After the fires of last month, rains came and this December might be called fairly typical in the Sacramento area, but there are always a few surprises. The highest total of Blue-winged Teal at Bridgeway Island Pond in West Sacramento this month was a careful count of 250. A cooperative male White-winged Scoter (https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50870896) first found on 12/13 along the American River near the Nimbus Hatchery was seen by many into January along with reports of nearly 60 Barrow's Goldeneyes. A Pacific Loon (https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S51833381) was a nice find on Folsom Lake near Folsom Point on 12/22, continuing into January.
After years of alarming declines, Mountain Plovers appear to be absent this season from their typical haunts in Solano County south of Dixon. It was a pleasant surprise to find up to reported 58 along Hwy 45 in Yolo County, just south of the Colusa County line (https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S51301950), from 12/30 into early January. A Lesser Black-backed Gull was found at the Yolo County Central Landfill pond along County Rd 28H from 12/26 into January. A winter roost of about ten Long-eared Owls at a closed portion of Cosumnes River Preserve was found on 12/29 and continued into January, and a male Costa's Hummingbird was reported on the ARNHA Wildlife Count at Paradise Beach on 12/1. Lewis's Woodpeckers have been extremely scarce in their typical locations in eastern Sacramento County, but dozens were reported in the Dunnigan Hills in northern Yolo County. A Greater Roadrunner was found in the Dunnigan Hills on 12/1, and another was reported from ag lands west of Arbuckle along Lodi Rd on 12/2.
There were seemingly unprecedented numbers of Northern Shrike reports throughout the area this season. The bird found near Yolo County Rds 25 and 103 on 11/15 continued in the general area through at least 12/20, with likely a second bird in the area based on plumage. Other Northern Shrike (https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50423124) reports came from near Plainfield Elementary on 12/1, a closed construction zone at the Sacramento Regional WTP from 12/4-11, and the Peninsula portion of Folsom Lake SRA on 12/30. A Brown Thrasher was an excellent find along Woodbridge Rd near the Ecological Reserve from 12/1 through at least 12/18. Additional interesting reports include a Pacific-slope (or Western) Flycatcher found along Putah Creek downstream of Pedrick Rd on 12/28, a Steller's Jay at Ancil Hoffman Park on 12/7, a Clay-colored Sparrow southeast of Winters on Gaddini Rd in Solano County on 12/17, and a Yellow Warbler, very rare in December, was found by an experienced observer in a Rosemont yard on 12/15. And finally, a Lapland Longspur was reported among an impressive flock of over 1,000 Horned Larks on 12/20 along Yolo County Rd 103 near Rd 27.
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 in eBird (ebird.org). It is impossible to list everyone, but I want to thank the following for their reports: Dan Airola, Stuart Angerer, Keith Bailey, Max Brodie, Dan Brown, Leo Edson, Gil Ewing, Stephen Fettig, Robert Furrow, Steve Hampton, Jim Holmes, Dan Kopp, Jeri Langham, Sami LaRocca, Andrew Lee, Mark Martucci, Michael Perrone, Steve Scott, John Sterling, Michele Swartout, Kirk Swenson, John Trochet, and Dan Williams. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.