March gives us the first taste of spring, with some of the early-arriving Neotropical migrants in place before month's end. All of the regularly occurring swallows, includingPurple Martins, arrived by mid-month and were scouting or building nests. The first Western Kingbird was reported on 3/16, and Bullock's Orioles arrived a week later. Lingering from February, a Red-necked Grebe continued at Lagoon Valley into April. Three Ferruginous Hawks continued near Plainfield Elementary School through 3/16. Interesting shorebird reports included a Pacific Golden-Plover (https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43392148) throughout much of the month at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, and a Ruff was at the same location on 3/10. Most surprising was a Baird's Sandpiper at the Woodland WTP (https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43873234) on 3/22-23, one of very few spring records and apparently the earliest by far.
Early March produced several reports of a calling Long-eared Owl about a mile and a half up Rd 53 from Guinda in the Capay Valley. A "group" of Long-eared Owls spent the winter in an olive orchard along Putah Creek downstream of Winters. The status of this secretive species in our area is poorly understood. On 3/23, an impressive six Northern Pygmy-Owls were detected calling in Bray Canyon at Bobcat Ranch, on the north side of Hwy 128 and the Putah Creek Canyon.
A Cassin's Vireo was found at Bray Canyon on 3/23, and photos are still being evaluated of a "Solitary Vireo" reported as a Plumbeous Vireo on 3/31 along Arcade Creek near American River College. On 3/11, a pile of feathers was all that remained of the Sage thrasher first found on 2/8 in a Davis yard, illustrating the vulnerability of out-of-range birds, if not all birds. The Northern Waterthrush continued along Putah Creek near the Hwy 128 bridge through at least 3/8, and the Palm Warbler first found at the Woodland WTP on 11/24 was reported through 3/21. A male Lawrence's Goldfinch visiting a Natomas feeder on 3/10 was a nice find for the Valley floor, away from typical breeding locations in the low foothills.
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 (ebird.org). It is impossible to list everyone, but I want to thank the following for their reports: Roger Adamson, Keith Bailey, Holly Coates, Lily Douglas, Gil Ewing, Frank Fogarty, Kevn Guse, Steve Hampton, James Holmes, Joan Humphrey, Dan Kopp, Manfred Kusch, Jeri Langham, Tim Ludwick, Mark Martucci, Michael Perrone, Steve Scott, John Sterling, Kirk Swenson, and John Trochet. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.