SPRING 2003

Byxbee Park 04-05-03 POSTED
Stevens Creek Park 04-12-03 POSTED
Natural Bridges State Park 04-19-03 POSTED
Alum Rock Park 04-26-03 POSTED
Long Ridge Open Space Preserve 05-03-03 POSTED
Joseph D. Grant County Park 05-10-03 POSTED
Mines Road-Del Puerto Canyon 05-17-03 POSTED

Note: The trip reports below are organized in reverse chronological order (more recent report first).



Mines Road/Del Puerto Canyon 05/17/03


The weather was brilliant in paradise again and exciting birds were seen at nearly every stop along our 3-county loop. The trail lead us through wide open grassy slopes, scattered oak woodland, bright yellow-green willow and sycamore bottom lands (complete with a whispering creek), dry chaparral, sage gardens and rocky red canyons--a unique sampling of Northern California habitats, in other words.

We began by meeting at Alberton's on N. Livermore Avenue at 7:00, stocked up, distributed radios and arranged carpools for the journey. Arriving at Murietta Wells a few minutes later we birded the willow riparian and sycamore grove. Yellow Warbler, Bullock's Oriole were easily found and a pair of unexpected Common Mergansers flew over as well. From there we traveled quickly to the bridge after the Del Valle fork where we had rewarding views of vivid Western Bluebird and both male and female Phainopepla. Continuing uphill from there, we made a pullout where Kelly and I had seen Golden Eagle the week before. Sure enough, as if our group had pressed some kind of button, two of these great birds slowly spiraled upward from the valley floor toward the clouds and eventually out of sight!

The next stop was unscheduled, prompted by a male Western Tanager seen in a small tree on the slope to our right. As it turned out, we never relocated this bird, but we did "pish out" a family of Rufous-crowned Sparrows. Our efforts at the cattle guard, where we looked and listened for Sage Sparrow at about 10:45, were not rewarded with any new species, but it hardly seemed to matter. The key to this species is timing. Alas, we were too late... At the firehouse though, the dependable spot for Lawrence's Goldfinch the scene was very productive. Not only did we observe the all three species of Goldfinch, but Purple Finch, Western Wood Pewee, nesting Bullock's Oriole and Black Phoebe as well. We enjoyed lengthy views of several Lewis' Woodpecker just beyond the Junction along San Antonio Valley Road and noticed their Crow-like flight and fly catching behavior.

We returned to the Junction and headed down Del Puerto Canyon Road where we descended into the rocky canyon lands. Rock Wren and the luminous Lazuli Bunting were seen with some effort. The latter was a bit pesky, perching and singing high on the rocky slope, but it alternated between two favored perches so eventually everyone got a look. We kicked back, ate lunch and cracked open the watermelon to celebrate. We were tempted to stop many times along the canyon portion of the trail, but pull-outs were narrow and difficult so we stopped infrequently. A particularly active spot produced a Raven's bulky nest with four enormous chicks, a Rock Wren cave just next door, Lark Sparrow and legendary Canyon Wren which shared its beautiful descending song with the group. The famous Owl rock produced a roosting Barn Owl and numerous Humm-Vs as well as a group of gun-firing goons who helped convince us to move on before we had a chance to properly enjoy the bird.

Anyway... the surroundings changed abrubtly after that, winding through cattle lands with numerous Western Kingbirds and eventually barren, seemingly endless grasslands just before Hwy 5. It was in this bizarre and unlikely landscape that we encountered the prize of the day, a pair of rare Blue Grosbeak that had been reported a week ago. An exciting end to a perfect day!

Green Heron
Mallard
Common Merganser
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
California Quail
American Coot
Killdeer
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Barn Owl
White-throated Swift
Anna's Hummingbird
Lewis' Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker (heard only)
Northern Flicker
Western Wood-pewee
Black Phoebe
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
Horned Lark
Violet-green Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Western Scrub Jay
Yellow-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
White-breasted Nuthatch (heard only)
Rock Wren
Canyon Wren
House Wren
Bewick's Wren
Western Bluebird
American Robin
Wrentit
Northern Mockingbird
California Thrasher (heard only)
Phainopepla
Loggerhead Shrike (N. Livermore exit)
European Starling
Yellow Warbler
Western Tanager
Black-headed Grosbeak (heard only)
Blue Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Bullock's Oriole
Purple Finch
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Lawrence's Goldfinch
House Sparrow



Joseph D. Grant County Park 05/10/03

Grant Park was as wonderful as ever. The weather was beautiful and colorful species were abundant. Our time was divided between morning in the riparian corridor by the farm house and high noon by the lake. Highlights included singing Grasshopper Sparrow by the farm house, multitudes of Bullock's Orioles (each one spectacular!), and at least two male Western Tanagers. At one point we had Orioles chasing a Tanager... what a blaze of color that was! A pair of Black-headed Grosbeaks were also seen, rounding out the spring color spectrum nicely. Warblers challenged our neck muscles as usual, but several were viewed quite well while others only fleetingly. Yellow Warblers were in good numbers around the farm house, with Wilson's, Black-throated Gray, and a single Yellow-rumped present also. We did very well with the Tyrant Flycatchers, logging nearly the full complement of expected species. Western Kingbirds and Ash-throated Flycatchers were conspicuous and vocal as were Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Western Wood Pewee and of course Black Phoebe. Unfortunately we encountered no Wild Turkeys, Belted Kingfishers, Hooded Orioles or Lawrence's Goldfinches, but who cares? It was still a wonderful and vividly colorful trip.

Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Canada Goose
Mallard
Gadwall
Ruddy Duck
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel (along Mt. Hamilital Rd.)
California Quail
American Coot
Killdeer
Caspian Tern
Forster's Tern
Rock Dove (along Mt. Hamilton Rd.)
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Acorn Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker (heard only)
Northern Flicker
Western Wood Pewee
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Steller's Jay (along Mt. Hamiliton Rd.)
Western Scrub Jay
Yellow-billled Mapgie
American Crow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
White-breasted Nuthatch
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush (heard only)
American Robin
Wrentit (heard only)
Northern Mockingbird
California Thrasher
European Starling
Warbling Vireo
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Western Tanager
Black-headed Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting (heard only)
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Grasshopper Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Bullock's Oriole
Purple Finch
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Lesser Goldfinch



Long Ridge 05/03/03

Today's field trip was rained out. This was to be our first class venture to this magical emerald forest which includes a variety of mostly closed habitats. On nicer days, an especially beautiful area can be found along the Peter's Creek trail where moss covers trees and rocks and the cascading song of Winter Wren and be heard echoing through the forest; it's truly wonderful... After the decision was made on location to abandon today's walk because of poor conditions, three of us, Kelly Hayashi, Brian Christman and myself went to Alice's for some breakfast and coffee. At about 9:45, weather appeared stable enough for a short walk in the woods. We returned to Long Ridge and gave it another try. (It seemed like a good idea at first, but eventually the rain indeed returned and we were thoroughly drenched, muddy and chilled within an hour...) The modest list of species we detected is included below. Highlights included at least 2 Hermit Warblers, 4 Black-throated Gray Warblers, a Nashville Warbler, and 4 Cassin's Vireos. Many birds had to be identified by song alone, but some of the Warblers were viewed in a small grove of trees by the northern-most trailhead just beyond the parking area.

Mallard
Red-tailed Hawk
California Quail
Rock Dove
Band-tailed Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Selasphorus species
Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Pygmy Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
Winter Wren
Western Bluebird
American Robin
Wrentit
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling
Cassin's Vireo
Hutton's Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Hermit Warbler
Wilson's Warber
Western Tanager
Black-headed Grosbeak
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch



Alum Rock Park 04/26/03

Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. After several days of rain, conditions miraculously cleared just in time for our visit to this, one of my favorite destinations. Possible species were numerous and our expectations were high... We began in the Rustic Lands picnic area as usual, logging Black-headed Grosbeak and Bullock's Oriole almost immediately after stepping out of our cars. Following the Penitencia Creek up stream toward the interpretive center we strolled through shaded oak woodland where we heard Pacific-slope Flycatcher and Orange-crowned Warbler. After several minutes of straining our necks we saw the brilliant yellow Wilson's Warbler gleaning insects from the leaves in the canopy. Near the center, we located the Brown Creepers that sang repeatedly as they foraged on the heavy branches above us. House Wrens seemed to be everywhere near the playground and we even found a nest hole with a single bird poking its head out to investigate the group of amusing humans and their odd-looking expressions. Upon emerging from the cool riparian dozens of Northern Rough-winged Swallows could be seen circling above the valley floor. High atop one of the dead treetops, as if taken right off of page 287 if the NGS fieldguide, an Olive-sided Flycatcher made short flights out to catch insects before returning to its perch. Many of us were able to view the colorful male Western Tanager and Hooded Oriole in the eucalyptus trees on the hillside opposite the center. Before heading up the hill we saw a magnificent immature Golden Eagle soaring among the Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks. Our walk along the North Ridge trail produced more species, such as California Thrasher, Wrentit and the confusing Selasphorus Hummingbirds. We were able to identify few of these notoriously difficult hummers with certainty, but at least one representative of each species, Rufous and Allen's, were seen. These individuals were identified based on the extremes of either green or rufous on the back and the curvature of the bill, but these fieldmarks may yet prove to be inconclusive.

Note: Many experts believe these two species are entirely impossible to identify in the field. In an email conversation I had with David Sibley in March 2001, he had this to say about the situation: "There was a paper in Birding (I think) by Mark Robbins a couple of years ago about Rufous/Allen's Hummers which documents the green-backed [Rufous] males. I recall reading that they may comprise up to 5% of the population but there is also a continuum of variation. As far as I know there is no geographic basis to this variation, although it probably hasn't been looked at that closely. One might logically assume that green-backed birds are more numerous close to the range of Allen's, but who knows?"

Green Heron
Mallard
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle
Wild Turkey (heard only)
California Quail
Rock Dove
Band-tailed Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker (heard only)
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Violet-green Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Bushtit
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Bewick's Wren
House Wren
American Robin
Wrentit
Northern Mockingbird (seen by one)
California Thrasher
European Starling
Hutton's Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Orange-crowned Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Western Tanager
Black-headed Grosbeak
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Hooded Oriole
Bullock's Oriole
Lesser Goldfinch



Natural Bridges State Park 04/19/03

The morning fog held many birds down for the beginning of our walk, but activity increased as the day warmed. By 10:00 we had full sun and glorious conditions at this wonderful coastal spot. The park offers a unique variety of habitats ranging from dense riparian willow, coyote bush slopes, eucalyptus and cypress groves, sandy freshwater drain and rocky coast, with each area presenting different possible species. We made an effort to tour each area, but not surprisingly, some areas were more productive than others. Spring color included Black-headed Grosbeak and both Orange-crowned and Wilson's Warblers in the dell, with everyone getting a good case of "warbler neck" from looking up at a particularly stubborn bird... Once we emerged from the riparian area we had a real treat--a pair of Pygmy Nuthatches at a nest hole, with one bird bringing food to its mate who was safe in the nest. In the drier areas, we saw a male American Goldfinch, dozens of Swallows overhead (Cliff, Barn and Violet-green), and a few Vaux's Swifts, making for nice comparison of different flight styles. Highlights from the seawatch at the overlook included hundreds of Pacific Loons on their northward flight, a Caspian Tern, great looks at Brandt's Cormorants and their fluttering blue throats, Black Turnstones foraging at water's edge and a pair of Marbled Murrelets--a class first! After securing Natural Bridges, about half of our group made a quick tour of Neary Lagoon (NL) where Warbling Vireo and Common Yellowthroat were heard, Marsh Wren and the last of our four Swallows (Tree) was seen, and everyone enjoyed the pleasant walk along the Everglade-style boardwalk.

Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Pied-billed Grebe (NL)
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Brandt's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Mallard
Surf Scoter
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk (NL)
Red-shouldered Hawk
American Kestrel
California Quail (heard only)
American Coot (NL)
Long-billed Curlew (fly-over)
Black Turnstone
California Gull
Western Gull
Caspian Tern
Marbled Murrelet
Pigeon Guillemot
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Vaux's Swift
Anna's Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Tree Swallow (NL)
Violet-green Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub Jay
American Crow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
Pygmy Nuthatch
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren (NL)
American Robin
Wrentit (heard only)
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling
Hutton's Vireo (heard only)
Warbling Vireo (NL, heard only)
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat (NL, heard only)
Wilson's Warbler
Black-headed Grosbeak
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow (NL)



Stevens Creek Park 04/12/03

The weather was against us today. Rain, although light much of the time, made our hour-and-a-half walk cold and wet with birds remaining hidden much of the time. This situation, however, offered us many opportunities to practice using our ears to identify species. All four songs discussed on Monday were heard on the trip: Wrentit, Orange-crowned Warbler (both from parking area), Black-headed Grosbeak, Bullock's Oriole and Purple Finch. Many other species anticipated for the day were also identified by voice. Nice encounters included a Nuttall's Woodpecker working on a nest hole, an Olive-sided Flycatcher posing on a distant snag, a difficult-to-view but highly vocal Wilson's Warbler, a cooperative White-breasted Nuthatch and a well-seen pair of Brown Creepers. All in all, not a bad list for an abbreviated day. Thanks to all those who attended despite the less than ideal conditions.

Canada Goose
Mallard
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk (heard only)
California Quail
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Selasphorus (species) (heard only)
Acorn Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Steller's Jay
American Crow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Bushtit
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Bewick's Wren
Hermit Thrush (heard only)
American Robin
Varied Thrush (heard only)
Wrentit (heard only)
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling
Hutton's Vireo (heard only)
Warbling Vireo
Orange-crowned Warbler (heard only)
Wilson's Warbler
Black-headed Grosbeak (heard only)
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Bullock's Oriole
Purple Finch (heard only)
Lesser Goldfinch (heard only)
American Goldfinch (heard only)



Byxbee Park 04/05/03

This was the first field trip of the Spring Term and will be our only journey to a wetland area this season. For that reason, Anseriformes (Waterfowl) and Ciconiiformes (Herons and Egrets) and Charadriiformes (Shorebirds) were of particular interest to our group. On this beautiful sunny day, several species of of Dabbling and Diving Ducks were logged, most notable was probably the Hooded Merganser pair we observed near the dam. Others included some lingering Greater Scaup and Canvasback. The four most expected Herons were located, including brief looks at a fly-by Black-crowned Night Heron. Shorebirds were relatively hard to locate, but some resident species were encountered such as Long-billed Curlew, American Avocet and Black-necked Stilt. Falconiformes (Raptors) were conspicuous and exciting, especially a pair of Northern Harriers exhibiting obvious nesting behavior. The curious thing about these birds however, was the female-type plumage of both birds. My suspicion is that the smaller "female" was actually an immature male that has not yet acquired his gray coloration. Our Peregrine Falcon encounter was underwhelming because the bird was mostly hidden by the crossbars of the tower and the second bird never appeared, oh well... Passerines were numerous and cooperative and we had many opportunities to compare the similar Song and Savannah Sparrows who were all in full voice. American Goldfinch and the brilliant Bullock's Oriole provided colorful accents to the day and hinted at things to come as the season progresses.

Pied-billed Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned NIght Heron (in flight)
Canada Goose
Green-winged Teal
Mallard
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Canvasback
Greater Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Ring-necked Pheasant
Clapper Rail (seen by one)
American Coot
Killdeer
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Willet
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Western Gull (imm)
Claucous-winged Gull (imm)
Forster's Tern
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Black Phoebe
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
American Crow
Common Raven
Marsh Wren (heard only)
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Common Yellowthroat (heard only)
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Bullock's Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch