I led my Palo Alto Adult School birding class to Coyote Hills Regional Park today for a successful morning of birding. Highlights were numerous.
We explored the area around the visitors center first finding 4 GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS in the large oaks beside the Butterfly Garden. Also in this area was a female-plumaged PURPLE FINCH doing its best Cassin’s Vireo vocal impersonation! An apparent pair of SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS were perched together on the hillside above Hoot Hollow. WHITE-TAILED KITES and NORTHERN HARRIERS were hard to miss from almost anywhere in the park, and a single RED-SHOULDERED HAWK was seen harassing a RED-TAILED HAWK.
We heard several HERMIT THRUSHES here, but as far as I know no one viewed any. We had our only two AMERICAN ROBINS of the day flying overhead, as well as a trio of COMMON RAVENS. Most interesting was an “intergrade” NORTHERN FLICKER displaying both a red nucial patch AND malar. It’s underwings and tail were definitely orangey, not red or yellow.
The hilltop view above the visitors center provided us with fantastic views of both the marsh and the bay. From there were were able to scope a small group of RING-NECKED DUCKS, CANVASBACK, and a variety of Dabbling Ducks including NORTHERN PINTAIL, NORTHERN SHOVELER, GADWALL, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, CINNAMON TEAL and MALLARD.. Far in the distance on the second pond we could see an abundance of AMERICAN WIGEONS, which we returned to later for further examination.
We made our way down the hill to the No Name Trail leading into the bay. There we found a large assemblage of both BROWN and AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS, huge numbers of Gulls which included CALIFORNIA, RING-BILLED, WESTERN, MEW and BONAPARTE’S GULLS. Three LESSER YELLOWLEGS were found near the utility structure, as well as many BLACK-NECKED STILTS, AMERICAN AVOCETS, DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS etc. A lone CASPIAN TERN was foraging over the salt pond and only identifiable through the scopes.
We returned to the quarry parking area finding many AMERICAN PIPIT, SAVANNAH SPARROWS and YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS along the way. Several folks were able to view the ROCK WREN on the rocks above the lot, but not everyone. Earlier, we had also seen a MERLIN in this area, but it was gone by the time our entire group was together.
From here we decided to walk along the boardwalk through the marsh toward the second pond. We found SORA swimming across one of the channels, heard a second further along the trail, and heard and saw a VIRGINIA RAIL. A GREEN HERON was briefly visible flying along the close edge of the pond, briefly visible before disappearing again.
The second pond produced at least a hundred AMERICAN WIGEONS, and a single EURASIAN WIGEON male (our first of season). A large group of AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS was seen circling high overhead.
On our way back to the visitors center along the paved trail we located a BURROWING OWL among the rocks near the “trail closed” hillside. Some folks also saw a second individual hidden in there too.