After a dry winter, we had an unusual spring, with mostly cool temperatures and a strong Delta Breeze. Aside from flycatchers, songbird migrant reports were below average, but there was good diversity of shorebirds and uncommon hummingbirds. A male Eurasian Green-winged Teal was photographed at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (YBWA) on 4/23 and a male Red-breasted Merganserwas at Lake Camanche on 4/13. Single Least Bitterns were reported through 4/11 at Stone Lakes NWR, at the Barn Ponds of Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP) on 4/19, Mather Lake on 5/12, and Cache Creek near the Wild Wings County Park west of Woodland on 5/16. Presumably the sameLittle Blue Heron returned to the rookery in Natomas on 5/8, but it was only reported one day, courting a Cattle Egret, and didn’t linger like it did last spring. Following on the numerous Black Railreports at Stone Lakes last month, up to three were singing and calling along the River Walk at CRP from 5/23 into June; another was reported from Twitchell Island on 4/17.
In contrast with a slow songbird migrant season, shorebirds were particularly well represented. Lake Camanche had a good showing, with two Snowy Plovers on 4/13, four on 4/18, five on 4/21, plus aMarbled Godwit and Baird’s Sandpiper ( http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S23058024) on 4/25; the latter being quite unusual in spring. An impressive 215 Semipalmated Plovers were at CRP on 4/26 and an impressive 43 Willets were at the Woodland WTP on 4/16. Abel Rd in Colusa County east of Williams had quite a list of species on 4/24, including Snowy Plover (cont. to 5/3),Marbled Godwit (cont. to 5/3), a Semipalmated Sandpiper (regular but rare in fall, very rare in spring), and a Baird’s Sandpiper. Solitary Sandpiper reports included the YBWA on 4/8, the Bufferlands on 4/21, the Ione WTP on 4/25, and Mather Lake on 5/2. Four Marbled Godwits were at the Granite Bay Boat Launch at Folsom Lake on 4/27. Ostrom Rd southeast of Yuba City hosted two Willets and four Marbled Godwits on 4/27 and the shorebird highlight of the season, a Rufffrom 4/28-30.
After last winter’s influx, a few Band-tailed Pigeons lingered until late May. A migrant Common Poorwill along Pumphouse Slough near Babel Slough in Yolo County was a nice find on 4/20.Costa’s Hummingbirds males were reported at Fair Oaks on 4/2 and Rancho Cordova on 4/20, while Calliope Hummingbirds ( http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S23405013) were reported more widely than ever before, with a few dozen reports throughout the Sacramento Area from 4/1 to the last week in May. Lewis’s Woodpeckers were widespread into early May. The last report was from Hwy 16 near Latrobe Rd in Amador County on 5/25, but probably the same bird was found dead on the highway on 5/31. The male and female Hairy Woodpeckers along Lake Natoma, downstream of Young Wo Circle, continued through at least 4/19, with the female reported in early June.
Amid a generally slow spring for songbirds, empids were well represented, with widespread reports of Hammond’s Flycatchers, and reports of the less common Gray Flycatcher at CRP on 4/5, Meiss Rd on 4/13 ( http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S22841406), Don Nottoli Park on 4/16, the Howard Ranch on 4/19, and Mather Lake on 4/30. Dusky Flycatchers were reported on 4/11 at Cache Creek Wild Wings Park, 4/16 near the Gristmill access to the American River Parkway, 4/19 at the Howard Ranch and at CRP, along Putah Creek near Stevenson’s Bridge on 4/22, Mather Lake on 4/30 and 5/19, and William Land Park on 5/20. A singing Say’s Phoebe was at the Sacramento Reg. WTP on the late date of 4/27.
Reports of bird-rich days were few and far between this spring, though one with good numbers and diversity, including two Hermit Warblers, was along Rd 126 at the Sacramento Bypass on 5/11. Another such morning also produced good overall numbers and a Red-eyed Vireo upstream of Stevenson’s Bridge on 5/18. Steller’s Jays, widespread last winter, continued through the end of April. A Red-breasted Nuthatch was found at CRP on 4/19 and a female Varied Thrush on the late date of 5/23 at the Davis Wetlands was quite a surprise. There were several reports of Yellow-breasted Chats, with most coming from CRP, including two on 4/24. A Clay-colored Sparrow was well-described at YBWA on 4/27 and Brewer’s Sparrow reports in eastern Sacramento County continued into early May. A very vocal Baltimore Oriole (possibly with some Bullock’s traits) was found at Westgate Landing Regional Park west of Lodi from 5/15 through at least 5/31; a femaleSummer Tanager was reported there on 5/16. Pine Siskin reports continued into early May, with an unusually late 5/20 report from the Bufferlands. A pair of Lawrence’s Goldfinches at CRP on 5/11 was unusual away from their known sites on the margins of the Valley.
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. It is impossible to list everyone, but I want to thank the following for their reports: Ben Abramovitz, Dan Airola, Stuart Angerer, Breck Breckenridge, Paul Buchanan, Brent Campos, Ashley Casey, Lyann Comrack, Dave and Pat Croft, Farley Cross, Iryna Dronova, Todd Easterla, Leo Edson, Andy Engilis, Gil Ewing, Claire Gallagher, Maureen Geiger, Ian Gledhill, Cory Gregory, Gary Grenfell, Steve Hampton, Cliff Hawley, Afton Kern, Dan Kopp, Manfred Kusch, Jeri Langham, Jim Lomax, Calvin Lou, Bunkie and Jeff Mangum, Don Marsh, Mark Martucci, Sarah Mayhew, Frances Oliver, Ron Pozzi, Jim Rowoth, Mark Sawyer, Steve Scott, Judy Spitler, John Sterling, Jim Thomas, Kevin Thomas, John Trochet, Amy and Daniel Welsh, Dan Williams, and Julian Wood. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.