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Photo by Tom Grey

SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIRD DISCUSSIONS 2014

Please send any additions, corrections, or comments to: Bill Bousman


|| JAN || FEB || MAR || APR || MAY || JUN || JUL || AUG || SEP || OCT || NOV || DEC ||

JANUARY 1, 2014
We started out the year on New Year's Day with 157 species. Our long term average is 150 species, but there were some particularly low numbers in the early 2000s. The mean for the last 10 years is 159. As is typically the case for New Year's Day, there were no "6's" and the only "5's" were a few stakeouts: a CATTLE EGRET remaining at the Coyote Creek GC, a RED KNOT out on Pond A9 in Alviso, and the adult male YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER hiding unsuccessfully in Ed Levin CP.

I received about 20 reports for New Year's Day. The most reported bird (n=14) was the American Coot--huzzah! There were no 13s, but a few 12s: Mallard, Black Phoebe, and White-crowned Sparrow.

For those of you who regularly peruse this list and have sharp eyes, you will notice that I have added a new species to the county list, Arctic Loon, number 401. Therein lies a tale. Simon Tickle, a British birder, visited the Palo Alto Baylands on 12 Nov 2010. He talked about his visit and included a number of his photos in his BLOG. I've put a PDF of his blog on our group site under "Files." Mr. Tickle took a picture of what he described as a Common Loon, although friends suggested to him the bill was too small and it was a Pacific Loon. He entered the bird as a Common Loon in eBird. The hero of this tale is Pete Dunten, who was reviewing eBird records in January 2013 and noticed the Common Loon entry for the Baylands, certainly a rare bird there. Pete searched on the internet and found the "redgannet" blog. Looking at Mr. Tickle's photos, he concluded that it might be an Arctic Loon instead. He passed this on to Mike Rogers who sent it on to Steve Rottenborn (who I thank for all of this information). Steve put together a package for the California Bird Records Committee after contacting Mr. Tickle and resolving a few details. The committee accepted this record this past month. I pulled the two photos from the blog for the county notebooks and I tried to put them up on the group site this morning, but I may have done something wrong or they have been filed elsewhere. Anyway, the photos can be seen in the blog.

JANUARY 31, 2014
We started out on New Year's Day with 157 species, and folks were able to add 38 more species during the month so that we finished up with 195 species, about two species below our long-term average.

The distribution of birds ranged from the common (the 1's) to the very rare (the 5's). The distribution was something like
1's -- 2
2's -- 7
3's -- 11
4's -- 13
5's -- 4
Of course, the numbers don't add up to 38, but close enough.

For the 1's, these were not common birds that were somehow missed on New Year's Day, but were common birds of summer that for some reason have chosen to make it through our winter season. A WILSON'S WARBLER was found at the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) ponds on 21 Jan and a 1st-winter BULLOCK'S ORIOLE was nearby on 24 Jan. Another overwintering Bullock's was found along the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail on 30 Jan.

Amongst the 2's, multiple BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS at the edge of Santa Teresa CP on 3 Jan were of interest. As with the unusual 1's, these were half-hardy birds wintering where few are found.

Most of the 4's were overwintering birds found previously. The best of these were multiple GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS in Ed Levin CP. These were wintering birds, not early arrivals.

The most excitement was with the 5's, all new for this winter. A ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK was seen flying near San Felipe Lake from Santa Clara into San Benito County on 8 Jan. 11 Jan provided multiple 5's. A RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER was photographed at Foothill College and another was seen at Ed Levin CP the same day. It seems to have been a good year for this sapsucker, a third January record was one at the SCVWD ponds on 23 Jan. Also on 11 Jan, a VESPER SPARROW was at the Sierra Road summit. The next day, 12 Jan, a BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER was in a Mountain View yard, but it soon moved on.

In February, we normally pick up nine new species, we'll see.
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FEBRUARY 2014
We finished February with 213 species, a very good tally. The long-term mean has been 2006 by the end of February. At the end of January, we were a bit below the average, so February's 18 species came in handy.

The 1's included VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW on 2 Feb at the Ogier Avenue ponds--no surprise there as they can turn up anytime in the winter months. A female BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK was found at Vasona CP on 15 Feb, undoubtedly a wintering bird. The next day a wintering YELLOW WARBLER was seen along Coyote Creek near Sycamore Drive. The last of the 1's was a spring arriving CLIFF SWALLOW at Lake Cunningham.

There were only two 2's. NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS were seen at Coyote Reservoir on 13 Feb and a wintering PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER was at Lake Cunningham.

The 3's started out with a COMMON POORWILL heard along Del Puerto Road at the Stanislaus-Santa Clara border and a LEWIS'S WOODPECKER along Roop Road on 16 Feb. The first NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL of the season was heard at Lake Ranch Reservoir on 20 Feb. A resident BELL'S SPARROW was singing in Coe Park on 22 Feb. A BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARLBER at Ulistac the next day was almost certainly a wintering bird.

We picked up two 4's for the month. A wintering HERMIT WARBLER was in the pines at Graystone Park on 4 Feb. A NASHVILLE WARBLER was at the SCVWD ponds on 15 Feb and was also a wintering bird.

We found five 5's for the month. A 1st-winter male ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK turned up at a San Jose bird feeder on 1 Feb. Our only stakeout bird was the NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH in the Charleston Road marsh that was finally recorded on 13 Feb. A walk along Alviso Slough provided two 5's on 15 Feb--8 BLACK RAILS were heard at various locations along the slough and a SY male WHITE-WINGED SCOTER was across the slough in Pond A7. The last of the fives was an all red male TANAGER along Stevens Creek near La Avenida, most likely a Summer Tanager.

Spring migration will provide new species in double digits in March and April. It will be fun.
 
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MARCH 2014

This is a bit early, based on records to SBB up through 30 Mar. I'll be away for a good bit of April.

I overlooked a record of a RED-THROATED LOON on closed refuge ponds on 18 Jan. That record and the tanager spp. from February brings us to 214 species at the end of February. We added 14 more species in March (13 is average), bringing our total up to 228 species, about 9 above our average at the end of March. Many of these were spring arrivals.

The only 1 was a BARN SWALLOW along the San Francisquito Creek Trail on 1 Mar.

Four 2's included an early WARBLING VIREO at Rancho Canada del Oro on 7 Mar, a CASSIN'S VIREO on Hicks Road on 16 Mar, multiple WESTERN KINGBIRDS at Ed Levin and along Marsh Road on 20 Mar, and a CASPIAN TERN at Calero Reservoir on 27 Mar.

The only 3 was an arriving HOODED ORIOLE in the Almaden Valley on 13 Mar.

The two 4's included the first migrant RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD in Ulistac Natural Area on 1 Mar and SNOWY PLOVERS that showed up on the unnamed pond between Crittenden Marsh and Pond A2E on 15 Mar.

There were also two 5's. A TOWNSEND'S SOLITARE was seen in Henry Coe SP on 4 Mar and a male COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD showed up at a south Los Altos feeder on 21 Mar.

Four 6's were a good showing for March. A BROAD-WINGED HAWK was seen along Skyline 16 Mar, the earliest spring record we have. A BRANDT'S CORMORANT was seen on the Pond A13/A15 levee in Alviso on 18 Mar. The same day, a male BALTIMORE ORIOLE showed up at Vasona CP and University Avenue, perhaps the bird that was there last year. A female-type LARK BUNTING was found along Marsh Road on 20 Mar and remained there a few days. It is the first spring record for the county.

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APRIL 2014

My March report provided a tally of 228 species, but Gena Z. pointed out that I missed multiple VAUX'S SWIFTS in the Los Gatos-Almaden area on 1 Mar (an amazing story in its own right) and a GREATER ROADRUNNER northeast of Hellyer Avenue on 11 Mar. Thus, the end of March tally was 230 species, ten more than our long-term average.

Once we are past January's baseline species count, April is the month with the most new species. In an average year we find 21 new species, mostly spring arrivals. This year we found 19 new species, bringing our total at the end of April to 249 species, about eight above the long-term average.

We had six 2's for the month. An ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER was heard at Monte Bello OSP on 4 Apr, about 5 to 12 days early (the first one seen was on 9 Apr). Similarly, a LAZULI BUNTING was found on Canada Road on 5 Apr, about 3 to 10 days early (the second bird of the season was not seen until 17 Apr). Another early arrival was a RED-NECKED PHALAROPE on Pond 13 in Alviso on 10 Apr, in most years we see a small spring movement of Red-neckeds and Wilson's Phalaropes. The first WESTERN WOOD-PEEWEE of the season was the next day, 11 Apr, at Rancho Canada del Oro OSP, about 1 to 5 days early. The first SWAINSON'S THRUSH was at La Rinconada Park in Los Gatos on 16 Apr, about 11 days early. The last of the new 5's were two WILSON'S PHALAROPES at the SCRWA (Gilroy) treatment ponds on 29 Apr.

Our only 3 was a "tipsy" OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER along Wrights Stations Road on 13 Apr, exactly on time.

We found five 4's in April. At least four PURPLE MARTINS started things off on 7 Apr when they were seen northwest of the lower saddle on Summit Ridge. The first of the BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRDS was a female at a Morgan Hill feeder on 12 Apr (and a male the next day). An adult male BLUE GROSBEAK was at the Oka percolation ponds on 13 Apr, the earliest spring record we have for the county. More typically, they show up in the third or fourth week of April. The first MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER of the season was at Rancho Canada del Oro on 26 Apr. Finally, a single WHITE-FACED IBIS at the New Chicago Marsh barely made it into April, found on the 30th.

The balance of the new species for the month were seven 5's. Two SWAINSON'S HAWKS in the Coyote Valley were found on 5 Apr. The first HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER of the spring migration was one at Smith Creek on 10 Apr. An alternate RUDDY TURNSTONE flew into the Palo Alto Baylands from the San Francisquito Creek delta on 13 Apr. A CASSIN'S KINGBIRD was seen along San Felipe Road on 14 Apr where they have nested in past years. A SOLITARY SANDPIPER was seen in a drawn-down pond at the Campbell percolation ponds on 26 Apr and stayed into May. A CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD was seen the same day in Ed Levin CP, but did not remain so long. A YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT brightened the morning on Old Oak Glen Avenue next to Llagas Creek on 29 Apr.

May brings fewer new birds, typically about nine new species. We'll see how we've done by the end of the month.

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MAY 2014

We finished May with 255 species, and increase of six since April. This is about five species more than our long-term average.

We had three 4's for the month. Multiple male PHAINOPEPLA and at least one female were found in Santa Teresa CP on 16 May. At least 16 male BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS were singing in the center of Henry Coe SP on 18 May. A single WILLOW FLYCATCHER was singing and "witting" along the Pajaro River just above Pescadero Creek on 26 May.

The two 5's started with a very early BLACK SWIFT picked out of the swallows and other swifts on an nice insect day over Hidden Villa on 4 May. Two BLACK TERNS in striking alternate plumage were at the South County Regional Wastewater Authority (Gilroy) treatment ponds at the entrance, a good place for these birds at the peak of their spring passage.

The one 6 was a TROPICAL KINGBIRD found at the Mountain View Forebay and then moving on through Shoreline Lake, we hope on its way south. This is our first spring record of this famed reverse migrant.
 
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JUNE 2014

We finished June 2014 with 256 species, an increase of one during the month. As of the end of June, we are about two species ahead of the long-term average for this date.

The new species for June was a 4, a CANYON WREN heard singing in Larios Canyon on the first day of the month.
 
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JULY 2014

We finished July with 260 species on the county list, an increase of four species over June (or maybe three and a half). This puts us about two species up on the long-term average.

There were two 4's in July. About on time, staging LEAST TERNS showed up in Pond A2E on 4 Jul. They have remained there into August, albeit in small numbers. An adult PECTORAL SANDPIPER was found in New Chicago Marsh on 28 Jul. Adults have been found this summer in unusually high numbers along the California Coast. Usually we only find juvenile birds that arrive in September.

The one 5 was an INDIGO BUNTING at the Gate 5 pond at Monte Bello OSP on 31 Jul. It was a white-bellied bird reported as a hybrid with Lazuli Bunting (which it might be). Even if there were photos (there are none), it might be one of those birds that we will never be certain of.

The lone 6 was a WANDERING TATTLER on Pond A11 on 30 Jul, our first July record for this coastal shorebird.

August should bring us 6 new species, if you believe in statistics. We'll see.
 

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AUGUST 2014

This month I learned that a DUSKY FLYCATCHER was banded at CCFS on 4/30/14, so that increases the composite list by one. Thus, last month we finished with 261 species, and in August we added seven new species for the year (one more than is expected) to give us 268 species. That is four better than our long-term average of 264 species.

There were three 4's during the month. A juvenile SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER was seen (and photographed) at New Chicago Marsh on 7 Aug, a few more have been found in August and early September. The first of the ELEGANT TERNS that arrive from south in late summer was seen over Pond A10 in Alviso on 8 Aug. We've had an excellent showing this year with tens of Elegants feeding in Shoreline Lake and Pond A1, a three-minute walk from your car. Squeezing in at the end of the month was a juvenile BAIRD'S SANDPIPER at the Mountain View Forebay on 31 Aug.

We found three 5's as well in August. A BANK SWALLOW was in with hundreds of other swallows preening on a fence over the Moffett Channel at the western end of the Sunnyvale WPCP on 11 Aug. A male and a female RED CROSSBILL flew over the Gate 5 pond at Monte Bello OSP on 21 Aug. This species is regular in coastal conifers, but rarely moves across the crest into Santa Clara County. An adult PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER in molt was found at New Chicago Marsh on 23 Aug and was seen by many over the next two days. Surprisingly a second adult was found there the next day.

The one 6 for the month was a juvenile LONG-TAILED JAEGER over Shoreline Lake on 31 Aug. The photos taken provided a wonderful lesson in the difficulty that occurs in the identification of young jaegers.

Considering identification problems, SFBBO captured and banded a "TRAILL'S" FLYCATCHER on 30 Aug, made detailed measurements, photographed it, and released it. They recaptured it the next day, re-did the measurements, and took more photographs. The documentation is convincing that the bird was not one of the western subspecies of WILLOW FLYCATCHER (Traill's was split into two species, the Willow and Alder Flycatchers, in the 1960s), but it is not clear whether it is an Alder Flycatcher (four accepted records in California) or an eastern subspecies of the Willow Flycatcher. Who said that Empidonax flycatchers were difficult to identify. Interesting stuff.

September is the best of the fall months, our usual number of new species is about 10. We've already had a good start, get out and shake those bushes.
 

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SEPTEMBER 2014

We found 10 new species for the month, which brings us to 278 for the year, about four more than is typical.

Only one of the new species was a 4, two juvenile COMMON TERNS on Pond A2E that remained through most of the month and were seen by many.

There were seven 5's for the month. The first was a female-type YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD that was near the CCFS waterbird pond on 1 Sep. A juvenile RUFF was found in Pond A12 on 13 Sep and apparently survived predation to stay there at least into October. A GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE was banded at CCFS on 17 Sep, the first since the fall of 2007. An AMERICAN REDSTART was a one-day attraction at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park on 19 Sep. The next day, a juvenile SABINE'S GULL turned up at the nearby WPCP and remained for a while. Back at the Baylands Park, a PALM WARBLER was found on 22 Sep (but again, was not refound). The last 5 of the month was a juvenile PARASITIC JAEGER that was found on Sunnyvale's Pond A4 on 28 Sep (and has remained well into October).

The two 6's started with a TENNESEE WARBLER at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park on 1 Sep. Towards the end of the month, a nonbreeding adult BLACK TURNSTONE was in the far reaches of Pond A16 in Alviso.

We did well in September, hitting the 10 expected species. October will have a few surprises, but the numbers are now tapering off as new species become harder and harder to find. Past experience suggests that these three months will garner 5, 3, and 3 new species, respectively.
 

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OCTOBER 2014

Birders found three new species for the county list in October, increasing the year's total from 278 to 281. That is about three species above our long-term average for the end of October.

The one 5 for October was a CLAY-COLORED SPARROW reported from Shoreline Park on 10 Oct, apparently not found again.

There were two 6's for the month. An ASHY STORM-PETREL was a surprising (and brief) visitor to Pond A12 on 8 Oct. This is the third county record. Less likely was an AMERICAN TREE SPARROW on water district lands near the Sunnyvale WPCP on 25 Oct. This was a second record for the county and exactly 40 years after the first, a banded bird somewhere near Alviso.

November usually provides about three new birds, we'll see how that works out.
 

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NOVEMBER 2014

Birders found only one new species for the county list in October, increasing the year's total from 281 to 282. That is about one species above our long-term average for the end of November.

The one new species was a 6, a PELAGIC CORMORANT in the ponds and on the dikes of the outer Alviso ponds. We've had a Pelagic out there over the last half dozen years or so during the fall, probably the same bird. It is still out there in mid-December.

December usually provides about three new birds. Two-thirds of the way through the month we are doing pretty well against that standard. We'll have to see how it plays out at the end of the year.
 

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DECEMBER 2014

I overlooked two COMMON MURRES found on Guadalupe Slough on 27 Aug. That means that we finished November with 283 species. Usually in December, we find three more species for the composite list, but this December we found a record 7 new species! Thus the final list is 290 species, 5 more than the long-term average and 3 short of our recent-year high of 293 species in 2011.

There was only one 4 found in December, a COMMON LOON on Almaden Reservoir on 6 Dec. The rough definition of a 4 is that although all 4's are rare, all will be found sometime during the year by someone, somewhere in the county. Of course, all such rules of thumb are meant to be broken. This year we finished with only two "unfound" 4's: Stilt Sandpiper and Long-eared Owl.

Four of the new birds for December were 5's. A RED-NECKED GREBE was found on Coyote Reservoir on 6 Dec and it has remained there into the new year. Surprisingly, another Red-necked Grebe showed up at Calero Reservoir on the Calero-Morgan Hill CBC on 27 Dec. A RED PHALAROPE was seen in Pond A12 on 14 Dec on the San Jose CBC. Continuing that pattern, the next day on the Palo Alto CBC, the first EVENING GROSBEAK of the winter was seen in Los Altos. Many more have been found in Mountain View and Sunnyvale into the new year. A PACIFIC LOON turned up in Pond A16 on 18 Dec.

We wrapped up the year with two 6's, one being the ultimate 6, that is, a new bird for the county list. An adult LESSER BLACKED-BACKED GULL was seen in New Chicago Marsh on 18 Dec in the morning, but could not be found in the afternoon (or after that). The new species was a LUCY'S WARBLER in a gated community near Lick Mill Park on 29 Dec. That puts the county list at 402 species.

This is my last summary of the composite list. I appreciate Kendric Smith's help with this list over the years. Please support Brooke Miller as she continues the composite list in the new year.
 

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