Monthly Birdlog 2019

Marin Birdlog: May-July 2019
By Noah Arthur

As late spring commences in Marin, our common migrants are setting up territories or finishing up their passage to points north of us. Following after them is a trickle of rarer migrants from the East, less numerous than in fall but often in glorious breeding plumage.

Gulls highlighted the month of May. A stunningly breeding-plumaged adult Franklin’s Gull was at Giacomini Wetlands on May 4th (GC). On the same day, a very late Iceland Gull, quite pale but most likely a worn ‘Thayer’s,’ floated by Chimney Rock on outer Pt. Reyes (OH). On the 5th, an even rarer late straggler was at the Fish Docks in the form of a Glaucous-wingedXGlaucous Gull hybrid (AD). An immature Laughing Gull at Cypress Grove on the 24th (NW) rounded out what was a very nice month for gulls in Marin – despite it not being what is traditionally thought of as ‘gulling season’ in California.

A Little Blue Heron at Bolinas Lagoon on May 11th (SB), may or may not have been the same one that wintered in San Rafael. The first eastern warbler of the spring was a Hooded Warbler at the Redwood Creek banding station on the 14th (DH).

Perhaps the rarest eastern passerine of the spring, a White-eyed Vireo was along Sir Francis Drake east of Mt. Vision Rd. on May 31st (DS).

It was quite a good spring for eastern migrants, mostly on Outer Pt. Reyes but also elsewhere. These included Eastern Kingbird (LSt), 2 Red-eyed Vireos (EC, ES), Gray Catbird (AH), 4 Northern Parulas (DS, NA, RD, DE), 9 American Redstarts (EC, SH, NA, LC, DG, OW, JCS), Black-and-white Warbler (DS), Magnolia Warbler (LC), Northern Waterthrush (LC), 5 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (RR, DF, PC, OW, NWh). Two of the redstarts were a male/female pair in the Redwood Creek riparian in June, with at least the male continuing well into July; breeding was not confirmed but may have at least been attempted. Rarer interior western migrants this spring included 2 Summer Tanagers (BA, LC) and a Brewer’s Sparrow.

Very rare from shore, two Tufted Puffins flew by the parking lot of the (closed) Pt. Reyes Lighthouse on June 6th. (LS). Surprising especially for late spring was a Townsend’s Solitaire at Nunes Ranch on Jun. 9th (EC).

One of Marin’s rarest semi-regular eastern warblers, especially in spring, a Cape May Warbler was in the New Willows on June 11th (LC).

By far the best bird of the spring, and surely one of the most outlandish sightings in Marin in recent years, a female Common Redpoll was found at the Fish Docks on the evening of the 15th (AL), subsequently seen by many birders in the following days.

By July, the rare northbound songbirds are mostly gone, and rare southbound shorebirds begin to appear in Marin. The first of these this summer were 6 Baird’s Sandpipers at Limantour Beach on Jul. 18th (LH), and a juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper at Abbotts Lagoon on Jul. 19th (NW).

And finally, very unexpected in midsummer was a Yellow-breasted Chat at Cypress Grove on Jul. 20th (NWa).

Observers and Acronyms AD: Adam Donkin, AH: Adrian Hinkle, AL: Albert Linkowski, BA: Bob Atwood, DE: Daniel Edelstein, DF: Dea Freid, DG: Don Glasco, DH: Diana Humple, DS: Dan Singer, EC: Everett Clark, ES: Emilie Strauss, GC: Graham Chisholm, JCS: Juan-Carlos Solis, LC: Lucas Corneliussen, LH: Luanna Helfman, LS: Larry Sacchetti, LSt: Lucas Stephenson, NA: Noah Arthur, NWa: Nils Warnock, NWh: Nick Whelan, OH: Oliver Hufford, OW: Olivia Wang, RD: Ryan DiGaudio, RR: Ruth Rudesill, SB: Stephanie Battiste, SH: Steve Hunter

Marin Birdlog – January 2019
By Noah Arthur

A wet January in Marin began with a lot of continuing rarity sightings (as usual for just after Christmas Bird Count season), with the Loch Lomond Little Blue Heron, Chileno Valley Caspian Terns, Tomales Bay Yellow-billed Loon, Mt. Tam Townsend’s Solitaires, Marshall Red Fox Sparrow, and Bolinas Black Vulture all reported in the first few days of the month. Several of these, including the Little Blue, stuck around throughout the month.

The first new rarity of the month was an immature male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the Bear Valley Visitor Center on the 3rd (DS). Common in the Central Valley but quite rare in the coastal counties, a Cattle Egret was hanging around on fence-tops and streetlights by San Rafael High School on the 12th (EM).

Thick-billed Fox Sparrows make occasional appearances in winter on Pine Mountain Fire Road, and no less than five individuals were there on the 18th (BB).

Perhaps driven inland by stormy conditions were two Red Phalaropes at Las Gallinas on the 19th (CM). Another possible storm refugee was a White-winged Scoter on the ocean off Abbotts Lagoon on the 18th, which had moved in onto the lagoon itself the next day (WL).

Muir Beach held an impressive set of seasonal rarities on the 19th, including a Hermit Warbler, a Hermit x Townsend’s Warbler hybrid, a Nashville Warbler, and – exceedingly rare in Northern California in midwinter – a Swainson’s Thrush (AH). Also rare for winter were a Western Tanager at a feeder in Corte Madera on the 18th (SS), and a Black-headed Grosbeak in Inverness that was first reported on the 21st but had been present since the 2nd (RH), and which was joined by a second individual on the 22nd.

But this month saved the best for last. The rarest bird of the month, only the third or fourth for Marin, was a 2nd-cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull at Blackie’s Pasture in Tiburon (WL) on the 31st. This gull was apparently attending the herring spawn that had just occurred in the area, and was actively foraging on roe-encrusted rocks the following day. This is unusual for a Lesser Black-backed, which surprisingly seem to almost never visit herring spawns.

Observers and Acronyms AH: Adrian Hinkle, BB: Bob Battagin, CM: Colin Meusel, DS: Dan Singer, EM: Eddie Monson, RH: Roger Harshaw, SS: Sylvie Silverstein, WL: William Legge