Monthly Birdlog 2014
Marin Birdlog: October – November 2014
By Josiah Clark
By November the peak acorn season has passed, as have the salmon and the pulses of flashy migrants and vagrant songbirds that appear from near and far. With the winter pattern on its way all the sparrows are back in flocks, chasing down the easiest to get seeds, the last of which are still shaking out. The thick-skinned fruit of Toyon, Madrone and Wax Myrtle are among the only fruit wintering birds have to look forward to. With so many obvious signs of winter, at first glance migration would seem to be over. For the persistent birders of Marin the rare bird season seems to last as long as they look.
Picking up where we left off last month, we start with Outer Pt. Reyes, which often takes center stage when it comes to noteworthy sightings. On 10/17 a Lesser Nighthawk at the Fish Docks was one of the first ever records for the county (MP, RH). A Black-throated Blue Warbler found there that day would be the first of at least 3-4 for the period, showing the tendency for this vagrant to show up late in the season. On 10/17 a Tennessee Warbler and Chestnut-sided Warbler were surely among the last of their kind to be found on the Outer Point this season, while at sea over 300 Black-vented Shearwaters made a visit to the visible waters off the lighthouse (LK). A Yellow-green Vireo at the Lighthouse trees 10/29 rounded out the list for the Outer Point this year (DS).
A couple of especially great finds in Pt. Reyes that were not at the Outer Point included an American Tree Sparrow on Pierce Pt. Road on 10/27 (DS) and a Dusky-capped Flycatcher at the remote and rarely birded Arch Rock area along the Bear Valley Trail (BA, BA).
Towards the center of the county a newly arrived Prairie Falcon at Nicasio Reservoir on 10/31 was accompanied by one of the local Bald Eagles (BB).
On 10/28 a Tropical Kingbird began its visit to Las Gallinas, where birders also studied a hybrid Blue-winged X Cinnamon Teal and a few Cackling Geese (DM, JMu).
Out in Bolinas Tropical Kingbirds were also popular finds with ones on 10/15 at Agate Beach and the Wildlife Gallery on 10/22 (KH). A Black-and-white Warbler made quick visits on 10/28 to the Wildlife Gallery (PP, SH).
In the past, invasions of mountains birds have typically shown up after massive storms or periods of intense cold in the high country, but apparently the opposite conditions can also bring mountain birds. On 11/4 the vast and wild Inverness Ridge produced a Clark’s Nutcracker, a bird with among the best memories in the entire country (CA, JMi). This handsome vagrant corvid was accompanied by more expected pine nut connoisseurs, Red Crossbills. While raking in their county nutcracker on 11/9, birders produced another rarity from the mountains, a Cassin’s Finch. Another or possibly the same Clark’s Nutcracker was seen in Bolinas on Nov 4 and 5 (KH).
Observers CA: Chris Alderal, BA, BA: Bob and Bettina Arrigoni, BB: Bob Battagin, MF: Mark Forney, KH: Keith Hansen, RH: Roger Harshaw, SH: Steve Howell, LK: Logan Kahle, BM: Bruce Mast, JMi: Jeff Miller, DM: Dan Murphy, JMu: Joan Murphy, MP: Michael Park, PP: Peter Pyle, DS: Dan Singer
Marin Birdlog — September — October 2014
By Josiah Clark
As September turns to October, Coyote Brush, Mock Heather, Horseweed, and other fluffy seeded members of the aster family are all setting seed ready to fly with the onset of the strong northwest blows of fall and winter. The transitional weather with the coming winter brings all kinds of migrant and vagrant songbirds, shorebirds and raptors, cumulatively forming the most dramatic migration events of the year.
With so many young, inexperienced migrants passing through the system, it can be like shooting fish in a barrel for vagrant hunters. Never is this more true than on outer Pt. Reyes during the south wind and marine layer conditions of fall. These conditions are the “perfect storm” to get birds lost. Birders were there to find them.
Outer Pt. Reyes Fall 2014, whoa, whoa, whoa…where to begin. Well, perhaps with the more “common vagrant warblers” that we expect in trickles at this time of year. During the second and third week of September things really heated up with multiples of the following found: Chestnut-sided Warbler, American Redstart, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Palm Warbler and Tennessee Warbler.
In the less common vagrant category was a single Prairie Warbler that appeared to kick around in the lonely trees there for over a month. Also an apparent trio of different flavored Cape May Warblers, in different plumages, with multiple observers, finders and photographs taken. A single Blackburnian Warbler in this category of “uncommon vagrants” also made a brief visit during this time.
Non-warbler vagrants during this period at outer Pt. Reyes included Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Baltimore Oriole, Gray Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher and White-faced Ibis. (Among the MANY outer Pt Reyes observers: MP, ZB, CA, DM, EC, SA, KF, DW, JM, RM, SH, LK, PP, RB)
One of the very rare on 9/28 was a Connecticut Warbler at the Fish Docks, found thanks to Yolo Audubon and seen by a few lucky others (NW, EB).
And how many Philadelphia Vireos were at the outer point? At least one. It might have been more if it had not been for the diligence of certain Bird Police, making sure to double check photos and keep folks up to snuff on their vireo identification skills 9/20 (MP, ST). A White-winged Dove there then was the only one of its kind for the fall around here (ST). Scoping offshore of the point, Black-vented Shearwaters were visible dispersing northward as they followed squid spawns and baitfish (LK).
Single Magnolia Warblers were found at Pt. Bonita Lighthouse 9/21 (AM) and Pt. Reyes 10/12 (KH).
On 9/18 the wildlife gallery in Bolinas had an Orchard Oriole and a Lark Sparrow. The Pt. Blue Bird-a-thon team found an Eastern Phoebe in the fields by Commonwheel (IS, GG).
With hot days and north winds driving the big ones out and down, by 9/25 up on Hawk Hill, hawk watchers raked in double digits of Broad-winged Hawks, several Black Swifts, Swainson’s Hawks and at least 6 Prairie Falcons. Rarest and most impressively pulled down was at least one juvenile Northern Goshawk (BP, AF, HB and GGRO volunteers).
October is more about sparrows than warblers. Mill Valley bird feeders noticed the first southbound White-crowned Sparrows arriving on 9/17, with Golden-crowned and Fox Sparrows already in by that time for some (MS). Duffy Park in Sausalito is an under-birded vagrant mill, where 2 Clay-colored Sparrows were better than one and a nice surprise to biking Bird-a-thon-ers (JC, RF). Another one of these and a Palm Warbler were found by swift watchers at McNear Brickyard as they counted over 16,000 Vaux’s Swifts one evening (TG, ES, RS).
During the week of 9/26 Western Screech Owl and Spotted Owl were heard in the wee hours of the night near Tam Junction. Both are rare here, representing southern-most occurrences for the county (SP).
Out at Las Gallinas 10/3 were a single Pectoral Sandpiper and a Baird’s Sandpiper. Great-tailed Grackles continue as well. One Greater and one Lesser Scaup there represented among the first of fall returns for the county (JC, RF).
Observers: AF: Allen Fish, AM: Alex Merritt, BP: Bob Power, EB: Eddie Bartley, EC: Everett Clark, ES: Emilie Strauss, MP: Michael Park, CA: Carlo Arreglo, DM: Dominik Mosur, HB: Herb Brandt, SA: Stephanie Arthur, KF: Katherine Francone, DW: David Wimpfheimer, JC: Josiah Clark, JM: Jeff Miller, KH: Keith Hansen, MS: Marjorie Siegel, NW: Noreen Weeden, RB: Robin Blaney, PP: Peter Pyle, RF: Rob Furrow, RM: Ron Mallory, RS: Rusty Scalf, SH: Steve Howell, SP: Steve Phillips, ST: Steve Tucker, TM: Tom Gardali, LK: Logan Kahle, RB: Robin Blaney, ZB: Zack Baer
Marin Birdlog — August to September 2014
By Josiah Clark
By September the breeding and birdsong of summer become memories. Native fruits like Blue Elderberry, currants and Coffeeberry set their fruit to fuel bird movements, which carry away the seed to places near and far. The land is drier than it has been all year, making the few remaining moist spots all the more precious. Just offshore baitfish and squid concentrate, creating the biggest feeding frenzies of seabirds that are seen all year.
The days are noticeably shorter to humans and birds alike. For birds it means the biggest migration month of the year. A steady stream of western migrants moving south is punctuated by pulses and fallouts of songbirds. These lulls in bird movement allow detection of the odd vagrant, which brings outer Pt. Reyes squarely into the spotlight.
On 8/13 an Eastern Kingbird at Drake’s kicked off the vagrant season with a few early western migrants (DS). On 8/30 a Prairie Warbler began its stay of at least two weeks at the Fish Docks (JCh). On 9/5 a Laughing Gull was sleuthed out and well studied at the beach there (ST). That same day the Fish Docks had an Ovenbird and an American Redstart, and the lighthouse had a continuing Acorn Woodpecker, which is very rare for the Outer Point (RH). On 9/6 a Cape May Warbler was seen at the Nunes Ranch (EH, IS).
Out to the northeast at the opposite end of the county on 9/2, Las Gallinas Sewage Ponds had a first-of-season Say’s Phoebe, Cackling Goose and one of the first good showings of southbound Yellow Warblers (DE).
With blossoms rapidly drying up, more vagrant hummingbirds show up during this period than any other. On 9/4, the 14th Black-chinned Hummingbird for the Bolinas Wildlife Gallery worked the feeders there for a few days before moving on (KH).
Observers and acronyms DS: Dan Singer, DE: Daniel Edelstein, EH: Eugene Hunn, IS: Ivan Samuels, JCh: Jim Chiropolos, KH: Keith Hansen, RH: Roger Harshaw, ST: Steve Tucker
Marin Birdlog — July to August 2014
By Josiah Clark
Midsummer in Marin is synonymous with the aromas of dry Bay Laurel, redwood duff and dry grass thatch. The golden hills are bleached blonde and all the brittle grass seeds have fallen away. For birds, summer is a slack tide of sorts for migration. With only breeders present, the abundance of birds on the land reflects its carrying capacity and its important role as a source population for both resident and migratory birds.
If birds are thought of as environmental indicators, local breeding birds are surely the best ones. With few birds moving around there is generally little to report in the ‘vagrant’ category. One species found breeding in Marin this summer 7/4, constituting only the second county record, was Least Bittern at Las Gallinas (JH, ND, BD). Smallest of the North American herons, these pint-sized Ciconiiformes attracted onlookers from near and far, with likely 100 or more birders getting to see them. Breeding was first confirmed 7/4 through photographs of downy young (DS). Two adults and three young were the high count. These freshwater marsh obligates likely moved in due to low water levels throughout the state. The species’ next nearest breeding locations are in the Delta and Valley.
Also present here during this period were at least 20 Great-tailed Grackles, which started breeding in the county only a few years back with just a single pair. Incidentally, marsh breeding grackles help facilitate the breeding of Least Bitterns, acting as “umbrella species”, which drive off potential predators. A pair of Wilson’s Phalaropes was also present for a week or so during the period (LK). Las Gallinas is likely the breeding capital for Marin’s few breeding duck species. Parents and young of uncommon breeders included Ruddy Duck, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Cinnamon Teal and Common Merganser (JTC).
JTC: Josiah Clark, ND: Noah DeLay, BD: Brian DeLay, JH: Jack Hayden, LK: Logan Kahle, DS: Dan Singer
Marin Birdlog May – June 2014
By Josiah Clark
As the summer solstice approaches, the last juices of spring are being wrung out of the land. Native berries are synchronized with the peak summer season and provide for nesting and young birds. Surely among the most valuable gifts the land has to offer are Red Elderberries and, away from the coast, Blue Elderberries. These fruit are so desirable and important they influence the movements of dozens of bird species and cumulatively are considered the single most important food source for migratory songbirds in the US. Native California Blackberry has several functions through the season. It serves as a larval food plant for five native butterflies, provides flowers with nectar for pollinators and was found by Point Blue to be the single most valuable cover source for cup-nesting songbirds in our area. Of course this plant provides fruit as well, nearly a month before it’s larger, more invasive look-alike Himalayan relative. Up in the oaks, there is the first appearance of acorns looking like tiny buttons. Out in the grasslands, European exotic annual grasses have all set seed and dried out giving the hills their golden appearance.
On May 17 a Snowy Plover at Rush Creek was an interesting sighting away from the coast in Marin, taking a play from the salt-flat loving tribes of this species in the south bay where they nest in this habitat (BB). Not far away behind the Vintage Oaks Mall in Novato, 50 Forster’s Terns, some of Marin’s only nesters, were observed on nests where they mostly failed last year (SC). Up the road at Loma Alta off Lucas Valley Road a male Indigo Bunting, starting around the 14th of June, began holding down a territory and continues there (DH). Down in the Marin Headlands at Rodeo Lagoon 5/24, the patch birders found their second Pileated Woodpecker in three years. Coined a “magnificent beast”, this bird was surely the southernmost of its kind in the county that day, far from the heavily forested hills it prefers (DW, WL).
On May 20 the first Yellow-breasted Chat for the season was reported from a yard along Lagunitas Creek just outside Pt. Reyes Station (BD). Nearby in Inverness on May 25th an Ovenbird kicked off a microwave of eastern warblers. With the onset of southerly winds, west Marin experienced the best spring vagrant season it has seen in years. A Wilson’s Phalarope greeted Outer Point vagrant hunters at the Mendoza Pond on May 22 (DS). On 5/26 the Outer Point’s second ever Great-tailed Grackle was observed, 3 years to the day from the first ever record for the species there. On 6/2 things began heating up with a Northern Waterthrush, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow-breasted Chat and late Lincoln’s Sparrow at the lighthouse (PP, SH). That same day a female Chestnut-sided Warbler was at Drakes (KK). The following day a Common Grackle, one of the few records for the area, was at the lighthouse and was the “best” of several vagrants that included a Magnolia Warbler, Ovenbird and American Redstart (MD). The madness continued 6/4 as birders dug out Northern Parula and Bay-breasted Warbler, the latter of which had not been seen in spring in the county since 1977. A sneaky female Prothonotary Warbler was seen by only a few lucky observers at Drakes Monument; a Blue Grosbeak at the lighthouse also eluded most (RR). A late Swainson’s Hawk flew north over the point that day as well (DM). A second push of southerly winds pushed more very rare birds to the Outer Point. A Cassin’s Kingbird and calling Eastern Wood-Pewee were noteworthy indeed. A late Greater Scaup seen that day off the fish dock was unseasonal and similarly far from the rest of its kind (DS, NA).
BB: Bob Battagin, BD: Barbara Deutch, DH: Dave Herlocker, DM: Dominik Mosur, DS: Dan Singer, KK: Keith Kwan, MD: Mark Dettling, NA: Noah Arthur, PP: Peter Pyle, RR: Ruthie Rudesill, SC: Scott Carey, SH: Steve Howell
April – May 2014
By mid-May the green foliage of the European grasses quickly turns yellow before they drop their brittle seed heads. Meanwhile the deeper rooted native grasses are still green and have just begun to set their seed. This year native fruiting plants including blackberry and Red Elderberry are setting their seed two weeks early; perhaps that sheds light on the apparent early arrival dates of the songbirds. These migrants rely on our native fruit to provide during the hard work of the nesting season. The dark, cold days of winter and the wintering birds they harbor have begun to feel like distant memories. Wintering birds depart largely unnoticed, as a different wave of northbound bird species begins to arrive in force. From yards, ridge tops and even outer points- birders anticipate the new flight, songs and colors that now darn the ephemeral spring landscape.
Back on April 12 a red Fox Sparrow, presumably from the zaboria subspecies, was observed and photographed on Pine Mountain (TP). It’s a very different plant community up there that proves it attracts different sorts of migrants.
Unusual at any time in spring were large incursions of spawning sardines. Though they showed up at several spots along the nearby coastline, in Marin they were present in Tomales Bay and Bolinas. On 4/17 Bolinas residents noted the baitfish bonanza had attracted a real crowd in the otherwise largely depleted Bolinas Lagoon waterbird population. Among the hundreds of gulls were at least one Mew and Thayer’s Gull. A week later the masses continued with at least 5 getting-to-be-late Herring Gulls remaining among lots of bleached out and beat up latecomers and loiterers. Twenty Red-breasted Mergansers on the lagoon also seemed a large number this late in the season. (BH, PP, KH, DS, JC) Among the least expected species to be seen in mass at this time were Brown Pelicans. This species has experienced major breeding failures to the south this year, with hundreds present along our coast. This species is generally very sparse, even miss-able by late April in most years. The spring presence of Heerman’s Gull and Elegant Tern this April and May elsewhere in our region is part of the same southern breeding failure phenomenon.
Out at the outer point on 4/18 the ocean was alive with the seasonal seabird migrations expected with the northwest winds. Thousands of Bonaparte’s Gulls and Pacific Loons streamed north visible from the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse (GB) at the northwest end of the county. That same gusty period brought a lone Red Phalarope to rest at Rodeo Lagoon in the southwest most part of the county (WL, DE). On 4/27 a 1-year-old Sabine’s Gull touched down on Tomales Bay mudflats, also after some rough weather at sea, and was observed for about 45 minutes by some lucky observers (DS, DSh, KH, PP).
As usual Bolinas had more than its share of unusual sightings where news of a rare Pectoral Sandpiper touchdown at the Bolinas Sewage Ponds hit the chat lines on 5/5 (RC, TG, MD, ME); it was likely the “rarest” sighting during this period.
April 30th was a major migration day. While SF seemed to get much of the best of the show, a few lucky folks made it to the Outer Point, which was “dripping with migrants”. Among the fallout was an unusual mix of spring migrants including 3 Vaux’s Swifts, 5 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, 3 Swainson’s Thrushes, 6 Townsend’s Warblers, 12 Western Tanagers and 1 Chipping Sparrow (JM). Though observers were on the lookout in Bolinas, no major songbird movement was noted. Two Swainson’s Hawks were proof of the keen eyes to the skies there, however, that same day (KH, PP). On May 4, at least one MacGillivray’s Warbler was in a traditional nesting location in the riparian scrub plant community at the base of the cutoff to the Estero Trail just off Sir Francis Drake (DH). On May 5, fledged Dark-eyed Juncos in the hills above Fairfax appeared early to one observer who is no stranger to the intimate details of Marin’s breeding birds. A Fox Sparrow there on the date was very late indeed (Disc).
White-throated Sparrows made a larger than expected late season appearance with 2 showing up at the Wildlife Gallery in Bolinas on 4/28 (KH) and singles in Inverness Park and the Earthquake Trail on 5/ 8-9 (DW). Similarly late was a singing Townsend’s Warbler at Muir Woods on May 11, a bird that has never bred in the state (DE).
By Josiah Clark
Observers – BH: Burr Henneman, DE: Daniel Edelstein, DH: Derek Heinze, DS: David Sibley, DSh: Dave Shuford, DW: David Wimpfeimer, GB: Gordon Bennett, JC: Josiah Clark, JM: Jeff Miller, KH:-Keith Hansen, MD: Mark Dettling, ME: Megan Elrod, RC: Renee Cormier, TG: Tom Gardali, TP: Todd Plummer, WL: William Legge
Marin Birdlog — March-April 2014
By Josiah Clark
The combination of more sun and more rain spurs on spring to new heights. Taller grasses are setting seeds and more wildflowers are in bloom. Ephemeral pools are filled with tadpoles and the ever louder chorus of their fathers. Looking only at Marin, it’s hard to tell we are enduring the driest drought in our state’s history. Mt. Tam, the rain epicenter of the county, has received some 30-40 inches over the past couple of months alone! Reservoirs and ponds are full, so full that ducks have moved into flooded fields across the county.
Meanwhile many northbound first-of-season songbird migrants are arriving two weeks earlier than most years. Marin’s first of season Hooded Oriole to be reported arrived on 3/20 in San Rafael (RA). A Black-throated Gray Warbler on the Bolinas Fairfax road on 3/27 (DE) was similarly early. Just up the ridge on 3/23 an overwintering Townsend’s Solitaire continues at Barth’s Retreat. Here the Sargent Cypress have hosted single digits of this mountain species for years (JM, SH). After decades of sampling, the nets at Point Blue’s Palomarin Field Station captured their first Hooded Oriole this spring, another indication this recent colonist continues to explore.
On 4/25 the GGNRA hosted its first ever Bioblitz, charging local birders to throw down some effort in the patches they know better than anyone. Highlights included an immature Bald Eagle at Hawk Hill (AF) and a Swainson’s Hawk at Giacomini Wetlands (TP, RS).
Bolinas Lagoon continues to host Greater White-fronted Goose, Eurasian Wigeon by the Webber Fields and west Marin’s most reliable pair of Blue-winged Teal near Stinson 4/7 (KH). Just offshore from there a pair of Marbled Murrelets was coming into breeding plumage on March 15 (KH). Cinnamon Teal, usually uncommon on the west side have been showing up on the coast in larger numbers this spring, but why?
At Las Gallinas the Great-tailed Grackles appear to have begun breeding again in the reeds, another recent addition to Marin’s changing avifauna. Water levels there are too high for ducks and most appear to have moved north to the shallower waters of Rush Creek.
AF: Allen Fish, DE: Daniel Edelstein, JM: Jeff Miller, KH: Keith Hansen, RA: Richard Ackley, RS: Rusty Scalf, SH: Steve Howell, TP: Todd Plummer
February – March 2014
February was the wettest month of the driest winter in California’s history, and Marin was lucky to get more rain than most Bay Area counties. Across the landscape the response was immediate. Brown hills became green and oaks put out tender new growth, attracting hatching insects and the migrant songbirds that feed on them.
Early February brought the last of the herring runs in a year when commercial fishermen packed up their nets with 200 tons of quota left uncaught. Despite what was considered a disappointing herring run, dedicated counters tallied over 9000 birds on 3/3 out on Richardson Bay, with most there to feed on herring roe. Four thousand one hundred Greater Scaup was an impressive count, with a Long-tailed Duck also observed (KW, LL). A Black Scoter there on 2/19 was also a rare observation for any part of the Marin bayshore(KW, LL).
Meanwhile over at the southwest corner of the county on 3/12, Rodeo Beach sported three Red-necked Grebes. This species is generally unexpected in that part of the county (WL).
At Las Gallinas on 3/3, the first of season Northern Rough-winged Swallow was observed (DE, ME, RD). An overwintering Swamp Sparrow in rare form cooperated for good viewing there that day as well (ME, RD). On 3/12 a Short-eared Owl there made the rounds over one of the species favorite spots in Marin (DE). Out at Stafford Lake the cooperative male Tufted Duck continued at least until 3/6 despite the concurrent presence of two immature Bald Eagles (DS).
The long anticipated arrival of the first Wilson’s Warbler was on 3/13 at Phoenix Lake, and a Warbling Vireo was not far behind on 3/15 at Cascade Canyon (DE). Phoenix Lake also showed off a Pacific–slope Flycatcher on 3/11 (RC).
By Josiah Clark
Observers – DE: Daniel Edelstein, DS: Dave Shuford, KW: Kerry Wilcox, LL: Liz Lewis, RC: Renee Cormier, ME: Megan Elrod, RD: Ryan Digaudio, WL: William Legge
December 2013 – January 2014
With or without the rain, winter must go on. And with winter come three different Christmas Bird Counts in Marin County, which is as many as any Bay Area county. These counts’ circles are East Marin, Pt. Reyes and South Marin. They host over 300 hundred participants, logging thousands of birding hours in the county during the month of December.
December 19 was the Cheep Thrills Count, representing east and north parts of the county. Highlights from the Deer Valley Golf course included eight species of sparrow including Swamp and White-throated (DS). A Burrowing Owl (LK) on Loma Alta ridge was an only for the count. Single Rock Wrens were noted on the remote ridges east of Big Rock trailhead (JTC) and on private property above Nicasio (EN). Not far from the countdown dinner in Novato, a bright male Western Tanager was observed in a front yard (JTC, RF, LK).
Just outside the count circle at Las Gallinas on January 7, an American Bittern was briefly observed (LB) and few apparent overwintering Vaux’s Swifts were flying up with an unseasonally large group of Tree Swallows (JTC). More recently on 1/14 at Bolero Court in Novato, a Pacific Golden Plover was a good find, along with two female Barrow’s Goldeneye for good measure (DE).
December 21 was the Pt. Reyes Count, one of the nation’s most well-attended counts that usually scores within the top 10 for the nation. Highlights included the continuing Winter Wren near Inverness (TE, MF), the returning Tufted Duck at Abbot’s Lagoon (AT, DM) and a Yellow Warbler by some keen-eyed team members at Muddy Hollow. A Red-naped Sapsucker was the rare bird from Olema Marsh (IS, OJ). The biggest surprise was a Manx Shearwater spotted from Elephant Rock. Other highlights from the impressive seawatch included Black-legged Kittiwake, Cassin’s Auklet, Red Phalarope and over 80 Ancient Murrelets (PP). The Mountain Plover was observed count week but not observed on the day or since (DD).
December 28 was the South Marin Count. Highlights included both Red-naped (TP) and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (DW) in Fairfax and Redhead and Swamp Sparrow down at Rodeo Lagoon (DM). Bolinas counters observed two Swamp Sparrows at the mouth of Pine Gulch Creek (CD, KJ, JTC). Through the nearby neighborhoods were two Nashville Warblers encrusted with Eucalyptus gum, 11 White-throated Sparrows and two Slate-colored Juncos. A Barrow’s Goldeneye and two Blue-winged Teal were among thousands of ducks on the lagoon (DD, RM). A Western Screech Owl seen along the lagoon predawn was the most coastal observation of its kind I have heard of for the county and very noteworthy (DD). The most prized bird on the count was likely a Harris’s Sparrow, found in downtown Bolinas first thing count day and was eventually seen by dozens of birders (KH). The Blue-footed Booby was last seen on its Gull Rock post a week before the count (JW).
In more recent events, the Pacific Herring are running! That means the best time all year to study gulls. The gull disciples have been summoned to the scene and from 1/8-1/11 found one and then two adult Slaty-backed Gulls, a species that has only a few records for the county (NA, TE).
By Josiah Clark
Observers – AT: Amy Trainer, CD: Cedric Dunhale, DD: Dave Desante, DE: Daniel Edelstein, DM: Dom Mosur, DS: David Schuford, EN: Ed Nute, IS: Ivan Samuels, JTC: Josiah Clark, JW: Jim White, KH: Keith Hansen, KJ: Kimberly Janarone, LB: Len Blumin, LK: Logan Kahle, MF: MaryAnne Flett, NA: Noah Arthur, OJ: Oliver James, PP: Peter Pyle, RF: Rob Furrow, RM: Rick Misuraca, TP: Todd Plummer, TE: Todd Easterla