November is typically one of the most pleasant times to be in the field in the Central Valley. This month stood out because of a ten-day period where it could be painful to breath as thousands of homes and many thousands more acres burned to our north in the state's most catastrophic wildfire. Yet the birds were there in the wetlands and forests and grasslands to be seen through the smoke or once it cleared. Blue-winged Teal continue to be reported in impressive numbers at Bridgeway Island Pond in West Sacramento, with 100+ regularly found, and with high single digits from many locations where one or two used to be a highlight.
A Pacific Loon on the Sacramento River in Old Sacramento near the Delta King on 11/7 was an excellent find for the Valley floor where records are few (https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49741313). Presumably the same adult Western Gull returned for at least its 10th winter along the American River near Effie Yeah Nature Center on 11/13. A Long-eared Owl was found in a closed portion of Cosumnes River Preserve (CRP) on 11/20 where this species has been found on occasion. The few late season empids included a Hammond's Flycatcher (https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49847447) on 11/10 at Fishing Access #1, west of Winters, and single Pacific-slope (or Western) Flycatchers at the Gristmill access to the American River Parkway on 11/2 and CRP on 11/3.
A Northern Shrike near Cruiser Haven Marina north of Discovery Bay from 11/1-10, a little outside of our typical area of coverage, seemed a harbinger of a good season for this species in the region (https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49612457). Another Northern Shrike was found near Yolo County Rds 25 and 103 on 11/15 and continued in the general area. A Cassin's Vireo was reported 11/2-6 at CRP, with another in Davis on 11/30. Two Steller's Jays were found at Fishing Access #1 on 11/6 through at least 11/10, and another was a bit of a surprise at Folsom Point on 11/13. The American Dipper first reported for the season on 10/26 continued at the traditional location below the Hwy 128 bridge in Putah Creek Canyon. Other interesting finds included a black-backed Lesser Goldfinch (a plumage typically found in the southeastern portion of their range) seen sporadically at a feeder in the River Park neighborhood of Sacramento, a Grasshopper Sparrow at CRP on 11/9, a Red Fox Sparrow at the Sacramento Bypass on 11/8, and a late Wilson's Warbler near the Tall Forest at CRP on 11/11.
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: Julie Bryson, Lily Douglas, Chris Dunford, Andy Engilis, Gil Ewing, Stephen Fettig, Robert Furrow, Maureen Geiger, Steve Hampton, Ed Harper, Joan Humphrey, Emmett Iverson, Dan Kopp, Jeri Langham, Jose Martinez, Mark Martucci, Dan Murphy, Michael Perrone, Mark Sawyer, Steve Scott, Shannon Skalos, John Sterling, Kirk Swenson, John Trochet, Sally Walters, and Dan Williams. Thanks to everyone for their reports—without them, this column would not be possible.