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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 2016 Christmas Bird Count! We saw over 200 species and 218,508 individual birds across four count circles in Santa Clara County. The passion and dedication of our incredible volunteers makes this Audubon tradition possible every year, and we are grateful for your continued support. We hope to see you again next year!!


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.


For a full account of the species seen across the Santa Clara County count circles, please see the chart found here. Special thanks go out to Bonnie Bedford-White, who graciously offers to format this table each year. We appreciate your hours of data entry!


2016 Christmas Bird Count Highlights

San Jose - Sunday, December 18, 2016

Compiled and coordinated by Mike Azevedo

The San Jose Christmas Bird Count began for nearly all parties at about 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a beautiful, crisp day for birding. More than 92,000 birds of 177 species were counted starting at 5:00 AM. Many thanks to all the volunteers who contributed their time and energy to make this happen. 


Swallows not always found on this count included Tree Swallows, Violet-green Swallows, Barn Swallows and a Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Swallow reports came from Calaveras Reservoir, Alviso, Sunnyvale WPCP, and Coyote Creek. Bill Bousman and Matthew Carney on the Coyote Creek Trail reported a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. One Gray Flycatcher was found by Steve Miller, Chris Johnson, and Arnel Guanlao at Sunnyvale Baylands Park. What at first seemed to be a second Gray Flycatcher turned out to be a Hammond's Flycatcher reported by Frank Vanslager at the Los Lagos Golf Course. This is still not too shabby given they are also not normally seen.


A Greater White-fronted Goose, a Ross's Goose, four Snow Geese along with another eight Chen species geese were found in Alviso, witnessed by Charles Coston, Michael Pyle, Rob Furrow, Bill Walker, Mary Wisnewski, Bruce Barrett, and Steve Tracey. 24 Cackling Geese were also found. Six Blue Winged Teal were found, three were seen by Michael Pyle and Charles Coston, one by Bruce Barrett, and two by Kirsten Holmquist. Ferruginous Hawks were seen by three different parties. Great-tailed Grackles and Lesser Yellowlegs were also seen.


Palo Alto - Monday, December 19, 2016

Compiled and coordinated by Al Eisner

In strong contrast to the dismal weather in 2015, the Palo Alto CBC on December 19, 2016 was held in dry conditions, and the total species count increased from 155 to 160 (still a few below our recent average). We missed only eight of the species found on more than 2/3 of counts over the previous 15 years.  It was not a good year for irruptive passerines, with only handfuls of Varied Thrush and Pine Siskin, and no Red-breasted Nuthatches at all. On the other hand, numbers of American Crows and Eurasian Collared-Doves inched higher to new records.


There was one new species for the count: a Summer Tanager found at Stanford by Rob Furrow's party. Bill Bousman found Great-tailed Grackles for the second year in a row in the Mountain View Shoreline area. Four parties saw one or two roaming adult Bald Eagles, the third year in a row for this species (which had appeared only twice previously), while Laurie Graham and Jeff Fairclough found a Snow Goose at Bedwell-Bayfront Park, the first count-day report in a decade. Species seen on about 1/3 to 1/2 of recent counts included Lesser Yellowlegs (Mike Rogers (MR), San Francisquito Creek mouth), Northern Saw-whet Owl (Al Eisner/Pete Dunten, Los Trancos Rd.), Tree Swallow (several parties), House Wren (Alex Rinkert, Stevens Creek), two Black-throated Gray Warblers (MR at Stevens Creek and Pingang Wang at Arastradero), Swamp Sparrow (MR, Palo Alto Baylands), and the aforementioned Pine Siskins (six of seven were at Stanford, Rob Furrow et al., the other at Jasper Ridge). There was one Western Tanager in Mountain View (Gena Zolotar's party), and another in Los Altos (seen by two parties but deemed to be the same bird, Will Brooks/Jasen Liu and Pat Mahoney/Ozzie Altus). Lastly, while Pygmy Nuthatches are regular, sixteen around Los Altos were in an atypical area.


Count week turned up an additional four write-up species, including one (Caspian Tern) that would have been new to the count. Thanks are due to the eight region coordinators (Jack Cole, Mike Rogers, Bob Power, Rob Furrow, Trevor Hebert, Nancy Teater, Malia DeFelice, Garth Harwood), to all 120 participants, and to Ruth Troetschler for hosting the countdown.


Calero-Morgan Hill - Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Compiled and coordinated by Beth Hamel

Our count day was clear, calm, and sunny, but chilly. The general feeling shared by most participants at the countdown dinner was that the numbers of birds seemed lower than usual, and this general impression was proven to be correct by the tallied numbers.  Although the total species found for the day was 148, which is high of average for this count, the overall count of individuals was well down, by about 25% from the last several years. 


A few of the reductions in numbers were dramatic.  477 American Robins, for example, stood out against 4809 from last year's bountiful crop of that species, but it is a very low number for our count in any year. There was a noticeable reduction in number of every corvid species, of both White-crowned Sparrows and Golden-crowned Sparrows, and several other of the birds most common to this count circle.  There was also the obvious impact to bird life in the Loma Prieta area of our circle due to last summer's fire.  But of course this season's rain is welcome news for all, and our count day reflected the wonderful wetlands created by the rains in Coyote Valley - in addition to large numbers of Killdeer, American Pipits, and Canada Geese were 2 Snow Geese, 2 Greater White-fronted Geese, and 13 Cackling Geese.


An unusual species for this count was an early morning Long-Eared Owl found by Mike Rogers at San Felipe Ranch.  Additional highlights of the day included: the continuing Red-Naped Sapsucker at Almaden Lake Park, Burrowing Owls found at both Laguna Ave in Coyote Valley and on Coyote Ridge, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers found at the Calero Reservoir and also on the Calero Creek Trail, 2 Grasshopper Sparrows found on Coyote Ridge, 3 Barn Swallows found on Coyote Creek near Hellyer Ave., a single Violet-Green Swallow found in Coyote Valley, and found on the portion of Coyote Creek near the Ogier Ponds were 4 Tree Swallows, an additional Cackling Goose, and 3 more Violet-Green Swallows.  As is typical for this inland count circle, the raptors were very well represented across most sectors of the count, including 5 adult Bald Eagles,15 Golden Eagles, and 8 Ferruginous Hawks.


Many thanks to our 80 participants in this year's count - it does not happen without you!  I also want to thank Janna Pauser for coordinating the Countdown Dinner, Mike Rogers for reviewing our rare bird reports, and most especially Ann Verdi who has been the coordinator and compiler of this count for so many years, and who gave me much needed and appreciated coaching and direction in my first year as a CBC compiler. 


Mount Hamilton - Monday, January 2, 2017

Compiled and coordinated by Bob Hirt

We had our count on January 2, 2017 and experienced cold weather throughout the day. Several areas had 2-3 inches of snow. Most of the smaller ponds were frozen and the water birds went to better areas. At least we stayed fairly dry and had only minor weather-related access problems since the roads were slushy and icy in places.


The result was a complete count. We had a very low species count coming in at only 86, with only 6,004 individual birds for the day. This was nearly the same as last year but at that time the numbers were a ten-year low. As to individual species we had a cyclical up year for Lawrence’s Goldfinches with 250 tallied. One other target was the Lewis’ Woodpecker and we came in at only 27 (only slightly higher than last year’s number which was an eight-year low). Also very low this year were the sparrows and other finches.


Thanks to our leaders again: Bill Bousman, Mike Rogers, Mike Mammoser, Kirsten Holmquist, Mike Azevedo, Charles Coston, Sarah Estrella, and especially, of course, Bob Power who (along with Bruce Mast, Petra Kinsman and Leighton Nakata) has hiked the grueling Mule trail for many years. Our deepest thanks to Elinor Gates for hosting a marvelous compilation feast again this year and helping count the birds at the top.