Yellow-billed Loon and Common Black-Hawk in the same day!

Today, (March 26th 2009) I visited a friend in Sebastopol, Sonoma County California and we went birding at Laguna Santa Rosa. This large wetland, due west of the city of Santa Rosa has become the home of a very lost, incredibly rare, (I believe the second record for California) and stunningly beautiful Common Black-Hawk. We were blessed by this vocal and not particularly shy bird of prey not three minutes after we stepped out of the car. Because of the delicate nature of private land and such, I wont give the exact location, but will say that it was at the western most part of the Laguna, (west of Santa Rosa). Landing several times as well as slowly circling over the water, this bird put on a nice display. At times it would do something that I have never seen this species of Hawk do, (or any other for that matter) where it would lean forward and open its mouth as if it was vocalizing. We could see the movement of its bill the slight extension of the tongue and the heaving of its chest but NO sound. I think that it was quietly calling but we simply couldn’t hear anything coming from the bird. The bird was being slightly harassed by Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks but it didn’t seem to care.

Later I headed home, south down Hwy. 1, where I stopped to see if the Yellow-billed Loon was still floating around at Nick’s Cove.  (6 miles north of the town of Marshall)  and sure enough, there it was in all of its glory. This bird was originally discovered by David Wimpheimer back in Jan. and was actually joined by a second Yellow-billed Loon, (found by Rich Stallcup) a few weeks ago! I think that these are the 3rd and 4th records for this wonderful bird in Marin County. It was nice as there were also a few Common Loons there as well as a single Red-throated Loon for comparison.

After that, as I tooled down the Hwy. it struck me odd that, within a matter of hours, one could actually see these two rare birds that originate from very different neighborhoods. The Hawk ranges from no closer than south east Arizona and the Loon from Alaska.

Keith Hansen

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