It is impossible to cover everything from two of the most active months on the avian calendar, but there is no doubt about the highlights of the season, and probably the year.Bell’s Vireos were found singing from two separate locations south of Parking Lot G at the Yolo Wildlife Area (YWA) beginning on 4/16.Possible mating activity was reported involving a third bird, but nothing was confirmed.This species had been a regular member of the Central Valley’s breeding bird fauna prior to being devastated by Brown-headed Cowbird nest parasitismand riparian habitat loss.Modifications to the environment made the state far more suitable to cowbirds, and Bell’s Vireos were hit harder than any of the native songbirds, becoming rare by the 1920s.The YWA birds continued through press time, and though there are a lot of cowbirds in the area, it is very encouraging to see the possible return of this species.Bell’s Vireos successfully bred at the San Joaquin NWR (Stanislaus County) in 2005 after an absence from the region for decades. Click here for a video by Chris Conard: http://www.flickr.com/photos/conardc/4533297071/in/photostream/
Bell's Vireo by Craig Swolgaard 4/16/2010 - click photo to enlarge
Painted Redstart by Subhash Chand, May 22, 2010 - click to enlarge
A Painted Redstart, a gorgeous warbler characteristic of southeastern Arizona, was found in a residential neighborhood in Auburn sometime before birders became aware of it on 5/17.This very cooperative bird, the loudest and most conspicuous in the neighborhood, was found through at least 5/28.Painted Redstarts are very rare visitors to far southern California in winter, but this is only the third or fourth record for the northern half of the state, and most unexpected. Click here for a video by Chris Conard: http://www.flickr.com/photos/conardc/4630471270/ With sporadic rain and unsettled weather, one might have expected a lot of grounded migrants.There were some excellent days, especially in the western half of the Valley, with those east of the Sacramento River wondering where most of the birds were.Perhaps most astonishing was a morning walk up Rayhouse Rd in the foothills of Yolo County on 5/1.In addition to nice finds of a Pileated Woodpecker and a Hairy Woodpecker, there were amazing numbers of regular western migrants.Low estimates were of 40 Western Wood-Pewees, 40 Ash-throated Flycatchers, 125 Warbling Vireos, 150 Townsend’s Warblers, 175 Hermit Warblers, 100 Wilson’s Warblers, and 75 Western Tanagers.This gives a hint of how many birds migrate through and what a small fraction we actually record.
A partial list will have to suffice for the other highlights, with a female Surf Scoter at the Woodland WTP on 4/20, a Least Bittern at Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP) on 5/8, a Ruddy Turnstone at the Davis Wetlands on 5/14, a breeding plumage Sanderling and Baird’s Sandpiper (very rare in spring) at the Woodland WTP on 5/19, a Ruff at YWA on 4/20-22 and 5/1, a Common Nighthawk along Meiss Rd on 5/28, many Olive-sided Flycatcher and Gray Flycatcher reports (the latter mostly around Davis), Brown Creepers nest building near Lake Solano on 4/14, a Black-and-White Warbler near UCD on 4/14, an amazing 25-30 Chipping Sparrows near Winters on 4/15, and three to four likely breeding pairs of Dark-eyed Juncos at CRP.There were two frustrating reports lingering from March.A male Vermilion Flycatcher was photographed on private property in central Yolo County, but word didn’t get out until after it was gone.Also, a Gray Catbird was apparently photographed in Carmichael on 3/10, but the photographer wouldn’t give specific details.
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:Roger Adamson, Dan Airola, Dan Brown, Todd Easterla, Leo Edson, Irene Engilis, Gil Ewing, Kevin Guse, Steve Hampton, Dave Johnson, Dan Kopp, Jeri Langham, Ed Pandolfino, Michael Perrone, Linda Pittman, Deren Ross, Don Schmoldt, Susan Schneider, John Sterling, Craig Swolgaard, Kevin Thomas, John Trochet, Sally Walters, Liz West, and Ed Whisler.Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.