WINTER 2011


Pigeon Point / Cascade Ranch / Phipp's Ranch 01-08-11 POSTED
Gray Lodge NWR/ Sacramento NWR 01-15+16-11 POSTED
Panoche Valley 01-22-11 POSTED
Ogier Ponds / Coyote Valley / Calero Reservoir 01-29-11 POSTED
Vic Fazio Yolo Bypass / Flannery-Robinson Roads 02-05-11 POSTED
Coyote Hills Regional Park 02-12-11 POSTED
Point Reyes NS (non-shuttle areas) 02-19-11 POSTED
Princeton Harbor / Pilarcitos Creek Mouth / Skylawn 02-26-11 POSTED
Skyline Ponds 03-05-11 POSTED

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



Skyline Ponds 03-05-11

Our four-ponds tour of Skyline was beautifully sunny and warm. A perfect spring day in the last few days of winter. Generally speaking, it was a quiet day with fewer birds than we usually get on our trips. We are at a seasonal turning point where some winter birds have already left, yet spring migrants have not yet hit their peak. We noted quite a few resident species involved in courtship or breeding behavior. Anna's Hummingbird males were actively chasing eachoher and one was demonstrating his high-dive display for an unseen female. Spotted Towhees were singing loudly from the tops of bushes, even tall trees, and Dark-eyed Juncos gave surprising assortment of their simple song. By contrast, there seemed to be fewer Sparrows and very few Yellow-rumped Warblers.

After several of us met at the park-and-ride on Pagemill we caravanned up the hill. Along the way several birds were found but not relocated when the trip actualy began. Among them were Varied Thrush, Brown Creeper and a rather early Blue-gray Gnacatcher. All save the Thrush were heard-only birds.

We began the official trip at Skyline Ridge Open Space where we explored the area around Horseshoe Lake. Purple Finches were heard in full song from the tops of a variety of conifers. As hoped, we spotted a small group of Ring-necked Ducks on the quiet pond. Other swimming birds present were Pied-billed Grebe, and several American Coots involved with territorial display. Overhead, and for much of the day, we saw small numbers of Band-tailed Pigeons passing through. The hike around the pond was lovely, but relatively little activity was noted. Two or three Hutton's Vireos were calling incessently in response to a recording, but no Townsend's or Hermit Warblers were detected. A small Hummingbird with a thin check! note made several of us think Selasphorus, but it escaped.

Opting to forego the chaparral section above the lot, we relocated our cars to Russian Ridge where a few additional species were found. Acorn Woodpecker was working the dead pines, a Cooper's Hawk alighted in a nearby tree, and on Alpine Pond were three Hooded Mergansers. By now the Purple Finch was becomming a common sight. Circling the pond produces only a few additional birds. A heard-only Hairy Woodpecker was one.

The next stop was the famous Gate 5 "unnamed" pond. The view was stunning of course, and the willows were alive with song. One of our only Yellow-rumped Warblers was found, as well as at least two more Purple Finches. A lone female Hooded Merganser and best of all, a Green Heron was present. It flew a short distance, and continued to forage quietly in the reeds along the edges.


Sketch: Matthew Dodder


The final stop of the day was Gate 3, or main gate at Montebello. There we had lunch and hiked down the exposed trail to the orchard and into the oak woodland. The fourth and final pond of the day was the Sag Pond. As occasionally occurs during winter, a Virginia Rail was there, unseen, but heard well enough to count.

Ring-necked Duck
Hooded Merganser
California Quail
Pied-billed Grebe
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed hawk
American Coot
Band-tailed Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Selasphorus species
Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Hutton's Vireo
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
Brown Creeper (Pagemill)
Bewick's Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Pagemill)
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Varied Thrush (Pagemill)
Wrentit
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
House Sparrow





Princeton Harbor / Pilarcitos Creek / Skylawn 02-26-11

It was beginning to appear that were hopelessly out of sync with local weather patterns. For several days it had been getting colder and colder. Raining on and off. More and darker clouds were moving in from the north and everyone was talking snow! At sea level, they predicted. In San Franciso even, morning talk shows were eagerly getting updates from local reporters... "any snow yet?" "Not yet, but let's take another look at the weather map..." Still the trip must go on, and so we drove over Skyline on Hwy 92, just where there was supposed to be snow... and nothing. The road was perfectly clear! Sure, we got a glob or two of slushy rain when we hit sea level, but it only lasted a few moments. And then it was gone. The rest of the day was about as perfect as you can imagine.

Lets go now to our bird correspondent.

The troops had their revised marching orders and assembled at the end of Wave Avenue for a focused campaign on the huge Gull flock. Recent reports of Iceland, Lesser Black-backed, even Slaty-backed that kept us all warm. After about an hour of evaluating shades of gray, and everything looked like it might be something very pale, very small, or very Iceland... a little bird flew into the back side of the flock and disappeared behind the mound. It became obvious that it wasn't going to climb the dune and expose itself, so we marched out onto the beach and quickly refound our bird—a lovely first-cycle Black-legged Kittiwake! This shockingly-patterend, short-legged little Gull is rarely seen from land, so unsurprisingly, it was a lifer for several members of our troop. We admired it as it kept itself separate from the other Gulls. It mostly slept, but waddled a few yards, stretched once or twice, and flew just far enough to give us satisfying looks at it's "M" pattern and delta-tipped tail.

The high experienced by such a find can last for quite a while. All day I know I was floating. The many other birds we found on Princeton Harbor, and Pillar Point, even the very few birds we found at Skylawn... it all just disolved away in the Kittiwake drink. We celebrated royally at home with some Creekside Smokehouse cold-smoke salmon, chopped red onion, capers and extra virgin olive oil, and crackers!

Well done everyone!


"Yes, your majesty. Smoked salmon and capers... Of course, your majesty..." Photo: Sonny Mencher


Photo: Eric Goodill


Sketch: Matthew Dodder



Canada Goose
Brant
Mallard
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Bufflehead
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Brandt's Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Turkey Vulture
White=tailed Kite
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Black Oystercatcher
Black-necked Stilt
Willet
Whimbrel
Marbled Godwit
Black Turnstone
Surfbird
Sanderling
Mew Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Black-legged Kittiwake
Common Murre
Marbled Murrelet
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Rock Pigeon
White-throated Swft
Anna's Hummingbird
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Hutton's Vireo
Western Scrub Jay
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Pygmy Nuthatch
Bewick's Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starlling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
House Finch
House Sparrow







Point Reyes NS (non-shuttle areas) 02-19-11

Seven intrepid, all-weather birders braved the cold rain to explore Point Reyes today. Things started off calmly enough, but within ten minutes of opening our car doors, the rain began. We quickly abandoned any chance of admiring the gleaming firey-orange gorgets of newly arrived Allen's Hummingbirds. Instead, we strolled the earthquake trail getting wetter and wetter, colder and colder, but entertained by the boystrous song of Pacific Wren and haunted by the eerie, dissonant strains of Varied Thrush.



Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Brooke Miller


Sketch: Matthew Dodder

Olema Marsh provided us some additional species. Many Pine Siskin and Purple Finches were moving around and vocalizing, as well as Marsh Wren, Virginia Rail and of course Red-winged Blackbirds. After securing the area, we moved on. Being a nimble group, we were free to change our itinereary on a dime, and so decided to head over to Limantour before continuing with our original plan. Among other rainy day highlights today in Point Reyes, my Palo Alto Adult School birding class enjoyed seeing a male Long-tailed Duck at Chimney Rock. We saw the bird in the bay visible from the main parking area just after lunch. We passed through some habitat suitable for the rare Spotted Owl, but did not attempt to locate any. Crossing the road in front of us, we saw more Varied Thrushes, Steller's Jay and a Bobcat!

Once at Limantour, we were all struck with a peculiar feeling. Something none of us had ever encountered at Point Reyes.... complete solitude. The parking lot was completely empty, and I do mean empty. Not a single car. We had the entire area to our selves! Except perhaps for a few eager White-crowned Sparrows and a Hermit Thrush. It gave us an uncommon opportunity to really enjoy the beauty of the deserted beach. We found two Red-necked Grebes beyond the surf as well as Surf Scoters, Common and Red-throated Loon. Down a few hundred yards we spotted Snowy Plover, and Sanderling.



Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Brooke Miller


Photo: Brooke Miller


Being a dismal day that on sane person would venture out into the elments, at least that's the misconception that meant there were no hordes of tourists flocking to the lighthouse, and therefore no shuttles running out of Drakes Beach. Still it was cold, and we had a chilly lunch in the wind and occasional drizzle at the picnic tables. We admired the collection of Gulls on the beach, finding pretty much all of them: Mew, Herring, California, Western, Glaucous-winged and Elephant.



Photo: Brooke Miller

After a quick warm-up in the small museum where we admired Sir Francis Drake memorabilia, including coins, china, blocks, rope and crates, we moved on to Chimney Rock. We paused briefly at the ranches, finding little we hadn't already, save some Tricolored Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Canvasback.

We scoped the great bay from the overlook. The sounds of wailing Elephant Seals below us was otherworldly. A few minutes in the increasing cold and rain led to a growing sense that we should end the day. Now, as often happens, just as birders begin to think about moving on, something great shows up. A few of you have seen(or heard) me freak out in the past over so-called "good" birds. Today was one of those days. We spotted a perfect male Long-tailed Duck in the waves below. A frequent diver that resisted our efforts to get prolonged views, still could not escape our group. We watched this uncommon northern Duck for a while, and then, decided to head home. A quick stop at Inverness to scan the Tomales Bay, and it was clear, we had seen everything we were going to see... Thanks everyone who showed up. It was a cold, windy, rainy, pefectly wonderful day!



Sketch: Matthew Dodder


Cricket and I spent the night in Inverness at our usual motel. The weather was much sunnier on Sunday, so the shuttles were running out to the point. Before leaving our cars at Drakes Beach, we explored the cypress grove near the lot, finding Red-breasted Nuthatch and our first of season (FOS) Selasphorus species, a female, presumably Allen's Hummingbird.

Two Burrowing Owls were seen along the road from the windows of the shuttle. The birds were close to the road, on the west side of the road, just north of Mendoza Ranch. The driver was very excited to stop and allow the passengers to see.

The male Long-tailed Duck remained in Drakes Bay, visible from the parking area and Elephant Seal overlook. Hiking out to the Chimney Rock overlook for a picnic lunch Kelly and I found a male and female Harlequin Duck, as well as 4 female White-winged Scoters and a Peregrine Falcon.

Before heading home, we stopped to explore the Cross Marin Trail. Parking at the corner of Sir Francis Drake Blvd. and Platform Bridge Road, we walked a few hundred yards southeast on the trail we found Golden-crowned Kinglet in abundance, Hairy Woodpecker, Pacific Wren, Brown Creeper and Hutton's Vireo. We paused at the large first redwood stand. There we saw and heard a Pileated Woodpecker as it flew back toward the trailhead. We also heard a Great Horned Owl at dusk.

Canada Goose
Brant
Green-winged Teal
Mallard
Northern Pintail
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Canvasback
Long-tailed Duck
Surf Scoter
Bufflehead
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Great Egret
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon
California Quail
Virginia Rail
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Snowy Plover
Willet
Marbled Godwit
Black Turnstone
Sanderling
Dunlin
Long-billed Dowitcher
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Common Murre
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker (and intergrade "Yellow-shafted)
Black Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Hutton's Vireo (h)
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
Pygmy Nuthatch (h)
Brown Creeper
Bewick's Wren
Pacific Wren
Marsh Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet (h)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Varied Thrush
European Starling
Wrentit (h)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
Pine Siskin
House Sparrow


Additional birds Cricket and I saw on Sunday between Point Reyes and Samual P. Taylor Park:

Western Grebe
Brown Pelican
Brandt's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Harlequin Duck
White-winged Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Black Oystercatcher
Great Horned Owl
Burrowing Owl
Allen's Hummingbird
Pileated Woodpecker
Say's Phoebe






Coyote Hills Regional Park 02-12-11

A few days of lovely weather and it seems the urges of spring are tangible in all the birds around us. Indeed, there was plenty of pre-breeding behavior on display, from courting male Buffleheads, to rattling Marsh Wrens, Tree Swallows investingating nest boxes, and White-tailed Kites hissing as they fluttered their wings in extended aerial dance. We even Swallows mobbing a female Merlin as she passed overhead.



Sketch: Matthew Dodder

After an initial examination of the main ponds and nearby willows, we found most of the Waterfowl and Sparrows we encountered throughout or trip. A couple of Lincoln's Sparrows were heard, but never seen along the edges, and a single Orange-crowned Warbler foraged among the many Yellow-rumped Warblers, Bushtits and Chestnut-backed Chickadees. We heard the distinctive calls of both Sora and Virginia Rail, but never did catch glimpses of the birds.

Next we headed out across the pond to reach the D.U.S.T marsh where a Tropical Kingbird had been reported as recently as a week ago. We were not able to relocate it however, but we did find the Merlin mentioned above, as well as a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Nor did we find the Rock Wren seen on and off at Lizard Rock. But the North and Main ponds contained a number of interesting new species such as Long-billed Dowitcher, Canvasback and a gleaming male Euarsian Wigeon. We were able to share this gorgeous bird witha group of teenagers on a walk led by another teacher. You could hear their excitement at finding a new, colorful species. I overheard her tell the kids what page to look at and one of them asked the bird was rare... it doen's look like it's supposed to be here.



Photo: Carol Jordan


Anyway, back at the main lot we got good looks at Hermit Thrush and Townsend's Warbler near our lunch tables. A bit later we explored the area near the garden and Hoot Hollow, where as predicted we found Fox Sparrow. Finally, we made a brief stop at the quarry staging area, but not before finding Common Moorhen gliding along the reeds in the main channel. Rock Wren eluded us on the rocky hillside as well, but we found two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in the chaparral just above the lot. I saw the group of teens running down their completed list of species, and I went over to tell them about the Gnatcatchers. I don't know if they had seen it or not, but they seemed pretty happy with their list, as were we.

Canada Goose
Gadwall
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
Mallard
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Cavasback
Greater Scaup
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
Virginia Rail
Sora
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Long-billed Dowitcher
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Common Yellowhtroat
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
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch



Go to previous trip reports for this term




 


















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