While April and May only officially cover one season, spring, they encompass much of the avian calendar.The last of the wintering sparrows and ducks typically leave in the first ten days of May, with shorebird migration pretty much over by then as well.Songbird migration is a more protracted affair, beginning as early as January with the influx of Tree Swallows, and extending into June with Willow Flycatchers, plus a few late Yellow Warblers and Swainson’s Thrushes.Mid-May to mid-June is a good window for vagrants, and we had only one to speak of this period, though another surprise will have to wait for the next column.
This Summer Tanager was photographed in north Davis on May 17 by John Sterling. The blotchy red plumage is indicative of a first spring male.
The songbird highlight of the period was a young male Summer Tanager in north Davis on 5/17.Many observers reported low numbers of migrants until unsettled weather in early May produced some nice mornings with good counts of warblers, Western Tanagers, flycatchers, and vireos.In late April, when things were slow in the Valley, there were reports of good movements of common western migrants in the foothills.There was a smattering of Hammond’s Flycatchers reported locally, with the slightly rarer Dusky Flycatcher reported in Davis on 4/20 and Ancil Hoffman Park along the American River Parkway (ARP) on 4/28.Another was found at the Yolo Wildlife Area (YWA) on 4/21, where a Gray Flycatcher was also found.The latter species is a spring-only migrant in the Valley and always a nice find, with others reported at Prairie City OHV Park on 4/22, Reichmuth Park on 4/28, and ARP near Howe Ave on 5/2 and 5/14.
The other highlight bird for the period was a Stilt Sandpiper at YWA on 4/13-14.A Ruddy Turnstone was another excellent find there on 4/14 and 4/16.Marbled Godwits were regularly reported from the site, with a high of 9 on 4/19.Other good shorebird finds include a Snowy Plover at the Sacramento County Bufferlands on 4/26, and Solitary Sandpipers from the same location on 4/20-22, and Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP) on 4/24.
Stilt Sandpiper was found at the Yolo Wildlife Area on 4/13/09 by Ed Harper. It remained there for a second day. Photo by Chris Conard, 4/14/09.
Steller’s Jays were found in several Valley locations this past winter, but one in Sutter County where Riego Rd joins the Garden Hwy on the late date of 5/21 was a real surprise.Other lingering winter birds included a Varied Thrush on 5/16 at CRP and Pine Siskins in Davis through at least 5/12.Additional notable reports were the returning Least Terns at the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant (more next month) on 5/29, a Band-tailed Pigeon in the River Park neighborhood of Sacramento on 5/1, good numbers of Calliope Hummingbird reported, with a high of three individuals along ARP downstream of the Nimbus Hatchery on 5/5.A Brewer’s Sparrow was reported on the same day and at the same location.Rounding out the highlights, Olive-sided Flycatcher reports were up slightly this spring, a Vesper Sparrow was along Scott Rd south of White Rock Rd on 4/23, and a local high-count of ten Chipping Sparrows was at Ancil Hoffman (ARP) on 4/9.
Many of these reports first appeared on the Central Valley Bird Club Listserv. Visit www.cvbirds.org and click "Listserv" for details. With over 200 reports, it is impossible to list everyone; however, I want to thank the following for reports on the above species and for providing additional information: Todd Easterla, Leo Edson, Andy Engilis, Gil Ewing, Frank Gray, Steve Hampton, Ed Harper, Dan Kopp, Manfred Kusch, Keith Kwan, Jeri Langham, Ed Pandolfino, Michael Perrone, Linda Pittman, Don Schmoldt, John Sterling, Craig Swolgaard, Kevin Thomas, John Trochet, and Dan Williams. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.