Christmas Bird Count
Each December we participate in several Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) sponsored by the National Audubon Society. Organizations use data collected in this long-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations and to help guide conservation action. Read about how the data are used and about the histories of our counts.
In the SCVAS count, each of our four predefined count circles are divided into sectors by the count leader and teams are assigned to count birds in each sector. Counters with less experience are teamed with those more experienced. Even if beginning birders can't identify every bird, they provide important "extra eyes" in finding birds. A "countdown" dinner (donations to cover the food are gladly accepted!) is held on the evening of the count, where groups share their results and tell tales of the day.
We would like to extend a special thank you to all of the count compilers and volunteers who participated in the 2018 Christmas Bird Count. The passion and dedication of our incredible volunteers makes this Audubon tradition possible each year, and we are grateful for your continued support. Until next year - Happy Birding!
Publication of Results
Since 2012, National Audubon Society does not charge the small participant fee to publish CBC results. Instead, they now publish all CBC results online.
Click the link below for a full account of the species seen across the Santa Clara County count circles. Special thanks to Bonnie Bedford-White, who graciously offers to format this table each year. We appreciate your many hours of data entry and number-crunching!
2018 Christmas Bird Count Highlights
Turkey Vultures, 2018 San Jose CBC
San Jose - Sunday, December 16, 2018
Rainy weather threatened the count but for the most part held off until operations were wrapping up.
Write-up birds included a number of Cackling Geese seen at Lake Cunningham (Gordon Rydquist), San Jose Sewage Outfall Channel (Charles Coston) and Penitencia Creek Park (Ann Verdi and Rich Page). Snow Geese and a Ferruginous Hawk were both reported by multiple parties at Calaveras Reservoir (Thomas Olsen, Deanna de Castro, Leighton Nakata, Pete Dunten). Bill Walker saw another Ferruginous Hawk along the Warm Springs Trail. Also along that trail, Mary Wisnewski saw a Yellow Warbler.
Lesser Yellowlegs was seen at Thompson Creek (Ginger Langdon-Lassagne) and Gold Street (Steve Tracey, Kathleen McGall, Ben Pearl). That second crew also saw a Blue-winged Teal at Mollard Slough. The ponds were active. Mike Rogers saw a Long-tailed Duck on Pond A15 and Steven Tracey also saw a White-faced Ibis on Pond A16. Also in Alviso, Steve Rottenborn found Black Rail and Barrow's Goldeneye.
Swamp Sparrows were reported at Guadalupe Slough (Howard Higley, Brook and Steve Miller) and as one of Mike Rogers stakeout birds at Alviso Marina. Kirsten Holmquist spied a Black-throated Gray Warbler at Coyote Lagoon. Richard Jeffers also found one in Willow Glen. Another cool bird found in two places was the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher found in Alum Rock Park (Vicki Silvas-Young) and Calaveras Reservoir along Arroyo Hondo by Pete Dunten. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Garret Lau) was found at Lake Cunningham and Great-tailed Grackles were found at Thompson Creek and Alviso City Limits as well as Michael Pyle's group at the San Jose Sewage Outfall.
Notable was the lack of owls. No Burrowing Owls, Short eared Owls, Northern Pygmy Owls or Barn Owls were found anywhere. Great Horned Owls were heard at Ed Levin Park and one was even seen there by a group of young upstart birders at our first Christmas Bird Count for Kids held the same day. Western Screech-Owls were heard along Calaveras Road in the wee hours but they were not very talkative, keeping their temper tantrums to a minimum.
In all 166 species were recorded for a total of 10,307 birds.
Chipping Sparrow, 2018 Palo Alto CBC
by Gena Zolotar
Palo Alto - Monday, December 17, 2018
The Palo Alto CBC was blessed with pleasant weather throughout the circle. The above-average species count of 169 was 1 less than the previous year's. The only misses among species present in most recent years were Cackling Goose, Blue-winged Teal (fifth miss in a row), Red-breasted Merganser, Common Gallinule, Red-breasted Nuthatch (an irruptive species usually found in very small numbers), Swamp Sparrow (one was found for count week) and Brown-headed Cowbird. There was just a single report (2 birds) of Pine Siskin, another irruptive species. On the other hand, a single Ring-necked Pheasant was the first found in six years. American Goldfinch and (especially) all Blackbirds were found in remarkably low numbers, while notable new highs were reached for Eurasian Collared-Dove, Acorn Woodpecker, and White-breasted Nuthatch.
Of course there were also rarities. A Caspian Tern along the Dumbarton Bridge was new to the count. A Nashville Warbler found along San Francisquito Creek near Stanford was the fourth occurrence on the Palo Alto CBC, while 3 Chipping Sparrows (at Sylvan Park, Mountain View) and a Bullock's Oriole (at the Sunnyvale golf course, first in 18 years) were both sixth occurrences. Great-tailed Grackle was found for the fourth year in a row at the Shoreline area. Bald Eagle was seen for the fifth year in a row, this time an adult flying over Stanford. A Ferruginous Hawk over Arastradero Preserve might be the same individual seen a year earlier at Felt Lake (after a gap of 17 years from the previous count observation). A Snowy Plover at the "triangle" area near Crittenden Marsh was the fifth time on the winter count (they are regular on the summer count). Further information, including more frequent "good" species, will be provided in an online version.
Thanks are due for the hard work by our region coordinators, and to all 121 participants.
Calero-Morgan Hill - Saturday, December 29, 2018
This was Beth Hamel's last year as compiler. Thank you for all of your support, Beth! And thanks to Rick Herder for taking over!
The 2018 Calero-Morgan Hill CBC was bright and clear and sunny, but also cold. Most species counts were low of average and the total number of count day species was 141, also a few ticks below average.
The team counting the Loma Prieta area were treated to an amazing view on this cold clear day - they could see San Francisco! In addition they were treated to 2 Townsend’s Solitaires. 10 Tundra Swans were seen flying through the Almaden area of San Jose. Tree and Violet-green Swallows were seen flying over the Calero Reservoir, Burrrowing Owls were seen at both Coyote Ridge and Rancho San Vicente, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was seen at Hellyer Park, and a female Phainopepla was seen at Almaden Quicksilver Park. A Cackling Goose was seen in Coyote Valley on count day, and a single Snow Goose was seen there in the days following as a count week bird. We had a record high of 7 Bald Eagles, even after eliminating duplications. The continuing pale leucistic Bald Eagle managed to swing by 3 different parties to say hello!
It has been a privilege to be the compiler for this CBC circle. Rick Herder will be taking over starting with the 2019 count, and I know that he will do a tremendous job!
Greater Yellowlegs, 2018 Mount Hamilton CBC
by Mike Azevedo
Mount Hamilton - Wednesday, January 2, 2019
For a change, welcomed clear but chilly weather in the morning of our count. Most of the smaller ponds were initially frozen and the water birds were spread out. We had very little weather-related access problems since the roads were open and dry.
The result was a complete count. However, we had a below average species count coming in at 91 species, with low count of only 6,200 individual birds for the day. As to individual species we had an below average year for Lawrence’s Goldfinches with only 31 tallied. One other target was the Lewis’ Woodpecker and we came in at 63. The real shock was a miss for the first time in the counts history: American Robin. James Weigand on Charles Coston's team spotted a Cassin’s Finch on Hwy 130 near Skye Ranch. Mike Rogers and Mike Mammoser found a Swamp Sparrow on the Isabel Ranch (private property) and Bruce Mast identified a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on the Mule Trail (Univ. CA private property). High counts were for Pied-billed Grebe (52! All time high) and Eurasian Collared-Doves again breaking previous high counts. Good acorn crop produced good numbers for Band-tailed Pigeon and Acorn Woodpecker. Low counts were for American Robin, California Thrasher, Cailfornia Towhee, (Sooty) Fox Sparrow, Black Phoebe, White-crowned Sparrow and House Finch. A beautiful but quiet day.
Thanks to our leaders again: Mike Rogers, Mike Mammoser, Mike Azevedo, Charles Coston, Terris Kasteen and especially, Kirsten Holmquist and Dale Stahlecker for the long hike on one of the large ranches and to Bruce Mast and Leighton Nakata for doing the arduous Mule Trail.
Our deepest thanks goes to Elinor Gates for hosting a marvelous compilation feast again this year and leading the team at the top of Mount Hamilton and finding our only Varied Thrushes and Red-breasted Nuthatches. She also spotted a back-lit flycatcher that might have been our first Ash-throated but it was not quite as cooperative as needed.