SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIRD DISCUSSIONS 2007
Please send any additions, corrections, or comments to: Bill Bousman
JANUARY 1, 2007
We started out the new year of 2007 with a bang. It was a gorgeous day and lots of people were out looking for birds. The day's total was 171 which is 3 better than the high in the last seven years and a good bit above the long-term average. When you think about it, 171 is a fairly good number for midwinter birding. This is very close to the totals that were recorded this year on the Palo Alto and San Jose CBCs.
So many people were birding that a list of the species seen by only one individual or a party may be of interest. As you can see, there were only 27 of the 171 species that fit this category: Eurasian Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser, Western Grebe, Clark's Grebe, Bald Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Virginia Rail, Sanderling, Dunlin, Bonaparte's Gull, Western Gull, Western Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Burrowing Owl, White-throated Swift, Lewis's Woodpecker, Barn Swallow, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Rock Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, American Pipit, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Great-tailed Grackle, and Pine Siskin. I'm sure that quite a few of these were seen on 1 Jan by other people, such as Western Grebe, Bonaparte's and Western gulls, American Pipit, and Common Yellowthroat, but were just not reported
Of the four real rarities found, all were stakeouts from December. Three 5's were refound, including the unusual winter SOLITARY SANDPIPER northwest of the Coyote Creek Golf Course, the BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER in Upper Penitencia Creek Park, and GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES at the Coyote Creek Golf Course.
The one 6 was the continuing YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER at Ed Levin CP.
JANUARY 31, 2007
We have made a good start in January on the composite list with a total of 201 species. This reflects, I believe, a lot of activity by local birders plus a few lingering rarities from December. In the previous 7 years, our January start has averaged 193 species and out best counts have been 196, so this 201 is a good start indeed.
There are simply too many 4's to list. On 1 Jan alone, we found 14 4's and by the end of the month there were 22.
We had nine 5's in January--7 were holdovers, but 2 were new. On 1 Jan, numerous birders checked out the SOLITARY SANDPIPER northwest of the Coyote Creek GC (apparently not seen past 3:00 pm) and the BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER at Upper Penitencia Creek Park. The same day, a pair of GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES were seen at the Coyote Creek GC, but were missed by many--they must have other areas they are using that we have yet to hit upon. The male RUFF at the New Chicago Marsh was refound on 3 Jan and seen through the end of the month. Also wintering, a NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH was refound on 3 Jan at the Charleston Road marsh and probably a second bird was seen the same day along Stevens Creek below La Avenida--could there be three birds here? A new 5 for the month was a TUNDRA SWAN found on Grant Lake on 6 Jan and seen at least for a few days. SNOWY PLOVERS were found on 13 Jan on closed ponds at Alviso, but also along the Alviso Slough Trail. A CATTLE EGRET seen on 14 Jan at the Palo Alto Duck Pond may have been the same bird that has been wandering around locally, but found only irregularly. Lastly, on the high tides at the end of the month, a SWAMP SPARROW was found along Alviso Slough not far from the Alviso Marina.
Three 6's were holdovers from fall and early winter. An immature male YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER wintering at Ed Levin CP was found on 1 Jan. Although somewhat elusive, it has been seen to the end of the month. The adult BRANT doing the Palo Alto-Shoreline circuit was picked up on 2 Jan and remained a bit longer, but now appears gone. Finally, one of the PELAGIC CORMORANTS found in December was seen again on 2 Jan.
A little clean up is in order (for 2006). In January, we learned of a CRESTED CARACARA seen in the Pajaro River basin by out-of-town birders, Mike and Jeanne Fritz, of New Jersey. They had been on a Shearwater pelagic trip and were driving back into the Santa Clara Valley, where they saw the caracara feeding on a roadkill jackrabbit along Hwy 101. Although this was a 65-mph bird, both observers had seen this species in the past in the southwest and Mexico. Crested Caracaras have been moving up the California coast in recent years and staying for long periods of time. In the past year, there have been multiple birds (or one birds seen multiple times) in the Monterey Bay area, thus for one to move up the Pajaro River into Santa Clara County is not out of order. This is a review species for the California Bird Records Committee (CBRC), which is currently reviewing all of the Monterey Bay records. I have tentatively added it to the Santa Clara County list (now at 395) until the CBRC decides whether the record is valid.
We saw 7 new species in February and this brings the composite total to 208. Usually in February we find about 9 new species, so even though we dropped back a little, the blistering start we had on the year in January means that 208 is a high count relative to the last few years.
February is a good month for returning swallows and we picked up a NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW at Coyote Reservoir on 15 Feb (a 2) and multiple CLIFF SWALLOWS near Shoreline Park on 16 Feb (a 1). An ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER was banded at CCFS on 21 Feb (a 2) and likely wintered somewhere in central California, since spring migrants normally don't arrive until about 10 Apr, so this bird is 7-8 weeks early.
Two 3's were found during February. The first ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD was found Ed Levin CP on 14 Feb and two LESSER YELLOWLEGS were in New Chicago Marsh on 28 Feb.
The last of the new birds were 5's. A TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE was found along Almaden Reservoir on 10 Feb and an adult male YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD was at the Palo Alto Duck Pond on 17 Feb.
We usually expect 13 new species in March as more spring arrivals show up, so things should be busier this month.
I overlooked a 17 Feb record of Canyon Wren in Henry Coe SP, so that brings the February composite list to 209 instead of 208.
We found 12 species in February, whereas we normally find about 13, and this brought us to 221. As our January start was so outstanding, we are still 6 species over our long term average.
March (and April) are always good months for returning summer residents. We had three 1's this month: a WILSON'S WARBLER in Almaden Quicksilver CP on 15 Mar, a BULLOCK'S ORIOLE at multiple locations on 17 Mar, and a BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK at Hidden Villa on 28 Mar. That finishes off the 1's for the year.
As for the 2's, there were 4 this month: a CASPIAN TERN at the Duck Pond and a WESTERN KINGBIRD at Ed Levin CP, both on 13 Mar; a PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER near IBM in San Jose on 14 Mar; and a WARBLING VIREO along the Alamitos Creek Trail on 17 Mar. There are still six 2's left for the year (but 4 have been seen already in April).
There were two 3's in March: a HOODED ORIOLE in the Almaden Valley on 16 Mar and a CHIPPING SPARROW at Ed Levin on 19 Mar. Only one 3 is left for the year.
Moving into the rare birds, we had two 4's, both at Ed Levin CP: a RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD on 10 Mar and a GRASSHOPPER SPARROW on 30 Mar.
Finally, a SWAINSON'S HAWK at Ed Levin CP on 23 Mar was our only 5. Interestingly enough, another Swainson's was there as well on 30 Mar.
April is always hour biggest month (ignoring January) and we expect to add 22 species. We are well on our way already, but we will see how things go.
Phew! April was a busy month. We found 18 new species which brings the composite list to 239 species. But our rapid pace from earlier in the year slackened, despite all those eyeballs out there, and we are now only 1 species ahead of our recent average.
Except for Wilson's Phalarope (but in May), we finished up all the 2's in April: Western Wood-Pewee, Cassin's Vireo, Lazuli Bunting, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Red-necked Phalarope. The last 3, Swainson's Thrush, was found on 11 April.
In April, we picked up seven 4's. A female or immature PURPLE MARTIN was at Ed Levin on 5 Apr, only one other migrant was found in April. On 10 Apr, a MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER was seen at Smith Creek. The first VAUX'S SWIFT of the season was found the next day at Guadalupe Oak Grove Park. Then, on 12 Apr, the first of the migrant NASHVILLE WARBLER'S was seen at Smith Creek. A WHITE-FACED IBIS was in a wetland near the southern intersection of Hwy 85 and 101 on 13 Apr. HERMIT WARBLERS were found on at Smith Creek the next day on 14 Apr. The last 4 of the month were BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRDS found along the Guadalupe River below Curtner on 22 Apr. Although 4's tend to be rare, someone invariably encounters this species sometime during the year. Only 13 are still left on the composite list for this year (and 2 of those have been found in May).
We had five 5's this month. A HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER was seen at Smith Creek on 10 Apr and a DUSKY FLYCATCHER was found there on 14 Apr. A COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD was photographed in Gilroy on 20 Apr. Two male and a female CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD were near the dog park at Ed Levin CP on 11 Apr and and stayed at least for a few more days. YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS returned to Llagas Creek above Bloomfield on 27 Apr.
We have more than 7 months remaining in the year and with luck we'll pick up 10 or so birds each in May and in September. But now that the regulars are back, we will be struggling for the few rare birds. Keep you eyes open.
I've done some clean up on the previous list. I overlooked a BANK SWALLOW found at the Gilroy treatment ponds on 27 Apr, so that ups April's total to 240 species, which is 2 above the average. An early April SWAINSON'S THRUSH has been retracted, but one was found later in the month so this does not affect the totals.
This month we added 9 species which brings us to 249 and keeps us still 2 birds above the average.
The last of the easy stuff were a group of 5 WILSON'S PHALAROPES found at the New Chicago Marsh on 6 May.
We had five 4s in May. On 12 May, a MOUNTAIN QUAIL was heard south of Maymen's Flat on Summit Road and a BLUE GROSBEAK was seen along Frazier Lake Road in the south county. BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS have appeared in good numbers this year, the first birds found on Mt. Umunhum on 17 May. A WILLOW FLYCATCHER was found (and photographed) in Halls Valley on 20 May. We have few of these birds in spring, although fall birds are regular (and easily missed). A GREATER ROADRUNNER along Metcalf Road on 29 May was the first for the year. Generally someone finds this resident before May, but they are so rare . . . .
There was only one 5 in May, but this species was found by multiple observers. Migrant BLACK SWIFTS were found along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains on 14 May by three observers. At different times of the day, migrant flocks were recorded at Monte Bello OSP, Long Ridge OSP, and the Sierra Azul OSP.
Two 6s were found in May, any 6 in May is always impressive. A LESSER NIGHTHAWK was moving north along the Santa Cruz Mountains as seen from the Long Ridge OSP on 14 May. Then, on 29 May, a male BOBOLINK was heard singing at Monte Bello OSP. The singing bird was not seen well, but the song is distinct. It did not stay. All of our previous Bobolink records have been of fall birds.
June is usually a quiet month, although it is a good time for misoriented spring vagrants (one found already). Normally we only find about 4 species. Stay tuned.
May's total, 249 species, dropped one, as the Blue Grosbeak in the south county was over the line in San Benito County (but see below). But I overlooked alternate plumaged Black Terns found early in May, so the count stayed at 249. In June we added only four more species. This is no surprise as the June doldrums normally provide only that number. Things will pick up over the next three months as we encounter some good fall migrants, shorebirds first.
Three 4's were found in June. A LONG-EARED OWL was heard at Monte Bello OSP on 2 Jun and is perhaps nesting there again. A LEAST TERN was in the vicinity of Charleston Slough on 3 Jun. Postbreeding birds do not show up normally until July, so this was probably a nonbreeding bird. On 23 Jun, BLUE GROSBEAKS were found along the Pajaro River below Hwy 101. These included a pair with two dependent fledglings and a separate second-year male.
The only 5 was a female ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK along Stevens Creek below La Avenida on 2 Jun. Interestingly, a first-year male was seen at Hidden Villa on 7 Jun.
June's total was 253, but an "edgy" male INDIGO BUNTING found at Skyline Ridge OSP occasionally moved out of San Mateo County across the line into Santa Clara County, including the day it was found, 30 Jun. So the adjusted June total was 254 and we added three birds this month to bring the total to 257. This is 1 bird over our long-term average.
The one 4 was an adult SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER at the New Chicago Marsh on the last day of July.
The two 5's were also late July sightings. An immature FRANKLIN'S GULL was found at the Sunnyvale WPCP oxidation ponds on 27 Jul and pleased many observers into early August. An adult RUDDY TURNSTONE found the next day in New Chicago Marsh was not so cooperative and did not remain.
Typically we find 7 new birds in August, as the shorebird migration picks up. Halfway through the month, we have only 2 or 3, so we'll see how we do.
The composite list increased by only 5 species in August to 262. The usual August increase is 7, so we dropped below our long term average of 264. We usually garner 10 new species in September, so perhaps this will pull us out (but it doesn't look that way at this late date).
August is usually marked by shorebirds and this year was no exception. We had three 4's, and each was one of the rare shorebirds. The first PECTORAL SANDPIPER was seen in the New Chicago Marsh on 4 Aug. Two BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS were seen at Crittenden Marsh on 18 Aug. Almost missing August entirely, a surprising "flock" of STILT SANDPIPERS was found at New Chicago Marsh on 31 Aug.
We had two 5's. RED KNOTS were found in their usual spot at the Stevens Creek mouth on 4 Aug, and were seen regularly through the end of the month. A CLAY-COLORED SPARROW found in closed salt ponds in Alviso on 25 Aug was the earliest record we have had for this species in the county.
I've done a little clean-up for the year. Eurasian Collared-Doves are still rare in the county, but what really confounds our observations is the apparent release (multiple?) of flocks in Morgan Hill. Nonetheless, we have had birds that are apparently separate from the released flocks and this year was no exception with one seen in Morgan Hill on 27 Mar away from the released flocks. So that brings the August total to 263 birds, only one below the long-term average.
September is one of our best months, typically with 10 new species and this month we had 11, which is pretty good. This gets our September total up to 274, which is 1 above the average.
The only 4 this month was a COMMON TERN on Pond A16 in Alviso on 14 Sep. Over the next week or two a few more birds, both adults and juveniles, were on the nearby ponds.
We had six 5's this month. A PARASITIC JAEGER was on ponds A10 and A11 on 19 Sep. On 20 Sep, a BLACKPOLL WARBLER was found in the Sunnyvale Baylands Park and before the month was out another Blackpoll was along Alamitos Creek and one was on the Guadalupe River at the Ulistac Natural Area. The next day, 21 Sep, a PALM WARBLER was also found in Sunnyvale Baylands Park and was seen there almost to the end of the month. Another bird was found in Gilroy later. On 23 Sep, an AMERICAN REDSTART was found along the Guadalupe River near Montague, and a VESPER SPARROW was along the Alviso Slough Trail. The last of the 5's was a GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE that came to a feeder in a Los Altos yard on 24 Sep and remained until the 28th.
Four 6's in the month was an excellent yield. The big news was a subadult BROWN BOOBY found in the Alviso ponds on 13 Sep. This bird is our second county record, the first was a flyover at the Mountain View Forebay on 29 Aug 1992. The booby, although not always cooperative, thrilled many. It is still on the salt ponds, but has been missed more frequently in recent weeks. On 19 Sep, 2 BLACK TURNSTONES were found on Pond A13 (by a misoriented booby searcher). For the passerines, a CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER was found in Guadalupe Oak Grove Park on 20 Sep and a MAGNOLIA WARBLER was seen along Stevens Creek below La Avenida on 27 Sep.
It is interesting that birders chasing the Brown Booby found the Black Turnstones, Common Tern, Parasitic Jaeger, and Vesper Sparrow. This is a not infrequent result of many birders getting out to see rare birds, sometimes referred to as the "Patagonia Picnic Table" effect.
Typically, in October, the fall passage tapers off and we find about 4 new birds. But already this month (as of 11 Oct) we've found at least 5 new birds, so maybe the rest of the month will be as productive and boost our totals a bit more.
The composite list increased to 282 for October, a good increase. Normally, we see an increase of about 4 species in October, but this year we had 8, most of them 6s.
Of the 5s, 3 ELEGANT TERNS were seen on Pond A3E on 7 Oct, and birds were seen a couple of more times during the month along the Bay. A juvenile HEERMAN'S GULL was found on Pond A16 in Alviso on 10 Oct, and remained a few days. At the end of the month, a female WHITE-WINGED SCOTER was seen at Shoreline Lake on 27 Oct. Two females were seen there the next day, and at least one bird has remained into November.
Of the 6s, 10 SANDHILL CRANES touched down in the New Chicago Marsh briefly on 7 Oct, but their visit was recorded digitally. The same day, a LAPLAND LONGSPUR was found on the Alviso Slough Trail, at the edge of Coyote Slough. Later in the month a second bird was found at the Sunnyvale WPCP, doubly unusual. An immature TENNESSEE WARBLER was seen in Sunnyvale Baylands Park on 11 Oct, and was recorded again over the next few days. A RED-THROATED PIPIT was found along Bloomfield Road south of Gilroy on 21 Oct, only the 3rd county record. Wrapping up the 6s was a male HOODED WARBLER banded at CCFS on 27 Oct.
Normally, in November, we expect only 3 new species, but we are at that point or beyond by mid-month, so November looks like a fruitful month as well. Stay tuned.
First, some more corrections to the list. Last month, October, I posted a total of 282 species, but I had overlooked earlier records of Red-throated Loon (in January!) and Sabine's Gull (in September). So that brings the October total to a respectable 284. As noted below, we added two more species in November. Normally we get three, but our composite total is now 286 species, which even if we added no more species in December (normally 3), we would wind up 2 more than our recent-year average. But 286 does not compare with last year's very nice 289, so our work is cut out for us. Where are those Long-tailed and Tufted Ducks? Where are the Rough-legged Hawks? And what about that report of a Red-naped Sapsucker east of San Antonio Valley--can we add that one?
We added one 5, a NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED SPARROW, found at the Palo Alto Baylands on 25 Nov. This bird was seen near high tide on the next three days, some folks had nice sightings, others missed completely. This little skulker is not always cooperative.
Our one 6 of the month was a female BLACK SCOTER that showed up at Shoreline Lake 6 Nov and over the next few days a few folks even made the scoter trifecta with the lingering female White-winged Scoter.
The composite list has finished out 2007 at 289 species, the same as last year. This compares well to the recent average of 284 species.
A possible record of a RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER was confirmed with photographs (an adult female), although the actual dates of the bird's visit to a yard off Del Puerto Road near the Stanislaus County line is uncertain. For now, I've put the first date down as 9 Nov, although it was seen earlier. This brings the November list to 287 species.
Adding species in December is difficult, even with all those eyeballs out there on the four local Christmas Bird Counts. We wound up with two more 5's for the year. A ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK was found on private land near Calaveras Reservoir on 16 Dec, and has been occasionally found since with persistent scoping from Marsh Road. This was our one CBC bird. Then, finishing out the year was a juvenile PACIFIC LOON on the Los Capitancillos percolation ponds near Almaden Lake on 29 Dec.