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Photo by Tom Grey

Christmas Bird Count

Each December we participate in several Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) sponsored by the National Audubon Society. Organizations use data collected in this long-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations and to help guide conservation action. Read about how the data are used and about the histories of our counts.

 

In the SCVAS count, each of our four predefined count circles are divided into sectors by the count leader and teams are assigned to count birds in each sector. Counters with less experience are teamed with those more experienced. Even if beginning birders can't identify every bird, they provide important "extra eyes" in finding birds. A "countdown" dinner (donations to cover the food are gladly accepted!) is held on the evening of the count, where groups share their results and tell tales of the day.

 

We would like to extend a special thank you to all of the count compilers and volunteers who participated in the 2017 Christmas Bird Count. The passion and dedication of our incredible volunteers makes this Audubon tradition possible each year, and we are grateful for your continued support. Until next year - Happy Birding!

 

Publication of Results

Since 2012, National Audubon Society does not charge the small participant fee to publish CBC results. Instead, they now publish all CBC results online.

Click the link below for a full account of the species seen across the Santa Clara County count circles. Special thanks to Bonnie Bedford-White, who graciously offers to format this table each year. We appreciate your many hours of data entry and number-crunching!
 

2017 Santa Clara County Christmas Bird Count Data

 

2017 Christmas Bird Count Highlights

 

Yellow-rumped Warbler, 2016 San Jose CBC
by Mike Azevedo

San Jose
Compiled and coordinated by Mike Azevedo - geochelone@aol.com

The San Jose CBC was held on December 17, 2017. It began very windy. The owling party at Alum Rock Park was lucky to hear calling Western Screech Owls and Great Horned Owls that must have been hanging onto waving tree branches for dear life. That wind continued in varying degrees for the rest of the day.
 
Tree Swallows were recorded in several sections, totaling 260 in all. Violet-green Swallows and a Northern Rough-winged Swallow were also seen. Several parties saw Great-tailed Grackles, Cackling Geese, and Greater White-fronted Geese. A Wilson’s Warbler (Patricia Lynch and Kitty O’Neil) was spotted at Lake Cunningham. A Chipping Sparrow (Richard Jeffers, William Street Park), Snow Goose (Ann Verdi, Independence High School), Ferruginous Hawk (Tom Olson, David and Floy Zitten, Calaveras Reservoir), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Pete Dunten, Calaveras Reservoir), Palm Warbler (Mike Mammoser, Alviso Slough), and Ruff (Mike Mammoser, Steve Tracey, Bruce Barret, New Chicago Marsh), were all observed during the day.
   

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 2017 Palo Alto CBC
by Richard Jeffers

Palo Alto
Compiled and coordinated by Al Eisner - eisner@slac.stanford.edu

The weather for the Palo Alto CBC (December 18, 2017) was good everywhere, which paid off with a species count only two less than our highest ever. The only misses among species present (nearly) every recent year were Blue-winged Teal, Ring-necked Pheasant (which has been getting scarce), Common Gallinule, Black Skimmer, and Brown Pelican. We found all regular owl species, and did well with passerines found on only 1/3 to 1/2 of recent counts, including Tree and Violet-green Swallows, House Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (fourth ever, but all recent), Evening Grosbeak, Pine Siskin, Swamp Sparrow (two), and Yellow and Black-throated Gray Warblers. The bird of the count was the Harris’s Sparrow found by Don Pendleton near Facebook in Menlo Park, our third ever, and first in over forty years. Great-tailed Grackle was also third ever, all in the past three years. Other most-notables were Bald Eagle (two, fourth year in a row), Ferruginous Hawk (first since 2000), and Lark Sparrow (eight).
 
Not only did we have a good variety, but many counts per species were strong. We set new highs by impressive margins for Tree Swallow (nearly three times the previous high, just a year earlier), White-breasted Nuthatch, Bewick’s Wren, and Fox Sparrow. But the prize goes to the astonishing count of Redhead, more than twelve times our previous high! Thanks to all who helped coordinate or participated.
   


Vermillion Flycatcher, 2017 Calero-Morgan Hill CBC
by Brooke Miller

Calero-Morgan Hill
Compiled and coordinated by Beth Hamel - Beth.Hamel@gmail.com

The Calero-Morgan Hill CBC was held on December 30, 2017. The sunny and calm weather was well appreciated by the 86 counters. However, lack of rain so far this year was apparent in many very dry areas. Most species counts were low of average and the total species count was 146.
 
There is no doubt regarding the best bird found during this year’s count - the beautiful male Vermilion Flycatcher found by Ryan Phillips and team in Coyote Valley. This is a first Santa Clara County record, and the bird is continuing to delight birders daily. Will he overwinter here? Will he return next year?
 
Other CBC highlights: Snow Geese and Cackling Geese in Coyote Valley, Burrowing Owl, Grasshopper Sparrow, Tree Swallows, and a Glaucous Gull found on Coyote Ridge. Tree Swallows were also found at the Ogier Ponds, a Greater Roadrunner at the Almaden Research Center, Phainopepla found at both Guadalupe Oak Grove Park and in Almaden Quicksilver Park, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers on the Stiles Ranch Trail and at the Calero Reservoir, the continuing Red-naped Sapsucker at Almaden Lake, and a total of four Lewis’s Woodpeckers were found at Las Animas Road and Chesbro Reservoir.

 

   

California Quail, 2016 Mount Hamilton CBC
by Bob Power

Mount Hamilton
Compiled and coordinated by Bob Hirt - (408) 821-2732 (cell)

We had our count on January 2, 2017 and, for a change, welcomed mild weather throughout the day. Most of the smaller ponds were unfrozen and water birds were spread out more this year than last. We had very few access problems since roads were open and dry.
 
The result was a complete count. We had an average species count of 97, with 8,010 individual birds. This was much better than last year but at that time the numbers were a ten-year low. As to individual species we had an average year for Lawrence’s Goldfinches with 128 tallied. One other target was Lewis’ Woodpecker and we counted 54 (double last year’s count). For the first time in eleven years we missed Golden Eagle and Common Merganser. The real shock was a miss for the first time in the count’s history: American Robin. We did find seven Varied Thrushes and one Townsend’s Solitaire! Mike Azevedo’s Mines Road team braved the pre-dawn chill and was rewarded by hearing four Northern Saw-whet Owls - the first report of these little guys in many years.
 
Thanks to leaders Bill Bousman, Mike Rogers, Mike Azevedo, Charles Coston, and especially Bob Power who (along with Petra Kinsman and Leighton Nakata) hiked the grueling Mule Trail, and also to Kirsten Holmquist, Rich Page, Sophia Christel, and Dale Stahlecker for the long hike on one of the ranches. Our deepest thanks to Elinor Gates for hosting a marvelous compilation feast and for helping count the birds at the top and stocking her house feeders.