SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIRD DISCUSSIONS 2010
Please send any additions, corrections, or comments to: Bill Bousman
JANUARY 1, 2010
Thanks to everyone for their New Year's lists. The composite list for the first day was 156 species, which was pretty good and well above the average. But this first day of the year is often dominated by the weather, so we expect a good result when there is such a nice day.
Most of the 156 birds were the more common ones. We found 76 of 87 of the 1's, 46 of 65 of the 2's, and 20 out of 39 of the 3's. We found 13 of the 4's, all known wintering or resident birds. It's been a good goose winter, so there is no surprise that we found GREATER WHITE-FRONTED, SNOW, and ROSS'S GEESE (all found by multiple observers). A male EURASIAN WIGEON on Pond A1 and four BLUE-WINGED TEAL at Moffett Field were in fairly typical spots. The Mountain View Forebay AMERICAN BITTERN pleased some but not all who wandered by its favored haunts during the day. Our "resident" BALD EAGLE showed in the Calaveras Valley and two FERRUGINOUS HAWKS and a PRAIRIE FALCON were in the Coyote Valley. A single BLACK SKIMMER could be seen in the northwest corner of Pond A1. Multiple EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES were found, they are slowly becoming more common. Two AMERICAN DIPPERS were found along Stevens Creek. Finally, three different WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS were reported, two at a San Martin feeder and one above Almaden Reservoir.
I would not be surprised if a few species have been overlooked, if you notice any you saw that are not listed, let me know.
JANUARY 31, 2010
At the end of January, the county's composite list was 192, about three species lower than average.
As expected, quite a few 4's were picked up after the New Year's Day birding. On 2 Jan (Mt. Hamilton CBC) at least five PHAINOPEPLA were seen in the San Antonio and Isabel valleys. The first sighting of a WHITE-FACED IBIS was made on 3 Jan at the Palo Alto Baylands. This bird is a 4 in the summer, but this is the first winter they have been found locally. A ROCK WREN was the first of the season at the Sierra Road summit, also on 3 Jan. The fourth of January brought records of many SANDERLING on Pond A12 in Alviso, a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH on the Saratoga Gap Trail, and a GRASSHOPPER SPARROW out of season in Santa Teresa CP. Missed during 2009, a SHORT-EARED OWL was found on Alviso Slough on 15 Jan. A HERMIT WARBLER seen near Coyote Reservoir CP on 30 Jan was one of the few wintering birds we've found in the Diablo Range.
The 5's were led by a BLACK RAIL at the Palo Alto Baylands on 2 Jan, our first in about 5 winters. The same day, birders along San Francisquito Creek in Menlo Park saw the female YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER that is wintering at that location fly across the creek into Santa Clara County. Just as exciting, an adult male Yellow-bellied was found in San Jose on 5 Jan. The NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH wintering in the Charleston Road marsh was first encountered on 5 Jan for the first time this year. The same day, 12 GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES were seen at the Coyote Creek GC. An immature SWAINSON'S HAWK was found and photographed in the Coyote Valley on 13 Jan, our first winter record. A HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER wintering along Coyote Creek, first captured and banded in December, was recaptured on 13 Jan. Filling out the 5's, the wintering NELSON'S SPARROW at the Palo Alto Baylands was finally found again on 14 Jan.
The only 6 for the month was a young PELAGIC CORMORANT found in Stevens Creek Reservoir on 2 Jan. This is the third bird we've had this winter.
Out-of-season birds also included two NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS at Lake Cunningham on 18 Jan, and a YELLOW WARBLER at the end of Geng Road on 19 Jan.
I reported 192 species in January, but there are some additions to that list: a PILEATED WOODPECKER over Monte Bello on 4 Jan, 20 HORNED LARKS in Santa Teresa CP on 9 Jan, and a wintering BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER in Palo Alto on 20 Jan. That brings the January total to 195, which is the average.
In February, we picked up 10 new species for the year, which is a bit above the February average of 9 species. So that brings us to 205.
Two 1's were found in the month, both birds that likely wintered locally (and hence are quite rare). A WILSON'S WARBLER was found (and photographed) in Los Gatos Creek CP on 20 Feb and a 1st-winter male BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK showed up at a Saratoga feeder.
Three 2's were found in February. A large flock of over 100 WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS was found over Sandy Wool Lake on 4 Feb, these may be wintering birds and such flocks show up every few years. On 11 Feb, a BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER was found near the IBM Almaden Research facility in the Santa Teresa Hills. Another was found nearby later in the month and both were likely wintering birds. A HOUSE WREN heard in Henry Coe SP on 28 Feb is likely a early arrival.
Two 3's were found, both on the last day of the month. A male ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD was seen at Ed Levin CP and a male WESTERN TANAGER was found in Edenvale Garden Park.
Of the three 4's, the first was a male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD at Ed Levin CP on 12 Feb. The next day an immature GLAUCOUS GULL was spotted at Pond A16 in Alviso. Squeezing into our month's list, a GREATER ROADRUNNER was seen a little east of San Antonio Valley on 28 Feb.
The composite list should climb another 13 species or so in March as our first spring arrivals add to the tally.
The composite list at the end of March wound up at 216 species, about 1 species below our average. March brought 11 new species, whereas we normally tally 13.
Three species were 1's, that is our most common species (summer residents). No surprise here, we encountered CLIFF and BARN SWALLOWS, and BULLOCK'S ORIOLES. At the next level, we found five 2's including a WARBLING VIREO on 7 Mar, a CASSIN'S VIREO on 15 Mar, a HOODED ORIOLE on 17 Mar, a WESTERN KIINGBIRD on 18 Mar, a PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER on 20 Mar, and a CASPIAN TERN on 28 Mar.
The one 4 for the month was a RED-THROATED LOON in the small pond near Gate 5 at Monte Bello OSP, a real surprise. These loons are not normally found in our old stock ponds.
The 5 for the period were returning SNOWY PLOVERS to the Alviso area. With better coverage in recent years, we've learned that most of our breeding birds leave the county during the winter, but return each spring, God speed.
I overlooked a record of Pygmy Nuthatch in March, which brings that total to 217 species.
April is the busiest month (except, of course, January). We normally expect about 21 new species, but we did one better. This leaves us at 238 species, one above our long-term average.
We expect to find some fairly common late migrants or summer residents, the 2's, and that we did. The first ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER of the year showed up in Stevens Creek CP on 9 Apr. The first OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER was nearby in the Picchetti Ranch OSP on 15 Apr. The next day, 16 Apr, provided a WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE along Coyote Creek below Hwy 237, and a LAZULI BUNTING at Rancho San Antonio OSP. RED-NECKED PHALAROPES showed up in Pond A12 in Alviso on 22 Apr (these are less common in the spring).
Uncommon species, the 3's, included three species. A single PINE SISKIN was found on Charcoal Road on 13 Apr. This increasingly rare species should probably be upgraded to a 4. A COMMON POORWILL was heard along Hicks Road near the Guadalupe Reservoir on 18 Apr. SWAINSON'S THRUSHES were heard near Loma Prieta on 25 Apr.
There were lots of rare species, the 4's, to look for and some just happened. The first VAUX'S SWIFT of the season was found over the Santa Clara Valley Water District Ponds on 3 Apr. A NASHVILLE WARBLER was found along Coyote Creek below Hwy 237 on 15 Apr. 18 Apr brought two new birds, a surprising breeding-plumaged COMMON LOON flying north over Monte Bello OSP, and an expected BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD along Guadalupe River below Curtner Road. On 24 Apr, a surprising LONG-EARED OWL was found at the Alviso EEC (not by hot shots, but by picnicing kids), and a singing MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER was heard at Monte Bello OSP. The next day, 25 Apr, five PURPLE MARTINS were seen near Loma Prieta. Finishing up the 4's, a CANYON WREN was singing along Pacheco Creek in Henry Coe SP on 26 Apr.
Five 5's were found, showing perhaps the activity associated with the Birdathon season. A CATTLE EGRET was found at the Gilroy treatment ponds on 2 Apr. On 7 Apr, a CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD was found near the dog park in Ed Levin CP, the same place where migrants were found in 2007. This spot was special for this migrant for 10+ days. A spring SOLITARY SANDPIPER was near the Coyote Creek Field Station waterbird pond on 21 Apr. The first YELLOW-BILLED CHATS of the season were heard along Llagas Creek above Bloomfield Road on 26 Apr. A GRAY FLYCATCHER along Coyote Creek in Henry Coe SP on 28 Apr was a particular treat.
The one 6 for the month was a spring BROAD-WINGED HAWK, seen and photograped at Ed Levin CP on 18 Apr on a SCVAS trip. I don't know that this is the best bird ever found on a SCVAS trip, but it must rank up there among the best.
We finished up in May with 245 species, about 3 below our long-term average.
The last of the easy birds were a couple of WILSON'S PHALAROPE, a 2, found at the Gilroy treatment ponds on 20 May. These phalaropes are fairly common in fall, but rare in spring.
The only 4 was a BLUE GROSBEAK along the Pajaro River on 3 May.
We did have three 5's for the month. A female YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD was found in New Chicago Marsh near the EEC on 3 May, later in the month as many as 14 birds were there. A CASSIN'S KINGBIRD was seen along the Pajaro River on 4 May, and to our delight, a pair returned to nest along San Felipe Road later in the month. Three BLACK SWIFTS heading north over Monte Bello OSP on 29 May were typical spring migrants.
The rare bird of the month was a male PROTHONOTARY WARBLER near Las Palmas Park on 23 May, this is only the second county record.
June typically brings four new species, and at the midpoint of the month we have met that quota. Maybe we can find enough birds in the latter half of the month to get us back on track.
We found five new birds in June, one more than our long-term average. That brought us to 250 species for the year, two below our average.
We picked up one 4 this month, a spring WILLOW FLYCATCHER at Monte Bello OSP on 10 June. Spring Willows are much less common than in the fall, and are not found every year.
There were three 5's for the month. The first was a male INDIGO BUNTING at Monte Bello OSP on 5 Jun. This bird remained a least for a few days, and was well photographed. A second-year male AMERICAN REDSTART was singing in the picnic area at the Palo Alto Baylands on 6/13/10, long enough to be photographed, but it did not remain there. Again this year, a male COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD was in a burn area in the interior of Henry Coe SP, found this year on 23 Jun.
The one 6 for the month was a singing RED-EYED VIREO at Stanford near Falconer Library on 6/8/10. Found in the morning, it was seen repeatedly until an hour or two before sunset, but apparently did not stay through the night. This was a furtive bird, and only the fourth found in the county.
Over the long term, July brings us about 5 new birds, the most likely being some of the rarer shorebirds. Good luck.
I overlooked a Brandt's Cormorant found on 9 Mar at Shoreline Lake. That brings last month's total (June) to 251 species. July normally brings us four new species, and that's what happened. That brings the county list to 255 species, one less than normal.
Two 4's were found. LEAST TERNS were seen again at Pond A2E on 5 Jul, a place where they historically have staged (although not last year). An adult SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER was in New Chicago Marsh on 17 Jul, and a second adult was in the same spot on 18 and 19 Jul.
The single 5 was a RUDDY TURNSTONE found on the Pond A13/A15 levee in Alviso on 25 Jul.
The single 6 was a BLACK TURNSTONE on Pond P16 in Alviso on 25 Jul (the same day as the Ruddy).
We have seven 4's that have not been seen this year. Four are sandpipers, and two are terns, and our chances are very good. But we've missed Black-chinned Sparrow again this year. There are at least 34 5's to shoot for, and may glorious 6's out there, waiting for either the enterprising or the lucky ones.
We found four new species in August and this brings the county total to 259 species, four less than the long-term average.
The only 4's during the month were two juvenile BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS in closed refuge ponds during a survey on 29 Aug.
There were two 5's. A mostly alternate BLACK TERN was found on Pond A17 on 15 Aug. The next day, in the same spot, a basic bird was found. At least six basic RED KNOTS were found at the Stevens Creek mouth on 30 Aug.
The only 6 was of two different WANDERING TATTLERS on closed refuge ponds on 29 Aug.
September is our best month in the latter half of the year, normally with about nine new species found. So far, at the midpoint of the month, three have been seen. We hope that latter half of the month will prove more productive.
We found eight new species in September which brought the year's total to 267 species, this is about 5 species below our average. September is the best of the months of the latter half of the year and normally we find at least 10 new species, but not this year.
The only 4 was of three PECTORAL SANDPIPERS found on 6 Sep. Usually, we find good numbers of Pectorals in September and October, but they have been scarce this year and we found only one more flock, also of three birds, during September.
Four of our eight new species were 5's. The first of these was a COMMON MURRE at the Stevens Creek mouth on 3 Sep. Through cell phone calls, at least three other birders were able to see this bird as it first swam up the creek, turned around, and headed back to the Bay. The first of the season's ELEGANT TERNS were found along the Alviso Slough Trail on 8 Sep, more birds have been found in pond habitat during the month. A FRANKLIN'S GULL was at the Palo Alto Baylands on 12 Sep, a nice surprise as it was found by a British birder who provided details of the record. Lastly, a BLACKPOLL WARBLER was found in the Sunnyvale Baylands Park on 24 Sep. Another was found three days later along the Guadalupe River.
Three 6's were found during the month. A flightless BRANT was in closed refuge ponds on 26 Sep and must have been around for some time, but not seen. The same day, a TENNESSEE WARBLER was found at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park. A different bird was found there on 30 Sep. A BOBOLINK over the Alviso Marina CP on 28 Sep was a treat.
October was a good month. After below average results in August and September, we found 7 new species in October, two more than we usually see. That has brought the total count to 274 species, about 3 below our average.
In theory, we shouldn't finish an average year with any 4's left. But maybe that just means that these missing species shouldn't be 4's. We picked up one 4, a STILT SANDPIPER on Crittenden Marsh that was seen on 6 Oct, but could not be found again. The remaining 4's are Ruff, Common Tern, and Black-chinned Sparrow. The latter two are out of reach, but Ruff could show up in the next two months.
Of our 7 new species for October, five were 5's, no surprise there. A CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was found at the Alviso Marina CP on 7 Oct. Unusually for this rare sparrow, this has been followed by at last four other birds locally. 11 Oct was a banner day with an EVENING GROSBEAK at Monte Bello OSP, and a VESPER SPARROW in the Coyote Valley. This may be a winter finch year, but seekers of the Evenings have had to struggle for the most part, check your Chinese pistache trees as we get into November. The Vesper Sparrow was seen one more time, and then left through a wormhole, I suppose. A PALM WARBLER was found at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park on 17 Oct, and remained at least a few days. The last of the 5's was a TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE at Monte Bello OSP on 29 Oct.
The only 6 of the month was a LAPLAND LONGSPUR that was over the Palo Alto Baylands on 14 Oct.
As I mentioned last month, we found 8 new species where we normally find 5. Well November giveth and November taketh away. We found exactly zero new species where we usually find about 3. So the list is unchanged. Right now the composite list is at 275 species (but, hey, that's one more than we found in 2009).
What might we find in December? Right now we are lacking three of the 4's: Ruff, Common Tern, and Black-chinned Sparrow. Ruff is a remote possibility, but the other two are history. How about the 5's? There, we are missing 23 species. Of those, the best chances are, it would seem to me, Tundra Swan, Tufted Duck, Pacific Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Rough-legged Hawk, Red Phalarope, Heermann's Gull, Red-naped Sapsucker, Black-and-white Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee, and Summer Tanager. But I would not be surprised if we missed all of these. December (like November), usually brings us three new species. But that didn't happen in November and we will have to wait to see what December brings.
We finished the year with 277 species, about 6 less than our long-term average of 283. We had only two new species in December whereas we average about three. The one 6 was a female WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER at Foothill College on the Palo Alto CBC on 20 Dec. This was an elusive bird and was only found once thereafter. This is the third or fourth record for the county. The one 5 was a distant LONG-TAILED DUCK in Pond A2W on 7 Dec. It was seen by a number of observers throughout the day.