First things first: rain on 1/29 ended a record 52-day stretch without any precipitation, an unprecedented dry spell for mid-winter, and summer-brown fields persisted into February. The six Trumpeter Swans at Lagoon Valley in Solano County continued through at least 1/2, with some sightings at a nearby pond adjacent to Travis Air Force Base. Impressive high counts in Yolo County of 28 Blue-winged Teal came from Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area on 1/5, and a spectacular 56 were seen at Bridgeway Island Pond in West Sacramento on 1/14 (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S16381452). The species has never been so numerous in Sacramento County, so while only a single Blue-winged Teal was found along E Levee Rd in Natomas, two to three Eurasian Wigeons were notable there among the numerous American Wigeons (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S16481720). One of the most impressive observations in recent years was a communal night roost of up to nearly 150 Northern Harriers along Yolo County Rd 30 east of Rd 105. These birds continued into February and were seen interacting with up to four Short-eared Owls. As dusk approached, the owls attempted to forage in the field while harriers were streaming in from all directions. A dark morph Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk was found at Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP) from 1/17-18.
A Semipalmated Plover continued through at least 1/7 at the Farmers Central Rd Pond along Yolo County Rd 102 for a very rare January record. Western Gulls are rare in the Sacramento area away from Sherman Island, so notable reports this month included a first-cycle bird at the Nimbus Hatchery on 1/12, an adult along the American River Parkway at Ancil Hoffman Park on 1/24, and an adult near the Tower Bridge along the Sacramento River on 1/31. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was found at the Yolo County Landfill on 1/7 and 1/14, and a second-cycle Glaucous Gull was reported from the same location on 1/8. On 1/19 at the Davis WTP, a first-cycleGlaucous Gull was reported along with an adult "Kumlien’s Gull" at the Davis WTP (Kumlien's is currently considered a subspecies of Iceland Gull, a state review species, but thought by many to be on a continuum between Iceland Gull andThayer’s Gull).
This Costa's Hummingbird spent its first winter along Putah Creek upstream of Davis and molted into this gorgeous male during its stay. Photo by Manfred Kusch.
A wintering bird originally identified as a hatch-year Black-chinned Hummingbird, a species perhaps undocumented in the region in winter, molted into a distinctive maleCosta’s Hummingbird by the end of the month along Putah Creek upstream of Davis. Songbird highlights included a “Solitary Vireo” (likely Cassin’s or Plumbeous) singing at Lake Solano on 1/12, a Townsend’s Solitaire at upper Lake Natoma near the Young Wo Circle access on 1/23, a Sage Thrasher at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area on 1/18, the continuing Harris’s Sparrow in north Davis off of Cortez Ave, here for its third winter, and the Swamp Sparrow first reported from Lagoon Valley on 12/28 continued through at least 1/1. Another Swamp Sparrow was found along Putah Creek downstream of the Pedrick Rd Bridge from 1/16 through the end of the month, and a Gray-headed (Dark-eyed) Junco was an extremely rare report from the Orr Forest portion of CRP on 1/1.
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, Terry Colborn, Chris Dunford, Gil Ewing, Kevin Guse, Steve Hampton, Ed Harper, Dan Kopp, Manfred Kusch, Jeri Langham, Shawn Lockwood, John Luther, Tristan McKee, Frances Oliver, William Rockey, Deren Ross, Jim Rowoth, John Sterling, Ron Storey, Craig Swolgaard, John Trochet, Charley Walker, Dan Williams, and Bruce Webb. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.