04-28-06

Today I encountered my first Hooded Oriole along the stretch of San Francisquito Creek between El Camino and Middlefield Road. I had seen both Oriole species along the creek on the other side of El Camino when I worked in that area, but for the past 6 or more years I've been working off of University Avenue and not seen a lunch hour Oriole the entire time. Today's bird was calling loudly from a garden on the San Mateo County side of the creek. Unfortunately I never viewed the bird, but the call was unmistakable.





04-25-06

Nothing too unusual to report, but it seems like I'm hearing more Pacific-slope Flycatchers (at least 3) along my lunch time walk. Also there have been two Warbling Vireos singing along San Francisquito Creek.




04-23-06

Usually I don't like to cross reference stories, but this "E-Day and the 7-Warbler tree" story really needed to appear in the news section as well as the normal trip reports...

I led my Palo Alto Adult School birding group to Mitchell Canyon on Saturday, 04-22-06. The birding was great, even without the Cassin's Finch that was reported a day earlier. Highlights were a MacGillivray's Warbler about 200 yards up the trail from the parking lot. With effort we were all able to see the bird as it popped in and out of the underbrush beside the creek. Hammond's Flycatcher was in this area as well as well as Pacific-slope Flycatcher , allowing for nice comparisons. In the distance we could hear Ash-throated Flycatcher, but it was never seen.

Olive-sided Flycatcher was seen high on the ridge in the area immediately after the trail opens up where the creek crosses the trail. Farther up the main trail we encountered Cassin's Vireo, Black-headed Grosbeak and another Hammond's Flycatcher . Farther still, about a mile from The Olive-sided, we located Western Tanager and a single small tree that had seven species of Warbler. Orange-crowned, Townend's, Wilson's, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Hermit and Nashville were all foraging together! It was quite a site. The area was on the right side of the trail as we climbed and was surrounded by chaparral that we originally thought might be good for Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (which we found much closer to the parking lot in the oaks).


Perhaps even odder than this was a flock of about 30 American White Pelican that passed overhead a moment later. Back at the main lot, Black-throated Gray Warbler rounded up the list for a total of 9 Warbler species.





04-19-06

Imagine an estuary system hundreds of times larger than Elkhorn Slough. Remember it is on a major Shorebird flyway, and a crucial stop over for migratory birds, many of which are critically endangered. Consider that every major conservation group deems this system of worldwide significance to the population of wetland birds. Now think of a 30 kilometer long sea wall that will permanently stop the flow of tidal waters that feed the system.

My friend Jesse has returned from a trip to New Zealand and South Korea where he monitored Shorebirds on the Saemangeum estuary. He was there just one week before the sea wall is closed and the mudflats will be drained to create 30 golf courses and farmland. The mood was low among the naturalists. The Korean government, on the other hand, takes great pride in the massive reclamation project, the largest in the world, is an engineering marvel. Despite hard evidence to the contrary, the government maintains the migratory birds will not be affected. When asked where the birds will go, the answer is vague at best. They'll go somewhere else, Jesse was told by Korean supporters of the project... But the only other suitable estuary system in the Yellow Sea is currently slated for reclamation as well...

Though far from our world geographically, the birds that have used this system for generations do in fact occur in our area. Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit are two birds that make the long migration from New Zealand to Alaska, passing through Saemangeum to refuel along their flight. The project, in other words, is not so far from home after all.

Below are some images of the tidal plain, a satellite view of the closing sea wall, and a lone environmentalist, engaged in a hunger strike to promote awareness. The situation is dire, and though it will likely be saddening for us to read, more information can be found here: http://www.birdskorea.org/saemref.asp












04-16-06

Yesterday, Cricket and I awoke at 4:30 to begin our SCVAS bird-a-thon. We packed our lunch and gathered all our necessary items (field guides, binoculars, telescope, iPod and mini speakers, clipboard, itinerary and most importantly, the Santa Clara County checklist). The plan called for us to meet the other team members, Phil and Joan Leighton, Ashutosh Sinha, Leonie Batkin, Jeff Mencher and Ken Lillis at 5:45 at the CostCo parking lot on Rengstorff and Hwy 101. Having all arrived on time, we consolidated the cars and hit the road. From that point on the eight of us we were officially "the DeDUCKtions" and our big day had begun.

The first bird, as some of us predicted, was a singing Dark-eyed Junco we could hear in the trees by Krispi Kreme. It was too dark to see the bird, but we all recognized its voice.

Smith Creek was our fist birding stop. We headed up Mount Hamilton road in the drizzle and arrived just after sunrise. It was cool and quiet with very few birds in evidence. We had hoped for a warm, song-filled spring morning, but it seemed the weather had something else in mind for us... In the field we spotted a small group of Wild Turkeys as well as American Robins that were singing in the taller trees. Slowly, as we slogged through the riparian section we began to log additional species. Brown Creeper, House Wren, Hermit Thrush and Black-headed Grosbeak were all located rather easily but the woods still seemed to be generally asleep. Only one or two birds were vocalizing. We doubled back, crossed the field and headed up hill past the collapsed shack. Golden-crowned Sparrows were numerous along the weedy trail, Western Meadowlark flew from the grass and the Acorn Woodpeckers called from the oaks. Passing through the fence and hiking to the clearing we saw a Bewick's Wren in the bushes, scolding something. The clearing actually looked like the kind of place one might see a Phainopepla if you were lucky because there was so much mistletoe draped in the brances. Instead we saw Lesser Goldfinch, Western Bluebird, Red-tailed Hawk, White-breasted Nuthatch, both Steller's and Western Scrub Jay, and American Crow. We did a wide circle in the area before returning to the trailhead. We spotted a Yellow-billed Magpie crossing the hillside as well as a Hairy Woodpecker and Northern Flicker. Band-tailed Pigeons crossed the gray sky overhead. Things were beginning to pick up now!

Twin Gates was our second stop and since we dallied at Smith Creek, and reached the gravel lot by the trailhead about 30 minutes behind schedule. We picked up Bullock's Oriole in the large oaks, a single Lark Sparrow way up hill and a flyover Western Kingbird. Common Raven souring over the valley completed our Corvid list for the day. A very cooperative Lincoln's Sparrow called from the barbed wire fence and allowed us commonly good looks. It was clearing up slightly and pale patches of blue were peaking through the clouds.

Mount Hamilton Road has several good pullouts where the sagey scrub is thick and we stopped to investigate. In the areas where outcroppings of rock are visible we looked for Rufous-crowned Sparrow. Sure enough, 3 popped up out of the scrub almost immediately when we played a short sample of the song. Here also we could hear California Thrasher, but it wasn't until later that we actually saw one. I looked at my watch. Time to go.

Grant Lake provided the remaining Swallows, Cliff, Barn and Northern Rough-winged, as well as a host of waterbirds like Double-crested Cormorant, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Common Moorhen, Gadwall, Common Goldeneye, Ruddy Duck and Bufflehead. Especially welcome was a male Belted Kingfisher that flew over us and perched in a tree, as well as a Green Heron that flew from the reeds where Song Sparrows were singing. White-tailed Kite hovered uphill from the trail and two singing Calfornia Thrashers allowed us to view them. Yellow-rumped Warblers were numerous here as expected, a Common Yellowthroat was seen in the reeds, and a group of Bushtits foraged in the shrubs along the trail. White-crowned Sparrows were now appearing more frequently than before.

Grant Park around the farmhouse and orchard, is where we hoped to find a few missing Passerines, like Wilson's Warbler or Warbling Vireo. No luck there. It was very cool and began to rain again, this time more heavily, so the area was all but dead. A tractor working in the mud near the house, proved to be another obstacle, making it very difficult for us to hear anything the might be singing... Still, we were patient, hoping that we might get a break. The tractor stopped for an early lunch break, the rain became a drizzle, and then a fine mist, and then nothing at all. The stage was now set for the birds to appear. Yellow-billed Magpies foraged on the lawn, House Wren sang from somewhere in the oaks, Western Bluebird perched on the wire by the nest boxes, Wrentit sang from the coyote bush below the orchard, American Kestrel appeared on a snag on the hillside, a Cooper's Hawk chased something through the willows, and an Orange-crowned Warbler appeared briefly among the many Yellow-rumped Warblers. Then we heard the sputtering "kip-wheer!" of an Ash-throated Flycatcher. Within a short time, we saw the bird, a first of season (FOS) appearance for all of us.

On the way down hill and through the residential areas, we got a couple of species easy to miss on a big day. Northern Mockingbird and House Sparrow. Both are pretty urban, or at least a little harder to find in a non-residential areas, so not always seen when you really want to see them. We got those two, plus Rock Pigeon.

Alum Rock Park was where we stopped for lunch, a full hour past schedule. We parked at the Rustic Lands picnic area and ate our sandwiches. In the eucalyptus trees overhead we spotted a Western Tanager, and heard a couple of Bullock's Orioles. Downy Woodpecker called from near the creek and Nuttall's from the drier trees uphill. An Allen's Hummingbird zipped in and out of the trees overhead. After finishing lunch, we packed up and walked across the bridge where we found a Pacific-slope Flycatcher below the canopy. A little farther, near the stone bridge we paused to look for Owls or Rock Wren, but neither were found. Overhead though, both White-throated and Vaux's Swifts foraged, with a view Violet-green Swallows. A ranger told us there had been a Mountain Lion in the area in the morning, right near the bridge, but it hadn't been seen since. We moved back rather quickly toward the cars...

We drove next to the upper parking lot where we thought we had an outside chance of finding American Dipper, which proved unsuccessful, but two more Cooper's Hawks appeared, an adult and an immature. The adult perched in full view and while we were watching the Turkey Vultures two Golden Eagles and a Red-shouldered Hawk showed up too. On our way out of the park, not far from the visitors center, we spotted a dark bird on the top of a dead tree. We expected it might be an Olive-sided Flycatcher, and indeed it was. Another FOS for our group!

Alviso EEC was where we expected we speed up the numbers with Gulls and Waterbirds. On the entrance road we logged Cinnamon Teal, Northern Pintail, Bonaparte's Gull, Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Willet, Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet. Additionally, we saw the Barn Owl in its nest box by the trail, and a Fox Sparrow digging underneath a bush in the garden. The ponds were filled with birds, American White Pelicans, Least Sandpiper, and all manner of Gulls, Western, Ring-billed, California, Herring, Thayer's and Glaucous-winged. Forster's Terns dove repeatedly as we watched. Although we'd heard the Marsh Wren since we arrived, it was only after repeated coaxing we got one to appear. As wel left, we paused near the railroad tracks to admire the two Burrowing Owls that were visible on their mound.

State and Spreckles was too flooded to support many Shorebirds, but a few Dowitchers were present, as were a few Bonaparte's Gulls. We moved on without even getting out of the cars, and got back some of our lost time.

Alviso Marina was very productive. Both Sora and Virginia Rail were detected in the reeds beneath the first platform off the lot. A distant flotilla of Ducks turned out to be Lesser Scaup, and nearby were two female-plumaged Red-breasted Mergansers. Few Grebes were present, a few Eared way out, but we figured we'd have another chance at those in Mountain View. A Peregrine Falcon chased a Gull over the water, which was obviously exciting to watch.

Charleson Marsh proved disappointing. Yesterday's Hooded Merganser and Northern Waterthrush failed to reappear despite our best efforts. A Red-tailed Hawk watched curiously from its nest across the creek as we pished, took a few steps, pished again, more few more steps, and more pishing... Our group of eight must have looked pretty funny to any outsiders. We were'nt talking, just pishing.

Shoreline Park (main entrance) had originally planned as our next stop, but having already located the Burrowing Owl and feeling a bit pressed for time, we skipped it.

Charleston Slough was an exciting next stop. We were almost back on schedule but we were tired. Now as it was late afternoon, and we hadn't gotten any new birds at the last two stops. Now we were motivated by the possibility of seeing the Black Skimmers on their island. Sure enough, a large group of close to 20 was resting where they often do. Once or twice, one of them took flight before resettling among the crowd of Stilts, Avocets, Willets, Marbled Godwits and Forster's Terns. All the species seemed to be getting along, with less squabbling that I'd seen the week before. Greater Scaup was also near the island, as well as a few Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers and Mallard. We walked past the platform and the Mountain View Forebay.

Shoreline Lake is mostly blocked from the Slough side, but we able to scope the water from a gap in the fence. Surf Scoter was the first discovery here, but the Eared Grebes were wearing full breeding plumes and were really a joy to see. Among them was a Horned Grebe who appeared to be leucistic. It was a very pale individual with basic plumage. Its flat head and thicker, yellow-tipped bill were still good fieldmarks. Double-crested Cormorant foraged on the far side and hundreds of American Coots appeared to be taking over the lawn by the golfers. Oh, my gosh! It was getting late. We had at least two more stops to make and it was already after 5:00.

Palo Alto Baylands was a good place to pick up missing Shorebirds as the tide was out, allowing for many birds to forage within view of the parking lot. The yacht club flats, just as they did yesterday, produced many great looks at alternate-plumaged Dunlin, Black-bellied Plovers, and both Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers. Other birds seen were Least and Western Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, Bonaparte's Gull, Black-crowned Night Heron, Canvasback and American Wigeon. We searched unsuccessfully for the previous day's Eurasian Wigeon, but were pretty pleased with what we did see. Mustn't concentrate on the negative. Count. Move on. What hadn't we seen yet? And what were we likely to see?

The Duck Pond allowed for great side-by-side comparisons of Lesser and Greater Scaup. The differences are so obvious when the birds are together, and we were even able to see the different colored sheens, green for Greater, bluish-purple for Lesser, as they clambered for the bread crumbs people were tossing in. California and Ring-billed Gulls dominated here, but Western and a Glaucous-winged were also present. A single Northern Pintail hung out with the domestic Geese on the far side. In the lot we scanned the Blackbirds, both Red-winged and Brewer's Blackbird, for our Brown-headed Cowbird, of which there were several.

The boardwalk did not produce Clapper Rail, not even the call was detected. Heard however, was the call of Ring-necked Pheasant back near the cars. In the water beyond the platform we spotted several Clark's Grebe though, as well as a flyby Whimbrel that appeared to be flying toward Coyote Point where Ron Thorn would undoubtedly intercept it...

Must keep moving...

Stevens Creek Park was next. In the lower picnic area we got Purple Finch, another Western Tanager, and a FOS Western Wood Pewee. The strangest sighting of the day was also had here, a Caspian Tern visible through a gap in the trees as it flew overhead toward the reservoir. No hoped-for Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Warbling Vireo, not even Hutton's.... Mustn't dwell on the negative.... Count. And move on.

A snap decision was made. We would visit SCVAS headquarters at McClellan Ranch for an almost guaranteed additonal species. It would be a quick in-and-out operation before it got dark.

McClellan Ranch
was now in twilight and the parking lot was deserted. Within moments we heard the familiar "wheep!" call of the Hooded Oriole, quite different from the closer Bullock's call. We cupped our ears to determine from which direction it was coming, but we already know. It was almost a formality to see the bird. We know it would be in the fan palm in the center of the meadow. We hurried toward the community garden, opened the gate and cast our eyes toward the glorious palm in the center of our horizon. The male was still calling from somewhere there. A moment later we saw a brilliant yellow-orange blur as it flew straight up from the large bush. Soon we had the male in our binoculars as he made his way toward the crown of the palm. Just to his right was the female with some straw in here beak. They were building a nest we supposed. We would have been done right then, but took one final walk around the periphery to look for anything we'd missed before. The list of no-shows was actually pretty large, but we had only a few that might be expected here. Townsend's Warbler being the most obvious. I had seen it here just a couple days earlier. Well, you guessed. It didn't show. But California Quail was scurrying in the underbrush and as we reassembled our group in the parking lot, we spotted a Barn Owl perched above the door of the barn, of all places! Time for dinner.

Dinner and the check We dined at Hobbee's on Stevens Creek, and checked off the list. Page after page of showed check marks. Many bird missed, but more than enough to meet our original goal of 100 species. Four of us kept tallies during the day, and now we would see if our counts matched. I sat back and asked the Joan and Jeff what they had counted, and then I told them what I had counted. We were agreed, the total was 140 species, with very few being heard-only IDs. As I sit at my computer and write this now, I think about how good it will feel to hand over all the sponsorhip dollars to SCVAS for the environmental education program. The donations will be used to send live animals to classrooms for the children to learn about. Classrooms like Kelly's 3rd grade will learn about birds in the area, and the birds' handlers will answer the kids' question and let them look at the feathers up close. This thought offsets the twinge I feel as I see three groups of Cedar Waxwings, totaling over 100 birds, fly past my window... a species we somehow missed yesterday. We'll get them next year, for sure.

Canada Goose
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Mallard
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Canvasback
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Surf Scoter
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Wild Turkey
California Quail
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Clark's Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Virginia Rail
Sora
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Whimbrel
Marbled Godwit
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Dunlin
Short-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Thayer's Gull
Western Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Caspian Tern
Forster's Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Mourning Dove

Barn Owl
Vaux's Swift
White-throated Swift
Anna's Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Western Wood Pewee
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
Yellow-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
White-breated Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-cowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Wrentit
Northern Mockingbird

California Thrasher
European Starling
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Western Tanager
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Black-headed Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Hooded Oriole
Bullock's Oriole
Purple Finch
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow






04-14-06

My office closed a couple hours early today, so I went birding! At the Palo Alto Baylands the tide was very low, making for lots of Shorebirds near the yacht club. The Dunlin and Black-bellied Plovers are in full alternate, and very beautiful. As well, both Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers were present, wearing rich reds and golds. The small flock of Bonaparte's Gulls were also showing completely black heads, and one had a subtle pinkish wash on the breast. On the far shore I saw one drake Eurasian Wigeon , but oddly, no Americans. At the Duck Pond both Lesser and Greater Scaup were in atttendance, as well as one Northern Pintail . Several Brown-headed Cowbirds were among the Brewer's and Red-winged Blackbirds and as many have noted, the heronry is a noisy, active place right now. I thought I spotted a Tricolored female among the Red-wings, but let's just leave it at that for now...

A little later, I checked in on Charleston Slough, to find the Black Skimmers on their island. There were a few birds with white collars \but most were fully black on the nape. Occasionally they squabbled with the Forster's Terns but generally everyone seemed to be getting along. As I was leaving the area I glanced up at the swirling group of Swallows, Barn and Cliff mostly, but then I noticed a tiny bird, a Vaux's Swisft flying relatively straight through the other birds. I watched it for a moment, but it disappeared toward the north east.

Finally, I visited Charleston Marsh. I parked in the MIPS parking lot at 1225 Charleston Slough (probably not legal) and walked across the street along the paved trail. I was determined to see the Northern Waterthrush again, and spent about half an hour pishing with no response. American and Lesser Goldfinch were in full song however, as was Common Yellowthroat , and Marsh Wren. An American Crow was on the ground eating a Mourning Dove , something I'd never witnessed before, and overhead a pair of Red-tailed Hawks were investigating the trees across the water. I strolled for a 100 yards or so until I saw a female Hooded Merganser and decided I'd pull back so I wouldn't flush her. As I got closer to the No1 "Achilles Stretch" sign, very near the road, I paused and pished some more. Finally the Northern Waterthrush answered and in another few moments I had it in my binoculars. It was calling very loudly, bobbing it's tail slowly from the dense willow grove very close to the road. I hope it sticks around long enough for our Bird-a-thon team to catch tomorrow.





04-13-06

This morning I heard the "wheep" call of a Hooded Oriole in the fan palms by our apartment building. These are the trees where they have nested for at least two years, so I've been expecting their return.

Also, on Tuesday 04-11, in the middle of the rain, I spotted a Pacific-slope Flycatcher along the San Francisquito Creek. It was foraging downstream from the pedestrian bridge that leads to Sunset Magazine. Other birds present were several singing Townsend's and Yellow-rumped Warblers .

I came across a strange bird yesterday. I believe it was a partial albino Dark-eyed Junco male. He was investigating the ivy on the brick bank across from Taxi's on University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto. It appeared to have whitish cheeks, much like a Chickadee but the pale areas were more blotchy and irregular. Otherwise it was recognizeable but my look was brief and I didn't know what to make of it at first. The female was nearby and had nesting material in her beak.





04-09-06

Today I led my first SFBBO-sponsored walk of more than 20 people to Coyote Hills Regional Park in the East Bay. Many birds were detected, both by voice and by site. We began by scanning the water where familiar Waterfowl such as Bufflehead, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck and Pied-billed Grebe were found. Along the edges there was Common Moorhen, American Coot and Great Egret as well as noisy Marsh Wren. We also spent time exploring the nearby willow where we found Orange-crowned Warbler both forms of Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Quarelsome Male Allen's Hummingbirds were busy working the area and appeared several times, perching conspicuously enough to allow everyone to get a look at the bright orange gorget. In the tangle of coyote bush and poison oak several Sparrows were seen, most noteably Fox and Licoln's Sparrows. Up the hill we watched as White-tailed Kites, Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawk hunted or defended their territories. Exciting especially was a trio of Western Kingbirds that darted out repeatedly for insects. Our only Bullock's Oriole of the day was a rapid flythrough, followed by brief chatter deep in the cover of oaks.

In the picnic area we witnessed an immature Cooper's Hawk as it scattered the various smaller birds and then landed in full view in a conifer. We also began to hear Wilson's Warblers, which we eventually tracked to the oaks near the outhouse. A few fortunate people were able to see the bright yellow bird and its black cap. Spotted Towhee complained from the underbrush, while Golden-crowned Sparrows sang their tiresome "Three blind mice" as usual.

Next we moved toward Hoot Hollow, passing first the interpretive center where we saw a Black Phoebe nest, a Mourning Dove nest and a bathing Allen's Hummingbird male. Amazing color, and well seen by all! As we passed through the oaks, we began to hear more Warblers in the foleage. Wilson's, Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumps, of course. But then a strange question-answer song was heard. A Cassin's Vireo! It passed through the branches slowly, allowing everyone to get good looks.

In the upper picnic area, Hoot Hollow, our first good looks at Bewick's Wren, as well as House Wren and Bushtits were had. We heard European Starlings doing various impressions, including Killdeer, and Hermit Thrush (for real) was detected in the underbrush. Red-tailed Hawk made a brief appearanc overhead. And while we had been seeing Swallows all morning, with Tree and Violet-green being the most numerous, followed by Barn, now we were seeing our first Northern Rough-winged of the day.

We walked toward the south marsh finding additional Waterfowl like Cinnamon and Green-winged Teal, and American Wigeon as well as a new Shorebird the Black-necked Stilt. We continued toward the salt ponds and located Forster's Tern, American Pipit, Savannah Sparrow, Least Sandpiper and American Avocet. Distant Waterfowl included Ruddy Duck and a Scaup species, which appeared to be Greater, but we'll just leave that as a tentative ID because they were so far away.

Returning to the marsh and then heading up hill, where we had a great view of the entrance road and the board walk below, we picked out Black-crowned Night Heron at a distance. Finally, we reached our cars and called it a day. Having reached 80 species at one location, it seemed like a pretty good trip. Most everyone, beginner to advanced appeared to enjoy themselves and I look forward to meeting them all again in the field.

Canada Goose
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Mallard
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Scaup species (presumed Greater)
Bufflehead
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper
Forster's Tern
Rock Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Acorn Woodpecker
Northern Flicker (heard only)
Black Phoebe
Western Kingbird
Cassin's Vireo
Hutton's Vireo
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler (both "Audubon's" and "Myrtle")
Common Yellowthroat
Wilson's Warbler
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Bullock's Oriole
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch

After the SFBBO trip I made a brief reconn mission up to Smith Creek, below Mount Hamilton, in preparation for next week's SCVAS bird-a-thon. The area was all but dead, with few birds in evidence. And then it started to rain... A single highlight of the drive was a cooperative Rufous-crowned Sparrow a few hundred yards below the Twin Gates trail head in a wide turn out with sagey scrub on both sides of the road. I must be honest, I thought the area looked good and played a brief sample of the song on the iPod. Instant results!






04-08-06

Cricket and I did a little more investigatory birding after the class trip to see what was around for next week's bird-a-thon. Determined to find Bullock's Oriole we made a stop at SCVAS heaquarters and walked the McClellan Ranch Creek trail. Bullock's Oriole was indeed present, and we saw a both a male and a female. The Hooded Oriole was seen again near the palm trees. Also exciting was a Pacific-slope Flycatcher, which was in the orchard area beyond the community garden.






04-06-06

This morning I heard a remarkable bird. A Lesser Goldfinch on High Street did rapid fire imitations of Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Western Scrub Jay, American Robin, Downy Woodpecker and most amazingly, his cousin the American Goldfinch. I always thinkt the "potato-chip" call of the American is diagnostic... no longer! All of these songs, and others, were strung together so seamlessly that it was impossible for me to catch them all. Unlike the Mockingibrd, he wasn't repeating these phrases. They were done once and tne on to the next. One perfect imitation after another until I was completely lost as I tried to process them all. His performance went on for some time until I had to move on. I truly believe that the Lesser Goldfinch rivals the Northern Mockingbird in his ability to imitate, albeit at a somewhat lower volume!

After meeting a client in Fremont, I took a quick detour to Coyote Hills Regional Park where I will be leading an SFBBO sponsored walk on Sunday. I hoped to get a preview of what might be seen this weekend. The weather was beautiful and sunny, for a change, and Yellow-rumped Warblers were simply everywhere. They were especially to be found in the willows by the main pond, but appeared in almost every tree in the picnic area and up near Hoot Hollow. Selasphorus Hummingbirds were vocal and territorial, but not a single one stopped long enough for me to identify. Most likely they were Allen's... Hermit Thrush and Dark-eyed Juncos were foraging on the lawn infront of the vistiors center. The big news was a Bullock's Oriole, which chattered loudly in the trees just as I was getting back into my car. Unfortunately I didn't have time to track it down, but the voice alone was enough to give me hope for this coming weekend. Perhaps spring is really here!





04-02-06

Before it began to rain this afternoon, I spent a little time searching for Bullock's Orioles on Stanford campus. Didn't find any unfortunately, but at Lake Lagunita however there was a single Ring-necked Duck male and about a dozen Buffleheads. Selasphorus Hummingbirds, presumably Allen's Hummingbirds were numerous in the eucalyptus woods across from the stadium.

On my way home, I made a brief stop at Arastradero OSP where I hiked up to the lake. About 100 yards from the entrance a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was foraging in the chaparral to the right of the trail.




04-01-06

Two Burrowing Owls were visible on the grassy mound along the entrance road leading toward Shoreline Lake parking area. As walked toward the lake to look for waterbirds, a woman jumped out of a car and flagged us down. She asked if we knew where the Burrowing Owls could be found. Sure, we just saw them, we told her. We could show them where if they wanted, it was just up the path a bit. Really, she asked? She looked back at the driver and motioned for him to park. There were three tourists and a baby in their group, and we led them back to the Owl spot. Along the way spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk , a male and female Anna's Hummingbird , a few Bushtits, and a large flock of American White Pelicans flying overhead. After seeing these first few birds, the woman exclaimed with great excitement that this was just like paradise... We continued walking with them toward the Owls and found two standing birds in the grass, easily seen from the bike path. The tourists were elated as we expected they would be. They repeated how truly wonderful this place this was. We had to agree and were delighted to have helped. After a few moments we decided to leave them so they could admire the Owls by on their own. Who knows what other wonders they found after that... She had said she wanted to see a Black Phoebe.

Kelly and I also went to Charleston Slough where we found the Black Skimmer flock resting on their island and a group of Black-bellied Plovers (many of which actually had black bellies...) and a male Merlin perched in a conifer at the end of Terminal Road. The Merlin was being dive bombed by a very brave Barn Swallow.