I need many of the common birds in California. I have found Joseph D Grant County Park to be a good place to find the common species when I have been in the area for pelagic birding trips out of Bodega Bay, Fort Bragg and Monterrey. In the past, I have found Yellow-billed Magpie in this park as well as White-tailed Kite.
I was tired from the pelagic trip and post-pelagic trip birding; therefore, I stayed in Hayward, got up early, and drove the 1+ hour to the park. I arrived at about 7:30 am, early enough to see the early morning bird activity.
I started at Grant Lake, my usual strategy for this location. My first new bird for the year obtained at this park was Oak Titmouse. A very cooperative pair of this almost all gray bird gave many photo opps. Then a Black Phoebe appeared along the trail near the lake and was very cooperative for photos. There was an interesting goldfinch that may have been a Lawrence's Goldfinch. The crown and nape looked grayish and the wing bars and primary and secondary edges looked yellowish. However, I will wait to look in detail at the photos before I decide to count this as another species my list. There was an empidonax flycatcher in the willows near the lake. In retrospect after studying my National Geographic field guide, I believe this empidonax was a Pacific-slope Flycatcher which is not new for the year. I saw Pacific-slope Flycatch first in Arizona but not yet discussed on my blog. I heard a Nuttall's Woodpecker calling, somewhat like a Downy Woodpecker but the rattle is lower and slower, and eventually saw it near the base of a willow along the trail along the east side of the lake. I saw the black face with white borders and the relatively small size in comparison to the more common Acorn Woodpecker. It looks similar to a Ladder-backed Woodpecker except for the black face. I also heard California Quail calling and under the bushes along the trail near the lake. I saw them flying away and then feeding on the ground in the shade and got some reasonable long distant photos. This converts California Quail from heard only to a sight record.
There were lots of birds at Joseph D Grant Park. I saw White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows, which I had also seen at Cow Mountain Recreation Area east of Ukiah. Migration is underway. California Towhees and California Thrashers were easy to see here. I found a Great Egret, Great Blue Heron and two Yellow Warblers. Acorn Woodpeckers are everywhere ini the oaks. A Red-shouldered Hawk and a Red-tailed Hawk patrolled the area. I saw Red-winged Blackbirds flying to and from the surrounding fields into the rushes along the lake edge. When I scanned the flock, I found at least one Tricolored Blackbird, a cold gray female. In comparison, the female Red-winged Blackbirds were a warmer brown with reddish brown tinges.
I also found Greater Yellowlegs, Wilson's Snipe and Virginia Rail along the lake and at the edge of the rushes. I looked along the road above the lake and where I had seen Yellow-billed Magpie before but it was not to be. When bird activity slowed down, I returned to San Jose to get something to eat and spent some time at McDonalds updating my blog.
I returned to Joseph D Grant Park to look for Yellow-billed Magpie. I found a distant White-tailed Kite soaring beyond the park headquarters, looking south from a hill near the lake. I saw the light gray upper parts and white underpparts as well as the kite shape, long tail and pointed wings. I did not find a Yellow-billed Magpie. I left the park near sunset and stopped along Mt. Hamilton Road to take some scenery photos. On the way back to San Jose, I encountered a tractor trailer stuck on a sharp curve, blocking the road. There are signs at the start of this road warning truckers about this narrow road with very sharp turns! An emergency worker directed my turnaround. Fortunately, I knew an alternate route and got back to San Jose. Then I headed south to Salinas. Tomorrow, I will try for Mountain Quail near Carmel Valley.
Oak Titmouse, Black Phoebe, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Tricolored Blackbird and White-tailed Kite are new. The total is now 664.