04-29-00

The best bird I've seen in a while, the Long-eared Owl presented itself two evenings ago along the Matadero Creek Trail off of Frontage Road in Palo Alto. This trail, which begins with a short gravel driveway and a metal fence, leads out toward the Bay. It turn sharply to the left after about 100 yards and then again to the right. At the first turn a wooden platform overlooking the marsh and old radio station appears. A little farther the trail forks. At this fork, look to the right toward the coyote bush and eucalyptus trees bordering the creek and you might be rewarded with a view of one of the rarer owls in our area. The bird was perching quite low in the coyote bush on the opposite side of the small marshy area on the right-hand side of the trail. Good luck!

Apparently, a few people have been able to relocate the bird, which looks rather like a small, slender Great Horned Owl. I saw it again this afternoon, but be prepared for disappointment; it's very skilled at blending in with the foliage. Who knows how long it's been in this spot, or how long we can expect it to stay. From the records, it seems this is the first sighting of the species in Santa Clara County in three years.


04-22-00

If you were not able to attend the field trip today, you missed my announcement that the Red-necked Phalaropes are now present in good numbers in the South Bay. While driving to Coyote Hills Regional Park this morning I saw many hundreds of these small shorebirds swimming in the shallows on the east end of the Dumbarton Bridge. The Ravenswood Wildlife Preserve is a good spot to stop and look for this spring and summer visitor. It can be accessed from either direction. Look for the telltale swimming and spinning behavior of these beautifully colored birds. The Wilson's Phalarope will also arrive soon but its numbers will be below those of the RNPH until summer. A sharp observer might be able to pick out a few of these more slender birds among the many RNPHs.


04-16-00

I've noticed a lot of nesting activity in and around my apartment complex. Down the hall, in the walkway that overlooks the pool, there is a pair of European Starlings that is determined to use last year's nest site, a small ventilation hole above one of the windows. The Anna's Hummingbirds seem to be setting up home in an exotic silktree across the yard and Dark-eyed Juncos are building in another sweet-smelling ornamental tree. Most exciting however, is a pair of House Sparrows nesting directly over my door. While I have mixed feelings about these non-native birds, somehow, seeing them building their home so close to mine makes me happy. I certainly hope the complex grounds keeper doesn't find out, because I'm sure he wouldn't approve.

Someone recently told me about some Cliff Swallows that were building a mud nest on the side of their newly painted home. I immediately thought, "how wonderful!". So when she asked me what she could do about it, I was baffled. As a bird watching instructor all I could really recommend was to enjoy the birds. Few people are lucky enough to have swallows right in their back yard...


04-07-00

An afternoon trip to the Palo Alto Duck Pond and Yacht Club area in preparation for tomorrrow's field trip produced the following birds. If we're lucky, we may see all of these and more on our group trip: Ruddy Duck, Greater Scaup, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, White-tailed Kite, Ring-billed Gull, Western Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Bonaparte's Gull, Caspian Tern, Forster's Tern, Black-bellied Plover, Semi-palmated Plover, Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Willet, Dowitchers, Western Sandpiper, Dunlin and Brown-headed Cowbird.

There was also a Merlin at the intersection of San Antonio and 101.


04-02-00

This afternoon, in the quarry area of Old Pagemill Road, I had an emphatically singing House Wren and perhaps four Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in the willows. Many Western Bluebirds, and Lesser Goldfinch were present as well. There were at least two Pine Siskin that flew overhead, but I did not get a satisfactory look at them; I only heard their calls. I heard an unfamiliar oriole and looked all over for it. When I finally found the singing bird, it turned out to be a Northern Mockingbird doing an uncanny impersonation of an oriole. Barn, Cliff, Tree, Violet-green and Northern Rough-winged Swallows were foraging overhead. A pair of White-throated Swifts flew by quickly, twittering loudly. Hamilton Avenue in downtown Palo Alto still seems to be a dependable location for this species.