Local Christmas Bird Counts and the ARNHA Wildlife Count had a lot of birders in the field.The biggest highlights of the CBC season came in January (see next month or the CBC summaries), though there were a number of nice finds this December.One of the most spectacular events reported and nicely photographed was a huge flock of European Starlings (photos here http://naturestoc.smugmug.com/Nature/Teichart/10509368_x8DPr#729566655_Sn7cU), in the hundreds of thousands, often pursed by a Peregrine Falcon.A similarly huge flock was in the Elk Grove area.In spite of the damage starlings do to our native cavity nesters, these undulating flocks, twisting, breaking apart, recombining, are amazing to behold.
The low foothills of Amador County have been getting more consistent coverage the last two winters.Highlights this month included two Eurasian Wigeons at Goffinet Reservoir east of Ione, three Barrow’s Goldeneyes at the Ione WTP, and a Mew Gull at Lake Camanche.The ducks were reported several times in the first part of the month and the gull was found on 12/3.The Lincoln WTP produced a nice assortment of moderately rare ducks.Best was a Red-breasted Merganser on 12/30, followed closely by a Eurasian Wigeon reported on 12/24, missed on the 12/30 Lincoln CBC and found again the following day, and seven Redheads on 12/18.Two Redheads at Willow Hill Reservoir near Folsom High School on 12/12 didn’t stick around for the Folsom CBC.The same can be said for a Band-tailed Pigeon in Folsom the following day.A Band-tailed Pigeon was also found near Ancil Hoffman on the 12/5 ARNHA Count.A Long-eared Owl was reported the same day from the upper portion of the American River Parkway (ARP).This is one of the most enigmatic of our regular birds, perhaps equaled in this respect only by Least Bittern.They are certainly quite rare, but how rare is difficult to judge since they are so easy to overlook.
Bald Eagles are regular at Folsom Lake, increasingly frequent over the upper portion of the ARP, and now not unexpected at Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP), Stone Lakes NWR, and the SRCSD Bufferlands.An adult was at the Bufferlands on 12/14 (an infrequent visitor last winter was only the second record in over 20 years) and, perhaps the same bird, was seen eating a Northern Shoveler at CRP on 12/20.Ferruginous Hawks were widely reported, but Rough-legged Hawks were few and far between.A Swainson’s Hawk was seen over Pedrick Rd to the west of Davis on 12/3, but this species was missed on local CBCs.
A Common Goldeneye X Bufflehead hybrid returned for its second winter to Lake Solano, seen here trailing a pair of Common Goldeneyes. Photo by Ed Harper.
One of the more interesting birds was the returning Bufflehead x Common Goldeneye at Lake Solano, first found the previous winter.A Semipalmated Plover at Staten Island on 12/20 was very good for the season.An adult Glaucous Gull at the Yolo County Landfill on the 12/27 Sacramento CBC was one of the better finds; others from the CBC include two Brown Creepers (largely absent from the valley this winter), four Townsend’s Warblers, and two Chipping Sparrows, all from the City of Sacramento portion of the count.Red Fox Sparrows were found on 12/5 at both the ARP near Gristmill and CRP. White-throated Sparrows were well represented, with continuing reports from ARP upstream of Howe Ave, CRP and the Bufferlands, along with two found in Sacramento on the CBC.Also of note were much higher than usual reported numbers of Puget Sound White-crowned Sparrows (almost identical to the drab brown, yellow-billed Nuttall’s White-crowned Sparrows seen on trips to Point Reyes and Bodega Bay).
Many of these reports first appeared on the Central Valley Bird Club Listserv. Visit www.cvbirds.org and click "Listserv" for details. With nearly 100 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: Chad Aakre, Dave Bell, Dan Brown, Scott Dietrich, Jim Dunn, Andy Engilis, Steve Hampton, Ed Harper, Dan Kopp, Lea Landry, Don Marsh, Ed Pandolfino, Nancy Sage, John Sterling, Craig Swolgaard, and John Trochet. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.