Date: 9/25/19 2:32 pm From: Lisa Larson <lisafaylarson...> Subject: [MBBIRDS] West Branch Struve Slough this morning
I feared the sun would sear us out at West Branch Struve Slough, but it turned out to be a great morning! We were blessed with a bit of cloud cover for a while.
An *American Bittern* was spotted as soon as we arrived at part of the trail near the benches where you can see the most water. It was right at water's edge below us standing on some tules. I had never seen one there before, so I was excited. I felt like it was a young bird.
We walked toward the freeway where you can see into that arm of the slough and watched a bunch of *Bustits* working the foliage. Associated with those bushtits, which I have seen happen in a number of locations, was a *Blue-gray Gnatcatcher*. There may have been more than one.
To our awe and delight, *FOUR American Bitterns* flew out of that area and toward the arm on the west side past where the first bittern was spotted. A family of bitterns! Fabulous!
A mature female *Harrier* glided past eyeing the ground for prey and a *White-tailed Kite* "kited" - hovering like a kestrel as it searched the ground for prey. I had seen two yesterday.
Ducks included *Mallards*, *Ruddy Ducks*, and *Northern Shovelers*. (I saw a pair of shy Cinnamon Teal yesterday.) Numerous *Pied-billed Grebes* were there, and three chicks were noted. One family with two chicks caught our attention because of the begging from the babies. Other usual suspects included *Great Blue Herons*, *Great Egrets,* and *Double-crested Cormorants*. A flew *American White Pelicans* were flying around as were were leaving. (See P.S. about the "pellies".)
Sparrows were mostly *White-crowned* and there were some *Song Sparrows* as well. There were a couple of *Bewick's Wrens* and quite a few Marsh Wrens. Predominant finches were House and I did see one Lesser Goldfinch. (I had seen American Goldfinches the day before.)
We went over to that arm of the slough and a *Sora *was spotted. I said I thought it was an immature *Common Gallinule*, then changed my mind to Sora as I got better looks. Upon inspecting my photos, I see we had BOTH!
For those wishing to know more about the difference, Both are types of rail, but Sora is more coot-like in beak shape and behavior. Both immature birds can have yellowish-looking beaks, but mature Sora's is VERY yellow. Both Sora and Common Gallinule have similar looking tails, but Sora does lots of bobbing-flicking of its tail. The white markings on the sides are quite different. The immature gallinule has the wider, blurry pale streaks and the Sora has a pretty zig-zaggy barred pattern. The Sora was mature and kept skulking at water's edge and around foliage, but the gallinule often swam to the next place it could walk rather than skulk behind foliage. Coloration of both can be brown and gray, depending on age, but Sora typically has a richer color. It is the more complex white barring v.s. wide blurry streaks on the sides of the birds that is a great tell in immature birds.
I hope this description helps and that the experts are not laughing at me.
Happy birding! - Lisa
P.S. I staked out the area the day before and had quite a show of American White Pelicans in a tight group silently appear and work the area for food. It was a wonder to see them appear to work as a unit, with an entourage of some Double-crested Cormorants flanking and in the lead. The back-lit orange/yellowish bills almost appeared to row and then as they submerged their heads and the wings were raided a bit on their sides I felt as though I was witnessing a mass ballet. They left as suddenly and silently as they appeared. Wonderful!