SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIRD DISCUSSIONS 2008
Please send any additions, corrections, or comments to: Bill Bousman
JANUARY 1, 2008
New Year's Day observers tallied 163 species, which is down a bit from last year, but over our long-term average. Of the 4's, 11 were found and most of these were continuing birds. There were two 5's, PACIFIC LOON and NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH, both continuing from 2007.
A lot of folks were out on New Year's Day, so there were a lot of eyeballs covering ponds, mud flats, thickets, and forests. Of the 163 species, only 24 were seen by single observers/parties, the rest were by multiple observers/parties, i.e. the "m.ob." Of course, there are a number of "missing" birds that were likely seen but not reported. Of these, Western Sandpiper is the one I think was most likely found, but not reported.
JANUARY 31, 2008
The Composite List for January wound up at 193 species, just one below our long-term average.
There were at least 25 4's found during the month, which is pretty typical for January.
Only three 5's were found. A continuing NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH was seen at the Charleston Road marsh on 1 Jan. GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES were seen along Coyote Creek in the Coyote Valley on 6 Jan. A continuing NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED SPARROW was found at the Palo Alto Baylands on the high tide of 21 Jan.
The only 6 of the month was a PELAGIC CORMORANT that showed up at Shoreline Lake on 22 Jan.
About 9 species are expected in February (the rest of the swallows and a few others).
FEBRUARY 29, 2008
We found 9 new species in February, exactly our long-term average. This brings us to 202 species on the composite list, 1 below the long-term average.
Of our common, fairly common, and uncommon species (the "regulars"), we picked up 6 for the month. A female WILSON'S WARBLER was found at Lake Cunningham on 5 Feb. Although considered common in summer, it is quite rare in winter and has probably wintered somewhere in the valley. Harder to find in recent years, the first LARK SPARROWS were a couple of singing birds along Coyote Creek south of Hellyer CP on 9 Feb. A BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER was seen along Coyote Creek below Hwy 237 on 10 Feb. Like the Wilson's Warbler, this was undoubtedly a wintering bird rather than an early arrival. A NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW was seen at the Coyote Reservoir Dam on 12 Feb and is likely a returning bird as our swallows are some of our earliest summer residents. Which leads us right to a ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD at Ed Levin CP on 22 Feb. This February has provided a number of _Selasphorus_ hummingbirds, the earliest on 10 Feb, but the id can be tricky with males and is impossible for the males for mere mortals. Finishing up this group of common birds, the first Cliff Swallows in the county were 4 along the Guadalupe River Trail in the Almaden Valley on 28 Feb.
There were no 4's this month, but a fairly good representation of 5's. On 1 Feb, a BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER was seen at Lake Cunningham and, although somewhat elusive, was found again through the end of the month. This was apparently the same HY bird first seen locally in early November and nicely photographed at that time. Very surprising, another bird was found in Cupertino on 21 Feb. A CATTLE EGRET seemed out of place at Lake Cunningham on 10 Feb and was not seen again. The bird was an incidental find, without a doubt, by a birder after that was after the Black-and-White. Lastly, 9 TUNDRA SWANS touched down briefly along Bloomfield Road in the south county on 15 Feb. Another was found on a percolation pond in Campbell on 25 Feb. As with most of our Tundra Swans, their visits are brief and neither of these observations were repeated.
March, April, and May always bring new birds. Spring is here (almost).
With some help, I've cleaned up the list for January and the total as of the end of February should stand at 206. This is about 2 species above average. In March, we added 11 species, one down from a typical March, and this leaves us at 217 species, or 1 above normal. April will be our biggest month for the rest of the year and we will see how that goes.
March brought in some of our more common summer birds, including CASPIAN TERN, PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER, WESTERN KINGBIRD, WARBLING VIREO, BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER, HOODED ORIOLE, and BULLOCK'S ORIOLE. Except for the Black-throated Gray Warbler, which was found on 30 Mar at Monte Bello OSP, all of these birds typically show up in March. An ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER in San Martin on 3 Mar likely wintered somewhere in central California, since migrants do not appear until the first or second week of April.
The only 4 this month was the first of the migrating RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS, seen at a feeder in Gilroy on 1 Mar.
Our one 5 was a CASSIN'S KINGBIRD on 15 Mar along Coyote Creek in the Coyote Valley. This species, a casual breeder at the south edge of the county, sometimes is found there in the winter.
The big news was a CRESTED CARACARA in the Coyote Valley on 7 Mar. This, if accepted by the CBRC will be our second record (assuming that the first record is accepted as well).
Last month's total was 217 which was right at the long-term average. But I overlooked a Snowy Plover found on 1 Mar and the possible first Eurasian Collared-Dove seen near Gilroy on 29 Mar. I say possible for the dove as there has been a feral population in Morgan Hill, but this year appears to be the real first push of birds found over a broad geographic area. (It's listed as a "5" right now, but that will change as it becomes more common.) So that leaves us with 219 birds for March.
This month we added 20 species, a little bit less than we usually get, so the total of 239 is now only 1 above the long-term average.
The 2's for April included a CASSIN'S VIREO at Stevens Creek CP on 5 Apr, an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER in Los Gatos on 12 Apr, a LAZULI BUNTING at Rancho San Antonio OSP on 15 Apr, WESTERN WOOD-PEWEEs at Smith Creek on 17 Apr, and a YELLOW WARBLER along the Guadalupe River Trail on 18 Apr--these are all typical arrivals for April. Less expected were WILSON'S and RED-NECKED PHALAROPES in Alviso on 27 Apr, these fairly common shorebirds are not always found in the spring.
The 3's started out with a LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCH in the south county along San Felipe Road. This nomadic goldfinch sometimes winters in small numbers, but none were found this year. A SAGE SPARROW was seen in the San Antonio Valley on 21 Apr where they are generally resident. The first COMMON POORWILLs of the year were heard at Monte Bello OSP on 19 Apr. We sometimes have wintering birds callling, but none were heard this year.
Six 4's were nice for April. A male MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER was found at Stevens Creek CP on 5 Apr. BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRDS returned to the Guadalupe River in San Jose by 11 Apr and a female was constructing a nest on that date. The first VAUX'S SWIFT of the season was over Almaden Valley on 15 Apr. A NASHVILLE WARBLER at Smith Creek on 17 Apr started out the brief passage of this locally rare warbler. A male BLUE GROSBEAK was at Ed Levin CP on 20 Apr. Finally, an alternate-plumaged STILT SANDPIPER was found closed Alviso ponds on 27 Apr, a very rare sighting for the spring.
Four 5's finish the new species for April. A cooperative RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER was found at Stevens Creek CP on 5 Apr, not far from the first MacGillivray's Warbler. A HAMMOND'S FLYCATHCER was seen in Coe Park the next day. A SOLITARY SANDPIPER was over the Alviso ponds on 27 Apr. The first of the spring's YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS was singing along Coyote Creek above Metcalf Road on 28 Apr.
In May, we usually add 9 more species to the composite list. As of 16 May, we have already found that many, so maybe we'll stay ahead of the average.
A Swainson's Thrush was banded on 4/27/08, so that bumps our total as of the end of April to 240. We did well in May and the county list climbed by 10 species to 250. Our normal quota is 9 in May so we are now 2 species ahead of our long-term average for this time of year. But, as of today, we have added no species in June, whereas we normally find 4 new birds in June. We'll have to see if things get better in the latter half.
We picked up three 4's in May. On 13 May, 127 WHITE-FACED IBIS were counted in the Gilroy treatment ponds. After that a flock of 10 was in Palo Alto, and a single bird was in the Mountain View Forebay over a short period. The first WILLOW FLYCATCHER of the year was a vocal bird along Coyote Creek in Henry Coe SP on 25 May, this bird is regular in its fall migration, but rare in spring. Just making the month's deadline, a family of CANYON WRENS were found in a canyon above the Coyote Reservoir Dam on 31 May.
Six 5's were found in the month. A SWAINSON'S HAWK was found along Coyote Cree near Coyote Ranch Road, and a BLACK TERN was at the Sunnyvale WPCP ponds the same day. A BANK SWALLOW was seen over Adobe Creek at Middlefield on 10 May. Two days later, on 12 May, a flock of YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS were moving through New Chicago Marsh on their way north. A RED KNOT was seen the Stevens Creek mouth on 13 May. On 22 May, single migrating BLACK SWIFTS were seen over Hidden Villa and in Sunnyvale.
The only 6 of the month was an alternate BLACK TURNSTONE found on Pond A16 on 10 May.
There are few new species found in June and July in most years, generally just an occasional late migrant, and eastern vagrant or two, and a few birds moving south, particularly in July. The average for June is normally 4 (range 2-8), but this month we had no new birds as of late on the 30th! But we came through with 1 for the month, boosting our total to 251, one less than our long-term average.
The one bird was a 5, a juvenile female COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD that showed up at a Morgan Hill feeder in the evening of 30 Jun.
In July, we average 5 new finds (range 3-7). Least Terns usually show up in the first week, and then a few rare shorebirds by the end of the month. We'll see how it goes and if we can get back on track.
After a poor June, where we barely added a single species to the composite list, in July we bounced back with 6 new species, which gets us back to the long-term average for July of 257 species.
The two 4's for the month. The first was LEAST TERN, six were found on 10 Jul at their typical staging location on Pond A2E. Also a 4, an adult PECTORAL SANDPIPER was found at the New Chicago Marsh on 17 Jul (adult birds in July are considerably rarer than the juveniles that turn up normally in late September).
The first of the four 5's found was a flock of 3 RED CROSSBILLS on 11 July at the boundary with Santa Cruz County. The rest were shorebirds in New Chicago Marsh or Pond A16: an adult female RUFF on 16 Jul, 2 RUDDY TURNSTONES on 17 Jul, and an adult female PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER on 19 Jul.
Typically, August brings 7 new species to the list, many of them shorebirds, so get out there and beat those mudflats.
The composite list rose by 4 species in August, but this is less than the usual 7 we expect in an average August, so now we under the long-term average, that is, 261 species versus 263 long-term average. The good news is that halfway through September we already have found 9 species and we normally only pick up 10 new birds for September. So we've a good chance to get back to the average if we can find some warblers during the last half of the month.
We found two 4's this month, both calidrid sandpipers. The first juvenile SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER was found at New Chicago Marsh on 11 Aug and the first juvenile BAIRD'S was there on 16 Aug.
Two COMMON MURRES off the Palo Alto Baylands were our only 6 for the month. But a male ORCHARD ORIOLE found at Sunnyvale Baylands Park on 27 Aug is a first record for the county. We have a few prior reports of female/immature Orchard Orioles, but this can be a very difficult bird to separate from a young Hooded Oriole, and none of those records were convincing.
We found 11 new species for the composite list in September, very close to our long-term average, giving us a total of 272 species for 2008. But we are still 2 species below our long-term average and we haven't made up much ground in the last two months.
The only 4 for the month was a COMMON TERN at the Sunnyvale WPCP oxidation ponds on 8 Sep. After that up to 6 birds were found in the general area in September.
We had six 5's for the month. A BREWER'S SPARROW was found at the Santa Clara Valley Water District ponds on 7 Sep. The same day a PARASITIC JAEGER was found on Pond A4, next to the Sunnyvale WPCP. This let loose the flood gates of an excellent set of mostly seabirds along the Bay. A passerine exception was a VESPER SPARROW found along Pond A4 on 8 Sep, during a search for the Parasitic. Many ELEGANT TERNS were found on closed refuge ponds on 11 Sep, and as the September tern mania continued, a limited number were found in other areas, mostly A4. The 5's finished the month with a RED PHALAROPE on Pond A13 on 28 Sep and a PALM WARBLER at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park on the last day of the month.
The four 6's for the month started with a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER and a LONG-TAILED JAEGER in Pond A13 on 9 Sep. In the search for the jaeger the next day, 10 Sep, an ARCTIC TERN was found on Pond A9. Two days later, on 12 Sep, a juvenile SABINE'S GULL was seen at the Sunnyvale WPCP.
Usually, October brings us four more species for the month. At this mid-month date, we've already tallied three more species, but were still three behind the long-term average. Stay tuned.
I reported last month that the composite total at the end of September was 272 species, but I overlooked a FRANKLIN'S GULL found in the Sunnyvale WPCP oxidation ponds on 8 Sep, so that brings the September tally to 273 species. In October, we found six new species (the average of recent years is five), which brings the total to 279. This is one over the long-term average for the month.
We found four 5's for the month. A HEERMANN'S GULL was on Pond A1 on 3 Oct, but was not reported in the weeks following. A CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was seen at the Palo Alto Baylands on 10 Oct, attracted by dripping water in a picnic area and was found there over the next week. A BLACKPOLL WARBLER showed up at the Sunnyvale Baylands on 15 Oct, an eastern vagrant. The month finished with a SWAMP SPARROW along the airport levee at the Palo Alto Baylands.
The two 6's for the month were both found on 17 Oct, a banner day. A RED-THROATED PIPIT was found at the South County Regional WasteWater Authority, using dry ponds along with hundreds of American Pipits. A TENNESSEE WARBLER was seen along the Guadalupe River Trail north of Blossom Hill Road.
It is now halfway through November and we have picked up four new species already for the month (the average increment for November is three). Keep up the good work.
The composite list climbed to 283 species at the end of November, just 1 up on our long-term average. We had 4 new birds for the month, one more than we typically find in November. December usually brings about 3 new birds, so we are looking towards 286 for the year, but we will see.
We had only one 5 for the month, a TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE found at the edge of Almaden Reservoir on 10 Nov. It hung around for at least 5 days, feeding on the berries of a favored toyon.
The first of our three 6's was a female/immature CASSIN'S FINCH near the CDF station at Smith Cree on 14 Nov. The next day, a juvenile male YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER was found at Gilroy's Christmas Hill Park on a SCVAS trip. And on the following day, 17 Nov, a HY WORM-EATING WARBLER was captured and banded at the Coyote Creek Field Station. It was seen the day after release, but not subsequently.
We finished up 2008 with 286 species on the composite list, 1 more than our long-term average. We found 3 new species in December, which is the same as we usually fine. This sounds normal, but it was in reality a cliffhanger. Midway through the month, an EASTERN PHOEBE (a "6") was discovered at Lake Cunningham on the San Jose CBC on 14 Dec. Despite the large number of people we have out counting birds for our local CBCs, this was the only new species found. Then, as the year's clock wound down, day after day, no new birds were found. Then, on 30 Dec, two urban yards in San Jose provided new birds: a HY CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (a "6") and a HY female ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (a "5"). Phew. All three of our December birds have remained into the new year to give us a good start on 2009, although only the Eastern Phoebe has been accessible.
We wound up the year missing three "4's" Mountain Quail, Purple Martin, and Black-chinned Sparrow. My definition of a "4" is that it is a rare bird that someone will find somewhere in the county at least once during the year. There are quite a few birds in this category that we do occasionally miss, so I'm reluctant to change their status until we see this repeated for a number of years. Mountain Quail may well be extripated. Many of us suspect that although this is a known historical species, the few observations we have from recent years may have more to do with a aviary escapees than with a remnant population, but . . . Purple Martins may be on their way out, although we usually find at least one on migration. The Black-chinned Sparrow is famed for the variability of its nesting populations, so maybe 2009 will be better.