This morning, about 1 hour before peak tide, the Nelson's Sparrow was seen from the white X on the Palo Alto Baylands trail past the Lucy Evans Nature Center. The bird perched briefly in the tall vegetation about 50 yards from the trail, and then showed up a few minutes much closer to the 20 or so adoring fans. It was in full view for several seconds before disappearing again closer to the runway channel. Also present were two White-faced Ibis, and at least 3 Virginia Rails.
Above is my at-home "field sketch" but done without consulting a field guide. I see from Sonny's photos that our bird has less golden wash on its breast, among other differences. Still, a fun exercise.
After the class field trip to Wunderlich Park, Eric and I stopped briefly at Bayfront Park. We found Say's Phoebe in the large field, as well as a single Cackling Goose among many Canadas. On the water we spotted a great many Scaup, appearing to be mostly Greater Scaup, as well as b. The most unusual bird we found was an Orange-crowned Warbler by the restrooms.
I met up Kitty Trejo and her partner Marti Wright to do some birding in Merced NWR. There were most of the expected species, including Sandhill Cranes, Snow, Ross's and Greater White-fronted Geese, White-faced Ibis and Bald Eagle. Marti captured some wonderful portraits of the Great Horned Owl we encountered on the creekside trail behind the restrooms. In this area we also found Lincoln's and Fox Sparrows. Also seen one one female Blue-winged Teal and several Canvasback. A dark female Merlin was in the large field beyond the second observation platform.
I met up with Dave Weber today to search for the Gray Flycatcher in the Oakland hills. Also found were two Red-breasted Nuthatches and dark Merlin in the previously described area.
The Tufted Duck was also still at the northeast corner of Lake Merritt. Another birder also alerted us to a sleeping Red-necked Grebe among the many Scaup and Goldeneyes. A single Ring-necked Duck was also near the nature center as well as the female Redhead. The hybrid Hooded Merganser x Barrow's Goldeneye was in the south channel between 10th and 11th Steets with many full-blooded Common and Barrow's Goldeneyes.
The Palm Warbler was still near the pines and large rock near the dock at Estuary Park.
Happy New Year everyone! Cricket and I have returned from a few days in Morro Bay, San Luis Obisbo County. Our goal was to bird the Carrizo Plain as weather allowed, and hit a few spots on the coast for a few target birds. As we neared our motel in Morro Bay we realized we were several hours before check in. And seeing that a White Wagtail had been reported the day before a mere hour away, we passed our exit and kept driving. A little while after arriving at the Laguna Wastewater Treatment Facility in Santa Maria, we had the bird in our sights. We had read the posts on Calbirds that the area was off limits to birders, but we ALSO saw a report that the bird was visible through the chain link fence surrounding the airation ponds. So we took a chance, and were rewarded with very close looks at this rare Asian vagrant. In fact, as I was calling Petersen to tell him the good news, the bird flew TOWARD us and landed no more than 15 feet from us.
Following that excitement, we checked hurried back to our motel in order to check in before the sun had set and investigated dinner options on the waterfront. (We made a habit of getting back in time to enjoy the sunset from our window each night of our trip.) The following day we explored the Carrizon Plain before the weather turned rainy and driving would be difficult (or dangerous). We found 5 Ferruginous Hawks, and three Prairie Falcons, but no hoped-for LeConte's Thrasher as we had last year. A goal of the trip was to see what we though of the various Sage Sparrow populations found along Hwy 58 as compared to those in the valley. We believe we saw two distinct populationsl, A.b. belli and A.b. canescens. A field sketch seemed in order, so here's what we found.
Returning to our hotel (again before sunset) we admired the beautiful colors from our window, and had left overs by the dimming light of day. The following morning, the weather having turned dark and wet, we explored the marsh by the marina in search of unusual Sparrows or Rails. Nothing. But a visit to Sweetwater produced good looks at what we believe to be a pure "Yellow-shafted" Northern Flicker. Here's what we noted.
We returned to our room, again in time for the sunset, and made plans for the next day. Since rain was NOT in the forecast, we decided to visit the Carrizo Plain again, but this time from the south, as we had done the year before. We hoped the roads would be ok after the previous day's rain, and that the sun would be at our back as we searched for Mountain Plovers. Anyway, once in a while we see two full moons in one month, that is of course, a "blue moon" and we had one early this morning.
Despite a concerted effort, we could not locate any LeConte's Thrashers. We did however have many opportunities to admire several more Ferruginous Hawks, Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcon, bright blue Mountain Bluebirds, Horned Larks, Sage Sparrows and Mountain Plovers.
New Year's Eve was spent in our room watching the final episodes of Carnivale (season 1), and getting ready for our final day in southern California. We had yet another high tide and a visit to Sweetwater produced great looks at Blue-winged Teals but little else. Finally, we visited Montaña del Oro for a spectacular look at the ocean. Far off shore, we could see dozens of Black-vented Shearwaters criss crossing the horizon. Field sketches... Can you tell I'm on a kick?
Finally, before returning home, we stopped in Coyote Valley near Morgan Hill to see if we could locate the recently reported "Harlan's" Red-tailed Hawk. Once again, we were not rewarded for our efforts, at least with that bird, but we did find two Ferruginous Hawks. The first bird, an adult, was in the field located near the intersection of Lantz and Palm, and the second bird, an immature, was in the fields along Bailey and Santa Theresa.