October represents a period of transition, with the long, exciting season of post-breeding migrant songbirds and shorebirds tapering off by mid-month, and the full compliment of wintering species in place by month's end, signaled by the arrival of Tundra Swans and Snow Geese. Numbers continue to build into November, but nearly all of the regulars are in place by late October. This October was characterized by dry, sunny days, and periods of high winds, driving devastating fires elsewhere in the state in a pattern that is becoming too familiar.
There were no obvious avian patterns, but rather a grab bag of interesting reports. A Stilt Sandpiper at the Woodland WTP from 10/13-16 (https://ebird.org/checklist/S60597680) was a nice surprise, and perhaps the same bird was found at the Davis WTP on 10/20. A Black Rail was reported at the Yolo Bypass on 10/28. Common Poorwills turn up in low numbers in the flats of the Valley post-breeding, and this month there were singles found at the Sacramento Bypass on 10/8, Mace Rd at Putah Creek on 10/15, and Latrobe Rd on 10/28. More unexpected was a Northern Saw-whet Owl (https://ebird.org/checklist/S60707322) roosting at Slide Hill Park in Davis on 10/17; it is unclear how common these inconspicuous little owls are in migration and winter, though they are always a treat to encounter.
Just north of the area typically covered here, the male Vermilion Flycatcher returned to the Maxwell Cemetery for the fifth straight year, as reported on 10/19. An immature male Vermilion Flycatcher was found at Tanzanite Park in Natomas on 10/30 (https://ebird.org/checklist/S61077651). It continued through press time, and accounts for just the fourth Sacramento County record, but the second this year, after the immature female that was found at Cosumnes River Presrve (CRP) last March. A Townsend's Solitaire was an excellent find at CRP on 10/4, and late Swainson's Thrushes were found at William Land Park on 10/3, and CRP on 10/4. A Sage Thrasher was a very nice find along Michigan Bar Rd on 10/6, as was a late Grasshopper Sparrow on Meiss Rd on 10/14. Chipping Sparrows were reported in impressive numbers along the upper American River Parkway, at Phoenix Field, and in Fair Oaks. Is this species becoming more common locally, or are we just learning more through additional reports coming in via eBird? The biggest surprise of the month was a Worm-eating Warbler found in southeastern Davis on 10/27 (https://ebird.org/checklist/S60986259), between San Marino Park and Putah Creek. It was seen by many, continuing into November, and accounting for just the second Central Valley report after the January 2018 bird at Reichmuth Park.
The Sacramento Area is roughly defined as lying between Hwy 20 to the north, Hwy 12 to the south, and the 1000-foot 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: Stuart Angerer, Dan Brown, Holly Coates, Suzanne Day, Konshau Duman, John Ehrenfeld, Gil Ewing, Stephen Fettig, Steve Hampton, Cliff Hawley, Terry Hodapp, James Holmes, Emmett Iverson, Manfred Kusch, Jeri Langham, Mark Martucci, Michael Perrone, Zane Pickus, Steve Scott, Kirk Swenson, John Trochet, and Lynette Williams. Thanks to everyone for their reports--without them, this column would not be possible.