Field Trip: Woodbridge Road and Staten Island
Date: Saturday January 15, 2011
Time: 9:00 AM
Trip Report by David Takeuchi
Eighteen birders/wanna be birders joined our guest leader David Yee for a day of birding. If you have not birded with David Yee, join him the next time he leads a trip, and you will experience another level of birding. David is a wealth of information, as he has birded the San Joaquin area for four decades, and he is a truly knowledgeable field guide.
We began our carpool in Cordelia driving through worry some heavy fog along Highway 12. The fog lifted as we approached our rendezvous point, but we birded the rest of the day under a heavy overcast. We met the rest of the group at Carl’s Jr. Restaurant at Flag City. If you are unfamiliar with Flag City, it is at the junction of Highway 12 and Highway 5. Our trip began at 9:00 AM and we headed to Lodi Sewer Ponds off of Hwy 5 just south of Flag City. . Unlike some water treatment plants that only have deep water ponds, LSPs have a mixture of deep water ponds and shoreline ponds. Because of the habitat, we saw both diving ducks and shorebirds. Here we saw grebes, egrets, ducks, hawks, coots, plovers, stilts, avocets, sandpipers, gulls, terns, pigeons, crows & ravens, swallows, thrushes, pipits, and finches.
David had found a whooper swan earlier in the week on Eight Mile Road, which is just north of Stockton, off of Hwy 5. The sighting was posted on Central Valley Birds and the swan was also seen by others. Our leader took us to look for the whooper. As we drove down Eight Mile Road, we came upon acres and acres of what looked like snow. There were swans. When we pulled up a hugh flock of Tundra Swans close to the road took flight. As we got out of our cars, another large flock of swans further back took off, leaving us with a third hugh flock of swans in the distance. Since they are not hunted, I don’t know why they were so skittish.
We set up scopes and David patiently scoped the remaining flock, looking for the whooper. Instead he found Bewick’s Swans, a Eurasian subspecies of the Tundra. Look for the squared large patch of yellow at the base of the bill. Some Tundra Swans have varying amounts of yellow in the lores, however, in the Bewick’s, the yellow patch goes over the bill. Several other people also spotted Bewick’s Swans. We were unable to find the Whooper Swan. Amongst the swans were shovelers, pintails and widgeons. Also seen at Eight Mile Road were a small number of White-fronted Geese. After spending some time here, we went north to Woodbridge Road which is off of Hwy 5, to look for Sandhill Cranes.
There is a parking lot and a slightly elevated area for viewing with wildlife habitat signs. We added more ducks, coots, yellow rumped warblers, a shrike or two, along with kinglets, flickers, and blackbirds. Leaving the viewing area, we drove to the end of Woodbridge Road. There were small pockets of Sandhill Cranes along the road. It is unclear where they had gone for the day to feed. But then, there are hundreds of acres of farmlands for them to feed on At one of the stops we added Common Yellow Throat and a Cooper’s Hawk. We had a quick lunch back at the viewing parking lot, then headed north to Staten Island.
Staten Island is where you find the Aleutian subspecies of the Cackling Geese. We saw thousands of them. They were easily identified by the prominent white collar at the base of the neck. We looked hard and found a few Minima Cackling Geese, the smallest of the four subspecies of the Cackling Goose listed in National Geographic Field Guide to Words of Western North America. Look for the darker chest, with no white collar. Decades ago, the Minima were here in the tens of thousands and the Aleutian was rare,. However, today, just the opposite is true. The mammal of the day was a coyote, seen by some as they turned on to Staten Island Road.
The field trip ended at Staten Island around 2:40 PM.