While January brought a bit more rain than December, the season continued to be remarkably dry, and numbers and diversity of wintering songbirds were lower than normal. The male Falcated Duck found at the Colusa NWR on 12/8 continued into February. Up to six Eurasian Wigeon were seen in the same pond. Four Eurasian Wigeon was a nice total on the 1/3 Rio Cosumnes CBC, and other notable reports were from the Lincoln WTP on 1/25 and the Ione WTP on 1/21, along with a female Barrow’s Goldeneye. An apparent male Gadwall x Mallard (“Brewer’s Duck”) was at Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP) on 1/3. Reports continued of the Brown Pelican first found in West Sacramento on 8/24.
Rare “Prairie” Merlins were reported more than usual, with the bird from Nader Ln north of Lincoln found again on 1/2, another photographed at Paradise Beach along the American River Parkway on 1/5, and a well-described male at the Orr portion of CRP on 1/13. Two Long-eared Owls were a nice surprise at CRP on 1/3-5. It has been a fairly good winter for Short-eared Owls locally, and spectacular in portions of the Bay Area. Near Vacaville, 15+ were seen in late January and closer to Sacramento, there was one at CRP on 1/12, three east of Yolo Grasslands Park on 1/23, and two at Stone Lakes NWR on 1/29 in the field south of Elk Grove Blvd between Franklin Blvd and I-5.
Three Semipalmated Plovers at the Woodland WTP on 1/26 were unexpected for January. The Mountain Plovers first found along Progress Rd north of Oswald Rd (west of the Sutter NWR) on 12/17 continued with 12 present on 1/7 and at least two remaining on 1/27. They have been scarce in Yolo County in recent years, so 14 near Rds 17 and 101 outside of Woodland on 1/7-9 were most welcome. A Ruff found on 1/3 and again on 1/12 was only the second for Consumnes River Preserve. Notable gull reports include a first cycle Vega Gull (Siberian Herring Gull) at the Yolo Landfill on 1/9, single adult Western Gulls at Ancil Hoffman (ARP) on 1/9 and the Davis Wetlands on 1/16, and first cycle Glaucous Gulls at the Yolo Landfill pond on 1/16 and east of Sutter NWR on 1/22; it was likely the same bird present at Sutter NWR on 1/27.
Ruff at CRP - photo by Ed Harper
Single Pacific-slope/”Western” Flycatchers were reported from Mather Lake on 1/1 and CRP on 1/15, and single Cassin’s Vireos at different sites of CRP were found on 1/15 and 1/16. While generally a poor winter for montane invaders like Golden-crowned Kinglets, two Brown Creepers were found at CRP on 1/3, and a single was found on 1/15. Out of range Harris’s Sparrows have been widely reported, and locally the north Davis bird continued through the month, and another was found along Desmond Rd at CRP on 1/23, also continuing into February. Other notables include three Northern Rough-winged Swallows at CRP on 1/13, with four on 1/14, twenty Mountain Bluebirds at Stone Lakes NWR on 1/4, an astounding flock of over two million European Starlings flying over CRP on 1/17, a Chipping Sparrow at CRP on 1/3, and a Western Tanager at East Lawn Cemetery (along with the continuing (possibly hybrid) Red-naped Sapsucker) on 1/8.
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 are included. 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: Chad Aakre, Roger Adamson, Dan Airola, Matt Brady, Terry Colborn, Chris Dunford, Todd Easterla, Maureen Geiger, Cory Gregory, Steve Hampton, Ed Harper, James Holmes, Scott Hoppe, Joanne Katanic, Dan Kopp, Jeri Langham, Jim Laughlin, Don Marsh, Mark Martucci, William Rockey, Dale Rubach, Zach Smith, Maryanne Steurer, John Sterling, Dan Tankersley, Beatrix Treiterer, John Trochet, and the local CBC counters and compilers. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.