Christmas Bird Counts (CBC), waterfowl, raptors, and interesting sparrows add up to make December a high point of the year, but occasionally a bird comes along that upends the typical patterns. ACitrine Wagtailwas photographed at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (YBWA) on 12/15 and seen by two birders on the morning of 12/16. Then wind gusts built to 50 mph and the bird was never seen again. This species had only been recorded twice before on the North American continent.
Maybe it will cease to be impressive someday, but continued reports of over 200Blue-winged Tealat Bridgeway Island Pond in West Sacramento are remarkable from even a statewide perspective. AHooded Merganser X Goldeneyeor possiblyBuffleheadhybrid (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S41550014) was an interesting find along the American River between Howe and Watt Avenues. Up to 60Mountain Ploverswere found in their traditional area along Robinson Rd at Flannery Rd in Solano County. Less expected was a singleMountain Ploveron 12/10 along Abel Rd near Williams, west of Lone Star Rd. A Pacific Golden-Ploverwas found at the Woodland WTP from 12/8-18 and another found on the 12/28 Lincoln CBC along Brewer Rd, south of Philip Rd, was a first Placer County record; it continued through the end of the month. TheFranklin's Gullfound at the Woodland WTP on 11/21 continued through at least 12/6. ALesser Black-backed Gullwas found at the Yolo County Central Landfill pond along Rd 28H on the 12/17 Sacramento CBC, and another was at Beals Point, Folsom Lake, on 12/30. An adultGlaucous Gull (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S41454378) was at the Woodland WTP on 12/8 and a second-cycle was found at Beals Point on 12/30-31.
Plainfield School (along Yolo County Rd 97) hosted up to threeShort-eared Owls, plus up to sixFerruginous Hawks, at the end of the month. At least fourLong-eared Owlsreturned to their winter roost in a private olive orchard near Putah Creek between Davis and Winters. On 12/21, a walk up Rayhouse Rd off of Hwy 16 in the Cache Creek Canyon produced aNorthern Pygmy-Owl, aPileated Woodpecker, and threeHairy Woodpeckers. Another trip on 12/29 on Rd 53 out of Guinda turned up threeNorthern Pygmy-Owls. Only oneLewis's Woodpeckerwas reported along Scott Rd, near Carson Creek, and none were apparent on Latrobe or Michigan Bar Rds this December.
The "Western Flycatcher" (likelyPacific-slope) found along Babel Slough on 11/19 continued on 12/13; another was found at the Orr portion of the Cosumnes River Preserve on 12/23. SingleCassin's Vireoswere reported from North Davis on 12/1, Cache Creek Preserve on 12/3, and in Winters on 12/15. ACalifornia Thrasher, quite rare for Sacramento County, was very conspicuously singing along Humbug Creek near the corner of Oak Ave Parkway and Blue Ravine Rd in Folsom on 12/31, continuing into January. ThePalm Warblerfound at the Woodland WTP on 11/24 continued through 12/8, and aWilson's Warblerwas found in North Davis on 12/14-27. TheSwamp Sparrow (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S41000062) found just off the auto tour at YBWA on 11/25 continued through the end of December. On 12/25, aHarris's Sparrowwas found in Sutter County at a private residence south of the small town of Meridian, along S Meridian Rd; it continued into January. The Orchard Oriole found on 11/30 in North Davis continued through 12/12. Rounding out the three species of orioles in Yolo County this December are one to two Hooded Orioles continuing through the end of the month in North Davis and a first-year male Bullock's Oriole found on 12/10 at Park Blvd and Acorn St in West Sacramento. Good numbers ofPurple FinchesandPine Siskinscontinued throughout the month.
The Sacramento Area is roughly defined as lying between Hwy 20 to the north, Hwy 12 to the south, and the 1000’ contour to the east and west, plus all of Sacramento and Yolo Counties. Many reports first appeared on the Central Valley Bird Club Listserve (cvbirds.org) and in eBird (ebird.org). It is impossible to list everyone, but I want to thank the following for their reports: Holly Coates, Maurice DeMille, Lily Douglas, Gil Ewing, Steve Hampton, Ed Harper, Cliff Hawley, Jim Holmes, Dan Kopp, Arav and Aranya Karighattam, Manfred Kusch, Jeri Langham, Andrew Lee, Tim Ludwick, Mark Martucci, Frances Oliver, Ed Pandolfino, Michael Perrone, Shannon Skalos, Steve Scott, Kirk Swenson, John Trochet, and Dan Williams. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.