Today, Kelly and I were able to relocate one of the two female Long-tailed Ducks in Princeton Harbor. We arrived late afternoon so the best visibility was from the trail leading out toward Pillar Point. She dove repeatedly and could easily be missed without frequent scans of the area near the jetty. We were joined by an Idaho birder named Duane who was eager to see birds not found in his home state. He was excited to say he had been seeing 4 or 5 lifers a day during his visit. Best of luck to him for the remainer of his California adventure! Earlier in the day we had visited Wilder Ranch where we decided we could happily take our winter term class. The fields produced heard only Horned Larks but it was exciting to visit a new location never the less. Before reaching Princeton we made a detour to the model airplane and baseball diamond where a flock of 21 Wilson's Snipe were foraging quite out in the open.
Cricket and I visited Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area, also known as the Yolo Bypass, and found a satisfying number of Snow, Ross' and Greater White-fronted Geese. We also spotted a few Canada Geese, but the real excitement came when several hundred Tundra Swans flew overhead honking loudly. We heard both Sora and Virginia Rail, spotted many Loggerhead Shrike, Wilson's Snipe and two American Bitterns. This should make a nice destination for our Winter term field trip itinerary. We also stopped at Grizzly Island and Suisun Marsh where the most exciting discovery was a flock of 12 Great-tailed Grackles. We loved the area, but apparently it is closed during much of the winter unless your intention is to kill waterfowl... in which case you are welcome to stop by and look around.
Cricket and I made a late morning trip up to Ed Levin to search for the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Michael Pollack joined us there for the search, and within a short time we were all able to see the bird as it foraged in the tamarisk trees uphill from the Spring Valley entrance. [If you are driving up Calaveras Road from Milpitas, don't make the same mistake Cricket and I did-- continue past the first entrance (on the left) which leads to Sandy Wool Lake, and keep to the right heading up hill on the main road. Shortly, on the right there is a lot and the small Spring Valley Pond. We parked here and soon located the bluish, feathery tamarisk trees along the main road just uphill from the entrance to the lot.] As mentioned by others, Red-breasted Sapsucker are also present in the area, and both species tended to sit still and forage quietly. The Yellow-bellied showed a very pronounced facial pattern of black and white with red throat and crown. We also noticed distinct dirty yellowish on the sides of the breast, and black on the upper breast. Beautiful bird!
Ashutosh Sinha birded with Cricket and me to Coyote Point where we easily relocated the male Harlequin Duck. In fact we saw two males. There were also many Black Oystercatchers, Black Turnstones, Surfbirds, Sanderling and Dunlin on the rocks visible from the harbor mouth. We manged also to find several Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, and Greater Scaup in the waterways of Redwood Shores, but failed to find the female Tufted Duck along Mindanou Lane. Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye were also abundant in the area. After lunch, we dragged our friend up to Skyline Blvd. where we forced him to select a Christmas tree with us. After some time, we were driving back down the hill to drink egg nog while we decorated the tree.
There wasn't much unusual to report today during lunch. It was just nice to be out of the office for a few minutes. Somewhat unexpected were two Barn Swallows foraging over the yacht club.
Yesterday's high tide wasn't so high after all, so our stake out at the 3rd Avenue marsh near Seal Point Park didn't produce our hoped-for Nelson's Sharp-tail... Common Yellowthroat and Marsh Wrens were abundant and easily seen, a Peregrine Falcon came to land on one of the towers. Most interesting was a single Orange-crowned Warbler in the fennel close to the paved trail. Horned, Eared, Pied-billed and Clark's Grebes were in great supply, as well as Greater Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye and Surf Scoter .
After a while, our group decided then to visit Coyote Point Regional Park where the Harris' Sparrow was easily refound in the previously reported area across from the PG&E substation. Mary Ann Allen was the first to spot it among the other Zonotrichias. Leonie Batkin then refound the male Harlequin Duck on the concrete slabs out from the harbor mouth. The sun was shining in just a way to illuminate the bird's fantastic color pattern, looking almost hand-painted as it sat and preened out of water. Truly beautiful!! Black Oystercatcer, Surfbirds, Black and a single Ruddy Turnstone were hard to miss. Jody McGeen and Eric Goodill spotted Wilson's Snipe in the marsh and Peregrine Falcon and Osprey were also present overhead. In the harbor proper a lone Spotted Sandpiper posed cooperatively on the dock.
Today I made a quick stop at the pond on Geng Road, hoping to find Hooded Mergansers. Sure enough, a single female was visible in the reeds on the right side of the pond, but quickly disappeared into the vegetation.