Monthly Bird Survey at Ellis Creek: September 2019

by Oct 2, 2019Bird Survey, Miles & Teresa Tuffli

Thursday, September 19, was the bimonthly bird survey at Ellis Creek for the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance (PWA). The sun rising over the wetlands at 7 AM was a sight to behold!

A most gorgeous morning!

The team heading out

The group observed no less than five Yellow Warblers along the walk, including this one lit up gold by the early morning sun.

Yellow Warbler

Listen to the sweet chip note of the Yellow Warbler below.

There’s no sound like a flock of busy Bushtits coming towards you. We can’t help but hear the tune of the Batman theme song along with it: “Duh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh, BUSHTITS!!

Here’s a female and a male spending some time in the fennel.

Bushtit (female)

Bushtit (male)

Canada Geese are a year-round staple at Ellis Creek. Always bold, this small flock foraged near the path.

Canada Geese

All morning, a constant stream of Mallards flew overhead to the ponds beyond.

Headin’ to the ponds

Soft morning light makes everyone look especially good – this dapper Song Sparrow is no exception.

Song Sparrow

A lone Black-tailed Jackrabbit sat wide-eyed in the grass as we walked past.

Black-tailed Jackrabbit

Gadwall were numerous in the ponds (we counted 250+), and we spent some time observing their courtship interactions.

Gadwall (female and male)

Throughout the recording below, you can hear two characteristic male Gadwall vocalizations within the courtship repertoire: a deep frog-like “burp” and a high-pitched whistle. You can also hear the descending “quack-quack-quack” of a female, prominently at 0:52 seconds.

A handsome male Gadwall


Notice the chestnut-red patch on the wing coverts

Our audio recordings don’t always come from bird vocalizations – after a few snorting sneezes, listen for the sound of several juvenile Mute Swans flapping and running along the surface of the water.

A Killdeer flew by and gave us a nice look at its double neck-rings and underwing pattern.


We nearly walked right by this Great Blue Heron skulking in the brush!

Great Blue Heron

The team observing a distant Peregrine Falcon

[L-R] Teresa, Mary, JJ, Andy, Deb, Malcolm, Sharon, Harley (not pictured – Miles, Len)

Determined to not go uncounted, this California Scrub-Jay popped out as we said our goodbyes from the parking lot.

California Scrub-Jay

By the end of the morning, the team had tallied 69 species. In the following days, nine additional species (including an immature female American Redstart) were located by team members returning to Ellis Creek, bringing the grand total to 78 for PWA’s September 2019 survey – a tie for the species high count for September!

This has been your in-the-field recap of the PWA’s September bird survey. These monthly bird surveys are just one of the many ways the PWA fulfills its mission statement:

Dedicated to the stewardship, restoration, and expansion of wetlands and associated wildlife habitats.

We’re Miles and Teresa Tuffli of I’m Birding Right Now. We are PWA members and bird survey volunteers. Check back for future reports!

If you have any questions about this particular count or if you’re interested in participating in future counts, please contact the coordinator/compiler for these surveys, Len Nelson, at

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