Although almost all of our wintering birds have arrived by late November, there are a few species which consistently appear well into December. Herring Gulls are often first seen on the lake in December, and for several years a Lesser Black-backed Gull has appeared around the middle of the month. California and Little Gulls, although very rare, are also possible during December. Bonaparte’s Gulls will be increasing in numbers, gracefully flying over the lake in the evenings and resting briefly on the spillway early most mornings. Winter resident diving ducks are hard to predict on the lake. At least two Canvasbacks have spent the last several winters in the vicinity of the rafts of Ruddy Ducks, usually on the west side of the lake but occasionally near Sunset Point on the east side. Scaups, Redheads and Ring-necked Ducks seem to come and go. A few Common Goldeneyes are always possible any morning in winter.

In the hatchery, two species seem to arrive regularly in December or even later -- Rusty Blackbird and Harris’s Sparrow. The arrival dates of the hatchery’s wintering sparrows seem to fluctuate more than most of the other species. Some years there is little grass when the ponds are full and the weed seed crops are probably inconsistent as well. There is just not much sparrow habitat left in the hatchery! Fox and White-crowned Sparrows sometimes seem to arrive late, in December, but are present even in early November in other years. Other species found irregularly during winter (sometimes only one or two sightings) include American Woodcock, White-breasted Nuthatch, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, House Wren and Common Yellowthroat. Visits from northern species are possible as well in years when dwindling food supplies force them southward. These include Red-breasted Nuthatch, Purple Finch and Pine Siskin. Finally, be sure to watch for the Blue-headed Vireo, an uncommon but regular resident during December -- our only wintering vireo.