The Siberian Express in Yolo County, California

by John Sterling

When I started intensely birding in the early 1970s in California, the vast majority of rare birds were found in only a handful of coastal and desert counties.  By the 1980s, active vagrant-hunting birders expanded to the remaining coastal and desert counties, but still neglected the huge Central Valley region.  I remember chastising Central Valley birders who left their home turf in the fall to bird coastal hotspots, especially Pt. Reyes.  In the past 15 or so years, these attitudes have slowly changed as CA County Birding catches fire with more and more vagrants found in the Central Valley as well as the Sierra Nevada and other previously neglected areas.  But Yolo County stands out for its recent collection of ten species of Siberian vagrants–all found in recent years.   Here is the map of California counties with Yolo as its heart, beating to the rhythm of the Siberian Express in a region long considered boring by most active birders.



OK, so what were these Siberian birds found in such a spot, so remote from traditional vagrant traps?

(all photos by John Sterling except for Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Slaty-backed Gull by Todd Easterla)

Taiga Flycatcher found by John Sterling and Scott Terrill on 26 October 2006 on Putah Creek in a canyon in the foothills of the north coast range.  First record for mainland North America and second fall record for the Western Hemisphere.

Taiga Flycatcher 09a

First fully documented record of a juvenile Red-necked Stint for the lower 48 United States found by Todd Easterla on 30 August 2009.

Red-necked Stint Yolo 16


One of over a dozen Ruffs in the county with multiple winter records as well as fall records.

Ruff 10dSpr

Adult Little Stint found by Todd Easterla on 16 July 2011. The first for the Central Valley and one of few for California.

Little Stint 07 16 2011 Yolo Co Ca

One of few adult Sharp-tailed Sandpiper records for the lower 48 United States. This one found by Todd Easterla on 4 September 2009. About a dozen juveniles have been found in the county during fall migration.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper 1 adult Yolo 09

Common Ringed Plover found by Todd Easterla on 19 August 2011.  One of few records for the lower 48 United States and a first for California.

Common Ringed Plover 11Sb

One of two records of Red-throated Pipit for Yolo County.  This second one found by John Sterling, the first by Todd Easterla.

Red-throated Pipit F11b

Marsh Sandpiper found by Roger Muskat in Solano County on 9 April 2014 which was seen flying into Yolo County.  Second record for California and the lower 48 United States.

Marsh Sandpiper sp14f

One of about 5 Slaty-backed Gulls documented in Yolo County with this first one found by Todd Easterla on 4 March 2009.

Slaty-backed Gull adult 1

Curlew Sandpiper with two records found by Todd Easterla.  This second record was on 30 July 2007. Only four records for the entire Central Valley.

Curlew Sandpiper Yolo Co 6