After two years of severe drought, this winter, while not a particularly wet one so far, feels far more typical for the season. Last winter’s invasions of Band-tailed Pigeons and Steller’s Jays were not repeated, but winter finches flocked the Valley in good numbers. In early December, high numbers ofBlue-winged Teal were reported at the Bridgeway Island Pond in West Sacramento, with the highest being an astounding, carefully counted 120 on 12/6. High numbers of Ring-necked Duckswere found at the Woodland WTP, with up to 2,000 present, and a Red-breasted Merganser was a rare find for the Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP) on 12/2.
A Black Rail was seen from the Lost Slough Boardwalk at CRP on 12/17. Given the calling birds at Stone Lakes and CRP last spring, it is tempting to think this species is getting more regular in our area. Two Pacific Golden-Plovers continued at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (YBWA) from last month, with one to two reported through 12/6 (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26124555). A Marbled Godwit was found at Staten Island on 12/20. A cooperativeNorthern Pygmy-Owl was at the Cache Creek Campground on 12/5 (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26149115), while the only Short-eared Owls reported were up to two in the ag fields northeast of Davis on 12/27, continuing into January. A Red-naped Sapsucker was photographed on 12/23 in the Putah Creek Canyon near the Canyon Creek Resort (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26427680).
A Cassin’s Vireo was a nice find on 12/2 at CRP in the riparian corridor adjacent to the Lost Slough wetlands. A Black-and-white Warbler was found on the 12/20 Stockton CBC and continued through 12/26. Four Thick-billed Fox Sparrows were found above Mix Canyon on 12/20, where seldom reported but likely regular, and two Swamp Sparrows were reported on 12/27 from the YBWA.
The few Red Crossbill reports last month grew by early December, and continued into January. Reports came from the Colusa-Sacramento River State Park in Colusa from 11/29-12/9 and the steady stream of reports in Sacramento came first from near the Guy West Bridge on the 12/5 ARNHA Count, continuing there for several days. Reports from the City Cemetery on 12/8 continued unabated into January, with highs topping 40 individuals (http://ebird.org/ebird/ca/view/checklist?subID=S26353557). Red Crossbills were also found at the Sutter Cemetery from 12/29 into January. All of the crossbills reported in the Central Valley this month appeared to be type-3 (western hemlock) birds. A male Lawrence’s Goldfinch visiting a feeder in Davis on 12/8 was a nice surprise. Evening Grosbeaks were also reported from several locations, but were not nearly so common as the crossbills. Reports came from Rumsey Canyon Rd on 12/5 (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26150119), the Sacramento City Cemetery on 12/8-9, and calling flyovers in Davis throughout the month, with one seen well on 12/24.
The Sacramento Area is roughly defined as lying between Hwy20 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: Keith Bailey, Lily Douglas, Todd Easterla, Bob Ellis, Gil Ewing, Bob Greenleaf, Steve Hampton, Ed Harper, Cliff Hawley, James Holmes, Stanton Hunter, Joanne Katanic, Dan Kopp, Jeri Langham, John Luther, Mary Muchowski, Frances Oliver, Ed Pandolfino, Michael Perrone, Linda Pittman, Jim Rowoth, Mark Sawyer, Ken Schneider, John Sterling, Kirk Swenson, Craig Swolgaard, John Trochet, Deb Weston, Mara Weston, and Rick Williams. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.