Rosita and I did not leave our house in Walnut Creek until maybe 1 pm, but we had a beautiful Merlin on Branscombe south of Travis AFB. It appeared to be a richardsonii subspecies, very pale and possibly a female. Around the corner on Creed Road and before Denverton angles off, we had a Prairie Falcon perched on one of the metal electric towers to the south.
We did not spend that much time looking on Robinson and Flannery Roads, but east of Canright and north of McCormack Road, we had a Rough-legged Hawk perched on the ground. Within a few minutes, it flew north and out of sight.
We turned north to Walnut Grove after passing through Rio Vista and crossing the river. Shortly after Isleton, Rosita found us a Great Horned Owl sitting in a tree overhanging the river.
The sun was already gone by the time we arrived at Staten Island Road, but the colors in the sky were gorgeous. There were many others enjoying the evening spectacle of Greater White-fronted Geese, Sandhill Cranes and Cackling Geese. We stayed out there until after 6 PM, enjoying the sounds of the 1000s of birds. Occasionally they would fly up and re-settle in another spot, even after it was very dark. At least one Barn Owl hunted over the fields, caught in our headlights. We viewed from several spots along the unpaved southern end of the road.
Jupiter and Saturn were to the right of Mt. Diablo, easily visible and even better through our spotting scope. Mars was more directly overhead, and Orion was lying on his side to the east, while the Pleiades was higher and slightly north of him. Rosita asked about the white streak of cloud which angled across the night sky--it was the cloud known as the Milky Way. What a way to usher in the New Year.
Hugh B. Harvey