This would be a great time to visit Shoreline Lake again!
For the past week there has been a Common Loon there,
allowing very close looks while it forages on the side closest
to the San Antonio Road Parking lot. As well, a flock of
up to 30 Common Goldeneyes and one Barrow's Goldeneye
have gathered there. Last winter, Surf Scoters and
a Red-necked Grebe spent the winter, so it's just
a matter of time before they might show up again.
Yesterday, a drive along Little Panoche Road produced some
nice birds. I entered the area from HWY 5 and in the dry
grassy area above the small stream (just below the reservoir
in other words) there was a Roadrunner. About two
miles further (away from 5) there were two male Mountain
Bluebirds. Perhaps two dozen Vesper Sparrows
were present in various locations on the road along with
uncountable numbers of Lark Sparrows. There was a
Merlin at Mercy Hot Springs and at the Junction with
Panoche Road I had a Ferrugionous Hawk.
Today at Merced Wildlife Refuge our group had all the
usual Sandhill Cranes, White-faced Ibis, Snow
Geese, Ross' Geese, and Greater White-fronted
Geese. We had another Merlin at the refuge, as
well as an unexpected adult Bald Eagle which was
soaring in the midst of hundreds of geese and ibis before
it exited the area. We had good looks at two Barn Owls
pearched along the new riparian trail. There was another
Ferruginous Hawk near Los Banos, as well as Cattle
Egret just west of town.
An afternoon trip to the Central Valley produced some interesting
birds. The Sandhill Cranes are in position at Merced
Wildlife Refuge, though not in the huge numbers we'll later
in the season. I saw perhaps 100 birds flying toward the
reserve as well as in the fields along the auto loop. Many
Snow and Ross' Geese were in the ponds as
well. Small numbers, perhaps 50, Greater White-fronted
Geese kept to themselves on one side of the marsh. Hundreds
of Dunlin and a few Lesser Yellowlegs fed
actively in the shallows as well as about a dozen Common
Leaving the reserve I saw even larger groups of geese
and cranes entering the area and gathering in the surrounding
ponds. I found only one White-faced Ibis but I expect
we will see more when we visit there next week. A single
Ferruginous Hawk was sitting on the ground in a plowed
field between Merced and Los Banos. Perhaps the most fun,
though, was seeing 3 Golden Eagles sparring above
the windmills near the San Luis Reservoir and two elsewhere
on the same road!
Just before 9:00 this morning, a Rough-legged Hawk
flew overhead from the Recycling Facility near Byxbee Park
toward the Palo Alto Duck Pond. It was being harrassed by
two ravens and as they chased it out of the area, I was
able to see the hawk from a variety of angles. This rare
winter raptor was a well-marked adult female. Elsewhere
at Byxbee, we got great looks at 4-5 Burrowing Owls,
many American Pipit, Western Meadowlark, Western Grebe,
Bonaparte's Gulls and White Pelican.
At the Palo Alto Flood Control Basin, 11 Redheads
stayed in a tight group in the first pond on the left as
we walked out. Only one Blue-winged Teal could be
found among a group of Shovellers.
At Charleston Slough, two female Hooded Mergansers
and a Eurasian x American Wigeon hybrid were in the
area before the metal bleechers. The wigeon looks very much
like a full Eurasian, but has a substantial amount of green
behind the eye. A Loggerhead Shrike made a brief
visit to the area and rested for a minute in the same shrub
as two White-tailed Kites. The number of Canvasbacks
and Scaups on the slough has increased significantly
in the last few days.
A trip to the coast later in the day turned up a female
Oldsquaw at Princeton Harbour in Half Moon Bay. There
were also many Surf Scoters a few Buffleheads,
Mew Gulls and a single Lesser Yellowlegs.
If anyone is interested in participating in one of the many
Christmas Bird Counts in the area, the Golden
Gate Audubon Society has posted a list of them on their
site. This is a great way to participate in a very important
event, meet great people and learn a lot about birds. Details
on where to meet etc. are available from the contact person
assigned to each census area. You can go get more information
at the following address: http://goldengate.ca.audubon.org/index.htm
On another subject, Cedar Waxwings seem to have
returned to the Palo Alto area in significant numbers. I've
had small flocks both at home and at work. Their thin, wheezy
calls are often the only indication of their presence, as
they forage in the tops of trees looking for berries or
After class tonight, while I was carrying books back to
the car, a Barn Owl flew overhead and gave its distinctive
call (a loud, drawn-out raspy screech). If I had let class
out just a little later, we would all have heard it from
the classroom. Oh, well...
The male Wood Duck continues at the Palo Alto Duck
Pond. As well, among the many Mallards, Ruddys, and
Shovellers there is a female Lesser Scaup.
This bird is easy to pick out of the crowd, being the only
entirely dark brown duck with an indistict white patch at
the base of the bill.