Brown Pelicans were found in unprecedented numbers in the Sacramento area this summer. In addition to the individual that has been in West Sacramento since 8/24/11, two others were at the Port of Sacramento on 7/14. On 7/6, two Brown Pelicans flew over Rd 103 and were later found at the Yolo Landfill on Rd 28H. One was found at the Yolo Wildlife Area (YWA) on 7/15 and 7/21. At Sherman Lake Marina in southwestern Sacramento County, one was found on 7/8 and continued in the vicinity, with sporadic reports along W Sherman Island Rd through the end of the month. Aside from the continuing bird in West Sacramento, all of the Brown Pelicans reported have been hatch-year birds. Prior to 2004 there was only one record for Sacramento County—the first, in 1976, was only the second for the entire Central Valley!—and the first Yolo County record wasn’t discovered until 2008. The recent influx is likely due to a combination of a high population that rebounded since the banning of DDT and periodic shortages of anchovy and sardine schools close to shore, such as have been reported this year. The inexperienced juveniles of this almost exclusively coastal species are far more likely to turn up inland looking for food than are adults.
Out of season Horned Grebes were found at the Davis Wetlands on 6/3-10 and at Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP) on 6/10. Both birds appeared to be molting out of breeding plumage. A Least Bittern was detected at Mather Lake from 7/4 into August. Two Willets were found in rice fields at CRP on 6/27. Two Marbled Godwits were along E Levee Rd in Natomas on 7/1 and another two were at CRP along Desmond Rd on 7/13; up to 50 were found in Yolo County on 7/21 (29 at YWA and 21 at the Yolo Landfill Pond), where they are far more regular. A juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper was found at the Woodland WTP on 7/29. On 6/22 there were 800 California Gulls and a first-cycle Glaucous-winged Gull at the Davis WTP. A near-adult Herring Gull summered nearby. One to two Western Gulls were reported at Sherman Island from 7/8 onwards. Least Terns nested for the fifth straight year at the Sacramento Reg. WTP, but failed to fledge young. Two chicks were detected on 7/19, but only one was seen on 7/22, and after 7/24 there were no additional sightings. The adults continued at the site into August. A single adult was seen along E Levee Rd in Natomas on 7/4.
Two adult male Allen’s Hummingbirds were captured and banded along Putah Creek upstream of Davis on 6/28. This species has proven to be rare but regular, though very difficult and often impossible to separate from the much more common Rufous Hummingbird. An immature male Calliope Hummingbird was found in Fair Oaks on 7/31. A Gray Catbird was found singing in Solano County along Putah Creek between Davis and Winters on 6/19. A very ratty hatch-year Northern Parula was found near the Tall Forest at CRP on 7/21, leading to speculation about the origin of this bird; was there a nest nearby? A Northern Waterthrush was found in Colusa County on 6/7 along Sand Creek Rd. Breeding by Lazuli Buntings was confirmed at CRP and the Sacramento Co. Bufferlands, where they only breed sporadically, and Dark-eyed Juncos were detected breeding in at least two sites at CRP, as they have since first detected in 2000.
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: Dan Airola, Gil Ewing, Brandi Gartland, Maureen Geiger, Cory Gregory, Steve Hampton, Ed Harper, Dan Kopp, Manfred Kusch, Jeri Langham, Phil Lutz, Linda Pittman, Dennis Pleau, Jim Rowoth, John Sterling, John Trochet, Magill Weber, Dan Welsh, and Ed Whisler. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.