SANTA CLARA COUNTY BIRD DISCUSSIONS 2002
Here is a first cut at the 2002 Santa Clara County list. The total as of 15 Jan is 180 species. I am sure that some of these have been seen, but not reported or I managed to overlook. Hopefully, the SBB community will clear up my errors of omission and commisssion. Species that have likely been seen (all 1s and 2s) but are not on the composite list are: California Quail, Semipalmated Plover (although I have an MMR-record post 15 Jan), Short-billed Dowitcher (also post 15 Jan), White-throated Swift (also post 15 Jan), and Tree Swallow (also post 15 Jan)
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From mid-January to the end of the month the composite species list climbed from 180 to 194. Six of these were just additions from the first half of the month (but include a Swamp Sparrow at the Palo Alto Baylands seen on 1 Jan by Rich Cimino). The eight new birds for the last half of the month include some that were expected: Semipalmated Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Rufous-crowned Sparrow. Less expected were a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs north of the Alviso Marina on 1/17/02 (Bob Reiling and Frank Vanslager), a visiting Short-eared Owl over the Palo Alto Baylands on 1/27/02 (Jim and Mike Danzenbaker), an overwintering Nashville Warbler in a Palo Alto yard on 1/25/02 (Phyllis Browning), an overwintering Western Tanager in Mountain View on 1/28/02 (Mike Danzenbaker), and an overwintering female Black-headed Grosbeak in Los Gatos on 26 Jan (Amy Rufe).
The composite list climbed from 194, listed at the end of January, to 203 at February's end. A few species were cleaned up for January and seven new ones added for February. Expected early arrivals included RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD in Alum Rock Park on 18 Feb, an ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD at Hellyer CP on 23 Feb, a NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW on 15 Feb along Coyote Creek, and CLIFF SWALLOWS at Lake Cunningham on 23 FEB. Some special winter visitors found were ROSS'S GEESE in Alviso on 10 Feb, a 2nd-winter GLAUCOUS GULL there also on 10 Feb. Finally, and quite unexpected, a vagrant BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER was seen in a San Jose yard on 7 Feb.
The only "1"s not found yet are Wilson's Warbler and Bullock's Oriole -- both will be found in March. There are 17 "2"s still to be found and, except for our two fairly common phalaropes, all will be found in March or April. Only five "3"s, the uncommon bird, remain unfound and these are more problematic. March will be nice.
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The county list grew from 202 to 213 in March. Three of these were overlooked records: a TREE SWALLOW from January, a BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER from early February, and a Hooded Oriole from early February. Six of the eight new March records were first arrivals of regular species: PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER, WESTERN KINGBIRD, CASSIN'S VIREO, WARBLING VIREO, WILSON'S WARBLER, and BULLOCK'S ORIOLE. A CASSIN'S KINGBIRD was found along San Felipe Road on 31 Mar. This species has nested here fairly regularly over the last 5+ years, but is still very rare. LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCH is a nomadic resident and was finally found on 9 Mar.
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With the rush of April migrants and arriving summer residents the composite list has jumped 22 species from 213 to 235. Six of these species are fairly common summer residents that we normally first encounter in April: Caspian Tern (4/2), Olive-sided Flycatcher (4/7), Western Wood-Pewee (4/12), Ash-throated Flycatcher (4/4), Yellow Warbler (4/4) and Lazuli Bunting (4/5). Uncommon (but typical) summer residents were: Swainson's Thrush (4/21), Black-throated Gray Warbler (4/4), and Chipping Sparrow (4/6). In the next category, rare birds found every year there was one permanent resident, a Greater Roadrunner on Quimby Road on 4/13 (Jim Yurchenco, Amy Lauterbach). There were rare returning residents or migrants. The first Vaux's Swifts were along the Pajaro River on 4/2 (David Suddjian), the first Black-chinned Hummingbirds was an unusual migrant banded at 2200 feet in the Diablo Range (Rita Colwell), a migrant MacGillivray's Warbler was seen at Smiths Creek on 4/7 (Jim Danzenbaker), and the first Grasshopper Sparrow was seen at Ed Levin on 4/2 (Bob Reiling, Frank Vanlager, Roland Kenner, and Pat Kenny).
We did well in April with some very rare species. A Swainson's Hawk was seen near Casa de Fruta on 2 Apr (David Lewis) and two more were seen this month as well. A Calliope Hummingbird was banded near Felter and Sierra roads on 5 Apr (Rita Colwell) and another was seen in Almaden. An early Hammond's Flycatcher was found at Smiths Creek on 4/6 (Mike Rogers). A Purple Martin was seen over Grant Lake on 4/7 (Jim Dazenbaker)--I don't know of any birds nesting in the Diablo Range anymore (never common here). An early Bank Swallow was along the Pajaro River (where they once nested) on 4 Apr (David Suddjian). Finally the BirdBox reported a Northern Waterthrush in some wetlands near Charleston Road in Mountain View on 2 Apr and this birds was seen by many.
The two big finds of the month, "sixes", were a Broad-winged Hawk on the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains on 15 Apr (Ron Thorn) and an adult male Black-throated Blue Warbler in Campbell on 5 Apr (Jerry Towner).
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The county list is up to 242 species with a gain of 7 since the last report. One of these, a Dusky Flycatcher, was at Smiths Creek in April and I overlooked it at the time. New for May was a Mountain Quail calling in the upper Los Gatos Creek drainage on Loma Prieta on 26 May. Later, more birds were heard in two drainages on Black Mountain. Solitary Sandpipers are rare spring migrants so one at Mississippi Lake back in Henry Coe on 5 May was nice. A single Black Swift was at Rancho San Antonio OSP on 1 May and was early. More birds were found along the Santa Cruz Mountains later in May and into June. A Yellow-breasted Chat was found at Smiths Creek on 5 May. Returning Black-chinned Sparrows were first found on 5 May in Henry Coe SP. Last year, there was only a single record of Great-tailed Grackle, but this year they have returned with a vengeance, with the first over Prunedale Road in the south county on 1 May.
Our only "2s" left are Wilson's and Red-necked Phalaropes and Wilson's has already been found in June. Red-necked is certain later in the summer. All "3s" have been found this year. Six "4s" are left for the year: Red-throated Loon, Black Rail, Pectoral Sandpiper, Least Tern, Willow Flycatcher, and Canyon Wren. An unusual spring Willow Flycatcher has already turned up in June. Least Tern is likely in July. Pectoral Sandpiper could be found from July on, but we will have to wait until late fall for the loon and rail. Canyon Wrens are resident, however, but require some serious hiking into the Diablo Range.
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One bit of cleanup is the withdrawal of a May Solitary Sandpiper record, which drops the end of May total to 241. Seven species were added for June, which brings the composite list to 248 species. An injured Stilt Sandpiper showed up at the CCFS waterbird pond on 10 Jun for one of our few spring records. As expected, Wilson's Phalaropes returned on their way south with the first birds found in Alviso on 1 Jun. Although Common Terns occur in the fall in most years, a 2nd-summer bird at Salt Pond A16 on 10 Jun was not expected. A late spring migrant Black Tern was seen at Charleston Slough on 7 Jun. Although Willow Flycatchers are generally found in their fall migration, they are very rare in the spring so one at Smiths Creek on 9 Jun was unusual. A pair of Blue Grosbeaks were found along Coyote Creek near the banding station on 8 Jun and were later captured and banded. These birds remained a few weeks in an area where they might breed. A single Red Crossbill at Alum Rock Park on 9 Jun seemed completely out of place.
At the end of June only one 2 is left (Red-necked Phalarope) and it is not surprise that the first fall birds have already been seen before I've made this write-up. All 3s have been found this year and only five 4s are left. Two, Least Tern and Canyon Wren have been found in July and this leaves us with Red-throated Loon, Black Rail, and Pectoral Sandpiper for fall and winter. All the rest of potential species are 5s (very rare, not seen every year) or 6s (generally fewer than 10 records). So the second half of the year will be difficult birding, but the potential of the fall migration is always there. A Rose-breasted Grosbeak already found in early July is a nice start.
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The composite list at the end of July had increased from 248 to 254. A Red Knot was found on 7/27 in the Palo Alto estuary (one of the best places for it in the county). The first juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper of the season was at the CCFS waterbird pond the same day. Our only remaining "2", Red-necked Phalarope finally started moving through on 7/5, when five were found on Salt Pond A16 (They are now in the thousands at the Sunnyvale WPCP ponds). As expected, Least Terns showed up on 7/6 at Salt Pond A2E (and are still there). At least three Canyon Wrens were found along Coyote Creek on 7/4 during a day hike. A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was a one-day wonder at Stevens Creek CP on 7/7.
The only "4s" left are: Red-throated Loon, Black Rail, and Pectoral Sandpiper. The latter is the most likely, in late September. The rest of the year will be exciting.
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I will be out of town for three weeks, so I thought I would provide an early summary for August and then not update the county list until the end of September.
I skipped a species in the July list, missing a Costa's Hummingbird at Janna Pauser's house on 7/15/02. This brings the composite list to 255 for July. Through 21 August, we added five new species to the composite list. A Baird's Sandpiper was found at Crittenden Marsh on 8/3/02 and additional birds were found there in August as well as other locations--a good passage. Two Snowy Plovers were a surprise at the Sunnyvale WPCP on 8/5/02 and were found irregularly afterwards. A juvenile Ruddy Turnstone was found at the same spot on 8/13/02 and a second one the next day. This Sunnyvale hotspot brought more birders and birds. An adult Pectoral Sandpiper was found there on 8/15/02 and an immature Heerman's Gull on 8/17/02. This brings the composite list to 260 for the first three weeks of August.
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Then end of August and the month of September added seven species to the composite list, bringing the total for the composite list to 267. A Black Turnstone was found along Alviso Slough on 18 Aug. They are always rare this far from rocky shores along the coast. On 29 Aug a juvenile Common Murre was found near the Palo Alto estuary and a second bird was found and captured the next day. Murres this far down the Bay are rarely healthy and the first bird lived only a day. An adult Pacific Golden-Plover was found in the New Chicago Marsh on 1 Sep. It was part way in molting from it alternate plumage to its duller winter dress. Another adult was found nearby later in the month. A Brewer's Sparrow showed up in the fennel patch at the Palo Alto Baylands on 22 Sep. Two days later, on 24 Sep, a Chestnut-sided Warbler and a Blackpoll Warbler showed up together on Coyote Creek below Hwy 237. Subsequently, at least four other Blackpolls were found with one on Embarcadero Way in Palo Alto and an amazing three birds on Alamitos Creek where it enters Almanden Lake.
The new AOU checklist has separated our North American snipe from the Eurasian one, so our bird is now called Wilson's Snipe instead of Common Snipe.
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October was a slow month after a busy September and only 2 birds were added to the composite list, bringing the total to 269. A lone WHITE-FACED IBIS was found in outer Charleston Slough on 11 Oct and apparently was seen the next day at the Baylands, but not after that. A first-winter male YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD was found at the Calero Reservoir stables on 27 Oct and was seen by many over the next day or two.
We have only two "4's" left to go for the year: Red-throated Loon and Black Rail. It's hard to believe we won't find at least one Red-throated in the remaining seven weeks. Although we have two high-tide periods to go, it's hard to be as confident with Black Rail. We don't know where our winter birds come from, so we don't have a clue as to how their reproduction was this year.
Although this composite list countdown to the end of the year is fun, it is artificial in the sense that of the 383 species on the county list, 222 are 1's to 4's and are by definition seen by someone every year. So the ultimate challenge for the composite list is to find 5's and 6's. There are 59 5's on the county list presently (they get shifted about now and again). Using the last three years as a basis, then we normally record about 76% of the 5's or 45 birds. This brings us to 267. Then, of the 102 6's, we normally find about 19%, or 19 birds, to give us 286 for an "average" composite list. So how are we doing this year? Mike Rogers says it looks bad, maybe the worst ever. Compare the 5's and 6's with some recent tallies:
YEAR - - - 5's - - - 6's
1999 - - - - 44 - - - 21
2000 - - - - 47 - - - 19
2001 - - - - 44 - - - 16
2002 - - - - 40 - 9
What we see is that we aren't to far off our quota of 5's. We're five short as of 31 Oct, but Pacific Loon and Clay-colored Sparrow were found in the first week in November so we are really only three short--we have a good chance to make our quota. But probably not for the 6's. There, we are 10 birds short and it is difficult to see how we could possibly make up the difference. So I guess Mike is right.
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Four species were added to the compoiste list to bring the total to 273 species. This is 13 species short of our average yearly total. A PACIFIC LOON was found at Calero Reservoir on 11/2/2002, but was a one-day wonder. On 11/4/2002, a CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was a good find along San Tomas Aquino Creek, just below Scott. This bird remained a while and was re-found a number of times to the delight of many. Similarly, an immature TROPICAL KINGBIRD was found near the CCFS waterbird pond on 11/12/2002 and remained for three days to be enjoyed by quite a few birders. Finally, an immature LONG-TAILED DUCK was found on Adobe Creek on 11/30/2002 and perhaps the same bird was found in Salt Pond A1 later in the day. At least two birds were in A1 on 12/1/2002.
We still have two "4's" to go: Red-throated Loon and Black Rail. The tides for December don't look good, so the Black Rail will probably be a no-show. But we still have a good chance with any storm or accident to find Red-throated Loon.
As I mentioned last month, we normally find about 45 of the "5's" and with the Pacific Loon and Clay-colored Sparrow we are up to 42, so we are not far off our quota. Some of the 5's are summer or fall rarities and we have little chance of finding them in December (Little Blue Heron, Solitary Sandpiper, and so forth). But a number are good winter rarities and we have an excellent chance of finding a few: Tundra Swan (on Paicinies Reservoir this weekend), White-winged Scoter, Rough-legged Hawk (many in the Central Valley now), Red Phalarope (along the coast now), Parasitic Jaeger, Franklin's Gull, Red-naped Sapsucker, Palm Warbler, Vesper Sparrow, and Evening Grosbeak.
We usually on find 19 of the 102 "6's". The Long-tailed Duck and Tropical Kingbird boosted us to 11 for the year, but I'm not optimistic that we'll push this number up by 7 more birds.
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The composite list finished up at 277 species for 2002. This is nine species lower than the most recent 3-year mean. We missed only one '4' in 2002, the Black Rail, so the drop is caused by missed '5's' and '6's'. We found 42 '5's' compared to the mean of 45 and 10 '6's' compared to the mean of 19.
Two species were added to the list because of delayed information. A RED-THROATED LOON was in the Alviso salt ponds on 26 Nov and a GRAY FLYCATCHER was at Shoreline Park on 26 Sep. New for December was a RED PHALAROPE found at the Stevens Creek mouth on the Palo Alto CBC on 16 Dec and a juvenile BRANDT'S CORMORANT found in one of the Los Gatos Creek CP perc. ponds on 29 Dec. The Red Phalarope was just a part of a bunch of storm-driven birds that have lasted into the New Year. The Brandt's, fortunately, left before the new year--bon voyage.
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