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Two warblers and two questions
Wed, 5 May 2004 08:13:13 -0700
From: Phila Rogers

Dear Birders:

The last couple of days I've been watching and listening to two warblers feeding in my live oak. One was easy to identify as a Hermit Warbler. The other bird has me puzzled. The song is similar but the yellow face is lightly patterned and its flanks are heavily streaked with black. The closest match in Sibley is the Black-throated Green Warbler, which according to the distribution map is rare in our area.

So here's the two questions: does the Hermit Warbler nest in the Bay Area, and are there any other possible identifications for the second warbler?

Phila Rogers

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Re: Two warblers and two questions
Wed, 5 May 2004 08:55:21 -0700
From: Johan Langewis


One possibility for your unidentified warbler is a female Townsend's Warbler. Immature females of the Townsend's Warbler and Black-throated Green Warbler can appear similar. Another possibility is a Hermit Warbler X Townsend's Warbler, which can have a variety of facial and side streaking patterns. According to Arnold Small in California Birds: Their Status and Distribution, the Hermit Warbler breeds in the Coast Range in the north down to Marin County, and rarely in the Santa Cruz Mountains. They become increasingly uncommon as you go south towards Marin. They also breed in other mountain ranges in Northern California. No mention of breeding in Alameda or Contra Costa counties. As spring migrants they are most common in the coastal and near-coastal foothills and valleys. I hope this helps.

Johan Langewis

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Re: Two warblers and two questions
Wed, 5 May 2004 09:16:32 -0700
From: Rusty Scalf

They found a small population of nesting Hermit Warblers in the Mt Tamalpais watershed and I think Samuel P Taylor State Park during the Marin County Breeding Bird Atlas surveys. (I can't find my copy of the atlas for exact details, perhaps someone can verify). I'll bet Hermit Warblers nested in the East Bay hills during the glory days of the Redwoods, though I certainly don't know that.

Rusty Scalf

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Re: Two warblers and two questions
Wed, 5 May 2004 09:36:21 PDT
From: Bob Lewis

Rusty's memory of the Marin County Breeding Bird Atlas is correct. The Hermit Warblers on Mt Tam were confirmed breeders, those at Samuel P Taylor State Park were probable

Bob Lewis

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Re: Two warblers and two questions
Wed, 5 May 2004 12:13:17 -0700
From: Les Chibana

Just seconding Johan's reply, plus some additional thoughts. The Hermit Warbler (a very good sighting, by the way) has a few documented nesting records in the Santa Cruz Mountains a few miles from my home. Any seen now in areas that they are not known to nest are more likely migrants just passing through. If it persists in your yard and is seen carrying nesting material or food, that's a sign of breeding activity and would be a good thing to report.

Migrant birds often sing in non-breeding areas as they travel to their breeding grounds. The songs of Townsend's, Hermit and Black-throated Green Warblers are not that similar, although their pitch and song range are.

For the warbler of uncertain identification, in order of likelihood from the most likely to least, I think it's like this:

The hybrid Townsend's X Hermit form is fairly well documented and may be a tad more possible in our area than Black-throated Green.

Of course, this is only conventional wisdom-type stuff. Discoveries of unexpected birds can change that knowledge.

A side note on the Hermit Warbler breeding area in the Santa Cruz Mountains: This is the same area where Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warblers breed in small numbers a bit more regularly than the Hermit Warbler - Castle Rock State Park along Skyline Blvd.

Les Chibana, Palo Alto

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Re: Two warblers and two questions
Wed, 5 May 2004 14:09:24 -0700
From: Les Chibana

Well, my Santa Clara County-centric mindset was showing! A very knowledgeable biologist and avid birder in the Santa Cruz area reminded me that the coastal slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains often has quite a bit more breeding diversity than one sees along the ridge and on the inland side. He informed me that Hermit Warblers have a much wider breeding occurrence on the coastal slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains than I indicated with my comments. They are also probably more breeding in these mountains as a whole than the Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warblers. Something I wouldn't have learned if I didn't stick my foot in.

Ya' lives and ya' learns.

Les Chibana, Palo Alto

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Mitchell Canyon near Clayton on April 25
Wed, 5 May 2004 17:04:14 -0700
From: Bruce Mast

This e-mail didn't go through the first time.

From: Bruce Mast
Sent: Monday, April 26, 2004 8:21 PM
Subject: Sunday in Mitchell Canyon

Sunday's Golden Gate Audubon Society trip to Mitchell Canyon, on the north side of Mount Diablo near Clayton, produced a satisfying mix of nesting residents, arriving migrants, flowers, and butterflies, all under warm sunny skies.

Western Tanager started the day off right, attracting admirers before we ever left the parking lot.

Just a short way up the trail, we were treated to leisurely looks at a Western Screech-Owl peering out of his hole in a creekside snag.

The most surprising bird of the day would have been a Hammond's Flycatcher giving its chip-chewy call and showing its long primary extensions.

The most beautiful bird, at least in my book, was the cooperative male Hermit's Warbler.

We had a 3-vireo day: Warbling Vireo, Hutton's Vireo, and Cassin's Vireo, the latter heard only.

Lazuli Buntings apparently arrived just the night before because I didn't find any on a Saturday scouting trip.

We got a couple fleeting looks at accipiters powering through, including a possible Sharp-shinned Hawk. We also got clear views of 2 soaring Cooper's Hawks.

Ash-throated Flycatchers and Pacific-slope Flycatchers were reasonably common but we didn't turn up any Olive-sided Flycatchers.

Two California Quail coveys were remarkably tame. We didn't see any quail chicks.

We ended back at the parking lot with a perched Band-tailed Pigeon.

We dipped on several species that had been present the day before: Townsend's Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, and Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Here's the complete list:

Species seen - 43

Bruce Mast
Oakland, CA

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