December 2011 was one of the driest Decembers on record, with just over a quarter-inch of rain. Many local CBCs reported lower than average numbers and diversity, especially waterfowl and irruptive species likely to be driven into the Valley by severe weather (see the CBC reports for details). Yet, the mostly spring-like weather led to many observers in the field. The most notable report was a male Falcated Duck found at the Colusa NWR on 12/8. It was missed on a couple of days, but for the most part was very cooperative, continuing into January. If accepted by the California Bird Records Committee, it would be only the third record for the state and the first for the Central Valley. Prior to 2002, the occasional reports of this species were considered escaped captives, but recent reports on the West Coast suggesting vagrancy from Asia have gained wider acceptance. Additional waterfowl of interest included an aberrant or hybrid Emperor Goose found on 12/23 at Sutter NWR, a first-year Trumpeter Swan at Lake of the Pines on the 12/17 Auburn CBC, a Eurasian Green-winged Teal at the Yolo Wildlife Area on 12/17, and a female Red-breasted Merganser at the Granite Bay access to Folsom Lake on 12/26.
A Swainson’s Hawk on 12/8 at Williams was rare for winter that far north in the Valley. Single “Prairie” Merlins were reported from Nader Ln north of Lincoln on 12/3 and near Granite Bay on 12/26. Gulls at the Yolo County Landfill included an adult Lesser Black-backed Gulland an adult Glaucous Gull on 12/10. The latter bird may have been the same one present on 12/31, with a second-cycle Glaucous Gullpresent on 12/30. An adult Western Gull was at Ancil Hoffman Park along the American River on 12/28. One of the most intriguing reports of the month was of a male Black-chinned Hummingbird near El Dorado Hills on the 12/26 Folsom CBC. It was seen well, though attempts to refind this bird were unsuccessful. A Red-naped Sapsucker was seen by many at East Lawn Cemetery beginning on 12/13. The hint of excess red on the face may indicate a Red-breasted Sapsucker somewhere in its ancestry.
Other excellent finds included a Western Kingbird on Oak Ave northwest of Folsom on 12/12-13, a Northern Shrike at the Peninsula portion of Folsom Lake, two Cassin’s Vireos in town on the 12/15 Marysville CBC, a Canyon Wren near Old Folsom on 12/26 (the first for this site in 40 years), a Northern Waterthrush near Lake of the Pines on the 12/17 Auburn CBC and again on 12/19, an apparent Hermit X Townsend’s Warbler at Baldwin Reservoir on 12/26, a first winter Harris’s Sparrow in north Davis from 12/4 into January, and two Evening Grosbeaks at East Lawn Cemetery on 12/15. The Black-throated Sparrow in Esparto continued through most of December, and a Lapland Longspur continued in a field north of Rd 27 from 11/17 through at least 12/9. From last month, 26 Mountain Plovers on a portion of Sherman Island without public access on 11/10 provided the first record in over a decade for Sacramento County.
Harris's Sparrow by Linda Pittman
Many of these reports first appeared on the Central Valley Bird Club Listserve. Visit cvbirds.org and click "Listserve" for details. With over 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: Steve Abbott, Brian Acord, Roger Adamson, Bruce Deuel, Chris Dunford, Todd Easterla, Gil Ewing, Maureen Geiger, Steve Hampton, Ed Harper, Cliff Hawley, Dan Kopp, Lea Landry, Jim Laughlin, Mary Beth Metcalf, Frances Oliver, Michael Park, Kathy Parker, W. Rockey, Krysta Rogers, Jennifer Rycenga, Craig Swolgaard, John Sterling, Dan Tankersley, Kevin Thomas, John Trochet, Bruce Webb, Dan Williams, and the local CBC counters and compilers. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.