Background Image
Photo by Tom Grey

SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIRD DISCUSSIONS 2013

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


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

JANUARY 1, 2013
New Year's Day, 2013, was mostly clear and dry, but the winds built up by afternoon. Many folks got out and sent their lists or posted their specialties and we finished the day with 153 species, 3 more than the 13-year average of 150. I'm sure a few slipped through the crack and I hope to hear about them.

In our mild climate it is not surprising that in one day we saw over half of all species that we expect to see this year, about 54%. Most of these were uncommon to common species, about 141 of the total.

We had eight 4's: ROSS'S GOOSE, FERRUGINOUS HAWK, SANDERLING, EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, PYGMY NUTHATCH, ROCK WREN, and WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. Except for the Ross's Geese at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park, all were carry overs from 2012.

The four 5's we had were also carry overs, as expected. The RED PHALAROPE found on Pond A15 in December remained there into early January. Similarly, the juvenile YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER was also found in its Ed Levin haunts on New Year's Day. Our secretive wintering NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH made an appearance at the Charleston Road marsh. Finally, EVENING GROSBEAKS were found in multiple urban locations, mostly feeding on Chinese pistache berries. It has again been a nice winter for them (we hope) and for urban birders.

It is already past the end of January, although it will take me a while to update the list. Early results suggest that we are close to 70% of all the species we will see this year, assuming past history continues to be a good indicator.

JANUARY 31, 2013
The composite list for the end of January stands at 205 species, well beyond the 13-year average of the last 13 years.

The January list is, in its nature, always a bit squirrely. Because we keep a New Year's Day composite list, we tend to catch all of the common birds on that list. As for the rare birds, they tend to be posted to SBB as a matter of course. But there are some in between birds, neither common nor rare, that are overlooked. Most are on this list, but a careful observer may notice that the earliest record is not correct (you know my e-mail address, folks). There may even be a few birds that have been seen, but not recorded. Did anyone see (or hear) Ring-necked Pheasant, Pileated Woodpecker, Pacific or House Wrens in January?

4's in January, after New Year's Day, included BLUE-WINGED TEAL, BALD EAGLE, PRAIRIE FALCON, and PHAINOPEPLA on 2 Jan. A SHORT-EARED OWL was in the Palo Alto FCB on 3 Jan, and an AMERICAN DIPPER along Los Gatos Creek. The Mountain View AMERICAN BITTERN was finally see on 4 Jan, and BLACK SKIMMERS the same day. A GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE and a GLAUCOUS GULL were seen in Morgan Hill on 5 Jan. A GREATER ROADRUNNER at the IBM Almaden Research Center on 8 Jan was near where one was seen on the Calero-Morgan Hill CBC in December. One of our wintering EURASIAN WIGEONS was picked up at last on 10 Jan, and the SNOW GOOSE found in the New Chicago Marsh in December was seen again on 13 Jan. A COMMON LOON was new at Shoreline Lake on 19 Jan and a RED-THROATED LOON was seen the next day on Pond A2E. Also new was a HERMIT WARBLER at Sanborn-Skyline CP.

There was a good tally of 5's in January, mostly carryovers. A 1st-winter ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK has continued at a Los Gatos bird feeder and was first seen in the new year on 3 Jan. The same day, RED CROSSBILLS were found in yellow pines at Henry Coe SP. Later video recordings revealed both Type 2 (yellow pine specialists) and 4 (Douglas fir specialists) birds in these flocks. A continuing PACIFIC LOON in the Campbell percolation ponds was seen on 4 Jan. The now, almost regular GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES continued at Lake Cunningham, first recorded on 4 Jan. The Palo Alto Baylands SWAMP SPARROW was seen again on 7 Jan (and a Stanford bird repeated the next day). A new PALM WARBLER for the winter was at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park on 10 Jan and delighted many over the next few weeks. 18 RED KNOTS were found on closed refuge ponds on 19 Jan.

The 6's were a mixture of stakeout birds and some that were new. The Los Capitancillos percolation ponds EASTERN PHEOBE was found again on 2 Jan and the Guadalupe River bird was seen on 7 Jan. A male WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER was in the yellow pines at Henry Coe SP on 3 Jan. The big news was a first county record of a CAPE MAY WARBLER (male) working a flowering eucalyptus along San Francisquito Creek near Hwy 101. This bird has remained at least into February. Birders seeking the Cape May also saw a 1st-winter female BALTIMORE ORIOLE there on 24 Jan.

As is typical in our California climate, we see most of our species by the end of January (205 out of an expected 284). That leaves us with only 79 to go for the next 11 months.
[ TOP ]



FEBRUARY 2013
With my last report, the total for January was 205 species, but after folks started looking at the list, we got at least more species out of the woodwork to boost our January total to 209 species. This is a high count for the end of January, just squeezing out last year's total of 208! February usually brings nine new species. Perhaps it was a hangover effect, but we ended up with only five new species in February for a total of 214, which matches last February's all time high count.

Among the 1's, our most common birds, a 1st-winter male BULLOCK'S ORIOLE was an overwintering bird rather than an arriving summer resident.

The 3's, uncommon birds, netted us two new species. A LESSER YELLOWLEGS was over the Alviso EEC on 10 Feb and the first ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD of the year was a male along Coyote Creek below Barber lane on 12 Feb.

The last two birds for the months were 5's. Five TUNDRA SWANS were seen again north of Bloomfield Road near Gilroy (as in recent years). They were found there sporadically into March. A RED-NECKED GREBE was seen in Pond A2E during surveys on 22 Feb, but was only recorded once again before moving on.

Numbers will again pick up in March as early spring arrivals show up. Our expectation is for about 13 new species, but a rough estimate suggests we will do better with at least 17 new birds. If that's the case, the total will be will past last year's record setting pace.
 
[ TOP ]


MARCH 2013

The composite list increased from Februrary's 214 to a count of 233 species by the end of March. Our normal tally at the end of March is 219 species, so this accomplishment is extraordinary and exceeds the nearest previous March high of 224 that was obtained just last year.

An increase of 19 species is more than the expected increase of 13 species, but March is a busy month and has the second largest increase of any month, bested only by April. Of course, March and April are the months when our summer residents return. Most of the 19 species in March were just that--returning summer residents.

We had four 1's for the month, our common or abundant species: Barn and Cliff Swallow, Wilson's Warbler, and Black-headed Grosbeak.

The 2's were the bulk of new arrivals, our fairly common species, and included Caspian Tern, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Cassin's Vireo, Warbling Vireo, and Northern Rough-winged Swallow.

There were not so many 3's, our uncommon (but regular) species: Common Poorwill, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Hooded Oriole.

We had three 4's for the month. Both RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD and GRASSHOPPER SPARROW were found at Ed Levin on 10 Mar. The arrival date for Rufous Hummingbird is not so far off its regular arrival, but the Grasshopper Sparrow was about 11 days early. The other 4 was an early male PURPLE MARTIN in Morgan Hill on 26 Mar.

There were two 5's for the month. SNOWY PLOVERS were heard at night near Moffett Field on 23 Mar. The next day, a migrating SWAINSON'S HAWK was spotted at Ed Levin CP.

I will go out on a limb and suggest that we will not be able to keep up this amazing progress with respect to our 13-year average. Normally in April we would expect 20 new species. But where will they come from? As of 31 March, there are only six 2's and 3's left to tick off on the list. To maintain our outlandish winter and spring we will then have to see 14 of the 4's, 5's, or 6's. That will be difficult.

[ TOP ]


APRIL 2013

We finished April with 253 species, a new record! Although the number of new species was down one from the average of our long-term record, this is still a blistering pace. We'll see if we can top it in May.

The 2's, fairly common birds, were well represented in April, although there were a couple of surprises. RED-NECKED PHALAROPES were found on Pond A12 on 2 Apr. They are uncommon in their spring migration, and are missed in some years. A LAZULI BUNTING at Rancho San Antonio OSP on 6 Apr was a fairly typical arrival date, but the SWAINSON'S THRUSH banded at the Coyote Creek Field Station on 14 Apr was early. The biggest surprise was a single spring WILSON'S PHALAROPE in the impoundment north of the Alviso Marina CP on 17 Apr, we find them in April in about one year in ten. The last of the 2's was a WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE at the Stevens Creek CP on 19 Apr.

We found two of the 3's this month. An OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER was seen at Lake Ranch Reservoir on 11 Apr, another typical arrival date. A VAUX'S SWIFT over an Almaden Valley yard on 4/13 was also a typical arrival date.

There were six 4's during the month. A NASHVILLE WARBLER was found on 7 Apr at Stevens Creek CP. A male BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD was seen at Kelly Park on 19 Apr. Single WHITE-FACED IBISES were found at the Alviso EEC and the Alviso Marina CP on 24 Apr, likely the same bird. On 26 Apr a CANYON WREN was seen in Henry Coe SP, and a MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER was enjoyed at Rancho San Antonio OSP. The 4's were wrapped up with a SY BLUE GROSBEAK along the Pajaro River below Hwy 101 on 27 Apr.

There were also six 5's in April. The first was a HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER in a Los Altos Hills yard on 1 Apr (no foolin'). Two CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS were discovered on 3 Apr at their usual location on San Felipe Road near the south border of the county. The first of three SOLITARY SANDPIPERS for the month was one on Thompson Creek on 14 Apr. 26 Apr brought the discovery of two 5's: a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT at the South County Regional Waste Water Authority (Gilroy) treatment ponds and multiple YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS at the Sunnyvale WPCP. A CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD at Ed Levin CP on 27 Apr finished the month.

The only 6 was a BLACK TURNSTONE in New Chicago Marsh on 17 Apr, only our third spring record.

[ TOP ]


MAY 2013

I overlooked an unusual spring record of COMMON TERN last month on 27 Apr, so that boosts the April total to 254, a record for the last dozen years.

This month we had six new species raising the total to 260 for the composite list, also a recent-year record and well beyond the 249 average.

The one 4 for the month was a nice group of BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS on Bear Mountain, well back in Coe Park, on 27 May.

We had four 5's for the month. Five RUDDY TURNSTONES were off the observation platform at the Palo Alto Baylands on 3 May. On 11 May, an INDIGO BUNTING was found on a private ranch in the southwest corner of the county along Pescadero Creek. A spring BLACK TERN was seen along Pond A17 on 21 May. A single BLACK SWIFT over the Coyote Valley on 25 May rounded out the 5's.

The one 6 was a GRAY FLYCATCHER along the Pajaro River near Sargent Creek on 6 May.

We already have had two more good birds in June, we'll see how things work out in the next 12 days.
 
[ TOP ]


JUNE 2013

Ah, the summer doldrums are upon us. On average, June provides about four new species, but this month we had only two. But our 262 for June is a tie compared to the all time high count at the end of June, so we are still doing well.

The one 4 was a spring WILLOW FLYCATCHER banded at CCFS on 2 Jun. Spring birds are quite a bit less common than fall birds (by 30X). The first fall birds should show up at the end of July.

The single 5 was a complete surprise, a calling BLACK RAIL along Alviso Slough on 6 Jun. There are some claims of nesting in Alviso in the late 1890s, but other than that we have only a few records of birds from April through July. Many folks got to hear this bird, in some cases at least two birds. Maybe there were more--what a mystery this bird is!

Who knows what will be next?
 
[ TOP ]


JULY 2013

Well, 2013 continues its record-breaking pace. We added five species in July bringing the total to 267, which is two more species than last year's pace.

Four of our new five species were 4's. The first of these were LEAST TERNS, at their conventional staging spot on Pond A2E on 19 Jul. There are good numbers of juveniles this year, so they are continuing into August and being found in other spots as well. The Least Terns were a bit late, but two ELEGANT TERNS were found in the same spot two days later on 21 Jul, and were early. The other new 4's were rare shorebirds (no surprise). Both were adults, which when we are lucky enough to find them, are seen in July whereas the juveniles come later. An adult SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER was seen in New Chicago Marsh on 23 Jul. An adult PECTORAL SANDPIPER was seen in the marsh five days later on 28 Jul.

The only 6 was a whopper--a first county record. This was a juvenile PIGEON GUILLEMOT in Pond A14 in Alviso on 28 Jul. Fortunately, it has so far survived the South Bay to the enjoyment of the many folks who don't mind a little walk.

August should bring six new birds, we'll see how we do.
 

[ TOP ]


AUGUST 2013

There were no new species in August, well that's not quite true, we did get a species pair. So that gives us a 268 species, which is four more than the mean, and four less than at the end of August last year. The one new 'species' in August is the worst in the last 10+ years, normally we add six.

The one bird we had was a juvenile LESSER GOLDEN-PLOVER seen flying away over Pond A16 on the last day of the month. American Golden-Plover and Pacific Golden-Plover once comprised a single species, the Lesser Golden-Plover. They were split in the late 1980s, I think. They remain a difficult ID even when fairly well seen. Both are considered 5's in Santa Clara County.

Typically, we pick up 10 new species in September as the rare vagrants show up and sometimes some rare shorebirds, gulls, or terns. We'll see.
 

[ TOP ]


SEPTEMBER 2013

By the end of September we have recorded 277 species. This includes the "Lesser" Golden-Plover I mentioned last month and even more confusion that I will soon address. The 277 puts us three species over the long-term average of 274, but below a record count of 283 in both 2000 and 2001. September can be quite amazing in the number of new species that are found. In 2000 and 2001 we found 15 species compared to our average of 10. This year we managed 8 new species. One of our "new" species was a HY male COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD at Vasona CP on 29 Sep. In all the excitement that followed the report of such a rarity, possibly the most interesting part was that the same bird was photographed there on 15 Aug, but not identified. So, I've bookkeeped that bird for August. That leaves us with the 8 new species, all very exciting this late in the year.

We found three new 5's for September. A juvenile PARASITIC JAEGER was seen on Pond A14 in Alviso on 11 Sep and fortunately for the multitude willing to make the three-mile hike out there, the youngster remained for at least 10 days. The next day, a female-type AMERICAN REDSTART was found at the Ulistac Natural Area, but was only a one-day wonder. A CLAY-COLORED SPARROW showed up at the McClellan Ranch Preserve community garden on 25 Sep. This bird was not seen again, but another was discovered along the Guadalupe River below Coleman the next day and this time remained through the end of the month.

We found five 6's, which is quite exciting. A CANADA WARBLER was seen at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park on 2 Sep, only our third record. In the search for that warbler, a TENNESSEE WARBLER was found there as well. Then on 24 Sep, a VIRGINIA'S WARBLER was seen on the north side of the Sunnyvale WPCP plant, also a third county record. In the search for that bird, a female-type ORCHARD ORIOLE was found for yet another third county record. (And, in searches for the Clay-colored Sparrow at McClellan Ranch on 26 Sep, another Orchard Oriole was found--a fourth county record.) The month finished with a juvenile BROAD-WINGED HAWK over Los Altos on 29 Jun.

Once September is past, it is all down hill. The average number of new species found in October is four, but we've already found two, so we might do very well. Or maybe not.
 

[ TOP ]


OCTOBER 2013

Whereas September was a little below average for new species, October came in like gangbusters with nine new species compared to the typical four or five. It was quite a month. Now the annual list is back to its record-setting pace with 286 species through the end of October.

There was only one 4 this month, a late juvenile BAIRD'S SANDPIPER found in Pond A15 on 8 Oct. So far this year we've seen all the 4s but three: Ruff, Stilt Sandpiper, and Long-eared Owl. We've had November and December records for all of these, so there is still a chance.

We had three 5s for the month. A SUMMER TANAGER was heard (and glimpsed) along Stevens Creek near La Avenida on 3 Oct. Finally, a BLACKPOLL WARBLER showed up when one was seen at the Ulistac Natural Area on 11 Oct, and stayed for a couple of days. The third 5 was a VESPER SPARROW on the Anderson Reservoir dam on 23 Oct.

The remainder of the new species were 6s. A SANDHILL CRANE landed in the Palo Alto FCB and was seen on 4 Oct, but not after. The next day, a SAGE THRASHER was found at Calero CP. Another Sage Thrasher was found later in the month in the Coyote Valley. As in recent years, a PELAGIC CORMORANT was seen on a levee in the Alviso ponds on 18 Oct and was refound through early November. The biggest discovery was a YELLOW RAIL seen and photographed in the Alviso EEC parking lot on 22 Oct. This is only the third record in recent decades. This rare rail is very secretive, we've no idea whether a few are here each winter or maybe just one every decade or so. The last of the 6s was a TROPICAL KINGBIRD working the fences in the southeast corner of Pond A3W. It remained into early November.

I have updated the county list using the 54th Supplement to the AOU Checklist that was published in July (and I also caught a few previous changes that I had missed). For the most part, the changes are in the taxonomic order of species (and some are quite surprising). These changes may also affect the scientific name (but not the English name). If you don't pay much attention to the taxonomic order, the changes won't matter much. The one exception that has some effect for us is that the Sage Sparrow has been split into two species: Bell's Sparrow and the Sagebrush Sparrow. Bell's Sparrow is the one that we have in the county, whereas the Sagebrush Sparrow is found in the interior west. The Sagebrush Sparrow is migratory, at least in the northern part of its range, and it may be possible that one will show up. In the 30+ years I've kept the county records, we've only had reports of two migratory "Sage Sparrows," one along the Bay edge and the second along the Guadalupe River above Montague. Both were Bell's Sparrows.
 

[ TOP ]


NOVEMBER 2013

We found only one new species in November and this brings us to a total of 287 species (which includes the "Lesser" Golden-Plover, a species pair). This is a high for November, but shared with four other years. In an average year, our species total for the year is 284, so we are already ahead of that average total by three species, even if December brings us nothing new.

The one species in November was, of course, the juvenile BAR-TAILED GODWIT in Ponds A15 and A9 in Alviso on 15 Nov. This is only the third county record and a rare bird for California as well. The bird stayed for three days and many people made the four-mile trek out to Pond A9. One birder commented to me that you have to be fit to bird in Santa Clara County.

New species for December have averaged three in the past, but once we had six new species. We'll wait and see.
 

[ TOP ]


DECEMBER 2013

We found only one new species in December and this finished us off at 288 species for the year (which includes the "Lesser" Golden-Plover, a species pair). Our finish was four species over the 14-year mean of 284 species, but short of the recent high count of 293 species in 2011.

The one new species was a CATTLE EGRET, a "5," discovered at the Coyote Creek GC on 27 Dec. It remained there into the new year and was also tallied on the Calero-Morgan Hill CBC, a first for that CBC.

[ TOP ]