Monthly Birdlog 2018
Marin Birdlog: December 2018
By Noah Arthur
December is deep winter, the coldest month on average in the Bay Area, and the peak month for many of Marin’s rare winter birds. Late-staying fall rarities, some attempting to stay for the winter, are often still around through the month, and are joined by midwinter rarities such as northern waterfowl. Extensive birding coverage during Christmas Bird Counts also contributes to the many rarities found during December, and this year was no different.
Long-tailed Duck is hardly a rarity on the outer coast in Marin, but a female fishing with Red-necked Grebes at the Fish Docks on the 1st was still a nice find (LN).
Mentioned in most of these monthly reports, the long-staying Black Vulture returned from its fall home in Inverness to Bolinas, where it was first seen on the 2nd (EC), and again several times late in the month. Townsend’s Solitaires also continued at Barth’s Retreat on Mt. Tamalpais throughout the month. An additional three
Townsend’s Solitaires were in Fairfax on the 6th (RCi, JB), making this an unusually good winter for the species in Marin.
Rare sapsuckers are perhaps the most characteristic vagrants of December, with several found most years in Marin. Most are discovered on Christmas counts, but an immature Red-naped Sapsucker was found earlier in the month, on the 7th, in Lagunitas (AD). Uncommon at any season but especially so in winter was a ‘Gray-headed’ Orange-crowned Warbler at Drakes Beach on the 7th (DS), likely a late migrant still moving south. Orange-crowned Warblers of multiple subspecies appear to continue their migration very late into the season, with many of them seen as late as December probably being migrants that will winter well south of us.
The rarest bird of the month, and a really unexpected find especially for midwinter, was a Little Blue Heron in a small lagoon north of the Richmond Bridge in San Rafael on the 8th (DH), which had apparently been present for at least a day beforehand. Many happy birders were able to see this far-flung vagrant in the following days.
A flock of 7 Tundra Swans, likely continuing birds that arrived earlier in the winter, were on Abbotts Lagoon on the 9th (PD). The 8th and 9th were an exceptional couple of days for lingering summer terns in winter Marin, with a Caspian Tern along the Bay Trail in San Rafael on the 8th (BB) and two Elegant Terns at Baypoint Lagoon on the 9th (MA). Another Caspian Tern, this a different individual, was flying over Tomales Bay off Inverness on the 13th (RB, DT). The number of Caspian Terns on Tomales Bay had increased to 4 by the time of the Pt. Reyes Christmas Bird Count on the 15th (KH, NA).
Upstaged somewhat by the Little Blue but still a very rare heron for Marin was a Cattle Egret found on Pt. Reyes along Pierce Point Rd. on the 13th (DSe).
The Pt. Reyes Christmas Count on the 15th turned up some nice rarities, the best being a Yellow-billed Loon on the north end of Tomales Bay, off Tomales Point (JG). Other good finds were a Pacific Golden-plover at Drakes Corner on the Outer Point (RCo), a male Red-naped Sapsucker along Sir Francis Drake Blvd. south of Inverness Park (NA), a Snow Goose flying with Canadas north of White House Pool (KH), a Grasshopper Sparrow at Tomasini Canyon just north of Pt. Reyes Station (MB, JoG), Barn and Violet-green Swallows in Pt. Reyes Station, and 3 Black-headed Grosbeaks in Inverness. As usual, there were several Swamp Sparrows in the marshes off Inverness Park (KH, NA), although high water prevented us from surveying much of the area that often produces 30 or 40 Swamps on the count.
An apparently pure ‘Yellow-shafted’ Flicker was at Olompali on the 20th (JC), much rarer than the intermediate birds with yellow or orange shafts we often see in the Bay Area. Two Yellow Rails were seen during a high tide at the south end of Tomales Bay on the 23rd (DSe), and another Caspian Tern was at Chileno Valley on the 25th (EC). A Lesser Yellowlegs was with a flock of Greaters at Las Gallinas on the 28th (LC).
Much rarer than the Red-naped Sapsuckers, although perhaps underreported due to its subspecies status, was a ‘Northern’ Red-breasted Sapsucker (subspecies ruber) found in Bolinas on the Bolinas Christmas Bird Count on the 29th (LC). Elsewhere on the 29th, a flock of 3 Lawrence’s Goldfinches and a ‘Thick-billed’ Fox Sparrow were along Pine Mtn. Fire Road (EC).
Observers and Acronyms AD: Adam Donkin, BB: Bob Battagin, CM: Colin Meusel, DSe: David Sexton, DH: Daphne Hatch, DK: Durrell Kapan, DS: Dan Singer, DT: David Tomb, EC: Everett Clark, JB: Janet Bodle, JC: Jim Crumpler, JG: Juan Garcia, JoG: Joachim Gonzalez, KH: Keith Hansen, LC: Lucas Corneliussen, LN: Larry Nigro, MA: Myrto Ashe, MB: Max Benningfield, NA: Noah Arthur, PD: Preston Duncan, RB: Russ Bright, RCo: Reef Comer, RCi:Rich Cimino
Marin Birdlog: November 2018
By Noah Arthur
November is early winter in Marin. The fall surge of migrants and vagrants has mostly passed by the end of October, but a new set of less-predictable rarities, such as uncommon winter sparrows and inland waterfowl, tend to make their appearance in November.
Continuing from October and especially rare so far inland was a getting-late Tropical Kingbird that was enjoyed by many observers in the first week of November at Las Gallinas. While most everyone was enjoying the kingbird, a Lawrence’s Goldfinch was found at the Fish Docks on the 2nd (DS), continuing this year’s theme of Outer Point records of the species. Another getting-late regular fall vagrant was a Clay-colored Sparrow at Mendoza Ranch on the 3rd (NB).
Along with continuing Townsend’s Solitaires the previous day, a ‘Thick-billed’ Fox Sparrow was observed on Mt. Tamalpais on the 4th (MS, LS).
The rarest bird of the month, and surely one of this year’s most impressive rarities in Marin, was a juvenile male Northern Goshawk banded at Hawk Hill on the 5th (AG). The hawk was seen again in the area on the 7th (RS).
Presumably the same long-staying Sage Thrasher put in an appearance at Las Gallinas on the 9th (JH).
The second week of the month brought an incursion of inland waterfowl to the coast, including a fly-over flock of 3 Snow Geese and 3 Ross’s Geese, as well as 7 Tundra Swans on the water, at Kent Island in Bolinas on the 11th (PP). The season’s first Eurasian Wigeon was also at Kent Island (PP). Early the following day, 5 Tundra Swans showed up at Abbotts Lagoon (EC).
Very late were two Barn Swallows at Mendoza Ranch on the 12th (DS), and a Black-headed Grosbeak in Inverness on the 15th (DF). (Black-headed Grosbeak is, in fact, rarer than Rose-breasted Grosbeak in winter in coastal California!) Another uncommon and late migrant was a Chipping Sparrow along the Estero Trail on the 18th (LN).
Rare subspecies of Fox Sparrow are classic early winter vagrants on the California coast, and two were found on the 25th: a ‘Red’ Fox Sparrow in Marshall (NW) and another ‘Thick-billed’ Fox Sparrow at Pine Mountain Fire Rd. (DL).
The number of Tundra Swans on Abbotts Lagoon had increased to seven by the 28th, and yet another vagrant from the interior valleys on the 28th was a Cattle Egret on a soccer field in Bolinas (SH).
Observers and Acronyms AG: Alane Gray, DF: Dea Freid, DL: Derek Lecy, DS: Dan Singer, EC: Everett Clark, JH: Jack Hayden, LN: Larry Nigro, LS: Lucas Stephenson, MS: Mark Stephenson, NB: Nigel Bates, NW: Nils Warnock, PP: Peter Pyle, RS: Rich Cimino, SH: Steve Howell
Marin Birdlog: October 2018
By Noah Arthur
This year’s biggest week of rare warbler action on Outer Point Reyes, which began at the end of September, continued into the first days of October, with Chestnut-sided, Blackpoll, Blackburnian (2), and Magnolia Warblers, a Northern Waterthrush (all continuing from Sept.) and an Ovenbird being seen on the 1st! This was one of the best days on the Outer Point in recent years, with other rarities being a Red-throated Pipit and a Pacific Golden-plover (DM) on the hill above Nunes Ranch, and a Golden Eagle (EB, NW) and American Bittern at Drakes Beach (BS, m.ob.). One or more Broad-winged Hawks were also kicking about the Outer Point that day and were seen by various groups of birders.
The willow/alder hummock by the Inverness Tennis Club continued its good run on the 1st as well with a Red-eyed Vireo (MM).
The continuing Blue-footed Booby was on Chimney Rock on the 3rd, and an additional Red-eyed Vireo was at the Fish Docks on the 2nd.
The rarest and most exotic warbler of the month came on the 4th, in the form of a Painted Redstart found early in the morning in Drakes Beach cypresses (JT, ST). Many birders including myself were able to see this spectacular visitor from the Arizona “tropics,” which was gone the next day.
A Blackpoll Warbler was at Fish Docks on the 5th (TR, CLG). Rare for Marin although common throughout much of the West was a Yellow-headed Blackbird that flew over Las Gallinas on the 8th (RS). Quite rare for the Outer Point was a Long-eared Owl roosting near a couple of Barn Owls at the Fish Docks on the 8th (KO).
By far the rarest Marin bird of the year, and perhaps one of the county’s most outstanding records of all time, appeared at Abbotts Lagoon on the 10th: an adult male Common Ringed-Plover (MSw), which was subsequently seen close-up by many other happy birders. Photos of its toes and recordings of its calls were also obtained to fully confirm the identification.
Another species that’s a regular migrant in inland California but quite rare on the outer coast, a Hammond’s Flycatcher showed up at the Fish Docks on the 10th (SC). Also on the 11th, another Red-throated Pipit was found by plover-chasers at Abbotts Lagoon (LK).
Three Lawrence’s Goldfinches in Lagunitas on the 13th were another nice vagrant from inland California (AD). Also on the 13th, the Chimney Rock Blue-footed was replaced by a Brown Booby (PB).
In a classic example of “Patagonia rest stop effect,” two more rare shorebirds were found at Abbotts on the 14th, a very late Baird’s Sandpiper and an American Golden-Plover (JB).
A rare subspecies for Marin, a ‘Sordida’ Orange-crowned Warbler from the Channel Islands, was in Inverness on the 19th (JBe). A getting-late Chestnut-sided Warbler was near the Green Gulch Farm in Muir Beach on the 20th (AM), where it was joined by a Black-and-white and several other eastern and western warbler species (AH) on the 24th!
Way back inland, in a part of Marin that is rarely mentioned in these reports, a Townsend’s Solitaire was found in a Sargent cypress grove on Mt. Tamalpais on the 27th (BM).
Fitting the pattern of rare ‘Solitary’ Vireos showing up late in the season, a Plumbeous Vireo was in Muir Beach on the 30th (AH).
As usual for fall, some of the regular vagrant songbirds were reported multiple times. Tropical Kingbirds were at Fish Docks on the 11th (HC, EI) and Bolinas on the 26th (MD, ME). Clay-colored Sparrows were at the Fish Docks on the 6th (SH, MM) and 23rd (AR). Tennessee Warblers were at Fish Docks on the 5th (NA), Muir Beach on the 9th (NA â€“ I seem to have good luck with this species!), and Muir Beach again on the 23rd (AH). Palm Warblers were at Rodeo Lagoon on the 10th (WL), 2 at Fish Docks on the 23rd (AR), and Muir Beach on the 24th (AH). The long-staying Black Vulture was also seen around Inverness several times during the month.
Observers and Acronyms AD: Adam Donkin, AH: Adrian Hinkle, AM: Alex Merritt, AR: Andrew Rush, BM: Bruce Mast, BS: Bob Smith, CLG: Claire Leif Gallagher, DM: Dominik Mosur, EB: Eddie Bartley, EI: Emmett Iverson, HC: Holly Coates, JBe: Jonah Benningfield, JB: Justin Bosler, JK: John King, JT: Jim Thomas, KO: Kurt Ongman, LK: Logan Kahle, m.ob.: many observers, MD: Mark Dettling, ME: Megan Elrod, MM: Mark Martucci, MS: Mark Schulist, MSw: Mark Sawyer, NA: Noah Arthur, NW: Noreen Weeden, PB: Phred Bernham, RS: Robert Stevenson, SC: Scott Carey, SH: Scott Hoppe, ST: Steve Tracey, TR: Tobias Rohmer, WL: William Legge
Marin Birdlog: September 2018
By Noah Arthur
September is the month that we Marin birders live for, when outer Point Reyes and other coastal locations come alive with eastern warblers and other rare and colorful migrants. Shorebird passage is still at its peak in early September, but the first rare find of the month â€“ and quite an unexpected one â€“ was neither passerine nor shorebird but two White-winged Doves at Spaletta Ranch on Pt. Reyes (LS).
One of the most unusual and exotic rarities of the month showed up on the 2nd in the form of a Broad-billed Hummingbird at Keith Hansen’s feeders in Bolinas (KH). This bird was joined by a Black-chinned Hummingbird on the 2nd (KD, BS), and a Costa’s Hummingbird was at the Pt. Reyes Fish Docks also on the 2nd (LC).
The eastern warbler trickle also began on the 2nd with a Hooded Warbler at Drakes Beach (LC) and a Canada Warbler caught by the Palomarin banding team (DH).
Another interior Western waif was a Cattle Egret at Abbotts on the 2nd (DL). Rarer for the Outer Point than many eastern vagrants, and fitting into early September’s interior Western theme, were a Gray Flycatcher at the Fish Docks on the 7th (MS), and a Dusky Flycatcher there on the 8th (LC). A Brewer’s Sparrow was in Corte Madera Marsh on the 9th (AMe).
One of the rarest warblers of the month was a Bay-breasted Warbler at Kent Island in Bolinas on the 8th (PP). Similarly rare, a White-eyed Vireo was found in Muir Beach on the 15th by AMe, who pulled off the incredible feat of getting identifiable photos of the foraging vireo with his iPhone through binoculars! A female Painted Bunting was also in Muir on the 16th (LC).
Rarest Marin bird of the month, and one that drew many rarity-chasers from elsewhere in the state, was an Eastern Yellow Wagtail found at Rodeo Lagoon on the 17th (WL). This East Asian vagrant continued for several days, and call recordings were obtained to rule out its (highly unlikely) European relative, Western Yellow Wagtail.
A male Summer Tanager was photographed in Inverness early on the 19th (SB, JM, GD, AMa, BF), but was never re-found by anyone and became infamous among Pt. Reyes regulars over the next few days as one that got away. Much rarer in fall than in spring, a young female Northern Parula was at Nunes Ranch on Pt. Reyes on the 22nd (NA). A long-staying Northern Waterthrush was first found at Fish Docks on the 23rd (JM), and a Lark Bunting was near Nunes Ranch on the 25th (RC).
Another excellent find at Rodeo Lagoon was a Yellow-green Vireo on the 26th (WL). A Sage Thrasher was found at Las Gallinas on the 26th (DA) and later seen by many others, including LC who also found a Vesper Sparrow there on the 28th.
Also on the 28th a Yellow-breasted Chat and a Magnolia Warbler were at Fish Docks (DS). These were the forerunners of a spectacular wave of eastern migrants and other rarities that would continue into October, including an Ovenbird and two Blackburnian Warblers at Fish Docks on the 29th (MS), and a Blackpoll Warbler (NA) and an Indigo Bunting (JV) at Mendoza Ranch on the 30th. Also on the 30th, a Lawrence’s Goldfinch made a brief early morning stop at Nunes Ranch (NA), a Vermilion Flycatcher was in Bolinas (CO), and a Blue-footed Booby was on Chimney Rock (LN).
As usual for September, some of the more common eastern vagrants were reported multiple times. There were many reports of Least Flycatchers at the Fish Docks in the first half of the month; however, I’m not sure if any were confirmed by Empid experts. Chestnut-sided Warblers were found at the Pt. Reyes New Willows on the 2nd (RR), the Inverness Tennis Club (CC) and Rodeo Lagoon (HT) on the 9th, Bolinas on the 9th (JN), Fish Docks (AH) and Drakes Beach (LC) on the 22nd Clem Miller EEC on inner Pt. Reyes on the 22nd (GH), and Mendoza Ranch on the 28th (PC). Clay-colored Sparrows were at Mendoza Ranch on the 3rd (TP) and Fish Docks on the 22nd (AH).
Comparing this September’s eastern warbler occurrences with past years, some interesting trends are apparent. Chestnut-sided Warblers have continued to increase in abundance over the last few years, and were by far the most numerous eastern migrant in Marin this month. Blackburnian reports also seem to be increasing, while Blackpolls and American Redstarts seem to be getting less frequent.
Observers and Acronyms AH: Adrian Hinkle, AMe: Alex Merritt, AMa: Andrew Mauro, BF: Blanche Fenwick, BS: Byron Stone, CC: Collin Cochrane, CO: Carol Oakes, DA: David Assmann, DH: Diana Humple, DL: Derek Lecy, DS: Dan Singer, GD: Gail DeLalla, GH: Gjon Hazard, HT: Holly Thomas, JMo: Joseph Morlan, JMy: Jane Mygatt, JN: Joey Negreann, JV: Jason Vassalo, KD: Keith Denkler, KH: Keith Hansen, LC: Lucas Corneliussen, LN: Larry Nigro, LS: Lucas Stephenson, MS: Mark Sawyer, NA: Noah Arthur, PC: Peter Colasanti, PP: Peter Pyle, RC: Reef Comer, RR: Ruth Rudesill, SB: Steve Brad, TP: Todd Plummer, WL: William Legge
Marin Birdlog: August 2018
By Noah Arthur
August is usually shorebird month on the California coast. Rarity-seeking birders spend hours scanning distant mudflats in search of “something different,” and Marin usually turns up a few unusual shorebirds each year in late summer. However, August shorebirding was not as good as usual this year, and the shorebirds were eclipsed by a spectacular early push of eastern songbirds.
The first rare bird of the month was a female Yellow-headed Blackbird at Five Brooks Pond on August 8th (CM). Another wanderer from inland California was an adult Swainson’s Hawk that floated over the Pt. Reyes Chimney Rock Trail on the 15th (DW).
The first Townsend’s Warbler of the fall showed up at the Pt. Reyes Fish Docks on the 17th (DS), soon to be followed by many more warblers and other migrants in the latter half of the month.
A nice uncommon shorebird for Marin was a Wilson’s Phalarope on the Mendoza Ranch pond at Pt. Reyes on the 18th (MS, LS). Also rare along the outer coast were two Purple Martins flying over Mendoza Ranch – heading south and probably actively migrating – on the 20th (DS).
Marin’s longest-staying rarity also put in an appearance this month: the Inverness Black Vulture, seen on the 25th (JP).
A lot of migrants hit the Pt. Reyes Fish Docks on the 25th, including a Cassin’s Vireo (BA, DL) and the first eastern warbler of the fall, a Northern Waterthrush (MB). At least three Willow Flycatchers were also present (BA, DL), kicking off what would turn out to be an unusually good fall season for the species in Marin and elsewhere the Bay Area. Also on the 25th, a Clay-colored Sparrow was at Abbotts Lagoon (RS, RA) – an unexpected August record of this eastern migrant whose occurrence in our area peaks in October. By the 27th, it was clear that an early wave of eastern migrants was underway, with a Chestnut-sided Warbler at Drakes Beach and a Least Flycatcher at the Fish Docks (DS).
On the 28th, the Palomarin banding team caught one of the rarest warblers of the month, an immature Canada Warbler (MD).
More rarities had descended on Pt. Reyes by the 29th, with the best being not one but two Eastern Kingbirds near E Ranch (DS), subsequently seen by many happy birders. A Prairie Warbler (RH), a Tennessee Warbler (MF), the continuing Waterthrush, and an American Redstart (BB, EC) were all at the Fish Docks on the 29th and/or 30th. Probably even rarer than the Canada Warbler was a male Cape May Warbler at Abbotts Lagoon on the 31st (DE).
One of the big stories of this fall in the California birding world has been a surprising incursion of Buff-breasted Sandpipers, with far more reports than there are in most years. Marin got its piece of the action on the 31st, with a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Abbotts Lagoon (DB).
Observers and Acronyms BA: Bob Atwood, BB: Bob Battagin, CM: Colin Meusel, DB: Don Bartling, DE: Daniel Edelstein, DL: Derek Lecy, DS: Dan Singer, DW: Denise Wight, EC: Everett Clark, JP: John Perry, LS: Lucas Stephenson, MB: Mark Butler, MD: Mark Dettling, MF: Mark Forney, MS: Mark Stephenson, RA: Robert Aramayo, RH: Roger Harshaw, RS: Rusty Scalf
Marin Birdlog: May-July 2018
By Noah Arthur
Spring migration remains in full swing in early May in Marin, even as early-arriving breeders begin to settle down and nest. But Marin is ‘south’ for the majority of species that occur here, and very few winter rarities stick around as late as May. However, this year a very late Tundra Swan, continuing from April, was hanging with Mute Swans at the Hamilton Field Bay Trail until at least May 15th (JH, WR).
A very odd record, but a species we will probably be seeing more of in coming years, was a fly-by pair of Great-tailed Grackles at the Pt. Reyes Fish Docks on May 1st (MS, LS).
Very unusual for spring migration, a Pectoral Sandpiper was found at the Bolinas Sewage Ponds on May 11th (KH) and continued through the 15th. Like several other uncommon shorebirds, nearly all of Marin’s Pectoral Sandpipers pass through in the fall, when they are an uncommon to rare but regular migrant species, and nearly all are juveniles. This could be due to an elliptical migration pattern (with western migrant Pectorals traveling north in spring farther inland than they travel south in fall), or it could indicate that most Pectorals in coastal California are “lost” vagrant juveniles that don’t survive their first winter or at least don’t return to California in future years.
The Bolinas Sewage Ponds also had a singing on the 11th (SJ), which continued until the 15th. Also, on the 11th a Canyon Wren was singing along Ponti Fire Road (RH). Way out offshore, at least 12 Cook’s Petrels were in Marin waters on the 10th (NC). A flock of 9 White-faced Ibises flying over Bolinas Lagoon was an uncommon western migrant find on the 12th (JN, PD).
Compared to fall, spring migration produces relatively few rare eastern migrants in Marin. However, those that do show up are often singing and in brilliant breeding plumage, and spring has yielded some of our best records. Most pass through between late May and mid-June, but every year there are a few early arrivals, and this season’s trickle of eastern migrants kicked off on May 15th with a singing male Rose-breasted Grosbeak at Pine Gulch (MD) and a Tennessee Warbler at the Pt. Reyes Fish Docks (MF). Another or the same Rose-breasted Grosbeak was in town in Bolinas on the 16th (DHu).
A pair of Lawrence’s Goldfinches photographed at the Pt. Reyes Fish Docks on May 20th (LN) was very rare for the coast; they nested in the area, with fledglings observed in late June and early July. This is an interesting example of vagrants nesting on the Outer Point, a phenomenon that seems to be exceedingly rare.
Another rare vagrant from the Interior West was a Vermilion Flycatcher at the Fish Docks on the 21st (DM). Two flycatchers, rarer on the Outer Point than many eastern songbirds despite being regular migrants in nearby interior California, were a Dusky Flycatcher at the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse on the 22nd (MF) and a Hammond’s Flycatcher at the Fish Docks on the 25th (MS, LS).
While rare western migrants took center stage on Pt. Reyes in late May, the trickle of eastern migrants was picking up speed. Another Rose-breasted Grosbeak was also at Drakes Beach on the 22nd (LK) and an Ovenbird was at the Fish Docks on the 25th (AM, EC). Over at Redwood Creek, a female Baltimore Oriole showed up on May 26th (AM). On the 28th a Black-and-white Warbler was at Nunes Ranch on Pt. Reyes (PC).
June started off with a White-winged Dove (DF) and an American Redstart (DHe) at the Pt. Reyes Fish Docks on the 2nd. Quite unusual for June was a Long-tailed Duck at Abbotts Lagoon on the 6th (ML), which continued into mid-June. The rarest eastern vagrant of the spring was found on the 9th, a Brown Thrasher at the Pt. Reyes Fish Docks (MC, PE), which was also present for several days. Another rare mimid, a Gray Catbird turned up at Muddy Hollow on the 14th (MD). One Chestnut-sided Warbler was at the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse on the 17th (HC), and another was at Rush Creek on the 21st (MF). Also on the 21st, a Black-and-white Warbler was at the Palomarin field station, and a second Black-and-white was at the Fish Docks on the 22nd (GD)!
As usual, the rare bird action slowed as June came to an end, but an Eastern Kingbird showed up on July 1st at Commonweal (LN) and continued a few days. A last wave of eastern migrants included a Rose-breasted Grosbeak reported by Palomarin workers at Muddy Hollow on the 5th, a Northern Parula at Vision Rd. in Inverness on the 10th (at a known over-summering location for the species in past years) (JB, OM), an Indigo Bunting along Pt. Reyes-Petaluma Rd. on the 10th (CW), and another Rose-breasted Grosbeak at feeders southwest of Inverness, also on the 10th (LN).
Another Black Swift flew by Gull Rock on July 13th (NW, EB), suggesting that birds from the Año Nuevo nesting colony may be regularly wandering to the Marin coast on long foraging trips or as pre- and post-breeding visitors. Presumably the same long-staying Black Vulture put in an appearance in Pt. Reyes Station on the 15th (GM).
Shorebird migration is well underway along the California coast by early or mid-July, and rarer species were being reported elsewhere on the coast this July, but none were reported in Marin. August may yet yield some shorebird rarities.
AM: Alex Merritt, CW: Canyon Williams, DF: Dea Freid, DHu: Diana Humple, DHe: Derek Heins, DM: Dominik Mosur, EB: Eddie Bartley, EC: Everett Clark, GD: Guy Dutson, GM: Gerry McChesney, HC: Heather Cameron, JB: Jonah Benningfield, JH: Joel Hedgpeth, JN: Joey Negreann, KH: Keith Hansen, LK: Logan Kahle, LN: Larry Nigro, LS: Lucas Stephenson, MA: Myrto Ashe, MC: Mimi Calter, MD: Mark Dettling, MF: Mark Forney, ML: Matt Lau, MM: Michael Mahoney, MS: Mark Stephenson, NC: Nancy Christensen, NW: Noreen Weeden, OM: Oscar Moss, PC: Peter Colasanti, PD: Preston Duncan, PE: Philip Eager, RH: Robert Hinz, SJ: Scott Jennings, TP: Todd Plummer, WR: Wayne Rapp
Marin Birdlog: March 2018
By Noah Arthur
While most of North America remains in winter’s frozen grip, March is the month for spring migrant and breeding bird arrivals in Marin and elsewhere on the California coast. Some winter waterbirds are also around too, such as the Northern Fulmar that arced past Muir Beach heading north on the 4th of this March (JW). Just beyond our area, two Fulmars also flew by Bodega Head on the 5th, perhaps part of a small inshore incursion of the species (TB).
There were either few rare birds, few active birders, or both during the first half of the month, because the next good report doesn’t come until the 15th, with a female Eurasian Wigeon on Richardson Bay (JC). Females of this uncommon to rare duck are not only much more difficult to identify than males but are thought to be genuinely rarer than males on this continent, due to males’ tendency to wander farther from their birthplaces.
Another nice winter duck sighting was three Long-tailed Ducks, two females and a male, off Rodeo Beach on the 20th (WL).
An uncommon to rare spring arrival was a Least Bittern at Las Gallinas on the 23rd (CL), perhaps a bird that will breed there this season. The first Hooded Oriole of the season in Marin visited a Novato backyard (near Bahia) on the 24th (ML). Another first-of-season were two calling Common Poorwills at Tennessee Valley on the 26th (CL).
The long-staying Black Vulture that has wandered the North Bay for the last several years floated over Inverness on the 26th (SA).
More spring migrants began to arrive toward the end of the month, with the season’s first Marin reports of Cassin’s Vireo, Wilson’s Warbler, and Pacific-slope Flycatcher in San Geronimo Valley on the 30th (LH).
Observers and Acronyms CL: Calvin Lou, JC: Josiah Clark, JW: Jim White, LH: Luanna Helfman, ML: Margareta Luff, SA: Scott Anderson, TB: Tony Briggs, WL: William Legge
Marin Birdlog: February 2018
By Noah Arthur
To non-birders in coastal California, February may be the dullest, rainiest, and gloomiest month of the year, but for us birders it is populated with such things as northern gulls, ducks, loons, and grebes. This February, the Arctic Loon at Abbotts Lagoon continued through the 20th (RS), and some other nice deep-winter waterfowl included a Long-tailed Duck and 8-10 Red-necked Grebes on Tomales Bay on the 3rd (DW).
Much more unexpected for late winter was a Palm Warbler at Las Gallinas on the 8th, likely wintering in the area. The continuing Eurasian Green-winged Teal was also still present there (BB).
Rare gulls aren’t often reported in Marin, which (except during herring spawns) is a surprisingly poor gulling area for a coastal county, with no good places to consistently find large numbers of loafing gulls. However, a stunning 1st-cycle Glaucous Gull flew by Gull Rock (north of Muir Beach) on a windy Feb. 11th, flying north into the wind with other gulls (DK). It’s quite possible that winter gull-watching at points along our outer coast – especially during or just after foul weather, when large numbers of gulls are pushed in close to shore and can be seen flying by at close range – will turn up more rarities.
A very early Rufous Hummingbird was caught and banded at the Palomarin Field Station on the 12th (MD).
Two more waterfowl rarities were a Redhead on Corte Madera Creek on the 13th (LS), and an even rarer female Tufted Duck at China Camp State Park on the 14th, seen along with modest numbers of Greater and Lesser Scaup and thousands of Canvasback (LH, JM). Another Long-tailed Duck was off Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands on the 22nd (WL).
Observers and Acronyms BB: Bob Battagin, DK: Durrell Kapan, DS: David Sexton, DW: David Wimpfheimer, EC: Everett Clark, JM: Janet McGarry, LH: Lisa Hug, LS: Langdon Stevenson, WL: William Legge
Marin Birdlog: January 2018
By Noah Arthur
While much of the continent endures snow, ice, and frozen bodies of water in January, Marin and the California coast in general get some of its best birding. Deep winter is the time for our rare waterfowl, gulls, loons, and other waterbirds from up north. This January kicked off with a nice male Barrow’s Goldeneye at Bahia in Novato on the 6th (DE) and a Long-tailed Duck at the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse on the 7th (ES).
One of the most interesting occurrences of January was a spectacular region-wide incursion of Central Valley geese into the Bay Area, including Marin, on the 13th and 14th, associated with a major tule fog event in the Valley. Specific sightings included 200 Cackling Geese in flight over Bahia (GH); 28 Cackling Geese and one each of Snow and Greater White-fronted Geese at Rodeo Lagoon (WL); and one each of Snow, Ross’s, and Greater White-fronted at Abbotts Lagoon (MD). Later arrivals that were probably part of the same event were single Ross’s Geese at Rodeo Lagoon (WL) and Nicasio Reservoir (BB) on the 17th. It apparently isn’t fully understood why tule fog causes geese to leave their usual swampy winter quarters in the Valley, but it likely has to do with the fog causing them to become disoriented. According to a Central Valley birder I queried about this, they don’t like to descend through fog to land, and will fly until they reach openings in the fog to descend through (AD). Observations of tule fog as far west as the Marin Headlands during this event may indicate that many geese had to fly all the way to the coast before they found any gaps in the fog.
At Bahia on the 21st a Lesser Yellowlegs and a new Barrow’s Goldeneye were nice finds, and two Ross’s Geese seen in flight may or may not have been related to the earlier tule fog goose event (LC).
The waterfowl theme this month continued with a Redhead on the 27th (RS, JB).
Several herring spawns were reported around the Marin Bayshore during the month, but no rare gulls were reported. Rare gull records at herring runs have seemingly diminished in recent years; I’m not sure whether this is due to an actual lack of gulls or simply a lack of ‘gullers’ looking at the gulls.
The last rare bird of the month was also the greatest. On the 30th, after many photographs were taken and discussed, an Arctic Loon was identified on Abbotts Lagoon (MD, RD). It was first seen on the 26th, but the observers were commendably cautious with such a subtle ID and it was not identified with certainty until the 30th. The elegant northern waterbird continued at least through Feb. 3rd.
Observers and Acronyms AD: Alan Duerson, BB: Bob Battagin, DE: Daniel Edelstein, ES: Emilie Strauss, GH: Gene Hunn, JB: Janet Bodle, LC: Lucas Corneliussen, MD: Mark Dettling, RD: Ryan DiGaudio, WL: William Legge