The National Audubon Society keeps a yearly list
of bird species of special concern. The 2002 Watch List
includes birds that are seriously declining (red) and others
that for various reasons are declining somewhat more slowly
(yellow). In either case, the decline is disturbing. What
is especially interesting is that this term we have already
seen several species on the list. (It's hard to know whether
to celebrate or not...) Some birds may be new additions
to the list while others may have recently changed their
status on previous lists.
The list may strike us as odd in many cases because, for
example we had no trouble finding Marbled Godwit on our
trip to Crittenden Marsh or Charleston Slough. But keep
in mind that this species used to be much more common. We
also had to make a special effort to visit a habitat that
was once more widespread. The species on the list may also
be there because of a decline outside of our immediate area.
Sometimes the decline is related to human development
while other times it may be due to changes in the environment
not necessarily related to us. In either case, every bird
on this list should be a warning that something has changed
in the environment. Identifying exactly what has
changed however, and what can be done is the tricky part.
Some of the most famous avian extinctions occurred with
species that were once abundant. I guess we should consider
every species a potential addition to this unhappy list.
It makes us think a bit differently about Brewer's Blackbirds
or House Finches...
Elegant Tern (red)
Heerman's Gull (red)
Long-billed Curlew (red)
Marbled Godwit (red)
California Quail (2000 list)
Nuttall's Woodpecker (red)
For details on these species, what's being done about
each case and the disturbingly large group of remaining
birds on this "watch list" visit the NAS web site:
Actual list: http://audubon2.org/webapp/watchlist/viewWatchlist.jsp
Let's look for ways to keep birds from ending up on this
I always look forward to the return of Cedar Waxwings!
A large group, perhaps 60 birds were wheeze-whistling in
the tops of two trees along San Fransiquito Creek near my
office. They alternated between a large live oak and a sycamore.
Even without my binoculars, which I rarely have with me
on these lunch-hour walks, it was possible to see the crest
of the birds as they were silhouetted against the sky. We
can look forward to hearing their calls throughout the winter
in residential area around the bay, so if you don't already
know the call, this is a perfect time to learn. Also, I
can hardly walk this route without also hearing the call
notes of Yellow-rumped Warblers which seem to be
everywhere as well as the Ruby-crowned Kinglet "jid-it!"...
I find that listening is just as helpful as looking when
it comes to identification.
Indeed, the Cooper's Hawk that we suspected was
was the culprit involved in the Rock Dove feather
incident was confirmed. Again, while I walked in the area
near San Francisquito Creek, an immature (male?), only 4
blocks from University Avenue, chased after and subsequently
missed some neighborhood Rock Doves. It landed on
a phone pole near my parked car, paused for a moment, and
then blasted off again after someother possible targets.
I was reminded of the Peregrine Falcon I once saw
just a few blocks away, perched on a phone pole near the
Fire Department, but of course, that was an extraordinary
situation as the habitat was not ideal.
The Crested Caracara has been spotted again, this
time just south of Half Moon Bay! I heard the report only
after returning from the area... We had been in Princeton
Harbor in the morning with the group. Had we known, we might
have organized a side trip to pursue this rare, southwestern
Raptor. Oh, well...
On my lunchtime walk along San Francisquito Creek near
downtown Palo Alto I was happy and surprised to hear three
singing California Thrashers. It not only struck
me as early for such behavior but the opportunity to see
three of these birds so close to work was especially welcome.
As well there were 3 Spotted Towhee, 2 Hermit
Thrush, and two displaying Ruby-crowned Kinglets.
As many of you have seen, the ruby crest on these tiny birds
is utterly astounding. They approached so close I could
hear their wings flipping as they occupied themselves with
trying to intimidate eachother.