recent birds at the Cosumnes River Preserve

Glennah Trochet

Dear Birders,

Last Wednesday, April 21st, I returned to Howard Ranch in southeastern Sacramento County (part of the preserve as a conservation easement) primarily to follow up the interesting behavior of the adult ferruginous hawks I observed the preceding Wednesday.  I did not find them, despite covering more grassland and open oak savanna than on any previous visit to the ranch.  I started early and on this visit enjoyed decent nocturnal birding.  Finds of at least personal interest were these:
lesser nighthawk-  2
common poorwill-  1
northern harrier-  1
Swainson's hawk-  2
ferruginous hawk-  1 immature
western screech-owl-  3
great horned owl-  1
Lewis's woodpecker-  4 (I didn't visit their best areas on the ranch)
gray flycatcher-  1
violet-green swallow-  10
ruby-crowned kinglet-  2
rufous-crowned sparrow-  3
shipping sparrow-  1
grasshopper sparrow-  2 or 3
white-crowned sparrow-  120 (a really big influx)
tricolored blackbird-  25, feeding among cattle akin to cowbirds
orange-crowned warbler-  3
Nashville warbler-  2
Audubon's warbler-  1
Wilson's warbler-  7

On Saturday the 24th, I did an abbreviated visit behind the Farm Center gate, covering the Accidental Forest path to the south only, the Tall Forest Northeast (where I got lost again owing to lack of a sun compass and going off trail), plus Wood Duck Slough and the west side road.  Otherwise I cut trail south on the floodplain in order to see the bald eagle nest.  Late in the morning I met Nancy Sage to see the nest,  The two eaglets are now pretty big, well-covered in dark brown feathers, but still lacking any length to the flight feathers of the wings.  This day's findings were as follows:
bald eagle-  4
warbling vireo-  1
common raven-  1
hermit thrush-  1
white-crowned sparrow-  10
golden-crowned sparrow-  15
Lincoln's sparrow-  1
orange-crowned warbler-  4
common yellowthroat-  4
yellow warbler-  2
Audubon's warbler-  4
Wilson's warbler-  6
black-headed grosbeak-  25

On Sunday, I turned my alarm off at 05:00 and when I looked "a minute later" it was 06:15!  I checked the weather by looking out the window and saw no rain or wind, so I headed out.  I decided to do a sweep of the shorebird habitat.  I couldn't quite manage it because the back side of Lost Slough East is blocked off by an electric fence confining the sheep there, but I did check the Twin Cities unit.  Water is down quite a bit over the preceding seven days; still, there were lots more birds to look through today.  The best area on Tuesday, opposite the VC near the platform west of Franklin, is now dry except at the far west end.  At this rate of water loss, there won't be much when I do the Lost Slough survey next Sunday.

Here's some of what I turned up (some of the numbers are pretty crude):
greater white-fronted goose-  720
blue-winged teal-  2
ring-necked duck-  3
common goldeneye-  1
bufflehead-  1
ruddy duck-  1
eared grebe-  1
Virginia rail-  1 (heard only)
sora-  1 (out in the open at the end of the boardwalk)
common gallinule-  1 (right next to the sora)
American coot-  1800
black-necked stilt-  140
American avocet-  85
killdeer-  45
semipalmated plover-  120
whimbrel-  2 (fly-over; FOS)
dunlin-  220
least sandpiper-  550
western sandpiper-  3800
peep sp.-  800
long-billed dowitcher-  3100
Wilson's snipe-  1
solitary sandpiper-  1
greater yellowlegs-  2
white-faced ibis-  4
peregrine falcon-  3-5
American pipit-  12
white-crowned sparrow-  2
golden-crowned sparrow-  6

One of the leasts had the best split supercilium I've ever seen.  I tried very hard to turn it into a long-toed stint, but it wouldn't be turned.  After about 10:15 peregrines were a frequent annoyance, diving through bait balls of shorebirds, as often in braces as in singletons.  Cast your mind back a few decades and we wished for such things.

I was not the only one looking for birds at the preserve that morning.  Chris Conard ran his monthly survey at Orr Ranch, a well-wooded parcel of the preserve closed to unscheduled public visitation.  I hope that he will not mind my relating his summary to me.  He found 82 species, including these:
Green-winged Teal  2
Ring-necked Pheasant  1     Calling. Getting rare here.
Eurasian Collared-Dove  3     One singing from the forest north of Schick Portal. Usually near human landscapes.
Long-billed Curlew  1     Calling flyover
Western Sandpiper  1
peep sp.  2
Long-billed Dowitcher  11
Green Heron  2     Flew from river into tree by Bobcat Beach
Barn Owl  1
Great Horned Owl  2     Dueting
Western Wood-Pewee  1     My FOS
Pacific-slope Flycatcher  9 After this, surprised you haven't been finding many around the Tall Forest
Ash-throated Flycatcher  20
Hutton's Vireo  4     Took until almost 10 to hear the first one.
Warbling Vireo  7
Common Raven  5     Seemed to have a nest or nest site in the main forest. An interesting array of low croaks and gurgles. Very agitated by my presence.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1     Singing
White-breasted Nuthatch (Pacific)  8
Swainson's Thrush  2     Often don't get these until May
Hermit Thrush  1
Purple Finch  1     A nice late surprise
American Goldfinch  Watched a female work really hard to put a few fibers of material from a dried stalk of last year's emergent marsh plant (actually not sure what kind of plant it's growing from a patch that also contains a low bullrush).
Chipping Sparrow  1
Lark Sparrow  13
Dark-eyed Junco  1     Singing inside forest, not at one of the typical nesting sites.
White-crowned Sparrow (Gambel's)  5 by this time, expect more GCs than WCs
Golden-crowned Sparrow  1
Lincoln's Sparrow  4     Never know when the last of the season will be. Maybe today.
Bullock's Oriole  48     Abundant. Counted throughout morning. Saw two females collecting nesting material. Also, a ball of five orioles fighting.
Orange-crowned Warbler  3
Common Yellowthroat  15
Yellow Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  2 getting late
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's)  19
Townsend's Warbler  1
Setophaga sp.  3     Townsend's-type song
Wilson's Warbler  9
Western Tanager  2
Black-headed Grosbeak  15
Lazuli Bunting  2     Two males in the same tree

Sunday night I took the suggestion that Kimball Garrett made on a southern California listserv to look for migrant birds crossing the face of the moon.  I spent about 20 minutes in my backyard in Sacramento and saw none.

Yesterday I was back behind the Farm Center gate.  It turned into more of a work day than I had expected.  Despite attending to trail recovery, I had a fair encounter rate with Neotrops today, excepting non-ash-throated flycatcher flycatchers.  I had a few westerns/Pacific-slopes10 days to three weeks ago, but none since and no other empids besides.  This is a bit of a surprise considering Chris's encounter rate with Pacific-slope flycatchers.  It was cold to start this morning.  I made a quick stop at the shack and heard at least one magpie until I stepped out of the car, then silence.  On my way to the Accidental Forest, my car's thermometer read freezing on the equipment pad, so I expected a low of 25 or 26 degrees.  But there was a bit of a breeze in that area and the low was 29 degrees.  I was glad to have a fourth layer of clothing.  After stopping at the east side edge I parked on the pad and walked the edge that is the road on the north side of the Triangle Pond.  I finished with a walk down Wood Duck Slough and back via the west side road.  Birds of some interest include the following
sharp-shinned hawk-  1 (getting near the end of their usual stay in the lowlands)
Cooper's hawk-  2 (possibly a nest in the far southwest of the Tall Forest)
Cassin's vireo-  1
Hutton's vireo-  4
western warbling vireo-  7
common raven-  2
hermit thrush-  1 (another soon to be elsewhere for the nesting season)
white-crowned sparrow-  0
golden-crowned sparrow-  3 (widely separated apparent singletons)
Lincoln's sparrow-  0
brown-headed cowbird-  12 (fewer than expected)
orange-crowned warbler-  12
Nashville warbler-  8
common yellowthroat-  7
yellow warbler-  2
Audubon's warbler-  10
Wilson's warbler-  16
western tanager-  2
black-headed grosbeak-  20

I decided to take my scope down to the preserve for a second night of moon watching for nocturnal migrants.  This one was much more successful than the first (it couldn't have been less successful).  I spent 55 minutes looking at the face of the moon through my scope.  In that time I saw 8 bats (mostly moving east or southeast), 28 birds (25 moving north, 3 to the south, including what I think was a wood duck) and four things that just clipped the moon's illuminated disc, but all headed north.  I also had a couple of things that may have been insects.  They seemed really tiny and moved comparatively oddly.  Lots of crickets and chorus frogs made for a nice soundscape, too.  I didn't hear any passerine nocturnal flight calls.  It was a fun outing, even if I had no idea, for the most part, what the silhouetted birds were.

Today I birded the Accidental Forest and vicinity (31 degrees F. at sunrise) and the Tall Forest.  This morning started great, with lots of activity in and around the Accidental Forest.  I walked all three directions from the parking spot, and all three were birdy.  When I got back to the car after going both north and south, there was a nice mixed flock right over the vehicle.  Unfortunately the flock melted away almost immediately, and I saw fewer than half the birds initially present.  Tent caterpillars are back on the ash trees.  It remains to be seen if the infestation will rival or exceed last year's.  By contrast, the Tall Forest was really quite slow.  I had two FOS species, both macrochires.  Because I had an errand to run and a Zoom meeting to attend in the early afternoon, it was a short day.  Of interest to me were these:
Vaux's swift-  1 (FOS)
black-chinned hummingbird-  1 (FOS male nectaring at the only patch of Scrophularia californica in the Tall Forest known to me)
bald eagle-  1 adult at the nest
acorn woodpecker-  1
Cassin's vireo-  1
Hutton's vireo-  1
western warbling vireo-  4
common raven-  2
hermit thrush-  4
white-crowned sparrow-  1
golden-crowned sparrow-  2
white-crowned x golden-crowned sparrow-  1
Nashville warbler-  1
common yellowthroat-  3
yellow warbler-  1
Audubon's warbler-  1
Townsend's warbler-  2
Wilson's warbler-  6
western tanager-  1
black-headed grosbeak-  30

The putative hybrid sparrow looked sort of like a white-crowned from the side, except that the superciliary became very hard to see behind the eye.  But when the bird looked at me, I could see a broad sagittal crown stripe of slightly greenish gold.  I've seen this mix before, but not, I think, as an adult.

I am still awaiting my FOS western wood-pewee, Swainson's thrush and lazuli bunting, all birds that Chris picked up at Orr Ranch on Sunday.

John Trochet