Monthly Birdlog 2017

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Marin Birdlog:  January 2017
By Noah Arthur

Rain is good! Or so they say. It doesn’t seem so good when you’re trying to bird in it. But a rainy January brought some nice winter rarities to Marin, as well as what I like to think of as the last warbler of fall and the first hummer of spring.
Continuing at Las Gallinas was the Harris’s Sparrow found in December, frequenting the (wet) parking lot with other sparrows. On the 5th of January, another interesting bird was found at Las Gallinas (LB): an apparently intersex Northern Pintail showing markings intermediate between males and females.
A wet day on the 12th didn’t stop scoping the ocean off Muir Beach (JW), where a Northern Fulmar and two Short-tailed Shearwaters showed themselves, perhaps driven inshore by weather.
A Tiburon/Sausalito herring spawn that began on the 14th yielded some good gulling opportunities over the next week, with thousands of gulls along the shoreline in downtown Tiburon. Numerous Thayer’s Gulls were present, and one lightly-marked adult may have been an Iceland or intergrade with Iceland (NA, BA), but no definitive rarities surfaced.
The best gull – and perhaps the best bird – of the month was found on the 14th, and (predictably, given the species) not at a herring spawn: an adult Franklin’s Gull discovered in flooded fields in Novato (MF). This numerous Great Plains-breeding small gull, which normally winters on South American coasts, has an interesting pattern of showing up as a vagrant in California fields in deep winter, far to the north of the latitude at which it would normally spend the nonbreeding months.
On the 16th several good birds turned up, including a Prairie Merlin over Bolinas Ridge and a couple of Caspian Terns on Tomales Bay, continuing this winter’s trend of wintering Caspians in the Bay Area (DM).
A nearly solid six days of rain began on the 18th, during which time a distinctly wintry bird was spotted, a male Harlequin Duck on the rocks at San Quentin Prison on the 20th (CB). In Bolinas, during another brief break in the rain on the 21st, a gummy-billed Lucy’s Warbler that had presumably been foraging in eucalyptus trees was reported (RD) – an exceptional midwinter record of this very rare warbler that usually occurs as a fall vagrant. This bird had apparently been present since mid-December and was/is probably wintering in the area.
Deep dark winter is the time for rare ducks, and a probable female Tufted Duck was spotted at Stafford Lake on the 28th (MS). But, with the previous week’s rains gone, one might also say that spring sprung on the morning of the 28th when the first Allen’s Hummingbird of the season visited ML’s yard.
Las Gallinas put on another great show on the 30th and 31st, with two American Bitterns and a Red-necked Grebe (BB) as well as a male Common Teal (TP, m.ob.), perhaps the same bird found in December (DE).
Finally, on the 31st a Nelson’s Sparrow, the other candidate for Marin’s best bird of the month, was found at Corte Madera Marsh (MS). This secretive little bird has continued through mid-February.

Observers and Acronyms  BA: Bob Atwood, BB: Bob Battagin, CB: Courtney Buechert, DE: Daniel Edelstein, DM: Dominik Mosur, JW: Jim White, LB: Len Blumin, MF: Mark Forney, ML: Margareta Luff, m.ob.: many observers, MS: Mark Stephenson, RD: Ryan DiGaudio, TP: Todd Plummer 

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