Nearly six inches of rain fell on Sacramento (170% of average), so it’s appropriate that many of the interesting records were waterfowl. Last winter’s Falcated Duck returned to the Colusa NWR on 12/2, but was last reported there on 12/19; it was apparently at the Sacramento NWR on 12/30. A male Surf Scoter was on the San Joaquin River near Sherman Island on 12/1. A female Long-tailed Duck was at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (YBWA) on 12/14-15. Female Red-breasted Merganserswere found among large flocks of Common Mergansers at Laguna West on 12/24 and Greenhaven Lake on 12/30, with at least one of the latter continuing into January, along with up to 1,200 Common Mergansers.
The Red-throated Loonnear Beal’s Point since October continued into January. Rare away from large reservoirs, three Horned Grebes were at the Lincoln WTP from 12/4-27, and one was in Sutter County at Marcum Rd and Hwy 70 from 12/23 into January. The hatch-year Brown Pelican at Riverlake in the Pocket Area of South Sacramento continued through at least 12/12. A Rough-legged Hawk was just east of Rancho Seco on Hwy 104 on 12/7, and four were south of Payen Road on 12/30.
A Pacific Golden-Plover was along Rd 104, near the Yolo Landfill, on 12/25--perhaps the same bird found on the 12/23 Sacramento CBC. Mountain Plovers were regularly reported from Robinson Rd south of Dixon, with a high of 90. Two Marbled Godwits were found on the 12/23 Sacramento CBC, and a Wilson’s Phalarope, very rare in winter, was on private land during the 12/16 Putah Creek CBC. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was near the Yolo Landfill on 12/8 and continued throughout the month; another was at Beal’s Point, Folsom Lake, on 12/28. One-two Glaucous Gulls were near the Yolo Landfill throughout the month.
A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was found along Quail Canyon Rd, off Pleasants Valley Rd, on 12/16. A Western Kingbird along Yolo Rd 105 near Rd 30 on 12/7 had apparently been seen there for a few days. A juvenile Northern Shrikewas found in Sutter County off Pacific Ave near Striplin Rd on 12/27, with sporadic reports into the new year. The Winter Wren near Lake Solano and Las Positas Rd continued into January. A Grasshopper Sparrow, rare in winter, was found at the top of Las Positas Rd on 12/16, and a Red Fox Sparrow was nearby at Fishing Access #3 on the same date. The north Davis Harris’s Sparrowcontinued into January, and another was found in Fairfield on 12/17, near Business Center Dr and Green Valley Rd, also continuing into the new year.
One of the year’s highlights was a male Common Redpoll coming to a feeder on 12/31. Just the fourth Central Valley record, it was seen by many for one more day before moving on- see photos below. Pine Siskins were widely reported in high numbers. Red Crossbills were found at the Gristmill access of ARP on 12/1, with three at Upper Sunrise (ARP) on 12/30, and a high of seven at the Odd Fellows/Old City Cemetery from 12/10 into January. Evening Grosbeak reports continued from last month, with one at the Sacramento City Cemetery on 12/8, two in Davis on 12/9, 12 in Folsom on 12/12, and 15 in Folsom on 12/16.
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 eBird. It is impossible to list everyone, but I want to thank the following for their reports: Steve Abbott, Ben Abramowitz, Dan Airola, Mark Cudney, Al DeMartini, Chris Dunford, Jon Dunn, Todd Easterla, Leo Edson, Tim Fitzer, Claire Gallagher, Cory Gregory, Kevin Guse, Steve Hampton, Ed Harper, Cliff Hawley, Dan Kopp, Jeri Langham, Jim Laughlin, Don Marsh, Ed Pandolfino, Linda Pittman, Jim Rowoth, Don Schmoldt, Ken Schneider, Susan Schneider, John Sterling, Michael Strom, Dan Tankersley, John Trochet, Bobby Walsh, Bruce Webb, Ed Whisler, and John York. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.
Photos of Common Redpoll by John York, 31 Dec 2012. Birds of the far north are often very tame and this bird perched on Todd Easterla's head as he was trying to photograph it at John York's backyard feeder west of Lincoln.