Date: 9/25/19 2:32 pm
From: Lisa Larson <lisafaylarson...>
Subject: [MBBIRDS] West Branch Struve Slough this morning
Hello Birders,

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
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

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!

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