Southern Lake County
- This evening I found a lone ROSS'S GOOSE among 128+
CANADA GEESE in a flooded, brushy field west of the
junction of Spruce Rd. Ext. and Hwy. 29 at Hidden
Valley Lake. Spruce Rd. Ext. is on the west side of
Highway 29 opposite Hidden Valley Rd. (entrance to
gated Hidden Valley Lake community), about 5 miles
north of Middletown. On Monday I was surprised to find
a female COMMON GOLDENEYE and six BUFFLEHEADS in a
shallow pool there that couldn't have been deeper than
a few feet.
Also today, a PRAIRIE FALCON and a FERRUGINOUS HAWK
were in the open fields along Butts Canyon Rd. south
of Middletown and two immature BALD EAGLES were at
On Monday, two CINNAMON TEAL were at the Hidden Valley
Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant but they were absent
Hidden Valley Lake, CA
- Yesterday was by far my best day birding in the
county. Here are the highlights, beginning with the
species whose identity is certain:
GLAUCOUS GULL: First-basic immature on dock at Austin
Park, Clearlake, from 10:25-10:40 am (absent at 3:15
and 4:30 pm); a photo is posted at:
TUFTED DUCK: Adult male with long tuft, pure black
back and pure white sides with 680 scaup (in three
flocks) at Borax Lake, from 4:10-4:25 pm. No photo
(drizzling, poor light).
Possible KUMLIEN'S ICELAND GULL: First-basic immature
on dock at Pirates Cove, Clearlake Park, from
8:00-9:15 am (absent during early to mid-afternoon).
This birds identity is controversial. However, a well
known gull expert in Newfoundland and Jon Dunn here in
CA thought the photos looked great for Kumliens (a
few others have disagreed; I'm looking forward to
receiving more opinions). If anybody is lucky enough
to relocate this bird (driving directions are given at
the end of this message), good views or photos of the
secondaries would be useful in evaluating its
identity. Photos with a link to comments (so you can
judge for yourself whether chasing this bird might be
worthwhile) are posted at:
OTHER GULLS: The identity of two other interesting
gulls at Clearlake Park eluded confirmation. The first
was a 3rd-basic immature with very dark back and wings
(lacking white-tipped primaries), seen for <1 min at
9:10 am. It had a bicolored bill, pink legs and a
broad white secondary skirt. When I noticed it had a
pale iris, dark smudge behind the eye and dark
streaking on the hindneck, I instantly jumped into my
car to retrieve my camera battery which was recharging
at a nearby gas station, but when I returned 4 minutes
later the bird was gone. Im convinced it was either a
Western or Slaty-backed Gull, but don't know which.
The pale iris and dark markings were real but perhaps
not quite as contrasting as I would have liked for a
The second gull was scoped out on the lake by Jerry
White in the early afternoon (when the gulls had
abandoned the docks). According to Jerry, it "seemed
to fit an adult Kumlien's quite closely," but there
are no photos.
In addition to the above gulls there are at least a
half dozen Western Gulls of various ages (mostly
adult), probably a dozen Glaucous-winged Gulls (mostly
1st-basic), several hybrid Western X Glaucous-winged
Gulls (2nd-basic, 3rd-basic and adult) and many
Thayers Gulls, all roaming the southern Clear Lake
The ROSS'S GOOSE seen at Hidden Valley Lake on Sunday
the 8th has not been seen since.
TIPS FOR "GULLING" SOUTHERN CLEAR LAKE: If you are
interested in searching for these gulls, be forewarned
that there are thousands of gulls at Clearlake with
only a small proportion at any time roosting within
easy viewing range on a few scattered docks.
Furthermore, the presence of gulls on the docks is
unpredictable due to frequent human disturbance. More
gulls tend to loaf on the docks when it is raining,
presumably due to a lower frequency of human
disturbance. Most of the gulls are far out in the lake
and many shuttle back and forth between the landfill
south of Clearlake. I do see some individual gulls
repeatedly, even on different docks, so relocating
these gulls is certainly feasible (and I'll be trying
every weekend). Visibility is best in the morning.
Here are the best spots to study gulls from south to
Clearlake Landfill: From the junction of Lakeshore
Drive and Hwy 53 in Clearlake, drive south and turn
left (following the sign) at the first road. Follow
this road until it turns right and eventually ends at
the landfill. The managers wouldnt let me enter the
landfill but the gulls can be viewed from a paved road
on a hillside that veers left just before the landfill
entrance. The views are distant, but I've picked out
Western, Glaucous-winged and Thayer's. And it's closed
on Sundays and holidays, when the gulls are absent.
Red Bud Park: From the junction of Lakeshore Drive and
Hwy 53 in Clearlake, drive north on Lakeshore Drive
past the first stoplight and look for Kathies Inn on
the left. Just beyond the inn, turn left and check out
the obvious docks, which gulls often roost on before
the fishermen spook them. A large flock is invariably
on the water well beyond the docks. Also, drive
through the park toward the southwest to Golf Rd. and
turn right. After a few hundred yards a dock is
visible on the right.
Austin Park: Continue northward on Lakeshore Drive to
an obvious beach on the left just before the junction
of Olympic Drive. The long dock is the most consistent
spot for gulls to roost and can be viewed either from
the beach or a back alley directly behind the dock.
From the gate in the back alley, walk toward the gas
station and look across the fence at two more docks.
Pirates Cove: Continue northward on Lakeshore Drive,
checking out numerous docks (but with few if any
gulls) along the way. The best gull roost is at three
docks at 11021 Lakeshore Drive, 4.0 miles north of
Clearlake Park Post Office and 2.3 miles north of the
hairpin S-curve at junction of San Joaquin (turn left
if driving northward). This is where the possible
Kumliens Iceland Gull and other undocumented odd
gulls were seen.
Hidden Valley Lake, Lake Co., CA
- At Borax Lake this morning Mike Stanley and I saw a male EURASIAN WIGEON, a possible female BLUE-WINGED TEAL (head in water most of the time; I would like a better look) with five CINNAMON TEAL, a PEREGRINE FALCON (Mike saw one earlier in the week) and a juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER (definitely not the Ruff suggestive of Mike's photos on the 15th; Jerry White and Mike relocated it and confirmed its identity on the 16th). We also saw a white EARED GREBE with a dark black crown; earlier this summer there was a different one with a white crown (or perhaps it is the same bird which has subsequently molted black crown feathers?).
In Clearlake I saw five species of gulls including an adult WESTERN GULL and at Anderson Marsh I saw two VAUX'S SWIFTS. I also saw a lot of warblers, vireos and flycatchers (especially at Austin Park), but nothing unexpected.
The most unexpected bird of the morning was a COCKATIEL feeding with MALLARDS on the lawn at Redbud Park.
Hidden Valley Lake, CA
- On Sunday the 12th, Doug Weidemann and I saw a male EURASIAN WIGEON at Borax Lake, where we also saw three leucistic birds. Two were nearly all-white EARED GREBES, one with a grayish crown and the other wish a black crown. The other was an AMERICAN COOT with some jagged dark markings on a mostly white head, resembling a miniature Bar-headed Goose.
I just met Nick Shepherd, who saw a pair of BARROW'S GOLDENEYES on Sunday the 12th at a mobile home park (can't remember the name) on a small peninsula in Clearlake Park (Doug and I missed it when we independently checked out the area).
Hidden Valley Lake, CA
- Nick Shepherd and I tallied 8 species of gulls this morning at Clearlake, including the adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL on the roof of WalMart from 8:18-8:25. Now that it's been here at least 37 days I'm hopeful it will stick around for the CBC, maybe all winter. We also saw a 1st-cycle gull appearing intermediate between Thayer's and Iceland Gull (strongly speckled tertials, primaries concolorous with wing, faint secondary bar, didn't see tail well; not as good a candidate for Iceland Gull as the 2006 gull).
At Redbud Park we were surprised to see four species of geese in a single flock: a SNOW GOOSE, a WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, five CACKLING GEESE and 16 CANADA GEESE. At Redbud Park we saw a female RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. We were unable to find the RED-NECKED GREBE--my bad luck bird for the county--seen twice north of Clearlake Oaks by Jerry White.
Hidden Valley Lake, CA
- A SNOW GOOSE appears to shuttling back and forth between Napa and Lake Counties with a flock of CANADA GEESE. I saw it at Pope Valley (Napa Co.) on 27, 28 and 31 January. Myron Widmer saw it at Detert Reservoir (Lake Co.) on 29 January and I saw it this morning along Butts Canyon Rd. about 2 miles south of Hwy 29 at Middletown (Lake Co.).
On 31 January, Doug Weidemann found a male RED-BREASTED MERGANSER at Detert Reservoir, along Butts Canyon Road south of Middletown. It was my first at the reservoir. I haven't stopped to search for it since.
On 29 January, Doug and I searched in vain for the RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER near Lower Lake for 45 minutes. On the roof of Wal Mart we saw a 1st-basic GLAUCOUS X HERRING GULL, probably the same bird present since November.
Hidden Valley Lake, CA