From Peter Colasanti, 11-17
By early November most of the long distance migrant birds have taken the advice of their DNA and relocated to the longer and sunnier days of the neotropics. Soon to come will be those driven south by even harsher weather to the north, many waterfowl for example, especially divers, gulls and some raptors. It’s a good month to enjoy the enhanced populations of our permanent residents and winter visiting passerines as they settle in to prepare for winter. Preparations include territorial skirmishes, major annual molt and fattening up.
Expect some squabbling among the new arrivals looking for foraging turf. Kestrels, both phoebes, and Anna’s Hummingbirds come immediately to mind in this regard. In the spring they fight for love, now it’s about survival. November’s best for Ferruginous Hawk in the Wetlands, though they’re still rare here and likelier inland. Most winter south of us so watch for one passing through. Prairie Falcon’s even rarer, but Peregrines happen.
Sparrows are late to arrive in winter and early to leave in spring. Migrant Savannahs are still passing through in large numbers in early November, with some dropping out to overwinter. They’re really small, fast and direct of flight, with crisp streaks below rather than blurry like Song Sparrows. Their pink legs often clinch the ID, as does the usual wash of yellow through the brow. Whenever you find Zonotrichias, that is White and Golden-crowned sparrows, keep looking for a smaller White-throated in the flock. They tend to hide longer and keep closer to thick cover. This year there’s been one sighted October 14 and 23 around the little kiosk at the Shollenberger Park entry. Another sparrow to watch for is Swamp Sparrow. They’re rare but regular at coastal wetlands and we’ve had at least 3 in the Petaluma Wetlands this century. Swamps are Melospizas like Song and Lincoln’s, but with obvious red tones above and no major streaking below. Lincoln’s are liable to pop up for a brief view, especially along the side channel from “the kink” to Point Blue, and a good look at one of these dapper gents is quite rewarding.
Now is a good time to mark your calendar for the local Christmas Bird Counts. Cheep Thrills is on Thursday, December 14th and includes much of Petaluma and along Lakeville Highway from Papa’s to Port Sonoma. Friday the 29th it’s Sonoma Valley, which takes in Petaluma Wetlands from the Marina, through Shollenberger Park and Ellis Creek and Tolay Park too. There’ll be more signup info on these in early December.