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Photo by Tom Grey

SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIRD DISCUSSIONS 2011

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


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

JANUARY 1, 2011
There was rain in the hills on New Year's Day, which may have slowed things down a bit. We wound up with 153 species, which is low for recent years. The rarer birds that were found were all winter rarities that had been previously seen.

We found 14 '4's' on New Year's Day: GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, BLUE-WINGED TEAL, BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, WHITE-FACED IBIS (it probably should be considered a '6' in winter, as this is only the second winter we've found them in the South Bay), BALD EAGLE, FERRUGINOUS HAWK, PRAIRIE FALCON, SNOWY PLOVER, SANDERLING, BLACK SKIMMER, EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE, SHORT-EARED OWL, PILIATED WOODPECKER, and AMERICAN DIPPER.

There were three '5's'. Two PALM WARBLERS continued, one in the Coyote Valley and the other at the end of Embarcadero Way in Palo Alto. The NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH wintering in the Charleston Road marsh was spotted. The crown jewel of the day were the variable numbers of EVENING GROSBEAKS off Orchard Parkway in Santa Clara.

Directly or through SBB posts I obtained observations from 19 birders. It is certain that some birds not on the list below were seen on New Year's Day. If you notice some gaps, send me an e-mail.

JANUARY 31, 2011
Feedback from the New Year's Day list added two more species: Virginia Rail and Black-bellied Plover. In addition, the recorded Tree Swallow was in error, it was reported as a Violet-green Swallow. This brings the New Year's Day total to 155 species.

Observations for January brought the composite list total to 195 species, the same as our long-term average.

There were eleven '4's' for the month following New Year's Day. Two PHAINOPEPLA were found in Isabel Valley on 2 Jan on the Mt. Hamilton CBC. The next day, a PILEATED WOODPECKER was heard in Monte Bello OSP, a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH was in Graystone Park near Camden and two PYGMY NUTHATCHES were heard at Sanborn-Skyline CP. On 5 Jan four ROCK WRENS were at the IBM Almaden Research Center. A SNOW GOOSE was seen in the lake southeast of Evergreen High School on 9 Jan. Also that day, seven EURASIAN WIGEON were found in ponds in Alviso and an immature GLAUCOUS GULL was seen on Pond A12. On 10 Jan, the AMERICAN BITTERN wintering near the Mountain View Forebay was seen along Permanente Creek. A GREATER ROADRUNNER was seen along Hwy 130 in Joseph Grant CP. The 4's were wrapped up with a ROSS'S GOOSE on Thompson Creek near Tully on 19 Jan.

Observers found six '5's' over the rest of the month. A female RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER was seen in San Antonio Valley on 2 Jan on the Mt. Hamilton CBC. The next day, 3 Jan, two GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES were seen at the Coyote Creek GC. A LONG-TAILED DUCK was a one-day wonder on Pond A11 on 20 Jan. But a SOLITARY SANDPIPER found at Lake Cunningham on 26 Jan remained there or nearby on Thompson Creek into February. A SWAMP SPARROW was seen at the Ogier Avenue ponds on 29 Jan. Five TUNDRA SWANS were found in a field off Bloomfield Road on 31 Jan and have continued into February with their numbers increasing to at least nine birds.

Two '6's' were found during January. The first was an immature SANDHILL CRANE found along Thompson Creek near Tully Road on 19 Jan. This bird has remained there or at Lake Cunningham and nearby into February and delighted many lucky observers. On 20 Jan, searching for the crane on Thompson Creek, the reward was an immature CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER. This bird, our third winter record was seen once more on 23 Jan, but not after that.

Typically, February brings us 9 new species, often including our arriving swallows, but sometimes rare specialties. Good luck!
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FEBRUARY 2011
I found a few errors in January. I overlooked a report of TREE SWALLOWS on 9 Jan and some HORNED LARKS on 15 Jan, so that brings our January total to 197 species, two more than our long-term average. Also, in the list, I had the wrong date for Phainopepla, it should have been 1/2/11. There may be some other errors lurking in the list.

February brought 7 new species rather than the usual 9 new birds, so we wound up with 204 and are now even with our long-term average.

We found three 3's for the month. A GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET was found in pines at Ed Levin CP on 12 Feb, clearly an irruptive bird rather than part of our rare breeding population. Six WHIMBRELS were along outer Charleston Slough on 19 Feb. A BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER was found along San Francisquito Creek at the San Mateo Drive bike bridge on 21 Feb (This species is a 3 as a breeder, but should be considered a 4 or 5 as a wintering bird).

There were three 4's as well for the month. A LONG-EARED OWL was heard at Monte Bello OSP on 5 Feb, not far from where they have nested in at least a few years. This was a docent hike. A wintering GRASSHOPPER SPARROW was seen on the Stiles Ranch Trail at Santa Teresa CP on 9 Feb, spring birds usually show up at the end of March. A juvenile RED-THROATED LOON was see on the Campbell percolation ponds on 20 Feb and remained for a couple of days.

The one 5 for the month was a basic male INDIGO BUNTING at a feeder in Saratoga. It disappeared after a few days but then returned in late March with more blue feathers. It was then photographed, neat!

March usually brings us 13 new species, early spring arrivals. Many have already shown up by this late date, but some may be delayed by the unusually cold and rainy middle portion of the month.
 
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MARCH 2011

I skipped a NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW in February and that increases our February total to 205 species.

March brought us 14 new species, one more than expected. That gives us 219 for the year at the end of the month, which is two ahead of the average.

Common species, that is, the 1's, included 5 new birds. A BARN SWALLOW was at the Coyote Creek GC on 5 Mar, and a CLIFF SWALLOW followed at Ed Levin CP on 9 Mar. The first BULLOCK'S ORIOLE of the season was at the Picchetti Ranch OSP on 12 Mar. A heard-only WILSON'S WARBLER was at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy on 16 Mar (the first one seen was on 31 Mar). A YELLOW WARBLER was seen at the end of Geng Road in Palo Alto on 21 Mar, and was a wintering bird.

Five 2's were found as well during March. The first PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER was seen on Stevens Creek above Mt. Eden Road on 12 Mar. A WARBLING VIREO was found on 16 Mar at Almaden-Quicksilver CP. An alternate RED-NECKED PHALAROPE on Pond A12 on 27 Mar was unusual as they are very rare in spring. A number of CASPIAN TERNS were on the Alviso ponds the same day as expected. The 5's were rounded out with a WESTERN KINGBIRD along Fortini Road on 27 Mar as well.

Two 3's showed up. An ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD was seen at a feeder in The Villages in East San Jose on 9 Mar, and a returning HOODED ORIOLE was sighted at a San Jose feeder on 16 Mar.

The only 4 of the period was an adult male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS on the path to the Stanford Dish from Piers Lane on 16 Mar.

Finally, the sole 5 of the period were one or more MOUNTAIN QUAIL heard in the Adobe Creek drainage on Black Mountain on 12 Mar. This is one of the locations where they have been found in the past, although we are always concerned about aviary releases.

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APRIL 2011

I missed a record of Northern Saw-whet Owl at Mt. Madonna CP on 21 Mar, so that bumps our March total up to 220, three birds above the long-term average. April brought us 21 new species which gives us 241 birds at the end of April, two above average.

The last of the 1's were an arriving BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK in multiple locations on 5 Apr and a SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER calling at the Palo Alto Baylands on 9 Apr.

There were five 2's for the month, all arriving summer birds. A CASSIN'S VIREO was along Gilroy Hot Springs Road on 7 Apr. The first LAZULI BUNTING was at Rancho San Antonio on 14 Apr. An arriving ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER was at the Stanford Dish on 15 Apr and other flycatchers quickly followed with a WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE along Hicks Road on 19 Apr and an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER at Lake Ranch Reservoir on 20 Apr.

There were only two 3's, a COMMON POORWILL near Guadalupe Reservoir on 16 Apr and a migrant SWAINSON'S THRUSH at Hidden Villa on 23 Apr.

We found seven new 4's for the month, a mixture of migrants and summering birds. Three VAUX'S SWIFTS were at Charleston Slough on 13 Apr. On 22 Apr a CANYON WREN was singing above Pacheco Creek in Coe Park and a NASHVILLE WARBLER was along Calaveras Road. 23 Apr was even busier with a BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD along the Guadalupe River below Curtner, multiple PURPLE MARTINS near Loma Prieta, and a HERMIT WARBLER at Hidden Villa. Finishing out the month was a MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER on the east side of Halls Valley on 30 Apr.

There were five 5's in April, for those who like alliteration. At least four SWAINSON'S HAWKS were moving through the southern edge of the county on 2 Apr and two BANK SWALLOWS were at Sargent as well. The next day, a number of CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS returned to San Felipe Road where it looks like they will nest again. A migrant HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER was seen on Smith Creek on 16 Apr. A female CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD was the first of quite a few passage birds on 22 Apr.

In a normal year we should add nine species in May. We've already found six, so we'll see how it goes.

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MAY 2011

We stayed on track in May with nine new species added to the composite list, This is the same as our long-term increment for May and brings the total to 250 species. This is about two birds more than the long-term average of 248 birds at the end of May.

There were four 4's during the month. A migrant BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW was on the Stile Ranch Trail on 3 May. Another was seen later in Henry Coe SP where they occasionally breed. On 7 May a SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER was seen in the San Jose-Santa Clara WPCP drying ponds, we have few records of spring Semi's. A bit later the same day, a singing BLUE GROSBEAK was found west of the CCFS waterbird pond. The last of the 4's was an breeding-plumaged COMMON LOON on Pond A10 on 10 May.

There were also four 5's during May. The first was a migrant DUSKY FLYCATCHER in Henry Coe SP on 1 May, found during a burn survey. The next day, 2 May, a migrant YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT was seen on the Stile Ranch Trail. Later in month likely resident birds had returned to Llagas Creek near Bloomfield Road. Three YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS were seen near the Alviso EEC on 7 May and were found nearby over the next day or so. A breeding-plumaged female PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER was seen and photographed in New Chicago Marsh for our first May record.

Our only "6" was BRANDT'S CORMORANT. Two years ago when we had a "wreck" of Brandt's, we viewed it as a likely once-in-a-lifetime event. Not so. Although I don't have details from wildlife rescue folks yet, the onset appears to have started about 21 May when two birds landed in a condominium complex. Fortunately these two left the next day, but many other birds from this year's wreck have not survived.

June (now almost over) usually brings us four new birds (we have two as of yesterday). The 1's and 3's have all been checked off the list. We have one 2 left, Wilson's Phalarope. In a good year, we normally find these birds by the end of June. There are seven 4's left for the year, mostly shorebirds that show up in July and Augusts. We'll see how it goes.
 
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JUNE 2011

We found three new species in June, bringing our total to 253. We are still up by one species over our long-term average.

We had one 2, as the WILSON'S PHALAROPES returned to the South Bay in the CCFS pond on 28 Jun.

We had one 4, a WILLOW FLYCATCHER singing in Morgan Hill on 4 Jun. This bird is really quite rare as a spring migrant (equivalent to a 5).

Finally, we had one 5, a singing adult male BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER at the Ulistac Natural Area on 17 Jun. Unlike most eastern vagrants, we have records from every month of the year for this warbler except for August. Most of our records are of wintering birds. We have one prior June record, a singing male in 1950.

I don't include the marvelous five immature CALIFORNIA CONDORS that showed up at Mt. Hamilton on 21 Jun. Three were captive reared according to an article in the S.F. Chronicle (presumably the other two hatched in the wild). All were tagged.

There are six 4's still to record for the year, four sandpipers and two terns. Good luck!.
 
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JULY 2011

We found four species in the county this month and that brings us to 257, which is our long-term average.

The one 4 for the month were LEAST TERNS returning to Pond A2E on 3 Jul.

We had two 5's. The first was a juvenile HEERMANN'S GULL at Shoreline Lake found on 8 Jul. It stayed around a few days, which was nice. Then on the last day of the month two observers independently found the first ELEGANT TERN of the season on Pond A4 in Sunnyvale.

6's are always unexpected. This month was a LESSER NIGHTHAWK over Murphy in Sunnyvale in the evening. I guess this needs to be a new birding location.

Only five 4's are left and two have already been found in the first week of August. So it will take some luck to get our usual number of six new species for the month.
 

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AUGUST 2011

We found four new species for the county list in August to bring the total to 261 species, this is about one less than our long-term average.

The only 4 was BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS. They showed up at New Chicago Marsh on 6 Aug and it have been seen more or less regularly since, which is much better than recent years.

We had two 5's. Individual RUFFS were found on 6 Aug as well. A male was in the Mountain View Forebay and a female in New Chicago Marsh, neither lingered. RED KNOTS showed up at the Stevens Creek mouth on 20 Aug as sometimes happens in the fall.

Our one 6 was a WANDERING TATTLER seen on a closed refuge pond on 28 Aug.

Our expectation is that we should see all the 4's in any year. Three are left: Pectoral and Stilt Sandpiper and Common Tern. We have chances for all of these in the next couple of months. September normally brings 10 or so new species, and we appear to be half way there already.
 

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SEPTEMBER 2011

A previously unreported COMMON TERN on 19 Aug bumped our August total to 262. Then came September, and it was a great month! Normally we find 10 new species in September, but this year we added 14, to bring our total to 276, three over the long-term average.

Half the new species were 5's. A BLACK TERN was found at the Sunnyvale WPCP on 13 Sep, and lasted a day. The vigil at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park found our first vagrant 5, an AMERICAN REDSTART on 14 Sep. An adult female COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD showed up at a Morgan Hill feeder on 17 Sep (and is still there as I write). A BLACKPOLL WARBLER was found at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park on 23 Sep. The 25th brought two rare sparrows: a CLAY-COLORED SPARROW along the Guadalupe River near the fish ladder, and a VESPER SPARROW near the Mountain View Forebay. The last of the 5's for the month was an unhealthy juvenile COMMON MURRE on closed refuge ponds that was captured for rehab.

The 6's started out with a bang when a LEAST FLYCATCHER was banded at CCFS on 3 Sep. A BLACK TURNSTONE was in Charleston Slough on 4 Sep. Another Sunnyvale Baylands Park vagrant was a TENNESSE WARBLER, first seen on 6 Sep. A passing BOBOLINK was heard and seen in Alviso on 17 Sep, a repeat of last year from the same spot. A PELAGIC CORMORANT was found on the Pond A10/A11 levee in Alviso on 25 Sep. The month ended with a super bang -- two second county records! A juvenile PAINTED BUNTING was found along Stevens Creek below La Avenida on 30 Sep, and when a new searcher showed up, an immature/female ORCHARD ORIOLE was seen. Both birds were photographed.

We finished the month of September missing two 4's, Pectoral and Stilt Sandpiper. We have not missed Pectoral Sandpiper in September since the fall of 1980! Fortunately, they have been found in October, so will not be missed for the year. Still Sandpipers sometimes show up in October or November so there is still hope.
 

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OCTOBER 2011

Four species were added in October, including a new bird for the list! This increases the composite list to 280, and we are still about three birds above the long-term average.

The one 4 for the month was PECTORAL SANDPIPER, two were found at the CCFS waterbird pond on 7 Oct, and a few were found there over the next few weeks.

There were three 6's during October. The first was an ASHY STORM-PETREL at the Stanford Stadium during a night game on 2 Oct. This is only the second county record. One might call it serendipity, but storm-petrels have been attracted to stadium lighting in the Bay area in the past, so maybe it's worth a search. A PLUMBEOUS VIREO was seen at the Ogier Avenue ponds on 6 Oct, only the 6th county record. Perhaps the biggest excitement in October was the finding of a YELLOW-BILLED LOON in mostly alternate plumage in Pond A4 in Sunnyvale on 25 Oct. This is the first county record. Many people got to see this amazing bird, but sadly in died in early November.

I've updated the county list to match the American Ornithologists Union Checklist that was revised this past summer. The one split that affects us is that "our" Common Moorhen is no longer the same as the old world Common Moorhen, hence, its name changes back to Common Gallinule. If you've birded a long time, this new/old name will be familiar. There are significant changes in the taxonomic order. These occur in quite a few places, but the biggest change is the re-ordering of our warblers. Enjoy!

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NOVEMBER 2011

November was another good month, with five species added to the composite list, whereas we normally only find three new species in November. This brings the total to 286 species, five more than in typical years. In the 12 years I've been keeping this list we have twice wound up with 289 species. So we are in a good position to set a recent record (but in the 1990s, we exceeded 300 species in three different years).

There were two 5's found in November. A CATTLE EGRET was a one-day wonder in Vasona CP on 19 Nov. A PACIFIC LOON showed up at Shoreline Lake on 23 Nov, and remained there into December.

The thee 6's started out with a RED-THROATED PIPIT at the Sunnyvale WPCP on 1 Nov, a bird that remained there through 7 Nov (a different bird was found on the San Jose-Santa Clara WPCP drying ponds on 26 Nov). A SAGE THRASHER was a brief visitor to the Sunnyvale plant on 10 Dec. Finishing the month off was an immature female BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER, seen on Fulton Street in Palo Alto that has remained into early December to the pleasure of many.
 

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DECEMBER 2011

A remarkable ending to the year! The 2011 list, as of August, matched the long-term average. But September was very good, 14 species instead of the usual 10. October was normal, but both November and December provided 6 new species instead of the expected 3. We wound up with 293, the highest count since I took over this list from Mike Rogers in 2000. The previous highs were 289 in both 2006 and 2007. (There were higher counts in the 1990s, however.)

A late report of a TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE, seen briefly over Mt. Umunhum on 29 Nov, brought the composite list to 287 for November.

For December, the only 4 was the presence of two STILT SANDPIPERS in Pond A12, first seen on 18 Dec on the San Jose CBC. These have remained into January and constitute our first December and January records.

The single 5 was an adult female YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER along San Francisquito Creek on 2 Dec. This is the third year she has wintered across the creek in Menlo Park, but occasionally she goes slumming into Santa Clara County.

The first of the four 6's was an adult HARRIS'S SPARROW that showed up in a Campbell yard (and is still there as I write this). The remaining 6's were all found on the San Jose CBC on 18 Dec! An adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was found on closed refuge ponds, an EASTERN PHOEBE was seen along the Guadalupe River near Hedding Street, and a MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD was on the Sierra Road summit. None of these three was ever seen again.

Good luck in 2012.

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