[[Corrections: The female Bullock’s Oriole I noted below is in fact a female Hooded Oriole. I made a silly assumption due to proximity to the male Bullock’s and didn’t validate my sighting against a guide later. My bad. That makes the day’s species count 42, also.
Also, after discussion I’m changing the Leucistic Barn Swallow to one in a heavy moult. I did find images almost exactly matching that in my search tagged as leucistic, but further digging makes it clear they were incorrectly IDed. So it’s really just a barn swallow having a really bad hair day….
Thanks to Mike Rogers for noticing my mistakes]]
I did my 2nd big sit for SCVAS Birdathon on April 14, this one at Palo Alto Baylands. It was technically two big sits, since I split time between the area near the bridge and the duck pond and palms. I had a respectable 41 species, but it felt like a nice, rather quiet day with really nice weather, a bit of a breeze and some nice sun. The day started with the channel and the old harbor area at high tide, and so as it went on, the water slowly dropped and started to expose some mud. It was, overall, a slower day for wading shorebirds.
I’ve got one more big sit planned for this birdathon fundraiser, out in Coyote Valley OSP. It’ll be on 4/28 from 1-5, and last year it was a rousing success with 50 species including rock wren and Lewis’ Woodpecker (a multi-year nemesis for me). No idea what will happen this year but it seems to always be a good place for raptors and pretty reliable for golden eagle. Please join me, or do a donation to SCVAS to support their educational and outreach operations, the reason we’re doing this fundraising.
View the Ebird report
The best birds were all regular/continuing ones: I had good looks at the continuing Blue Winged teal male in the area to the S of the bridge. He was wandering around and seemed to be paired up with a female duck. I, not being an expert at female ducks (or, for that matter, particularly good at all), had the feeling it was a female Blue-winged hanging out with him.
Also in that pond area were continuing Canvasbacks and Green-winged teals, and two adult Clark’s Grebes. I did chat with a ranger a bit during the sit, and she indicated the Grebes are continuing and being seen in various parts of Baylands for a while. I saw one hint of what might have been preliminary courting behavior between the two, but nothing definitive or sustained — just a bit of head bob interactions at one point, then they swum off again. For all I know, it could have also been dominance assertion between two males.
The dropping water started exposing mud in the channel, allowing me good looks (and I think decent pictures) of the Cliff Swallows grabbing mud for nest building.
Over at the palms and the duck pond, it continued being pretty quiet, but I did get multiple good looks at the adult male Bullock’s Oriole that’s now there. Even better, after a couple of “was that what I thought it was?” looks at a bird skulking in the shadows, a full adult female Bullock’s popped out to join him. They seem to be investigating the palms as possible nesting sites. The ranger told me they’d previously nested in trees near the ranger house, but they came down in winter storms.
A few good looks at a beautiful grey Northern Harrier on and off during the day was my only raptor, plus a couple of turkey vultures. Dipping on red-tailed hawk was a bit of a surprise.
In a far away power tower to the N there’s a nest, and scoping it indicated a head (in the heat shimmer), and the head looked very dark to black, so I decided it was a Raven’s nest. My guess was later validated when I saw a raven fly in and visit the nest twice and then fly off again.
No sign of black-crowned night herons. Where a couple of weeks ago the white- and golden-crowned sparrows looked scruffy in mid moult, they all now look rounded into shape with crisp, bright stripes and fresh colors. I only saw one golden-crown that still had that scruffy look. Everyone else seems ready to leave, but there were still good numbers of sparrows (mostly white-crowned from my count) here and foraging.
Song sparrows and mockingbirds were heard enthusiastically bellowing all visit and seen in multiple locations.
It still feels a bit like the location is in transition, with not all winter birds gone, and summer birds arriving but not necessarily here.
Weirdest bird: while checking out the area before starting the sit, I ran across this one in the swallow flock. I initially considered it as a hybrid, but after discussing it with a few people, it was clear it’s a leucistic barn swallow:
Since I was solo, I spent the more time with the camera since I didn’t need to worry about leading the group. Turned out not to be a bad day with the camera, and added a number of species to my ongoing “biggish year” photo gallery.
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