Spring-like and mostly dry weather characterized the period, exacerbating the regional drought, and appeared to cause several unusually early arrivals of Neotropical migrants. Perhaps the bird of the month was a Black Rail found at the Stone Lakes NWR Blue Heron Trails on 3/11, a fairly new managed emergent marsh wetland. As remarkable as the find was, it is equally remarkable that this secretive species was refound numerous times through 3/27, prompting one to wonder just how many individual Black Rails were involved. Movements between coastal/Delta populations and those in the Sierra foothills are not well understood or documented. Was this bird (or birds) moving to or from the foothills or looking for new breeding sites? A calling Least Bittern was reported from the same location starting on 3/11 and continued into April.
Notable waterfowl included a Redhead at Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP) from 3/4-6 and four Surf Scoters on the San Joaquin River from Staten Island on 3/1. While Rough-legged Hawks were difficult to find this season, one was found on private land beyond the end of Payen Rd on 3/15-24. Single Pacific Golden-Plovers were reported at the Lodi Sewer Ponds on 3/12 and Colusa NWR on 3/29. A Marbled Godwit was found at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area on 3/24-26, and two were found along Abel Rd between Williams and the Colusa NWR on 3/30-31. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was a nice surprise near the Granite Bay Boat Ramp of Folsom Lake on 3/12.
An early calling Common Poorwill along the lower portion of Latrobe Rd in Sacramento County was reported on 3/1. There were few reports of Short-eared Owls this winter, so one to two at Sherman Island on 3/1, and one on Waltz Rd in Lincoln on 3/4 are worth mentioning. A male Calliope Hummingbird visiting a feeder was photographed in Fair Oaks on 3/31, and the male and female Hairy Woodpeckers along Lake Natoma, downstream of Young Wo Circle, continued through at least 3/19.
One of the most intriguing reports of the month was an Ash-throated Flycatcher at River Bend Park along the American River Parkway, nearly a month early, on 3/3; a bird on 3/25 from the Tall Forest at CRP would be considered quite early in a typical year. A Warbling Vireo on 3/29 at CRP was the first report for the season. Steller’s Jay reports continued to be widespread, including two in the town of Sutter on 3/9. A Townsend’s Solitaire was reported near the Nimbus Hatchery on 3/16, and a Wilson’s Warbler at CRP on 3/28 was on the early side. Two Brewer’s Sparrows were found on Meiss Rd on 3/29 ( https://www.flickr.com/photos/126979736@N02/17192374556/). An interesting bird that looked remarkably like a Clay-colored Sparrow was found nearby (https://www.flickr.com/photos/123247913@N05/17083812531/in/photostream/), but most who looked at the photos believe it is a boldly marked Brewer’s Sparrow. A Thick-billed Fox Sparrow at Grasslands Regional Park in Yolo County from 3/5-19 was unusual for the Valley floor. An early Bullock’s Oriole was found at Michigan Bar on 3/15, and a female Evening Grosbeak was heard and then seen in Carmichael on 3/12.
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 in eBird. It is impossible to list everyone, but I want to thank the following for their reports: Keith Bailey, Bruce Deuel, Leo Edson, Gil Ewing, Tim Fitzer, Steve Hampton, Cliff Hawley, Stanton Hunter, Logan Kahle, Afton Kern, Dan Kopp, Manfred Kusch, Jeri Langham, John Luther, Frances Oliver, Ron Pozzi, Jim Rowoth, Mark Sawyer, John Sterling, John Trochet, Amy and Daniel Welsh, and Dan Williams. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.