For many, April through May is the highlight of the birding year. Common Western songbird passage peaks from mid-April to mid-May, though the end of May into early June is a good time to look for Eastern vagrants. Shorebirds tend to peak earlier, with the bulk of the birds having moved on by the second week of May. In addition to the expected species, there were a few surprises this season. A Black-and-white Warbler was found along Putah Creek near Stevenson's Bridge on 4/17. Another Black-and-white Warbler was seen on 5/24 along with a "fall out" of common Western species at the UC Davis Riparian Reserve. On 5/16, a gorgeous singing male Hooded Warbler spent the day at the Gristmill Rec. Area of the American River Parkway (ARP).
Additional highlights for the period included a Red-necked Grebe in breeding plumage at the Lincoln WTP on 5/5 and a breeding plumage Franklin's Gull photographed on 4/5 at the Davis Wetlands. A Snowy Plover at Beal AFB on 4/29 was a first for Yuba County and a Red Knot in breeding plumage near Dingville (south of Yuba City) on 5/13 was an excellent find. A Solitary Sandpiper was found on 4/3 at Sailor Bar, ARP, in addition to one at Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP) on 4/12, and another at North Davis Farms on 5/8. On 4/18 at CRP, a Willet and four Short-billed Dowitchers were reported. Twenty-four Marbled Godwits at Yolo Wildlife Area (YWA) on 5/1 was the high count for the spring.
It was an excellent spring for Gray Flycatchers, with two from Davis, and single birds from Sacramento, CRP, and ARP between 4/19 and 5/3. At least five were found in the Auburn State Rec. Area on 4/29. To the south of our typical area of coverage came a report of 62 Gray Flycatchers in the foothills of Madera County on 4/25. Typically thought of as a rare spring migrant west of the Sierra crest, this is an outstanding report. A Dusky Flycatcher was reported at North Davis Farms on 4/14. On 4/27, two Hammond's Flycatchers and one Dusky Flycatcher were found at CRP.
The Green-tailed Towhee first found on 11/25 in a Rancho Cordova backyard continued through at least 5/9. Another Green-tailed Towhee was seen in a Carmichael yard on 4/18. On 4/26, a Brewer's Sparrow was found north of the Cosumnes River on Michigan Bar Rd. On 4/27, two Grasshopper Sparrows were reported along Meiss Rd. A Harris's Sparrow was found on private property along the Mokelumne River near Lodi on 4/29. A very late Golden-crowned Sparrow was at the Sacramento County Bufferlands on 5/27.
Other interesting reports included two Brown Creepers taking food to a nest along Putah Creek in Solano County on 5/18, a Calliope Hummingbird in Olivehurst on 4/21, another along Putah Creek on 4/24, and a Sage Thrasher on 5/14 along Thornton Rd to the south of the Lodi WTP. There was an amazing report of over 300 Swainson's Hawks south of Tracy along I-5 on 5/29. A very late (possibly injured) Rough-legged Hawk was found in Placer County near Dowd and Waltz Rds from 4/24 through at least 4/26. A report of 70 Common Yellowthroats at CRP on 4/12 was impressive. A Hooded Merganser with 11-12 young was reported on 5/5 from Sun City Lincoln Hills where this species has now bred for several years.
Many of these reports first appeared on the Central Valley Bird Club Listserv. Visit www.cvbirds.org and click "Listserv" for details. With over 150 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: Ryan Abe, Steve Abbott, Roger Adamson, Dan Brown, Subhash Chand, Todd Easterla, Andy Engilis, Irene Engilis, Gil Ewing, Tim Fitzer, Maureen Geiger, Steve Hampton, Ed Harper, Scott Hoppe, David Johnson, Jon Katz, Dan Kopp, Manfred Kusch, Jeri Langham, Jim Laughlin, Cin-Ty Lee, Tim Manolis, Ed Pandolfino, Andy Pfeffer, Deren Ross, Kathryn Sanderson, Mary Schiedt, John Sterling, John Trochet, Charley Walker, Dee Warenycia, Brian Williams, and Dan Williams. Thanks to everyone for their reportsówithout them, this column would not be possible.