From Peter Colasanti, JAN 2018:
A game most birders play involves the keeping of a year list, and those fireworks you heard Sunday night were to announce that it’s time to start yours for 2018. Lucky for us, January’s as birdy as December in the Petaluma Wetlands. Having just concluded the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season, we’ll be drawing heavily on that for this month’s column.
The most notable absence on all local counts was the dearth of divers. We’ll normally have hundreds of scaup, mostly Greaters; this year we had one! On San Pablo Bay for the SoMarin CBC there were no Surf Scoters and only a few dozen grebes of all species. This should change as soon as harsh weather to the north early in the month drives divers our way. Wigeon feed by dabbling, grazing and diving, and on the CBC, we had one hen and one drake Eurasian Wigeon and one hybrid Eurasian x American drake. These birds have been appearing both in Shollenberger and the oxidation ponds across Ellis Creek. Andy’s crew in the ponds found a Redhead and a Red-breasted Merganser, both exceedingly rare divers locally that could appear in accessible areas.
Raptors are around in normal numbers, with a good showing of falcons. There’s lots of Merlin everywhere and our local CBC had 2 Prairie Falcons in Tolay. Ferruginous Hawk was found, it’s too mild yet for Rough-leggeds.
Shollenberger received good coverage this year with a crew there all day, to take advantage of the mid-morning high tide. Roosting in the central pond were a couple dozen Black-bellied Plovers, a pair of Semipalmateds, both Marbled Godwits and Willets, and the more common peeps. No Tamyr’s Gull, but Sue Kelly, David Sexton and Daniel Edelstein got photos of a first year Glaucous Gull. There’s also still good numbers of Herring and Thayer’s/Iceland Gull at Shollenberger Park and a few Bonoparte’s Gulls inside the oxidation ponds. Mew Gulls have been at the new main plant at Ellis Creek getting first dibs on incoming effluent; expect to see them flying by too over the finishing ponds. Once it’s wet they roost in the ephemeral pond nearer Lakeville Highway.
There were 140 Tree Swallows logged in the Petaluma Wetland area, and multiple Barn Swallows. Others have been posting to NorCal listserves that it seems the latter are moving north already, something unheard of in past decades. No Violet-greens yet, but keep looking. One tan-stripe White-throated Sparrow has been seen since the CBC in the lower riparian growth on Ellis Creek. No Black or Ridgway’s Rails with the king tides, without extra river flow that doesn’t happen in Petaluma Wetlands.