A winter season that began with a very wet December transitioned into the driest January and February on record. Impressive waterfowl reports included at least 30,000 geese at Cosumnes River Preserve. Large numbers of Greater White-fronted Geese and, more recently, Snow Geese were not regular at this site less than ten years ago. Five Eurasian Wigeons were unusual for the Ione WTP on 2/17, and one was not too far away along Hwy 104 in Sacramento County, just west of the Amador County line on 2/5. A male Eurasian Green-winged Teal was reported at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (YBWA) on 2/27. More than 200 Greater Scaup on the San Joaquin River near Sherman Island on 2/2 are notable because these Delta waters are the only place this species regularly occurs in the Sacramento area. Up to three Red-breasted Mergansers were found on Lake Camanche, with the first detected on 2/8; aPacific Loon and at least four Common Loons were also found there on 2/8. The continuing Red-throated Loon was on Folsom Lake near the Dam through at least 2/3, and the Pacific Loon on Lake Natoma continued through at least 2/5.
The first Swainson’s Hawk reported in the area was near Dixon on 2/13, but sightings did not become regular in the Sacramento area until a month later. Perhaps owing to the dry conditions, there was a surprising absence of large flocks of Black-bellied Plovers this month and last. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was found at the Woodbridge Rd Crane Reserve on 2/22-24. An adult Western Gull was found at Ancil Hoffman Park along the American River Parkway (ARP) on 2/3-6. This species is regular at Sherman Island, where there were several reports, and somewhat regular at the Yolo Landfill and Davis WTP, where both an adult and a 1st cycle were found sporadically throughout the month. A 1st cycle Glaucous Gull was at the YBWA on 2/16, and there were several reports at and around the Davis WTP. A Common Poorwill was an interesting winter find along Fremont Mine Rd near Amador City on 2/26. A Red-naped Sapsucker found along Hwy 128 from 2/13-20, just east of the Hwy 128 bridge below Monticello Dam, was an exceptionally long-overdue first county record for Yolo (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S13125274
Among the notable songbird reports was a Mountain Chickadee in Sacramento near W and 22nd Streets on 2/12. Other birds of interest include the Winter Wren near Lake Solano continuing through at least 2/18, a Townsend’s Solitaire(http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S12816934) near the Gristmill Access to the ARP from 2/2-13, the continuing Sage Thrasher NE of Ione on Tonzi Rd through at least 2/8, a Palm Warbler (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S13321020)south of Rio Vista at Sandy Beach Park from 2/22 into March, the continuing Harris’s Sparrow in N Davis into March, and four Red Crossbills at Ancil Hoffman Park on 2/28.
An excellent set of winter bird photos by Manfred Kusch is here:
Townsend's Solitaire near the Gristmill access to Am. River Pkwy, 3 Feb '13. Photo by Chris Conard.
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: Jan Allen, Chris Dunford, Todd Easterla, Gil Ewing, Nancy Gronert, Steve Hampton, Ed Harper, Cliff Hawley, Karen Kienitz, Dan Kopp, Jeri Langham, John Luther, Don Marsh, Frances Oliver, Ed Pandolfino, Michael Perrone, Linda Pittman, Jim Rowoth, Dan Sandri, John Sterling, Tim Steurer, John Trochet, Dan Williams, and David Yee. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.