With only one day of rain (0.36"), this December was consistent with what has been the driest year on record. What little water was available still held some highlights, including six Trumpeter Swans at Lagoon Valley in Solano County. They were tentatively identified on 12/22, and with solid confirmation by 12/24, they were seen by many into January. A dozen Hooded Mergansers found along the American River Parkway (ARP), where only recently quite rare, between Howe and Watt on 12/7 is further illustration of this species' expansion in the region. The "boat crew" on Lake Berryessa found four Pacific Loons on the 12/15 Putah Creek CBC, and a single Pacific Loon was reported off Beal's Point, Folsom Lake, on the 12/29 Folsom CBC. Unlike some recent winters, Rough-legged Hawk reports came in from many locations in the region. Golden-crowned Kinglets and Varied Thushes were widely reported, but Red-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creepers, and Pine Siskins were absent or nearly so.
Shorebird highlights included a Semipalmated Plover that continued through the month at the Farmers Central Rd Pond along Yolo County Rd 102 (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S15886778) and Western Sandpipers, rare in winter, were present with up to five at the previous location, up to 22 at the Woodland WTP, with a single at Cosumnes River Preserve on 12/1, and two on the 12/30 Lincoln CBC. A Glaucous Gull at the Yolo County Landfill on 12/2 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/7202050@N04/11177491343/in/photostream/) continued through much of the month along with a second-cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull at the same location from 12/7-10.
A Long-eared Owl was reported on Quail Ridge during the 12/15 Putah Creek CBC. A male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was a rare report for the region from Paradise Beach (ARP) on 12/7 and two Red-naped Sapsuckers were reported on the 12/15 Putah Creek CBC. Another Red-naped Sapsucker was reported on 12/15 at McBean Park in Lincoln. It was refound on 12/30, and photos may show some out of place red feathering indicative of some Red-breasted Sapsucker ancestry; prior to 1985 these three species were considered one, and there is considerable interbreeding at the contact zones. A Hairy Woodpecker was reported at Upper Lake Natoma, off of Young Wo Circle, on the 12/29 Folsom CBC.
Out of season flycatchers included a "Western" Flycatcher (probably Pacific-slope) at Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP) on 12/1 and a very rare wintering Ash-throated Flycatcher in Antelope from 12/5-17. A Northern Shrike was a nice find along William Lane (a dirt road west of Dowd Rd, south of Nicolaus Rd) in Placer County on 12/30. Other interesting reports include a Plumbeous Vireo along Old River Rd in Yolo County on the 12/22 Sacramento CBC, a Steller's Jay near Brown's Ravine, Folsom Lake, on 12/29, a (eastern) Winter Wren reported on the 12/15 Putah Creek CBC (a state review species), and a Townsend's Solitaire along Babel Slough Rd from 12/11-23. A Red Fox Sparrow was reported from CRP on 12/1 and at least three different Red Fox Sparrows were reported on the 12/7 ARNHA count. More surprising was a Thick-billed Fox Sparrow along Blue Ridge Rd near Mt. Vaca on the 12/15 Putah Creek CBC, and a Swamp Sparrow was reported on 12/28 at Lagoon Valley. Five Lawrence's Golfinches, rare in winter, were reported both on the east side of the Foresthill Bridge near Auburn on 12/14 and from Sweetwater Creek on 12/29.
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: Dan Airola, David Diller, Chris Dunford, Andy Engilis, Gil Ewing, Claire Gallagher, Frank Gray, Steve Hampton, Cliff Hawley, Dan Kopp, Jeri Langham, John Luther, Dick Norton, Frances Oliver, Ed Pandolfino, William Rockey, Deren Ross, Jim Rowoth, John Sterling, John Trochet, Dan Williams, and Bruce Webb. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.