Each March when the spring-like weather arrives, there's a sense of anticipation—if not impatience—for the spring migrants to appear. We search in vain through flocks of singing and brightly colored Yellow-rumped Warblers for the first of the Neotropical migrants, but it is not until April that good numbers of migrants move through the area. For the time we must be satisfied with Western Kingbirds and Bullock's Orioles, which arrive in the second half of March. Yet, nearly every month there is a surprise or two. For the third year in a row, a gorgeous male Summer Tanager was found in March in El Dorado Hills along New York Creek. This year, it was first reported on 3/15 and continued for at least 10 days. The first Pacific-slope Flycatcher of the season was reported from that location on 3/25. A singing male Western Tanager in fine plumage was a bit early (or perhaps it wintered) on 3/27 at CSU, Sacramento. Similarly, a Hermit Warbler found on 3/29 was either an early migrant or had spent the winter in the Campus Commons neighborhood across the AmericanRiver from the CSU.
The two Ruff (a male and a female), first found at the Yolo Wildlife Area (YWA) on 2/27, continued through at least 3/17—though both were not always found throughout the period. A Marbled Godwit was found there on 3/15. An adult Western Gull and two Glaucous Gulls (one adult and one first cycle) were found on 3/4 at the Davis Wetlands. A Horned Grebe was also present. This species is rare in our area away from reservoirs in the foothills. The fortunate observer will spot them coming into breeding plumage just before they leave our area. On 3/31, three Horned Grebes were reported in breeding plumage at LakeNatoma.
Other interesting reports include at least one Northern Saw-whet Owl found on private land at RyerIsland for the second year in a row. This year one was first reported on 2/18 and it continued through at least 3/13. On 3/29, a Vaux's Swift and a Bank Swallow at Cosumnes River Preserve accounted for the first reports of the season for our area. The first Purple Martins in Sacramento were reported on 3/10. After a good season for Rough-legged Hawks in our area, the last bird was reported at YWA on 3/20 and 3/27. Another fairly late Rough-legged Hawk was found at LynchCanyon in SolanoCounty on 3/22. An adult Mew Gull was found at the Ione Sewage Ponds on 3/2. It continued through at least 3/4. Possibly the same bird was found at LakeComanche on 3/5 in addition to a Red-throated Loon.
Many of these reports first appeared on the Central Valley Bird Club Listserv. Visit www.cvbirds.org and click "Listserv" for details. With over 100 reports, it is impossible to list everyone; however, I want to thank the following for reports on the above species and for providing additional information: Steve Abbott, Roger Adamson, Dan Brown, Paul Buchanan, Subhash Chand, Todd Easterla, Andy Engilis, Gil Ewing, Maureen Geiger, Steve Hampton, Ed Harper, Cliff Hawley, Scott Hoppe, David Johnson, Dan Kopp, Jeri Langham, Robin Leong, John Luther, Karla Meadows, Ed Pandolfino, Deren Ross, Mary Schiedt, John Sterling, Dan Tankersley, John Trochet and Liz West. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.