From Peter Colasanti, April 2018
I confess that April is my favorite month for birding Northern California. The green of the landscape is broken only by the flowers, it gets warm enough for summer clothes and birds are everywhere in evidence. Migration peaks in April, birds are coming into bright alternate (breeding) plumage and they’re all singing their love songs. Late in the month is when most Big Day records are broken, you can break a hundred species in one day without breaking a sweat.
Our Ellis Creek survey March 28 turned up over 80 species. At least 3 American Bitterns were seen, and the tally for Yellow-rumped Warblers was over 100, with both races observed. Ducks are still passing through, as are geese; we had both Greater White-fronts and Cacklers with Canadas north of the ponds, and over 100 Cacklers flying north just past dawn.
Watch for hawks passing north in April and listen for rails. Soras and Virginias are both vocal now, both generally easiest to see at pond #4 at Ellis Creek, that’s the one nearest the river. Black Rails are at their noisiest late April and into early May. Allman Marsh and the Ellis Creek delta are the best spots for them.
Shorebirds put on a great show now. They’re in such a hurry you may not get a second look, but you’ll savor that first one as they’re coming into bright colors, especially the last couple weeks of the month. Dunlins pick up their black bellies, as do Pacific-Golden and Black-belly Plovers. The latter is named Grey Plover in Great Britain, how dull. Most peeps change from dull gray to various amounts of red topside. Now is the likeliest time to find Whimbrel in the wetlands. Single birds are typical here, but a few are possible, and they’ll sometimes accompany curlews. This is also a time to take a second look at dowitchers and yellowlegs as Short-bills pass through and an occasional Lesser Yellowlegs too.
We had an Allen’s Hummingbird near the ephemeral pond at Ellis Creek on the survey, seemingly on territory. A scarce bird in the wetlands, watch for its oscillating display flight to clinch the ID. Rufous is still possible, look for a male with rufous all the way up the top of the mantle. There are swallows aplenty of 5 species, migrants associated with a change in the weather. Expect mostly Tree, and a colony of Cliffs at the Adobe Creek bridge. Rough-wings like to fly low over water, Violet-greens are only passing through this month.
Lots of Black Phobes lately, one seems to be nesting in the culvert near the lone oak at Ellis. Len had a Western Kingbird in one of the eucalyptus, birds so bad they’ve been known to ride Red-tail Hawks to drive them away.