San Joaquin and Sacramento counties, Jan 19th and 20th
I had the opportunity to bird a few sites in San Joaquin and Sacramento
counties on 1-19 and 20; Saturday was a scouting day for Sunday's guided
trip with a small group of beginning birders. Destinations were Woodbridge
Rd., Staten Island, Cosumnes River Preserve, and Riley Rd. Primary objective
of Sunday's trip was introduce the group to Sandhill Cranes, Tundra Swans,
and the wintering flocks of geese and ducks in the Central Valley. On that
front, the trip was an overwhelming success.
Woodbridge Rd: We visited only on Saturday, judging that light conditions
and time constraints precluded us from including it on the Sunday itinerary.
Best bird was a Taiga MERLIN (See
amentoCounties# for photo). Glare discouraged us from checking for unusual
Staten Island: We had the good fortune to run into John Luther on Saturday,
who alerted us to the presence of the BRANT among a Cackling Goose flock. I
was able to view the bird briefly through binoculars but the flock took off
and relocated to another field before I could get the scope on it. On
Sunday, the flock was far back in a field and I had my hands full helping
people identify Northern Shovelers so we didn't look for the Brant. Best
birds from the Sunday visit were (for me) a few REDHEADS in one of the duck
ponds and (for the others) the resident Great-horned Owl at the implement
Cosumnes RP: Lots of great birds but nothing unexpected.
Riely Rd.: Saturday's visit yielded eye-popping looks at first a Barn Owl
and then a SHORT-EARED OWL perched on a roadside fence post. See previous
Picasa link for photos. Both Saturday and Sunday we counted 5 SEOWs working
the fields to the north and south of the road. On Sunday, I was stoked to
find a distant FERRUGINOUS HAWK on the ground to the south; the others in
the party looked through the scope and wondered what I was smoking. We were
also treated to a spectacular fly-in of Long-billed Curlews. We watched
several hundred arrive in multiple groups, all fluttering into a single
crowded roost in the grass with much initial commotion. Particularly
striking at sunset.