SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIRD DISCUSSIONS 2005
JANUARY 1, 2005
Many folks have provided their New Year's Day lists and, although I'm sure there are some omissions and e-mails I've overlooked, the total is 167 species. This easily beats last year's 129, probably because of a soaking rain in the morning, but it also beats out 2003, where the high was 157.
Most of these records were of multiple observations (m. ob.), that is 138 of the 167. The rest were seen by individuals or teams in the field. What were the most common species found? Twelve lists had Black Phoebe and Golden-crowned Sparrow--clearly the champeen birds of Santa Clara County! Close seconds were those on eleven lists: Canada Goose, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Egret, Red-tailed Hawk, Acorn Woodpecker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Robin, California Towhee, and White-crowned Sparrow.
We had 13 "4's", most of which were holdover or stakeout birds from December: GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, SNOW GOOSE, EURASIAN WIGEON, BLUE-WINGED TEAL, BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, OSPREY, FERRUGINOUS HAWK, SANDERLING, BLACK SKIMMER, SHORT-EARED OWL, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, and PYGMY NUTHATCH. The Sanderling, Short-eared Owl, Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches were apparently new birds.
We had only one "5", a RED PHALAROPE at Shoreline Lake. This was a bird not previously found in 2004 and was unique for New Year's Day. Those looking for it on 2 Jan were unsuccessful.
Our one "6" for New Year's Day was the continuing PELAGIC CORMORANT at Shoreline Lake.
So, we are off again to the races. What do we have to look forward to? There are six "1's" to get yet: Short-billed Dowitcher, Cliff and Barn Swallow, Wilson's Warbler, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Bullock's Oriole. Most are summer residents that shouldn't show up yet, but my informal count shows we have two of these already. We have 17 "2's" and 14 "3's" to go and many of these are summer birds, but quite of few of the others have already been picked off by early January. We'll have to wait until the end of the month to see how things are going.
JANUARY 31, 2005
The rest of January allowed the composite list to jump from the New Year's Day total of 167 to 190. We added 10 birds from the '1s', '2s', and '3s'. The only real surprises in this group were a wintering BARN SWALLOW on 10 Jan and a wintering WILSON'S WARBLER on 14 Jan.
We added 11 '4s' for the remainder of the month. LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS were found in the Isabel and San Antonio valleys on 2 Jan. Multiple PILEATED WOODPECKERS were found along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains on 3 Jan. A ROCK WREN and a wintering GRASSHOPPER SPARROW were also found in Santa Teresa County Park on 3 Jan, and a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW was at Joseph Grant CP the same day. The following day, 4 Jan, an AMERICAN BITTERN was at the Ogier Avenue ponds, a GREATER ROADRUNNER was off Leavesly Road in Gilroy, and a LONG-EARED OWL was at Ed Levin CP. An AMERICAN DIPPER was along Stevens Creek on 5 Jan and a GLAUCOUS GULL was in the Palo Alto estuary on 8 Jan. The last '4' of the month were ROSS'S GEESE in the Alviso area on 15 Jan.
Two '5s' were found in the remainder of January, a SWAMP SPARROW on 7 Jan at the Palo Alto Baylands and 25+ RED CROSSBILLS on 17 Jan at Henry Coe SP.
I made at least one mistake on January's list: I overlooked Cackling Goose, which was seen by m.ob. on 1/2/2005. So that brings January's total to 191.
In February we had 10 new species, which brings the list to 201. So we broke the 200-species barrier in February and have 10 more months to break 300! (It's been done once.)
We had three of the more common species that were added in February. A NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW was found at Coyote Reservoir on 5 Feb, and a CLIFF SWALLOW was seen at Lake Cunningham on 13 Feb--both early. Also, an ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD was found at Ed Levin CP on 6 Feb.
Of the 4's, we found two new ones. A RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD passed through a Milpitas yard on 3 Feb and was a bit early. A CANYON WREN was in Henry Coe SP on 6 Feb and is resident here, but not easily found (plus you have to ride shank's mare).
Three 5's were found. A male TUFTED DUCK was seen in Salt Pond A2W on 2 Feb and it seems likely that this is the same bird that was in Salt Pond A1 in December, although its tuft is much longer now. A TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE was found in Coe on 6 Feb. Finally, the wintering NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH in the Charleston Road Marsh was found again on 16 Feb.
The big news of the month has to be the two 6's that were found and both were sapsuckers! The first was a YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER that was seen at Hidden Villa on 2 Feb. Then on 11 Feb, a female WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKER was found at Lake Cunningham. It is not often that any of our 6's stay around, but wintering sapsuckers are generally more cooperative and many people have been able to see both birds
We found 15 new species for March, most of them spring arrivals. This brings the composite list to 216.
Of the really common birds, the 1's, the last two on the county list were found in March, pretty much as expected, with a BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK on 11 Mar (very early, possibly wintering) and a BULLOCK'S ORIOLE on 12 Mar.
The 2's came in good numbers. Early passerine 2's were a WARBLING VIREO on 10 Mar, multiple BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS on 11 Mar, and a PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER on 12 Mar. On 26 Mar, a bunch of salt pond birds were found: SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (early), and CASPIAN TERN. The 2's were rounded out with a CASSIN'S VIREO on 30 Mar.
A few spring 3's showed up as well, with a HOODED ORIOLE on 12 Mar and BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER on 13 Mar.
We had a good showing of 5's in March with four species. A NELSON'S SHARP-TAILED SPARROW was a surprise in outer Charleston Slough on a low tide on 3 Mar. A CATTLE EGRET was found at Calero Reservoir on 11 Mar and additional birds were along Llagas Creek later in the month. A male GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE was at Lake Cunningham on 15 Mar. Finally, 20 SNOWY PLOVERS were found in closed salt ponds in Alviso on 26 Mar.
As of the end of March there are seven 2's left and four 3's. By mid-April, all but three have been found. Although April is considered a month for local birds there are plenty of vagrants or rare migrants still to find, such as Solitary Sandpiper and Black Tern. Good luck.!
I did a slight clean-up and moved the first arrival of BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK from March to April. Thus, this makes the March total 215 and with the grosbeak, we've added 18 species to bring the composite list to 233.
A lot of 2's showed up in April, including WESTERN KINGBIRD on 1 Apr, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER on 10 Apr, OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER on 15 Apr, WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE and LAZULI BUNTING on 16 Apr, and YELLOW WARBLER on 23 Apr.
There was only one 3 this month, a CHIPPING SPARROW found on 16 Apr.
As for the 4's, it was a fairly good month. The first migrant NASHVILLE WARBLER was at Smiths Creek on 9 Apr. The first VAUX'S SWIFT of the season was one over Twin Creeks on 13 Apr. Multiple HERMIT WARBLERS were found at Smiths Creek on 15 Apr (an excellent spring for them). Finally, and most surprisingly, a COMMON LOON was found at Shoreline Lake on 19 Apr. They have been much more scarce in recent winters, and spring birds are seldom seen. This basic-plumaged bird hung around for at least a couple of weeks.
It was a good month for the 5's. A HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER was found at Smiths Creek on 16 Apr, where now annual.
A SOLITARY SANDPIPER was found at Smiths Creek on 19 Apr, almost all of our spring birds are found at inland locations in the Diablo Range. A singing YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT was singing along Llagas Creek on 20 Apr, another spot where they have been regular in recent years. One of the rarest of the 5's, a DUSKY FLYCATCHER was found at Monte Bello OSP on 23 Apr. Finally, a single YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD was found at the Arzino Ranch on 24 Apr. They have tended to be regular migrants here in early May in recent years, but apparently only this single this year.
We had one 6's, two LESSER NIGHTHAWKS near the Stevens Creek Tidal Marsh at dusk on 26 Apr. This nighthawk breeds sparingly in San Joaquin County and southeast Monterey County, so April migrants are probably birds that have overshot by quite a bit.
Of our regular birds, there is only one 2 left (Wilson's Phalarope) and we'll find returning fall bird in June or July. There are three 3's still to find (Brown Pelican, Common Poorwill, and Swainson's Thrush), but two have already been recorded in May. So with the easy birds mostly out of the way, we are already at something like 235+. Shorebirds in July, August, and September will bring an extra 10 or so birds, but it is mostly uphill now. Get out there and find those rare birds!
I've updated two missed records from April. A COMMON POORWILL was heard at Almaden-Quicksilver CP on 16 Apr and a SWAINSON'S THRUSH was banded at the Coyote Creek Field Station on 24 Apr. This brings the April Composite List up to 235.
Seven species were added in May to bring the Composite List up to 242.
Three 4's were found in May. On 2 May a male BLUE GROSBEAK was seen along Coyote Creek below Hwy 237 and on the same day, BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRDS were seen along Guadalupe Rvier below Curtner (a nest was found there the next week). The final 4 was a WHITE-FACED IBIS coming to roost in the Palo Alto FCB on 17 May. Probably the same bird was seen at the Mountain View Forebay and two birds were there through early June and enjoyed by many.
The first of the four 5's was a RUDDY TURNSTONE in a closed salt pond near Alviso on 1 May. A pair of CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS were found on private property off Hwy 152 southeast of Gilroy on 11 May. It appears that this pair nested successfully at this location. A late migrant SWAINSON'S HAWK making lazy cicles in the sky over the Ulistac Natural Area on 18 May was treat. A vagrant male ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK showed up at Hidden Villa on 26 May to filch cherries from the garden there.
Singles 2's and 3's left, Wilson's Phalarope and Brown Pelican, respectively, have already been found in June. Late June may have a few new shorebirds, but more likely we will have to wait until July for the first big influx.
The composite list increased by eight species in June to 250. So here we are, halfway through the year, and a long way to go.
We finished up our really regular birds this month. The first of the WILSON'S PHALAROPES (a 2) were found on 23 Jun, while an adult BROWN PELICAN (a 3) was found on Shoreline Lake on 11 Jun.
Among the 4's, a spring WILLOW FLYCATCHER was found along Stevens Creek near La Avenida on 4 Jun. They are much rarer in spring than in fall. A PURPLE MARTIN was seen over Morgan Hill on 13 Jun. The first LEAST TERNS of the seasons showed up at Salt Pond A2E on 30 Jun.
We had two 5's this month. A flock of migrating BLACK SWIFTS were seen over Monte Bello OSP on 14 Jun. A single LITTLE BLUE HERON was seen along Artesian Slough on 24 Jun.
Although heard only, the best bird of the month was undoubtedly a HOODED WARBLER northeast of Page Mill and Skyline on 2 Jun. Except for one wintering bird, our Hooded Warblers are all misoriented spring migrants that show up in the last week of May or the first week in June.
There are only nine 4's that we haven't seen by the end of June: Mountain Quail, Red-throated Loon, Semipalmated Sandpiper (seen in July), Baird's, Pectoral, and Stilt sandpipers, Common Tern, MacGillivray's Warbler, and Black-chinned Sparrow. Neither the quail nor the sparrow seem likely now, but we can try for the others this fall.
July was a slow month with the composite list only increasing by three species to 253.
We had one 4 for the month, an adult SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER on 4 Jul at the Coyote Creek Field Station Waterbird Pond.
Two 5's were found in July. The first was a BANK SWALLOW on 9 Jul at the Sunnyvale WPCP ponds. Then, on 28 Jul multiple RED KNOTS were found at the Stevens Creek mouth.
Maybe August will be better for anticipated shorebird rarities. Or maybe another Louisiana Waterthrush, like last year!
With the start of the fall migration, the composite list for Santa Clara County increased by nine species from 253 to 262.
We picked off a number of 4's in August. Five juvenile BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS were found in New Chicago Marsh on 15 Aug and a few birds were found there through the end of the month. Missed during the spring migration, the first of the fall passage MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLERS, a female, was found along Coyote Creek below Hwy 237 on 18 Aug. A juvenile STILT SANDPIPER was on Salt Pond A3N on 27 Aug and may have been the same juvenile seen at the New Chicago Marsh on 30 Aug.
The rest of August's new birds were 5's. A female COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD was carefully identified (and video taped) at a Morgan Hill feeder on 6 Aug. On 15 Aug, a male INDIGO BUNTING was found at Monte Bello OSP. The next day, a PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER was seen at the New Chicago Marsh, but it did not stay. A BLACK TERN was found foraging over Crittenden Marsh on 18 Aug and remained over the next few days. More cooperative, a juvenile FRANKLIN'S GULL was found at the Sunnyvale WPCP ponds and stayed through the end of the month. On 31 Aug, a female RUFF was seen in the New Chicago Marsh, but like the golden-plover, it has not been seen again.
The passage of September migrants, especially a few rarities including a first county record, has boosted the composite list by 10 species to 272. Nice work!
The first PECTORAL SANDPIPER of the fall showed up at Charleson Slough on 4 Sep. This was the only 4 found in September.
We had five 5s for September, which is a good count. An early BLACKPOLL WARBLER at the Alviso EEC on 4 Sep was the first 5 found. Then, 24 Sep was an especially good day. A dark morph juvenile PARASITIC JAEGER was found on closed refuge ponds in Alviso and nearby was an ELEGANT TERN. In Mountain View the same day, an immature AMERICAN REDSTART was found in an apartment complex. The 5s were wrapped up for September with a tail-less BREWER'S SPARROW found along the Guadalupe River below Blossom Hill Road on 30 Sep.
September is the time for 6s, and were were not disappointed. On 3 Sep, not far apart, a WANDERING TATTLER and a BLACK TURNSTONE were found on the rip-rap on the bay side of the outer Palo Alto Flood Control Basin, On 5 Sep, a juvenile BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER was found on the Salt Pond A16 levee in Alviso. The best of the 6s, however, was a PHILADELPHIA VIREO photographed on 24 Sep along Stevens Creek below La Avenida. This vireo is the first found in the county.
With two more new birds already in October, we are at 274 (and another new species) and have already beat out the high count of 273 in 2003. So it looks like our chances are good for at least a few more birds before the end of the year, but October through December can be a surprising struggle.
The composite list has moved up from 272 to 281 through the end of October. Once through the end of May or June we have found nearly all of our regular birds. After that it is the rarities that build the list. Looking at recent averages, September and October should provide about 6 new birds each month. We've done much better this year with 10 new birds in September and 9 in October, so we're smokin'. This month was especially good with one new 5 and all the rest 6s, including a new bird for the county.
The only 5 of the month was a CLAY-COLORED SPARROW along Coyote Creek below Hwy 237 on 15 Oct.
In the 6s, the first was a PLUMBEOUS VIREO along Coyote Creek below Hwy 237 on 5 Oct. This bird was refound in late October and seen there into November. On 6 Oct, a CANADA WARBLER was found there as well for a county first! Another eastern vagrant, a NORTHERN PARULA was found along the Guadalupe River near Coleman on 7 Oct. A sickly COMMON MURRE was seen at Byxbee Park on 9 Oct. A DICKSISSEL was found along Stevens Creek below La Avenida on 14 Oct. The end of the month finished with a bang with a GRAY CATBIRD banded along Coyote Creek below Hwy 237 on 26 Oct, a CHIMNEY SWIFT seen there the next day, and a male BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER found at the Sunnyvale Baylands Park, also on 27 Oct.
We've missed four 4s this year and the only one we're likely to find before the end of the year is Red-throated Loon. But we have 18 5's left and 15 of these are good candidates. Data from recent years suggest we should pick up 7 species in the next two months. But at the rate we are going now, we may do quite a bit better.
Well, keeping track of the updates for the composite list for November is easy--we had only one addition--a 6. An EASTERN PHOEBE was a 20-minute wonder at the Oka percolation ponds on 18 Nov. So this brings the composite list to 282. All year we had been limping along about a bird or two below the 5-year average, and then October was such a great month with 9 new species rather than the expected 4. But November and December were supposed to bring us 3 new birds each, but November crumped out, with only 1, sigh. Getting ahead of myself, December has already produced two new birds, but that still makes us 3 birds shy of what we usually find in November and December. The good news is that 282 is right at the 5-year average, so this is a better-than-average year already. (But as I slowly start getting prior year data into my spreadsheet, things will not look quite so rosy, as the 90s provided at least three years over 300! We ain't gonna see 300 this year.)
There was only one 4 -- a RED-THROATED LOON was seen on Lexington Reservoir on 26 Dec.
We had two 5's for the month. A BLACK RAIL was at the Palo Alto Baylands on 1 Dec and a family of TUNDRA SWANS touched down briefly on Salt Pond A2W on 7 Dec.
The big news for December was a juvenile SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER that was found east of the Alviso Marina CP on 7 Dec. This bird was kind enough to stay for the San Jose CBC. It was seen by many people during its visit, but not always easily.
So what was 2005 like. Well, I carry means in two spreadsheets (don't ask). For 1993 to 2005, the mean is 289, so we are three below that 13-year average. But for recent years, from 2000 to 2005, the average is 282, so we are four above. This is the best year since 2001 (288). The year started off a bit slow, with a January total of 191, which was 3 below the 5-year average. We crept up a little in the next two months, but late spring and summer saw us falling behind again. By the end of July we were 4 species below the recent average. But we started to do better in August and September and we had a marvelous October with 9 new species compared to the usual 4 for that month. November fell a bit short, but we picked up a little in December.
The big news of the year were two new species: a Philadelphia Vireo in September (through the miracle of digital photography) and a Canada Warbler in October.
January has started out with a bang. We'll see how things go.