SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIRD DISCUSSIONS 2006
JANUARY 1, 2006
The New Year's Day composite list starts out at 148 species. This is 10 species better than the 6-year average, but the New Year's list is sensitive to weather. Last year we had 168 and the year before, when the rain came in early, we had 129. Best birds were a BLACK RAIL at the Palo Alto Baylands, SNOWY PLOVERS in Salt Pond A8 as seen from the Alviso Marina CP, and the continuing female/immature AMERICAN REDSTART along Coyote Creek, just below the Coyote Creek GC entrance road.
JANUARY 31, 2006
My initial stab at the New Year's Day list came out at 148. However, I overlooked a few records and a few more came in as dribs and drabs. The first day's total has now jumped to 155. Not bad. The 6-year average is 138, but there is a lot of variance in our New Year's Day lists.
For January, however, there is little variance. Over the last six years the totals have ranged from only 191 to 196 with a 6-year average of 194. We managed 192, which is a bit low, but that gives us a chance to catch up. In past years we pick up about 9 new species in February. We've none so far on this fourth day of the month, so we have our work cut out for us.
The big news in January was the discovery of an adult SLATY-BACKED GULL in Alviso on 14 Jan for a first county record. There are probably 20,000 to 40,000 gulls feeding at the Newby Island dump, and some take a break by coming over to the Alviso EEC where we have a chance at them. Many hours have been spent there for a look at this rare Siberian gull, but so far we have only come up with a decent count of Glaucous Gulls.
Since New Year's, birders have found five 5s to fill in January. A NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH was seen on 4 Jan at the Charleston Road marsh. This is probably a bird here for its third winter and has not been easy to find. A flock of seven TUNDRA SWANS were over San Felipe Road at the San Benito County line on 6 Jan. A RED-NECKED GREBE was seen in the San Jose-Santa Clara WPCP sludge ponds on 7 Jan, but was ill and lived only a couple of days. The same day a male GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE was at the Coyote Creek Golf Course. Finishing out these rarities was a male RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER along Almaden Reservoir on 18 Jan. It was refound over the next few days, but not after that.
The composite list as of the end of February is 200, which is 3 birds behind our February average of recent years. Normally we pick up 9 new birds in February, but this month we only found 8 (but last year we had only 4!).
A CLIFF SWALLOW on 17 Feb was our only 1. These birds often arrive in late February and sometimes early March, but this is a fairly early record.
For the 2s, we had a BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER on 8 Feb and a NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW on 10 Feb. The Blue-gray was found along Coyote Creek below Hwy 237 near the CCFS banding trailer and likely wintered there.
One of the 3s, a PRAIRIE FALCON was found along Marsh Road near the Calaveras Reservoir on 4 Feb. Two GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS were near the CCFS banding trailer on 10 Feb. A WESTERN TANAGER was heard at Stanford on 13 Feb and was likely wintering.
A male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD seen in a Cupertino yard on 18 Feb was one of our two 4s. The other was a SNOW GOOSE found at Shoreline Park on 2/21.
The early spring arrivals come in March and we expect to find 13 species for the month. We'll see how well we do, once the weather starts to warm up.
I have a few updates and corrections for January and February. We dropped the Hooded Oriole from January as it is uncertain as to which species it was, so we have left it as a female oriole species. Kris Olson found a January BirdBox report of a Swamp Sparrow at the Palo Alto Baylands on 30 Jan that I had missed. An Allen's Hummingbird at Ed Levin CP was added for 22 Feb. Thus, the composite list at the end of February was 201 rather than 200 as I noted previously. So that left us 2 birds shy of the average for February.
March usually brings 13 new species, particularly at the end of the month as the warm weather brings returning summer residents. Not so this month with all its rain. Instead we would up with only 10 new species, giving us a composite total of 211, four species behind our typical pace.
We expect March to bring a bunch of our common to uncommon summer residents. The first BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK showed up at a Los Gatos feeder on 25 Mar and the first BULLOCK'S ORIOLES were at least three birds at Ed Levin CP on 26 Mar (both 1s and that's it for the 1's this year--all have been found). Of the 2's, the big surprise was a calling WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE at Ed Levin on 13 Mar. This is about 3-4 weeks early. Other 2's included a WARBLING VIREO at Rancho San Antonio OSP on 23 Mar and a WESTERN KINGBIRD at the IBM Almaden Research Center on 27 Mar. Of the 3's, two LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES were seen at Joseph Grant CP on 4 Mar and a returning male HOODED ORIOLE was at the McClellan Ranch on 26 Mar.
Two 4's were found this month. A LONG-EARED OWL was seen on 13 Mar, but was not posted to SBB out of concern that it might be nesting. A GREATER ROADRUNNER was seen off Hellyer Road on 15 Mar.
The one 5 of March was a 1st-winter male SUMMER TANAGER that showed up at a Palo Alto feeder on 20 Mar and stayed nearly to the end of the month. It was photographed and a good number of people got to see it.
April should provide us a burst of new species. We normally pick up 22 in an average year. We'll see.
The composite list for Santa Clara County climbed to 236 by the end of April. Once we are past January, April is our really big month with an average of 22 new species found. This month folks found 25 new species and this helped with the year's deficit, which was 5 species at the end of March. So, we knocked the deficit back a bit and we are only 2 species behind our normal pace.
Normally, by the end of April we find most of our "usual" species, the 1's through 3's, except that we normally have to wait for later in the year for Brown Pelican and our expected phalaropes, but as you will see below, all of these showed up this April and aided the composite list.
This April we finished off the 2's. The first CASPIAN TERN of the season was found at Calero Reservoir on 5 Apr. PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHERS, as with Caspian Terns are often found in late March. The first this year was found at McClellan Ranch in Cupertino on 8 Apr. Once the weather warmed, some of our other flycatchers showed up, including OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER at Alum Rock Park and ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER at Grant Ranch CP, both on 15 Apr. The same day, RED-NECKED PHALAROPES showed up in the New Chicago Marsh. Red-neckeds and Wilson's are considered 2's based on their fall migration -- they are much less common in spring, but this has been an excellent year for Red-neckeds. The first LAZULI BUNTINGS were found in a number of places on 22 Apr. Then, on 24 Apr a WILSON'S PHALAROPE was found at the Gilory sewer ponds, which was a surprise for the spring.
We also managed to finish off all the 3's in April. The first migrant CHIPPING SPARROWS were a small group at Guadalupe Oak Grove Park that were seen there for a few days. The first SWAINSON'S THRUSH was at Grant Ranch CP on 18 Apr. A very early BROWN PELICAN was over the Alviso salt ponds on 23 Apr. The last of the 3's were returning LEWIS'S WOODPECKER found in San Antonio Valley on 25 Apr -- they had apparently all left this winter, but it was good to see them back.
There was a good capture of 4's during April. Most of these birds someone finds during the year, but not always. The first was a male PURPLE MARTIN seen at Calero Reservoir on 6 Apr. The first VAUX'S SWIFT of the season was one over Guadalupe Oak Grove Park on 13 Apr. The first NASHVILLE WARBLER of the season was one at Ed Levin CP on 17 Apr. The first HERMIT WARBLERS of spring were migrants at Hidden Villa on 19 Apr. LEAST TERNS are usually found only as post-breeding migrants, but one flying north at the Palo Alto Baylands on 22 Apr was a surprise. The first GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS of the season were found at Ed Levin CP on a Big Day on 22 Apr. BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRDS usually come back in mid-April so a male along the Guadalupe River below Curtner was expected. MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLERS are less common in the spring, so a singing male at Smith Creek on 23 Apr was a treat. A 1st-spring COMMON LOON at Almaden Lake on 29 Apr on a SCVAS trip rounded out the 4's.
Five 5's were found in April, and these are always tough. April is probably the best time for HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER, and the first was found at Ed Levin CP on 17 Apr. A single female YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD was seen at the old Gilroy sewer ponds on 21 Apr. A BANK SWALLOW was seen at Arastradero Preserve on 22 Apr. The month finished well with a SOLITARY SANDPIPER in the New Chicago Marsh on 29 Apr, and a couple of BLACK TERNS at Grant Lake on 30 Apr.
Well, now things get interesting. We have about 14 4's left (and one has already been found by mid-May). The rest are 5's and 6's, always the hardest. Normally in May, we find about 10 new species. We are halfway through the month and have only two new birds. Stay tuned.
I overlooked a ROSS'S GOOSE found on the Knapp tract on 29 Apr, so that brings our April list up to 237, which is just one short of the long-term average of 238. In an average year, we should find 9 or 10 new species in May, but this year we only managed 7 species, which gives us 244 for the year and we are three under our average pace.
We added two 4's for May. At least three BLUE GROSBEAKS were at Ed Levin CP on 2 May and one or more birds have been seen through the month. A singing male BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW was found at Hidden Villa on 24 May and sang persistently through the end of the month, but then left.
The first of the 5's in May were two alternate RUDDY TURNSTONES at the New Chicago Marsh on 2 May, which then moved on. A YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT was found singing along Llagas Creek above Bloomfield Road on 3 May and has been found there into June. A CATTLE EGRET showed up at the Palo Alto Duck Pond heronry on 10 May and remained a day. A SWAINSON'S HAWK was seen near Llagas Creek and Hwy 152 on 21 May. The last 5's of the month were 9 BLACK SWIFTS over Loma Prieta on 28 May.
We average about 4 birds in a normal June. So far we have added at least three so maybe we can catch up.
June was a good month and we found six new species for the composite list, bringing the total to 250. A normal June results in only about four new species so the two extra brought us back to one short of the long-term average (251).
Three 5's were found in June. The first were a couple of RED CROSSBILLS, crossing Skyline Boulevard from Santa Cruz to Santa Clara County on 5 Jun. On 9 Jun, two adult LITTLE BLUE HERONS were found, one on Salt Pond A16 in Alviso and one at Almaden Lake. The next day, a third adult was found at the small marsh across from Coyote Ranch--quite an invasion. The last of the 5's was an extraordinarily late TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE found at Monte Bello OSP on 19 Jun.
The first of the 6's was a SAGE THRASHER along Monte Bello Ridge on 3 Jun. This bird, like the Townsend's Solitaire, was extraordinarily late. On 5 Jun an OVENBIRD was heard singing along Skyline Boulevard and moved from Santa Cruz into Santa Clara County. The last of the 6's was a singing BELL'S VIREO found along Coyote Creek near the Coyote Creek GC on 20 Jun. None of these birds were found subsequently.
The composite list increased by 3 birds in July. Usually we find 6 new birds in July, so we didn't do well this month, although one of new birds was a first county record, so I guess that's something. Thus, the 253 total as of 31 Jul is 4 short of our average.
The only 4 for the month was an adult SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER found at the New Chicago Marsh on 16 Jul. Within five days, at least two additional adults were found there.
No 5s, but two 6s in July. The first was a single BLACK TURNSTONE on Salt Pond A16 on 15 Jul. The next day, an adult LITTLE STINT was found in nearby New Chicago Marsh for a first county record and one of the few California records of this Siberian vagrant. It was seen twice more by 20 Jul, but was quite elusive.
Tallying this month's list, I uncovered an error in that a May record of Canyon Wren in Henry Coe SP was overlooked. So that bumps the May through July tallies up by one. That means that the composite list for Santa Clara County at the end of August is 263, which matches our recent-years average. August was a pretty good month with 9 new birds, which is 2 better than the recent-years average. Next month, September is always the peak of the fall months, and averages about 10 species.
We had four 4's this month. A COMMON TERN was found at the Sunnyvale WPCP oxidation ponds on 7 Aug. Two PECTORAL SANDPIPERS were at the New Chicago Marsh on 18 Aug and were the start of an early influx. The first WILLOW FLYCATCHER of the season showed up near the Calabazas ponds on 22 Aug and were found widely through the end of the month. A juvenile BAIRD'S SANDPIPER was at the Gilroy sewer ponds on 24 Aug and a few more were found along the Bay by the end of the month.
There were four 5's as well. An ELEGANT TERN was seen in the New Chicago Marsh on 6 Aug. At the end of the month a small flock was at the Stevens Creek mouth, but otherwise none were seen elsewhere. A PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER at the Gilroy sewer ponds on 9 Aug was the only one found. A male ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK was a one-day wonder at a feeder in Los Gatos on 17 Aug. RED KNOTS showed up 18 Aug at the Stevens Creek mouth and remained through the end of the month.
The one 6 was a WHITE-WINGED DOVE seen in flight near the San Jose Airport on 14 Aug. There are only three previous records in the county.
September 2006 was a good month, the best we've had since 2001. The average number of September's new birds is 10 and we got 12 this month. This isn't earth shaking, but it puts us 2 birds over the mean at 275 species and that is the first time this year we've exceeded the mean tally.
Of the 12 new birds, half were 5's. The first was two juvenile RUFFS found at the New Chicago Marsh on 7 Sep. These remained through the month and were joined by an adult later. A BREWER'S SPARROW was found along the Guadalupe River on 10 Sep. A BLACKPOLL WARBLER was seen at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park the next day on 11 Sep. A CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was seen along Stevens Creek at the end of La Avenida on 16 Sep. The next day, 17 Sep, a GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE was seen at Arastradero Preserve on an Audubon trip--a nice surprise. Wrapping up the 5s, a 1st-winter FRANKLIN'S GULL was found at the Sunnyvale WPCP on 19 Sep and remained to be enjoyed through the end of the month.
The 6s started with a flock of 20 SANDHILL CRANES flying over Stanford on 6 Sep. Presumably they figured things out and returned to the Central Valley. On 11 Sep, an adult TENNESSEE WARBLER was found at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park. An immature was found later in the month along the Guadalupe River. The Tennessee and Blackpoll at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park inspired birders to find a CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER there on 14 Sep (one was banded later in the month along Coyote Creek). Adding to the marvelous number of warblers in September was a NORTERN PARULA along Stevens Creek upstream from La Avenida on 16 Sep. Hard to find, this bird remained for some time at this location. A 1st-winter SABINE'S GULL was found at Sunnyvale WPCP on 19 Sep, the same day as the Franklin's. Unlike the Franklin's, it was not found again after its discovery. The last of the month's 6s was a COMMON MURRE photographed in Coyote Slough on 26 Sep.
What holds for the rest of the year? Typically, we find perhaps 10 more species, although numbers have varied from 5 to 14.
Well, after a really good September, October nearly rock bottom. Only one new bird was found, bringing the composite list to 276, one below our recent average. Usually we find 4 new birds in October. November has been better already and we have already met our quota of 3 birds, but that will have to wait until next month.
The one bird for October was a LEAST FLYCATCHER along Coyote Creek below Hwy 237, a 6.
I hope the rest of November can bring some new birds.
We had a really good November in the county. We average about 3 new species in November, but this year we managed 6, which was quite an accomplishment. This jumped the composite list up to 282, which is about 2 species beyond the recent-year average.
We had only one 4 during the month and this was an adult STILT SANDPIPER found at New Chicago on 3 Nov. We've become quite blase in recent years with this rare sandpiper, often seeing them in the fall. But this year there were none until November, which is unusual. A second bird, a juvenile was found on 6 Nov. The adult was last seen on 11 Nov which is the latest we've ever had this species.
The 6's were the ones that shined this month with five species, including a first record for the county. Monday, 6 Nov, was a banner day with two 6's: a TROPICAL KINGBIRD at the San Jose-Santa Clara WPCP and a juvenile AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER at the CCFS waterbird pond. The kingbird was a one-day wonder, but the golden-plover lingered. This plover is very late, as was the Stilt Sandpiper. The big news was a juvenile ZONE-TAILED HAWK found along Summit Road southeast of Hwy 17 on 7 Nov. This bird is a first record for both Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. The 6's finished off with another banner day on 12 Nov. An adult BRANT was found on the Palo Alto GC and in nearby areas and a juvenile YELLOW-BILLED SAPSUCKER was seen at Ed Levin CP. Both birds have lingered and have been seen by many folks. There is a possibility that both may linger or even winter and will enrich our CBS.
December, on average, provides only 3 new birds for the year. Normally, we would expect that all the 4's would be found each year (that is the definition). The ones left are Mountain Quail, Red-throated Loon, White-faced Ibis, and Short-eared Owl. I think the quail and the ibis are unlikely, but we have a very good chance of picking up the other two.
We finished up the year for Santa Clara County with 288 species. This ties the high count for the previous 6 years that I've analyzed. (But during the 1990s, we had three counts over 300 birds including 304 in 1997.) Three species were new for the year: Slaty-backed Gull in January, Little Stint in July, and Zone-tailed Hawk in November. Two other species have been added to the list: Iceland Gull based on a record in 2005 that has been accepted by the California Bird Records Committee and Eurasian Collared-Dove based on about a half dozen records away from the San Martin released birds. That brings the total to 394, which is not bad for a quasi-inland county.
But we missed three 4s in 2006: Mountain Quail, Red-throated Loon, and White-faced Ibis. I'm not ready to move these into the 5s, but maybe that's where they belong.
Speaking of Eurasian Collared-Doves, Mike Rogers pointed out that I overlooked a May record of a bird away from San Martin, so that ups the tallies for May and all subsequent months by one species.
December was a very good month with 5 new birds where we normally get only 3. There was only one 4, a SHORT-EARED OWL in the vicinity of Byxbee Park and the Palo Alto FCB and first seen on 6 Dec. This bird was seen by many through the end of the month and into the new year and on a few occasions two birds were seen, which was nice.
We had two 5s in December. The first was a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK over the Coyote Creek GC on 9 Dec; it was not found again. The second 5 was a BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER wintering in Upper Penitencia Creek Park and first seen on the San Jose CBC on 17 Dec. This bird has been seen, photographed, and enjoyed by many into the new year.
We also had two 6s. A PLUMBEOUS VIREO was seen along the Guadalupe River in downtown San Jose in an area not often birded. At least 2 PELAGIC CORMORANTS were found in Salt Pond A2W on the Palo Alto CBC on 18 Dec. One bird was seen here into the new year.