, and all around us we heard the cries of Geese and Cranes. But only occasionally did we glimpse the birds as they emerged from apparently nowhere, and watched them disappear again into the opaque just beyond our reach. It was lovely, still and mysterious.


Image: Ashutosh Sinha


Image: Ashutosh Sinha

Despite the fog, the valley was unseasonably dry. The ponds were shallow and we noticed significantly fewer Waterbirds as a result as well as very few Shorebirds. The Meadowlark trail was completely dry, which reduced the number of mosquitos we had to contend with, but no Barn Owls or Bitterns were found there.

Still, we had good fortune with most of our target birds. Sandhill Cranes, Snow and Ross's Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese and White-faced Ibis were all located with ease. Wilson's Snipe, although scarcer than in years past, were eventually located. Pati and Patty had brief looks at a distant Bald Eagle, and a few of us spotted an American Bittern along the auto loop. Both Sora and Virginia Rail were detected by voice and Great Horned Owls were sleeping in their normal tree. Raptors were down slightly from expectations, but a Prairie Falcon made a brief appearance over the south end of the loop, and a female Merlin held her ground as we passed by her tree overlooking the fields near the main road.



Image: Patty McGann


Image: Patty McGann


Image: Patty McGann


Image: Patty McGann

Some of the most exciting moments were outside of the preserve. A flock of about 15 Great-tailed Grackles was spotted both before and after the Merced portion, and an end-of-day stop at O'Niel Forebay below the San Luis Reservoir Dam produced huge numbers of Ducks. Despite an ardent search, no Eurasian Wigeons were located, but nearly every other likely species was found. Redhead was perhaps the most thrilling discovery here, but we also had good comparisons of Lesser and Greater Scaup, as well as Ring-necked Duck and Common Merganser. This particular leg of the trip demands a follow-up visit next time we happen to be passing this way. The overlook was spectacularly beautiful, and the collection of Waterfowl is just ripe for rarities...

Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Ross's Goose
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Mallard
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Canvasback
Redhead
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Surf Scoter
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret
White-faced Ibis
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
Prairie Falcon
Virginia Rail
Sora
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Black-bellied Plover
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Willet
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Least Sandpiper
Dunlin
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Anna's Hummingbird
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Western Scrub Jay
Yellow-billed Magpie
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Bushtit
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow







Arrowhead Marsh / Lake Merritt 01-10-09

The highest tide of the year when many birders focus their attention on the tidal marsh. With the rising water comes hightened expectations for something rare and wonderful like a chance to view some of the shy marsh enhabitants, namely our various species of Rail. We were not disappointed today, and our group, along with about 50 other bay area birders, got prolonged views of Clapper Rails, Sora and on fleeting look at Virginia Rail. No "phantom" Rails were seen, but we knew Black or Yellow were long shots from the start.

We arrived 2-and-a-half hours before the tide peaked, so we had ample time to review the many Ducks and Grebes gathered in the bay. We found both Greater and Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Surf Scoter and Ruddy Duck among the Diving Ducks, while Dabblers consiseted of Green-winged and Cinnamon Teal, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Mallard, and Gadwall. Willets, Marbled Godwit, Long-billed Curlew and Least Sandpiper were seen along the dwindling shores, and later in flight as they searched for dry land. A lone Spotted Sandpiper was spotted across the channel and both species of Dowitcher were identified by voice as they whizzed overhead.



Photo: Rob Pavey


Photo: Rob Pavey

The water rose steadily and we watched as the small island disappear entirely. Common Yellowthroat and Marsh Wren were the first birds to respond by crossing the watery marsh and seeking shelter along the edges of the trail. Soon after that, Clapper Rails began to appear, forced into view by the water. Sora took longer to show up, because of their smaller size, they can cling to smaller patches of cover. But eventually we got looks at them as well. Often, the Rails appeared to be unaware they were visible to us, and moved deliberately from patch to patch, apparently unconcerned. Historically, tides like this have attracted predators as well, such as Herons and Gulls, who feast on the defenseless Rails. But we didn't observe this today.

After we'd enjoyed the Rail show for a while and the water began to head back out, we moved to Garrettson Point. There we had lunch overlooking another small marsh to the west. We searched for additional Ducks and found Gadwall, Canvasback and Northern Pintail. The small pool near the entrance road contained many other Ducks, Geese and Shorebirds, but a single Blue-winged Teal was the highlight.

After a quick show of hands, it was decided we would head over to Lake Merritt to search for the continuing Tufted Duck--it's been spending winters here for several years now. We had originally planned on going to Hayward Shoreline (West Winton Road portion), but the possibility of an easy lifer for members of the group was too tempting to pass up. Within 20 minutes were were all admiring this rare Old World species, who was making himself quite at home among the collection of Greater and Lesser Scaup, Canvasback and Ring-necked Ducks. It was quite exciting to see all of these birds so close, and watch them dive just a few feet from us. Subtle differences between the back patterning and head shapes were much more obvious now than when the birds are farther away, but still, some birds remained confusing. Anytime you can actually see the ring on a Ring-necked Duck, you know you're close...



Photo: Rob Pavey


Photo: Rob Pavey


Photo: Rob Pavey


Photo: Rob Pavey

The lake also contained both species of Goldeneye that were swimming together. We added Brown Pelican, Common Merganser, Black-crowned Night Heron and Egyptian Goose... (we won't count that last one). A confusing hybrid Duck, which appears to be a Hooded Merganser x Goldeneye (species) has also been wintering at the lake. We may seen this bird as well, but it was quite distant, and difficult to get everyone on. So that will remain "off-list" for now, but is something we can look for on any future trips to this location.



Photo: Rob Pavey


Photo: Rob Pavey


Photo: Rob Pavey


Canada Goose
Cackling Goose
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Canvasback
Ring-necked Duck
Tufted Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Surf Scoter
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Barrow's Goldeneye
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Merlin
Clapper Rail
Virginia Rail
Sora
Aerican Coot
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Spotted Sandpiper
Long-billed Curlew
Black Turnstone
Least Sandpiper
Dunlin
Short-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Forster's Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Bushtit
Marsh Wren
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
House Finch
House Sparrow

Additional Ducks seen at Redwood Shores (24 total Ducks for car 1):
Eurasian Wigeon
Redhead
Long-tailed Duck
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser