Sunday, March 11, 2012

Recent Birds at Palo and in Alameda County

The past few days have been beautiful here in the bay area, and the birding has been pretty good around Palo and elsewhere.  Birds are getting ready to move and getting ready to breed here at Palo.  We're beginning to find our first CP's (Cloaical Protuberance - male sex organ during the breeding season), and I found the first nest about two weeks ago that is still going strong.  It was an Anna's Hummingbird with two jellybelly-sized eggs, that are now two nestlings.  Dan Lipp has been hearing Red Crossbills across the Arroyo Honda almost daily, and heard a Northern Rough-winged Swallow as we were banding up on the hill a few days ago.  Tree Swallows and the occasional Violet-green Swallow have been seen as well.  Mixed feeding flocks have been found around the area as well including larger than usual numbers of Townsend's Warblers.  Less than a week ago I came across a large mixed flock of mostly Bushtits, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets on the nature trail.  I didn't detect a single warbler, but hopefully something interesting will turn up one of these days.  A few Hutton's Vireos, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, and several Golden-crowned Kinglets were also in the flock.  1 or 2 Fox Sparrows, and a Hermit Thrush also may have been loosely associating with the group.  Northern Saw-whet Owl has been heard almost nightly as well.  And, just now, an Orange-crowned Warbler was heard and then seen right outside the field station library.
Red-breasted Nuthatch, PRBO Palomarin Field Station, Bolinas, CA
Chestnut-backed Chickadee, PRBO Palomarin Field Station, Bolinas, CA
Yesterday Rich Cimino graciously offered to show me around some great birding spots in Alameda county.  We hit Del Valle Park, Mines Road, and Patterson Pass among other locations.  Some highlights from the day include Prairie Falcon, Golden Eagle, Lark Sparrow, Loggerhead Shrike, Horned Lark, Mountain Bluebird, Yellow-billed Magpie, Phainopepla, Chipping Sparrow, and large numbers of Lesser Goldfinches (though we couldn't pick out any Lawrence's Goldfinch despite our best efforts).  We missed a few target birds such as Northern Pygmy-Owl, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Lawrence's Goldfinch, but who could complain with all the great birds we got.  Rich is an active conservationist in the bay area doing great work to help protect birds and their habitat.  He also knows the area really well, and owns/operates a great bird tours company, Yellowbilled Tours.  If you are looking to bird in California, definitely contact him.  He also leads tours in Nome, Wisconsin, and New Mexico with more destinations possibly to come.
Lesser Goldfinch, Mines Road, Alameda county, CA
White-crowned Sparrow, Mines Rd, Alameda, County, CA
Mountain Bluebird, Patterson Pass Wind Farm, Alameda county, CA

By Luke Musher

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