SACRAMENTO Clear, cold weather helped 38 observers record 156 species, one of the highest totals ever in the 57-year history of the Sacramento Christmas Bird Count. Held on December 30, highlights included a Kumlein Gull (considered a subspecies of Iceland Gull) reported by Ed Harper’s team; Vaux’s Swift (reported by Terry Colborn), American Tree Sparrow (reported by Scott Hoppe); Ruff at Conaway Ranch, Western Gull at the Davis Wetlands and a female Red-breasted Merganser at Greenhaven Lake. “Most amazing, though, Maureen Geiger reported, “would be the roughly 15,000 Canvasbacks on the large pond near Discovery Park. The number is more than we have ever had before, and just one of those awesome sights, with all of them appearing to ever so slowly slide across the pond to get as far from us as possible.”
BENICIA Seventy-four observers and three bored feeder watchers recorded 168 species and a total of 113,999 birds in the 60th Benicia Christmas Bird Count, December 18. Compiler Robin Leong said that in addition, Red-breasted Merganser and Semipalmated Plover were seen during count week in the Solano/Solano (Grizzly Island) count circle. With very little wind and temperatures as low as 25 degrees, there were no new species or really unusual species, although there were 3 Cattle Egrets, compiler Robin Leong said. Snow Geese were seen for the first time since 2002. The following species tied or broke the Benicia CBC high counts: Eared Grebe 47, Pelagic Cormorant 8, Blue-winged Teal 12, Sharp-shinned Hawk 14, Cooper’s Hawk 23, Red-shouldered Hawk 33, Swainson’s Hawk 1, California Quail 217, Long-billed Curlew 542, Northern Pygmy-owl 2, Burrowing Owl 16, Short-eared Owl 33, Anna’s Hummingbird 320, Oak Titmouse 68, Rock Wren 22, Ruby-crowned Kinglet 394, American Robin 9320, Varied Thrush 151, Wrentit 9, Cedar Waxwing 672, Hutton’s Vireo 25, Common ellowthroat 188, Song Sparrow 883 (which includes m.m. maxillaris 447, both are Benicia CBC highs), Dark-eyed Junco 1270,and Great-tailed Grackle 2.
RIO COSUMNES Compiler Andy Engilis reported: “I want to thank all 57 participants on this year’s Rio Cosumnes Christmas Count held on 2, January, 2007. The fantastic weather and exceptional access yielded a new record high of 160 species (+ 8 forms) represented by over 1.3 million birds, an exceptional total for an entirely inland count. Three species were recorded for the first time. A Brown Thrasher was found by Andy and Irene Engilis in the Tall Forest of the Cosumnes River Preserve (it was later confirmed by John Trochet on 5, January, 2007). Almost as amazing was a breeding plumage, male Bullock’s Oriole found by Andy Engilis and confirmed on count day by Ed Harper, Irene Engilis, and later by John Trochet. The bird was at the Cosumnes River Preserve in a Eucalyptus stand near the “Birders Shack.” Most of the local winter records of orioles seem to be Hooded or even a lost Orchard Oriole, so this was a big surprise. Andy and Irene also found the count’s first Thayer’s Gull, a first winter bird, at the Desmond Road Ponds of the Cosumnes River Preserve. One other amazing find was a Blue Grosbeak seen and photographed on Merritt Island by Steve Hampton and Roger Adamson. This is the second Blue Grosbeak found on the Rio Cosumnes count; the first on 29, December, 1999. The latter bird was only one of two Blue Grosbeaks recorded in the United States during the 100th Christmas Count, and I am sure this year’s bird will be as rare. Other rare birds observed included Horned Grebe (recorded only three times prior– observed on West Laguna Lake in Elk Grove), 9 Barrow’s Goldeneye (8 on West Laguna Lake, 1 on North Stone Lake), 50 Mountain Bluebirds (along Snodgrass Slough, Stone Lakes NWR–a huge number for the valley floor), Red-breasted Nuthatch (Tall Forest, Cosumnes Preserve–a rare find for this count particularly in a non-flight year) an Osprey (Cosumnes Preserve, Valensin Ranch, Dillard Road–only the second record), Eurasian Wigeon (Cosumnes Preserve, Desmond Road Ponds), 2 Redheads (one each at Cosumnes Preserve and Sacramento County Bufferlands), Grasshopper Sparrow (Cosumnes Preserve, Tall Forest Area),and 3 Barn Swallows (2 at Stone Lakes NWR and 1 at the Sacramento Bufferlands). We had high counts for over 20 species including a staggering 1 million Starlings (an all time high), 150,000+ Brewer’s Blackbirds, 20,000 Greater White-fronted Geese, and lots of waterfowl. Another trend was the increasing number of Eurasian Collared- Doves which spread this year from a single bird (last year’s CBC) to15 birds in five areas (essentially the eastern half of the count circle). We did experience all time lows on a few species as well, including Yellow-billed Magpies (151 birds observed) which is well below our lowest prior total of 488 birds in 1998. Last year’s total was 169, and the average prior to 2005 was 670 birds (1995- 2004). Great-tailed Grackles continue to be seen in multiple areas. With a total of 160 species, not much was missed (Steve and Roger, thanks for bailing us out with the count’s only Winter Wren, on Merritt Island –usually we get several along Cosumnes River). There were two additional species possibly seen but not fully confirmed and so not included in the species total. These were Western Tanager and Pine Siskin.”
FOLSOM Compiler Chris Conard reported: “We had wonderful weather for a change and some good birds. The species total was 134. The total is about average (with a range of 123 to 143). Best finds were a Northern Saw-whet Owl in Orangevale by Mark Martucci and a Northern Shrike by Craig Swolgaard and Ginny Hupp. The owl was not refound, but some nice photos were taken on count day. The shrike, an immature, was near Folsom High School off of Iron Point Rd. Other highlights included the continuing male Redbreasted Merganser at Sailor Bar downstream of Nimbus Hatchery, Common Loon (8), over 100 Horned Grebes, Bald Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Merlin, Mew, Thayer’s, and Glaucous-winged Gulls (and 30,000 gulls on Folsom Lake off Beal’s and Folsom Points). 20,000 were flying in over the dam (seen from Folsom Pt from 4:20 to 4:50), 5 Burrowing Owls, Hairy Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Mountain Bluebird, Varied Thrush, Common Yellowthroat (often missed), Western Tanager, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Great-tailed Grackle (42), and Pine Siskin. Misses included Canvasback (count week on Bass Lake), Redhead (missing this millennium, but regular before), Ring-necked Pheasant, American Bittern (often missed), Golden Eagle (too many houses? The answer is yes, but is that why we’re missing this bird?), Long-billed Dowitcher (often missed), Western Screech- Owl, Lewis’s Woodpecker (two years in a row), Steller’s Jay (two years in a row), Redbreasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Canyon Wren, California Thrasher, Vesper Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, and Brown-headed Cowbird. Thanks to all who helped with the count.”
HONEY LAKE Compiler Tim Manolis, who started this CBC near Susanville in Lassen County in 1970, reported that eight birders in five parties counted 93 species in cool but sunny weather December 28. The species included lots of raptors and waterfowl and a “Gray-headed” Junco that was new for the count. Other highlights were a Red-shouldered Hawk and 31 Lapland Longspurs. Eurasian Collared- Doves appear to have become established in the area–one on last year’s count was the first ever, but 21 were tallied this year. 390 Common Ravens were the most ever on a Honey Lake CBC.
LINCOLN Compiler Ed Pandolfino reported: “On December 27, we enjoyed a brisk day in the field with rain in the early morning and roaring winds in the afternoon on the fifth edition of the Lincoln CBC. We still tallied 134 species, a bit over our average of 131 and second only to the first year when we found 137 species. We did add five new species for the count: Blue-winged Teal, Osprey (count week), Eurasian Collared Dove, Mountain Bluebird and Purple Finch. Other good finds were significant numbers of American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts in multiple locations, Western Sandpiper, Winter Wren and Varied Thrush in multiple locations. Misses included Gadwall (first time), Hooded Merganser and Lesser Scaup (second time), Peregrine Falcon (second time), Wrentit (second time) and White-throated Sparrow (second time). Two escapees of interest were the male Mandarin Duck returning for a second year and a possible Orange Bishop. Overall number of individuals was down about 10 percent compared to the average with most of the decrease due to waterfowl numbers. We had low numbers of geese–Greater White Fronts low and white geese VERY low. I doubt this is of any significance since one can see great fluctuations in these numbers from year to year and likely from day to day in these areas. We had an all time high in blackbirds with over 45,000 individuals of all species and over 14,000 Brewer’s. Raptor numbers were low as were numbers of many passerines as well. The latter likely due to weather. Yellow-billed Magpies, Western Scrub Jays, American Crow and Oak Titmouse numbers were way down for the second year, which could be due to West Nile Virus or the weather both years or, more likely, both. The number of Lincoln’s Sparrows which was nearly double the average, with nearly every area setting a new high. The number of Lincoln’s Sparrows exceeded the number of Song Sparrows for the first time and this same trend was seen in nearly every area. Odd. Participation was down a little with 71 total participants vs. an average of 80 and 107 party hours vs. the average of 124.”
MARYSVILLE Despite cold winds and rain, the latter especially hard in the afternoon, the 21 participants found 140 species on the Marysville CBC December 21, compiler Tim Manolis said. Highlights were a Bonaparte’s Gull, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Townsend’s Solitaire, each recorded on the count for the first time, plus Black Rail (regular on the count) and impressive and incomplete tallies of Snow Goose and Northern Pintail (at least 50,000+ Snow Geese and 35,000+ Pintail).
PUTAH CREEK Compiler Steve Hampton reported: “The December 17 Putah Creek Christmas Bird Count featured high numbers of both birds and birders. Thanks in part to front-page coverage by the Davis Enterprise and crisp and clear weather, 96 people participated, falling just shy of the record (100) set in 1976 and 1977. We found 141 species, including one new for the count: Eastern Phoebe. Other highlights included Clay-colored Sparrow, Cassin’s Vireo, and five Western Tanagers. Record high counts were set for a whopping 25 species and tied for 5 more. There were no record low counts. New high counts were established for American White Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Wood Duck, Common Goldeneye, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, Redtailed Hawk, Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Anna’s Hummingbird, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Black Phoebe, Varied Thrush, Wrentit, Northern Mockingbird, Cedar Waxwing, Phainopepla, Hutton’s Vireo, Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Golden-crowned Sparrow. Record highs were tied for Eared Grebe, Virginia Rail (5, for the fourth year in a row), Eurasian Collared-Dove (2), Cassin’s Vireo (1), and Clay-colored Sparrow (1). The latter three had only been found once before on the count. Many species bounced back from record low counts during last year’s rainy count, including Great Blue Heron and Red-tailed Hawk. The good weather enabled a cleaner analysis of the impacts of West Nile Virus (WNV). Despite the good weather and increased party hours, slightly fewer Yellow-billed Magpies were seen than last year. In terms of magpies per party hour, the steep two-year slide continued so that that numbers are now about 60 percent below the historical trend. Both Western Scrub-Jays and American Crows rebounded substantially, though remain below their historical trends. Oak Titmice recovered only slightly, and remain over 50 percent below their trend. Perhaps the most interesting stat is that total birds per party hour was 24 percent higher during last year’s torrential rains, suggesting rain curtails birders more than birds.”
STOCKTON “The Stockton CBC was held Dec. 17 amid glorious weather, in marked contrast to the abysmal conditions last year,” compiler Jim Rowoth reported. “The 47 counters tallied 144 species and some 1,101,489 individual birds, over 80 percent of which were starlings. This fact is due largely to the increasing number of acres of vineyards in the count circle. We missed Rough-legged Hawk for only the 6th time in 39 years. Lesser Scaup is also becoming harder to find of late. There were no real rarities that day, but species of note included Osprey, Swainson’s Hawk, all the expected falcons, Redhead, Lesser Yellowlegs, Pine Siskin, Winter Wren, Rock Wren, Glaucous-winged Gull, and Phainopepla. Rapidly becoming a regular on this count, unfortunately, is the Great-tailed Grackle (21 this year).”
WOODFORDS Heavy snow by 11am and 24-32 degree temperatures cut short this Alpine County CBC and the 27 participants were “chained up and heading for home by 1:30pm,” Dan Brown reported. The group counted 86 species, not bad in spite of the weather, said Dan, who subbed for compiler Tim Fitzer, ailing from apparent food poisoning. Highlights were nine American Dippers, 24 Mountain Bluebirds, an American Tree Sparrow, and 515 Pinyon Jays.