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)
Black Oystercatcher
California Quail (2000 list)
Band-tailed Pigeon
Nuttall's Woodpecker (red)
California Thrasher
Oak Titmouse
Yellow-billed Magpie

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:

Introduction: http://www.audubon.org/bird/watchlist/bs-bc-what_is_the_watchlist.html
Actual list: http://audubon2.org/webapp/watchlist/viewWatchlist.jsp

Let's look for ways to keep birds from ending up on this list...


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.