WINTER 2010


Alviso / Sunnyvale Water Pollution Control Ponds 01-09-10 POSTED
Gray Lodge / Sacramento River Weekend 01-16-10 POSTED
Panoche Valley 01-23-10 POSTED
Wunderlich Park 01-30-10 POSTED
Charleston Slough 02-06-10 POSTED
Mokelumne River / Flood and Waverly 02-20-10 POSTED
Princeton Harbor / Pilarcitos Creek / Skylawn 02-27-10 POSTED
Coyote Hills Regional Park 03-06-10 POSTED

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



Coyote Hills Regional Park 03-06-10

This was the last field trip of winter term. Weather earlier in the week suggested we might end on a rainy note, but instead it was bright and clear for much of our tour. We hoped we might encounter a few early migrants in this mixed freshwater and bay habitat and we were indeed rewarded.

Some members were there at 6:30 to hear three Black Rails in the marsh beside the entrance road just after the kiosk. Another two Black Railswere heard along the marsh walk that leads from the kiosk back toward the visitors center. All 5 Black Rails were calling repeatedly with their traditional "kickeedoo!". In some case they added another syllable making it more like "kick-kickeedoo!" but in all cases it was very reognizeable. Some calls were tantalizingly close to our group. Also heard were at least 2 Virginia Rails that gave an uncommon "kick kick kerrr!" call, and later a Sora in the marsh across from the visitors center. As well, an apparent "yellow-shafted" intergrade northern Flicker was seen in the willows here. The bird possessed brilliant yellow vanes on the ventral side of tail and wings, a fairly well-defined red nucial patch, but also some faint red-flecking on the malar. The exact color of face/crown was hard to judge, but photos were taken.

The main pond across from the visitors center there were 3 Blue-winged Teals (male and two females). Somewhat sheepishly, I admit confusion over a Tringa that worked the marsh in this area. The general size was small, suggesting Lesser Yellowlegs, as well as its rather short bill. But the base of the bill was distinctly pale, and several of us observed a slight upturn to it suggesting Greater. After reviewing various resources I'm inclined to identify it as a Lesser Yellowlegs with a paranthetical (probable). This would not be unheard of at this time of year, but certanly not common either. Another confusing bird, an unspecified Selasphorus Hummingbird was working the flowers near the garden. It could have been Rufous or Allen's but without an obvious male, or a good look at the tail, it's hard to say. There was no confusion about a surprise Golden-crowned Kinglet made an appearance near the Ohlone Hut. Along the edges of the walkway a Fox Sparow was found.

At Hoot Hollow there were two Northern Rough-winged Swallow foraging high overhead, along with abundant Tree Swallows and 1 or 2 Barn Swallows. A single House Wren was singing near the picnic tables here. Hemrit Thrush was heard in this area as well. The picnic area was somewhat quieter than it has been in the past, with very few Zonotrichias seen and no California Quail.

We made our way toward the rocks overlooking the main marsh and had a wonderful view of the entire area. From the hilltop we looked toward the distant pond and spotted a Golden Eagle perched on the rock. We searched for Rock Wren in this area as well, but were not successful. We did however, find 2 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in the dry chaparral slope beside the south parking lot. The south pond contained a drake Eurasian Wigeon.

Canada Goose
Gadwall
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Scaup species
Bufflehead
Ruddy Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron (seen by 1)
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
Black Rail (5 heard)
Virginia Rail
Sora
Common Moorhen (seen by 1)
American Coot
Killdeer
American Avocet

Yellowlegs species (see notes)
Long-billed Dowitcher
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Selasphorus species
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Hutton's Vireo (heard)
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
California Thrasher (seen by 1)
European Starling
American Pipit
Yellow Warbler (overhead)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch








Princeton Harbor / Pilarcitos Creek / Skylawn Memorial Park 02-27-10

We went to Princeton Harbor despite the foul weather forecast. The news of the quake in Chile arrived too late to change our plans and the tsunami warnings at Maverick's caused a nearly complete change in plans once we'd all arrived. We dealt however...

We were able to get brief looks at the harbor from the Maverick's Beach parking lot before we were asked to leave by rangers. Before leaving we found two dozen Brant, as well as many more common water birds like Bufflehead, Surf Scoter, Western, Eared and Horned Grebe. Common Loon, Brown Pelican, Whimbrel and Sanderling. We also had Eurasian Collared Dove and Townsend's Warbler in the cypress trees. Rain made birding very difficult here so we retreated to more sheltered areas. Driving south on Hwy 1 we spotted Red-shouldered Hawk and Mourning Dove on the wires.

The pedestrian bridge over Pilarcitos Creek, behind Burger King, was very productive. We found a male Merlin, several Allen's Hummingbirds as well as at least two Orange-crowned Warblers and Hutton's Vireo. Also found were a pair of Downy Woodpeckers, and several flyover Band-tailed Pigeons.

Skylawn Memorial Park produced 2-3 flyover Red Crossbills as well as the usual Pygmy Nuthatch, Western Bluebird, and Dark-eyed Junco. We opted to end the day at lunch and head home for a cozy afternoon by the fire. Better luck next week... Thanks to everyone who showed up and helped make a rainy day as fun as possible!

Brant
Mallard
Surf Scoter
Bufflehead
Ruddy Duck
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Snowy Egret
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
American Coot
Willet
Whimbrel
Black Turnstone
Sanderling
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Rock Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Downy Woodpecker
Black Phoebe
Hutton's Vireo
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Pygmy Nuthatch
Bewick's Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush (heard)
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
Red Crossbill
Pine Siskin
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch





Mokelumne River / Flood and Waverly / Woodbridge Crane Preserve 02-20-10

This was a truly remarkable day! Four new locations for our group were visited today, beginning with the Mokelumne River Fish Installation, a riparian habitat below the Camanche Reservoir outside of Lodi. A dam holds back the water above, and a system of fish ladders and tanks provides a corridor for the Steelhead and other fish to move through. This underutilized area is obviously geared toward fisherman and while it was productive for us today, it appears as if it might also be productive during migration when we might expect a nice collection of Flycatchers and Warblers. The weather held nicely, threatening to rain but never actually doing so. Instead it was cool and overcast all day.

On our way into the park, some folks spotted Lark Sparrow along the entrance road. Wood Duck and Common Merganser were seen repeatedly, mostly as they flew up and down stream. A conservative count of might be a dozen or so of each species. Lewis's Woodpecker was also located almost immediately in the numerous oaks and our favorite mistletoe-obligate, a Phainopepla, was found exactly where we left it last month in the trees across the water. We entertained ourselves with two subspecies of White-crowned Sparrows, pugetensis and gambelii, finding enough features to distinguish them from eachother. In fact, subspecies identification was the game today, with both the familiar unalaschensis and more easterly schistacea Fox Sparrows found, as well as a lone male hyemalis Dark-eyed Junco foraging with a group of montanas. Despite our best efforts, we were not able to find the American Dipper we expected along the river, but perhaps next time we will be successful with that. Osprey was seen patrolling the river and Wild Turkey along the ridge.


Photo: Sonny Mencher


Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Sonny Mencher


Photo: Sonny Mencher


Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Brooke Miller

Next we caravanned to the famous Flood and Waverly Roads area where we enjoyed a very different landscape. It's a wide open range frequently birded in winter. Our first order of business was to review any Sialias in the vineyards. As expected, we found several Mountain Bluebirds on the western end as compared to the Westerns we had seen earlier. The hoped-for Rough-legged Hawk eluded our group, but no less than four Ferruginous Hawks were counted as well as an adult and probable (and messy-looking) 3rd year Bald Eagle feasting on carrion. We'll have to review any photos taken to be sure, but the younger bird appeared to have the "osprey-like" mask as well as a white upper back. Our only Loggerhad Shrike was found in this area as well, and a large group of 200 or so Long-billed Curlew.


Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Brooke Miller

It was time to head to Kaz and Aiko's home in Lodi for some hot soup and hospitality while we let the Crane and Waterfowl show develop in the delta. Everyone brought something for the potluck and we enjoyed a late lunch as we planned the rest of the day.

Staten Island Road is a stronghold for wintering Waterfowl and Sandhill Cranes, however the ponds have been drained in preparation for planting, and few birds were found on the ground. Overhead though, hundreds of Tundra Swans and hundreds of Anser and Chen Geese were seen. The viewing situation was not ideal but we did add at least three species to our day list. We ascertained many of the birds in flight (especially the Cranes) were headed toward Woodbridge so we opted to cut this portion short and get there sooner than later. This was an excellent decision as the Sandhill Cranes were arrving in droves and Waterfowl were abundant here.


Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Sonny Mencher


Photo: Sonny Mencher

Once at Woodbridge, we mananged to locate another dozen species, primarlly Ducks, but also a few Shorebirds including Wilson's Snipe. Our final bird of the day was a single dark Swainson's Hawk that flew directly over our group at a low altitude, giving us a great look at things to come. This migrant Hawk will be abundant in a month when breeding season begins in earnest. For today, it was probably the least common bird we found.

Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Ross's Goose
Canada Goose
Cackling Gose
Tundra Swan
Wood Duck
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Mallard
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Bufflehead
Common Merganser
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
White-tailed Kite
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Swainson's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
Prairie Falcon
Wild Turkey
California Quail
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
Greater Yellowlegs
Long-billed Curlew
Least Sandipiper
Long-billed Dowiticher
Wilson's Snipe
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Barn Owl (deceased)
White-throated Swift
Anna's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Lewis's Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Hutton's Vireo
Western Scrub Jay
Yellow-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
White-breasted Nuthatch
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Lark Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow ("Sooty" and "Slate-colored")
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow ("Puget Sound" and "Gambel's)
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco ("Oregon" and {"Slate-colored")
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow






Charleston Slough 02-06-10

After watching the weather foreast for several days, it became clear driving two hours to our original destination along the Mokelumne River would be unwise. So, with darkening clouds and wising wind we visited a local hotspot instead and spent a low-pressure morning birding close to home. We managed a very good list of species, including a few surprises, and were done by lunch.



Photo: Sonny Mencher

Highlilghts of the trip included a Fox Sparrow along the main trail, near the lowered observation plaform along Adobe Creek. Here also we found at least two Lincoln's Sparrows. We searched for Blue-winged Teal in this area, but were not able to locate them, but we did spot a vivid Eurasian Wigeon male on the distant pond (Flood Control Baisn). Meanwhile the 5 Black Skimmers rested on Tern Island with hundreds of Marbled Godwits, American vocets, Black-necked Stilts and Long-billed Dowitchers. Black-crowned Night Heron, Common Moorhen and Sora were also found without much effort.


Photo: Sonny Mencher


Photo: Sonny Mencher


Photo: Sonny Mencher

Doubling back toward the forebay, we examined the flock of Gulls. The collectio comprised mostly of California and Ring-billed Gulls, but two Glaucous-wings, 2-3 Herring Gulls, a Thayer's and a Mew were also present. We had ample opportunity to review age groups...

One of the White-faced Ibis wintering in the area was found on the edge of the slough, and we were able to get quite close to it as it fed contendedly near the boat launch in the corner of A1. From the overlook we scanned the center of the pond for anything unusual. We found our full complement of Grebes (except Red-necked), both species of Scaup and hoards of Northern Shovelers. Oddly, no Northern Pintails were found all morning. Our only Forster's Tern of the mornign was foraging over the pond, as well as several Brown Pelicans. We continued along the trail, encountering a textbook example of why Accipiters are difficult. Our bird resembled a Sharp-shinned at first, but then morphed into a Cooper's before switching camps again. I don't think we ever arrived at a consensus regarding its identity, but I suggest part of the issue might have been the rain which compelled it to fluff up its crown feathers, and that gender might have further complicated things... Oh, well. At least the adult Peregrine Falcon perched on a distant power tower didn't fight with us. Moving to Shoreline Lake we easily located a pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes, as well as the many Common Goldeneyes, and Surf Scoters. A scan of the island produced Greater Yellowlegs and Willet, but no hoped-for Spotted Sandpiper.



Photo: Sonny Mencher

Passing the fresgwater inflow to the forebay we quietly scanned the reeds for the American Bittern, but again were not rewarded. There were two Lincoln's Sparrows, Common Yellowthroat and a Bewick's Wren here though.

Finally, we stopped by the Flood Control Basin along Frontage Road. Our only Savannah Sparrows of the day were found here, as well as Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Black Phoebe. As we were leaving, a group of two dozen White-throated Swifts passed overhead. Little drops of rain began to fall on our lenses as we followed the birds with our binoculars. It was time to have lunch...

Canada Goose
Gadwall
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
Mallard
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Canvasback
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Surf Scoter
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Barrow's Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
White-faced Ibis
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Accipiter species
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Virginia Rail
Sora
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Marbled Godwit
Long-billed Dowitcher
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Forster's Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
White-throated Swift
Anna's Hummingbird
Black Phoebe
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat

California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
House Finch





Wunderlich Park 01-30-10

It seemed appropriate on many levels that we would visit this lovely park on this particular day. Some of us attended Kris Olson's memorial service at Menlo Atherton Hightschool and then had lunch together at Buck's in Woodside. Wunderlich Park is located in San Mateo County, a county that Kris was deeply involved with. As well, our class hadn't been there for 8 years (and that trip was rained out...). It's a peaceful area, with quiet woodland trails and an untold number of forest spirits. At the higher elevations, the vegetation changes from lowland oak and eucalyptus to ancient towering redwoods that continue until those hearty enough to keep going finally reach Skyline. This dark, moist forest resists long views, content to reveal only small portions of itself at a time. In many ways, birding in this closed environment is much like birding in a rain forest. It is in fact, a northern equivalent of just that. A cool rain forest. Moss covers the bases of many trees, and the forest floor is littered with debris from aging trees. Ferns and other emergent growth launches forth in patches of sun that result when a tree falls. We looked for this as we walked through the cathedral of trees, and imagined our friend whose loss will be felt by the entire forest. Unlike the tropical rain forest however, this is often a very quiet place, with few species volunteering themselves. We walked, listened and watched for those that wished to reveal themselves.

I didn't expect we would see too many species, but the rain and cool temperatures also prevented us from hearing much. Birds were few and far between, content to remain quiet and hidden. So, as small as the following list is, it was a beautiful, peaceful, fitting walk for such a day.

Red-shouldered Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Band-tailed Pigeon
Northern Pygmy Owl (heard)
Anna's Hummingbird
Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Brown Creeper
Bewick's Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
California Towhee
Dark-eyed Junco




Panoche Valley 01-23-10

We began at Paicines Reservoir and followed Panoche Road all the way to the junction with Little Panoche Road. After a brief exploration of Panoche Road beyond the junction headed toward New Idria, we doubled back.We made our way back to Hwy 5 via Mercey Hot Springs. We did not venture on the BLM Road, and discovered Recalde Road was closed to cars. Generally, we found the road quite navigable with no flooding anywhere, save a few puddles where you might expect in areas where the creek crosses the road.

Highlights were many, beginning with a Ferruginous Hawks and 2 Cassin's Kingbirds from the turnout overlooking Paicines Reservoir. Also present here was a single Vesper Sparrow just below the turnout. This was fortunate as our usual VESP stop along Recalde was off limits today.



Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Brooke Miller

Rufous-crowned Sparrow was found in the dense chaparral by the side of the road leading toward "Eagle's Nest", but a Rock Wren we heard, resisted being seen.



Photo: Brooke Miller

The first ranch we visited was Grave Ranch where we found little of note, but the second ranch produced a female Phainopepla and two Lewis's Woodpecker. Prairie Falcon was seen over the ridge as well as Golden Eagle between here and the "Eagle's Nest" cliff.



Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Patty McGann


Photo: Patty McGann

The third ranch provided us with great looks at our only male Phainopepla.

Somewhere before reaching the valley we paused at a small pond below the road. Here we found several barnyard geese, but also present were two female Comon Goldeneyes and a female Bufflehead.

The walnut grove, or "former" walnut grove shortly before reaching the valley contained a male Red-breasted Sapsucker which moved deliberately from tree to tree, allowing us great views of this brilliant bird.

Beginnining on the west end the valley floor we had no less than 200 Mountain Bluebirds of the day, mostly congregated a few hundred yards west of the Panoche Inn and in the field located near the junction with Recalde. Also present on the west end were hundreds of Horned Larks and a surprising group of roughly 100 Lawrence's Goldfinches and of course Lark Sparrows. Other birds of interest here were 2 Greater Roadrunners located between the west-end Mountain Plovers and the Panoche Inn. These birds were in the cattle enclosure by the large rusted tank just before we reached our lunch stop at Panoche Inn.


Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Sonny Mencher


Photo: Sonny Mencher

We encountered yet another Ferruginous Hawk on Panoche Road beyond the junction with New Idria Road. We bumped into Ted Chandik several times during the day, and in the late afternoon he tipped us off on a group of Mountain Plovers on Panoche Road in a field just before the pavement ends near Silver Creek Ranch. Indeed, we found 50 or so Mountain Plovers in this area, but I think Ted saw more. Thanks for the tip Ted!



Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Sonny Mencher


Photo: Brooke Miller

At Mercey Hot Springs we counted 15 Long-eared Owls in two different trees. One tree was by the restrooms, the other near the parking lot.


Canada Goose
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Mallard
Green-winged Teal
Canvasback
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Wild Turkey
California Quail
Pied-billed Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
Merlin
Prairie Falcon
American Coot
Killdeer
Mountain Plover
Black-necked Stilt
Greater Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper
Dowitcher species
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Long-eared Owl
Anna's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Lewis's Woodpecker
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Cassin's Kingbird
Loggerhead Shrike
Western Scrub Jay
Yellow-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
White-breasted Nuthatch
Rock Wren
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Wrentit
Northern Mockingbird
California Thrasher
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Phainopepla
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Spotted Towhee
Calfifornia Towhee
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
Lawrence's Goldfinch
House Sparrow

 




Gray Lodge / Sacramento River Weekend 01-16+17-10

Day 00:
Early on, I felt this yearly tradition was going to be better than usual. Perhaps it is because we had discussed the subtle identification of female Wigeons in class, perhaps because I visited the USGS and had a new facination with the volcanic curiosity that punctuates the northern central valley, or maybe it was just because I love staying in cheap motels far from what I know. Whatever the explanation, I was stoked to bird this area again! And judging from the happy faces we saw at the Tradewinds Bonanza motel in Yuba City, I'd say all attendees were as well. Folks reported a variety of birds on their drive up, such as Ferruginous Hawk and Tundra Swan, and a few other species along the way.

Our welcome meal was at an Italian restaurant a few minutes away, where the staff was very accommodating for our large-ish group. We didn't make it easy on our waiter either. There were ten or eleven separate checks... Anyway, we discussed the plan for our early start on Saturday over cheap wine and good food. After returning to the motel, we briefly assembled in the Dodder room to examine the packets of maps and directions I had prepared for the group. We also had birthday cake to celebrate Sheila's birthday. Then it was off to bed for as much rest as we could get before departing at 7:00.

Day 01
Mr. Melnick and Ms. Raymond, on a Friday afternoon reconn of the neighborhood, discovered a Phainopepla in an oak behind the motel. So, before we began our caravan to Gray Lodge we made a futile attemt to located black bird before sunrise... in the fog. You can imagine how successful that was. Time to drive!

Heavy fog made the 45 minute drive to Gray Lodge a little dodgy, but we managed, creeping along Hwy 99 toward our turnoff. After reaching Pennington Road things started to improve and before long we were pulled off the road collectively amazed at the spectacle of incoming/outgoing Snow Geese, Ross's Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, Tundra Swans, and Sandhill Cranes. Also present in the muddy fields before us were hundreds of White-faced Ibis. A number of other species also appeared, such as Long-billed Curlew, American Kestrel and an adult Bald Eagle. What a way to begin the day!



Photo: Mary Ann Allen


Photo: Mary Ann Allen




Photo: Eric Goodill




Along the entrance road to Gray Lodge some members of our team encountered a Peregrine Falcon, while most of us saw Say's Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Northern Harrier and Red-shouldered Hawk. We paid our entrance fee, visted the much-needed restrooms and continued to lot 14. Once there we began our march to the platform where after much scanning the first drake Eurasian Wigeon was discovered. I should mention that while I wanted to find at least one solid female Eurasian Wigeon, a certain trouble-making member of class who shall remain annonymous (Eric), challenged us to find 10 males in one day... We were on our way, but frankly I was uncertain we would succeed. Still it was only 9:00 am.

We also flushed two different American Bitterns and admired at least two dozen Common Moorhens, a truly remarkable number, I think. Other birds of note were Ring-necked Duck, Lincoln's and Fox Sparrows, Bewick's, Marsh and House Wrens, and another Bald Eagle. Overall though, the ponds beyond the observation platform were low in Waterfowl, and no Wilson's Snipe were found. A single Orange-crowned Warbler made a brief appearance on the main trail, but mostly we found Common Yellowthroat and of course, Yellow-rumped Warblers.



Photo: Mary Ann Allen

Seeing as most of us got up around 5:00, we were more than ready for lunch by 11:00. A nice picnic lunch at the tables gave us time to reflect on what we had seen and what was still ahead. In the ponds before us, we spotted a new species or two, Greater Yellowlegs, Blue-winged Teal come to mind.

Wishing to bird efficiently, we decided to take the auto loop instead of tourning the marsh. We felt we had seen most of the species we might encounter in the marsh and we had 9 more male Eurasian Wigeons to search for. The loop has few areas to stop and scan, so we were frequently having to let people pass us as we looked through the windows at the recommended birder's pace: slow. We didn't want to miss anything, and managed to pick up Lesser Scaup and Wilson's Snipe. Finally, another Eurasian Wigeon was found about a quarter of the way around the loop. And then another. And another. By the time we had collected these four, I began to feel it was possible to reach the trouble-maker's goal of 10. In fact, when we were comparing favorite-birds-of-the-day over dinner, that 4th male was mine. To make a long story a little shorter, we had only to explore the remainder of that pond and one more before we counted another three Eurasians.

After completing the loop, we made a b-line to Colusa NWR which took us around the north edge the beautiful Sutter Buttes. Much volcanic debris was seen on the rolling grassy landscape. Truly beautiful terrain! Colusa did not have the great flocks of Blackbirds Cricket and I had seen on a previous trip, but in the first pond we found several birds we needed. Namely two subspecies of Cackling Goose, both minima and leucoparea, as well as our final 3 (possibly 4) Eurasian Wigeons. Was that another female with them...? The auto loop was beautiful, but generally narrow and difficult in the two-way sections. Still, we spotted two Great Horned Owls and a small group of Wilson's Snipe in flight. It was getting dark at this point and we were tired enough to head back.

Dinner was at Sopa Thai in Yuba City, where we made the good decision to order food in advance. When we arrived they began bringing us our meal very quickly. Delicious. Afte that, it was back to the Dodder's room to discuss what tomorrow would be like.

Day 02
The breakfast buffet is very good, but it didn't help us with the Phainopepla, which we failed to find again... Anyway, we had big plans for today. We headed north, toward Gridley and then turned west on Hwy 162. On our way to Sacramento NWR we stopped a couple of times to search among the roosting flocks of Geese and Swans. Nothing beyond what we had already seen was spotted and it was quite cold, windy and drizzling. Still Tundra Swan, Snow and Ross's Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese and White-faced Ibis is not a bad way to begin the day. We had hoped to add Yellow-headed Blackbird near the cylos, but no luck this year. We reached the reserve by mid morning and made a quick tour of the walk through the marsh, followed by a caravan around the auto loop. We found Waterfowl numbers much lower than we expected, however those that were seen were in different proportions than the day before. Ring-necked Ducks were better represented than yesterday, and no Eurasian Wigeons were found at all.











Seeing it was too cold, and threatening to rain, we made our way to a well known indoor lunch stop in Williams. We had to sit in two sections, but no matter, it was nice to be inside. Our next stop was the famous Zamora Road area where we quickly spotted a Ferruginous Hawk perched on the ground in a plowed field. We saw a number of Buteos we hoped would turn out to be Rough-legs, but no. All were either Red-tailed or Ferruginous. The Bluebirds we encountered here were all Westerns, although we kept our eyes open for Mountains.

We continued south and east to reach the Flannery/Robinson Roads. Yet another two Ferruginous Hawks were found in this area, as well as Golden Eagle. Oddly, the first Ferruginous was hovering much like a Rough-leg, causing some confusion. Mountain Plovers were no where to be seen, and it was getting very dark at this point. Our Gray Lodge weekend was coming to an end. Until next year...

Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Ross's Goose
Canada Goose
Cackling Goose
Tundra Swan
Wood Duck
Gadwall
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead
Ruddy Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Wild Turkey
Pied-billed Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White-faced Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Black-bellied Plover
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Long-billed Curlew
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Anna's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Western Scrub-Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Lark Sparrow
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
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow








Alviso / Sunnyvale Waterpollution Control Ponds 01-09-10

We arrived at the EEC in heavier than ideal fog, but the tide was high enough to give us reasonable chance at finding a few Rails in along the creek. Indeed, we spotted at least 3 Virginia Rails seen, and 3 Soras (one seen, two heard) along the freshwater creek beside the cottonwood trees. They skulked around the reeds below the road and we had many good looks, particularly at the Virginia. A nice bonus from the boat launch a bit further out were three Blue-winged Teals. Several Fox Sparrows were seen well and heard singing at one point along the entrance road and in the natural garden where we also spotted a Loggerhead Shrike perched on a small tree. We managed to get that bird in the scope, and thoroughly evaluated all the features that ruled out Northern...



Photo: Brooke Miller

The main pond A16 had all the usual Duck species (Greater and Lesser Scaup, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Ruddy.., There was also one possible, but very dingy, Eurasian Wigeon male) as well as an unexpected male Hooded Merganser swimming among them. Both Horned and Eared Grebes were found side by side, as well as Western and Pied-billed Grebes. Oddly, no Clark's were detected, but perhaps a wider search would have turned some up. Gulls on the first island included Wester, Glaucous-winged, Herring, Thayer's, California, Ring-billed, Mew and Bonaparte's (mostly in flight, but several dozens). Not bad, but still no hoped-for first cycle Glaucous which had been spotted a week or so ago. It was particularly fun to look at the differences between Herring and Thayer's, which were conveniently side-by-side.

At the Sunnyvale ponds we had a much more vibrant Eurasian Wigeon on the west pond than the duller one we had seen on A16. Canvasback and many American Wigeons were present along with huge numbers of Northern Shoveler. With a little bit of searching a Green Heron was eventually seen twice along the small waterway leading out to the pond and landed close to us to really enjoy.





Photo: Brooke Miller

The nearby Lockheed Ponds had what appeared to be an almost perfect "Eurasian" Green-winged Teal. The bird showed a very obvious horizontal white stripe (which was oddly brighter on one side than the other), more pronounced pale edging around the green and chestnut areas of the face. However, we were not able to determine the exact quality of the vermiculation on the flanks, whether it was especially coarse or not. I suspect this is not entirely pure as there was a hint of a white mark on the side of the breast visible mostly as it preened. We observed the bird for some time as it mixed in and out of the other Teals, but it was probably too far to get photos of. Other birds of note on the grassy hillside were two immature Snow Geese and two adult Greater White-fronted Geese that were foraging with the Canada Geese. After most of us left, Brooke remained behind long enough to spot a Cackling Goose, likely B.h. minima, in the same area.

Greater White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Cacklling Goose (seen by 1)
Gadwall
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal (including on probable "Eurasian" intergrade)
Canvasback
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant (seen by 2)
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Brown Pelican
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle (seen by 2)
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Virginia Rail
Sora
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Bonaparte's Gull
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Forster's Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Burrowing Owl (seen by 1)
Anna's Hummingbird
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Orange-crowned Warbler (probable, in flight)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
California Towhee
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
House Sparrow