Monthly Birdlog 2016

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Marin Birdlog: April-May 2016   
By Josiah Clark    

May showers have kept the hillsides green and prolonged spring processes for the first time in years.  While the bayshore and mudflats are notably depleted of wintering water birds, the lush hills are alive with bird song. With wintering birds gone, land birds that are here now intend on breeding.  As some birders anticipate the return of familiar north bound migrant songbirds in late April, so do vagrant-hunting birders anticipate the arrival the first vagrant songbirds in mid-May into mid-June.  The fruiting of Red Elderberry near the coast in early to mid-June is another local birding phenomenon that should not be forgotten in the coming months.

None of our migrant songbirds is more tied to Red Elderberry than Swainson’s Thrush, and the first ones showed up “whitting” in our area around 4/19 (DE). Vaux’s Swifts numbers peaked at McNear Brickyard near San Rafael with 1366 on April 28.  Not far away at Corte Madera Marsh, the presence of a Loggerhead Shrike in spring harkened back memories of another age when this species would have been a common breeder here.

In the county’s interior the Big Rock trailhead hosted not only returning Grasshopper Sparrows, but also a singing male Indigo Bunting for at least the 3rd year in a row on 5/12.  This individual appears to fancy breeding with Lazuli Buntings (BA, LH).

Patch birders saw the Brown Booby from Rodeo Beach on 4/18, as almost all the other nearby ones appeared to have moved on (WL).  On the continuing theme of unseasonal sightings from oceans to the south, was a preponderance of 111 Elegant Terns at Bolinas Lagoon on May 4.  That’s an unprecedented and confounding number for this date; it’s presumed they are “prospecting” for new nest sites due to apparent food shortages on their Baja breeding grounds. Failed Brown Pelican breeders are returning early in numbers as well. Two Common Terns, uncommon migrants here, also showed up on the lagoon as well (PP).    

The first outer Point Reyes vagrants for the year have included a Townsend’s Solitaire on 4/17 (EC), a Hooded Warbler 5/2 (MF) and a Yellow-breasted Chat on 5/6 (CA), with murmurs of other recent vagrants that didn’t get reported.

The most unbelievable sighting however was a wounded apparent Purple Sandpiper, photographed at Kehoe Beach on 4/25 (ML) and not seen again.  This was not only a first Marin County record, but also a first NorCal record. Some believe this to be the same bird recently present at the Salton Sea, which was California’s first record for the species.

Observers and Acronyms  BA:  Bob Atwood, CA:  Carlo Arreglo, DE:  Daniel Edelstein, EC:  Everett Clark, ES:  Emily Strauss, LH:  Lisa Hug, ME:  Megan Elrod, MF:  Mark Forney, ML:  Matt Lau, PP:  Peter Pyle, WL:  William Legge     

Marin Birdlog: March 2016
By Josiah Clark

With the arrival of March, so do arrive a handful of “First of Season” migrants. Coming from southern wintering grounds, these songbirds are the first to take advantage of all that spring has to offer. Longer days, tender foliage, the onset of blooming and the appearance of insects set the stage for the peak of the breeding season. Meanwhile winter residents here are also taking their cues from the landscape. As the days get warmer and the land gets drier those oh so common sparrows and kinglets will become only memories in just one month from now. With the best part of the wildflower season also upon us, March is definitely a month to keep your eyes open.

A distinctly winter associated sighting was a Glaucous Gull at Bolinas Lagoon on 2/17, likely taking a break from rough ocean conditions (PP). More recently at Bolinas Lagoon on 3/10, a Red-necked Grebe was another uncommon visitor (KH). Down south in Richardson Bay Bald Eagles continue to change the game for breeding herons and gulls amassing at herring runs 2/26 (KW).

The rarest bird in the county for the period was surely the Black Vulture at Abbotts Lagoon, which is most likely the same individual from last year (DH, SB).

Over in the eastern part of the county a Tufted Duck at Stafford Lake has been attracting birders since at least 2/26, who also observed Eurasian Wigeon and Cackling Geese there (MS, TP, RR). A field trip to Las Gallinas on 2/27 was treated to many noteworthy species including an unseasonal Barn Swallow (RROS).

First of season arrival dates include Warbling Vireo near Nicasio on March 1 (JY), Caspian Tern Richardson Bay on 3/10 (KW) and House Wren on Mt. Burdell on 3/15 (DE).

Observers and Acronyms DE: Daniel Edelstein, DH: David Herlocker, JY: Jim Yurchenco, KH: Keith Hansen, KW: Kerry Wilcox, MS: Mark Stevenson, PP: Peter Pyle, RR: Ruthie Rudesill, RROS: Redwood Regional Ornithological Society, SB: Shannon Burke, TP: Todd Plummer

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