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Astonishing WETA show (Sunol Regional Wilderness 05-08-10)


Matthew Dodder
 

All,

I led my Palo Alto Adult School birding class to Sunol Regional
Wilderness yesterday. Weather was great, although the wind picked up
late morning. Highlights included a female WOOD DUCK and three
ducklings, west of the foot bridge by the visitors center. A short
Pygmy-Owl impersonation got at least three CASSIN'S VIREOS singing
and scolding in this same area, and nearby we also founb YELLOW,
NASHVILLE, ORANGE-CROWNED, and WILSON'S WARBLERS. We observed a
peculiar behavior from the WARBLING VIREOS on the footbridge, who
were disassembling another Vireo nest and taking the material
upstream. The two Warbling Vs were working together, partners in crime.

On the south end of the park, we took the horse trail over the bridge
and into the meadows. We got great looks at PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER
in the canopy, and OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER was perched above the
bridge on a dead snag, WARBLING VIREOS, and BULLOCK'S ORIOLES were
squabbling in the oaks overhead, and the corral area afforded us
great looks at a few singing CHIPPING SPARROWS.

It was along the stretch that parallels the gray pine slope that we
began seeing the most astonishing wave of WESTERN TANAGERS move
through. It began by seeing a single tree that was filled with about
10 males. They, like all the others to follow, moved north along the
canyon and out of sight. Next it was replaced by another, and another
group of brilliant male, all stopping for a moment, and then moving
on. We watched the parade of Tanagers for about 20 minutes as tree
after tree served as a brief perch and the wave continued. An
extremely conservative estimate of the number of Tanager males we saw
in this area would be 50, but I suspect we were seeing far more! We
did not even try to count the females, but they were present too.

We were unable to find the Rufous-crowned Sparrows in the chaparral
hillside downhill from the river crossing. Our walk coincided with a
loud dog-walking group, making it difficult to hear. We did get
fleeting glimpses of two LAZULI BUNTINGS in this area, as well as
another OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER.

Finally, on our return to the visitors center for lunch, some members
spotted LARK SPARROW in the meadow between the two parking lots. We
added CALIFORNIA QUAIL, and YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIE as we ate lunch in
the shade. Not a single Black-headed Grosbeak today... We also
noticed many fewer Bullock's Orioles than in years past, but many
more BAND-TAILED PIGEONS.

On the way home, we spotted a LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE near the nursery on
Calaveras Road outside of Sunol.

. . .

Matthew Dodder
Mountain View, CA
http://www.birdguy.net
http://www.zazzle.com/mdodder