Santa Clara, CA: 2nd attempt

Robert Furrow
Date of Green Big Day: 04/29/2012
County, State: Santa Clara, CA
Species Total: 159
Biking, hiking, or other? biking
Best Bird of the Day? Cattle Egret

Species List

On Sunday, 4/29/12, I embarked on another solo biking big day in Santa Clara County, CA.

The route was similar my route two weeks before (Monte Bello to Stevens Creek County

Park, then out to the bay and down to Alviso), but the later date led to a significantly different

species list. Surprisingly, new migrant arrivals played a relatively small role in the count. I

ended up seeing 159 species, 2 more than last time. The number of species shared

between both trips was 144. Major highlights were: great owling, 1 CATTLE EGRET, 1


county). Major misses were Western Gull (again!), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Whitecrowned

Sparrow, Below is a longer description of the birding and some reflections, followed

by the complete list.

Happy birding,

Rob Furrow

Palo Alto, CA


Rising at 1am, I stuffed my gullet with cereal and was out the door at 1:15am. Unlike two

weeks ago, owling on the ride up to Monte Bello OSP was not wildly productive, adding only


exploring the trails in Monte Bello. It took some time, but by 5:30am all of the expected owls

had been heard, and COMMON POORWILLS were just tuning up. One of the greatest

moments of the day was watching a poorwill on the path, bubbling, singing, and occasionally

flying around. Man, they have short tails!!

The dawn chorus was pleasant if not wildly diverse, and an hour of listening and zipping

around added the Santa Cruz Mountain specialities (PYGMY NUTHATCHES, PILEATED


By the sag pond were two calling VIRGINIA RAILS, 2 AUDUBON’S YELLOW-RUMPED

WARBLERS, and a singing WESTERN TANAGER. Poking around the pines on Page Mill a

bit north of the Canyon Trail gate, there was a LINCOLN’S SPARROW and a HERMIT

THRUSH. On the way back down, a spiffy white-morph WHITE-THROATED SPARROW

and another LINCOLN’S SPARROW were with a GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW flock.

LAZULI BUNTINGS were much in evidence. Heading down the Canyon Trail and bound for

Stevens Canyon Road, I had already consumed about 2000 calories and was still ravenous.

The ride to Stevens Canyon Road added two key species: RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET and

TOWNSEND’S WARBLER. Hitting the pavement again, there was a singing CASSIN’S


of these birds were heard or seen again in the picnic areas around Stevens Creek CP, plus a

DOWNY WOODPECKER and the first of many CEDAR WAXWINGS. The reservoir added


HAWKS. My stakeout RUFOUS-CRONWED SPARROW was singing, but I had no luck

finding a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Curses. Stopping off at McClellan Ranch Preserve in

Cupertino, prior knowledge paid off. I stood underneath the redwood stand, and found a

silent WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH almost immediately. HOUSE WRENS and

HOODED ORIOLES were also in evidence.

Riding under I-280 on Foothill Expressway, there were several WHITE-THROATED

SWIFTS. No new birds were along the Stevens Creek Trail, and all of the White-crowned

Sparrow flocks had evaporated in the past week. The service road alongside Shoreline

Amphitheater in Mountain View had a calling GREEN HERON, and I soon had my first

surprise of the day: a CACKLING GOOSE sitting next to a just slightly smaller Mallard and a

massive Canada Goose by the golf course pond. Sweet! Onward to Shoreline Lake, which

hosted 1 BLACK SKIMMER and a continuing COMMON LOON (both may still be there, but

my 5 minutes of scanning offered only 1). My tidal timing was terrible. It was nearly low tide,

and the flats were shimmering, with birds spread thinly. A nice find was a single WHIMBREL

at Charleston Slough. Cutting around the Palo Alto Flood Control Basin, I felt very clever

finding a NORTHERN PINTAIL on the mud a 1/4 mile out into the bay, but I would actually

find 4 more at State and Spreckles St. in Alviso. But the flood control basin and adjacent bay

had other treats: a PEREGRINE FALCON, 1 LONG-BILLED CURLEW, both GREATER and

LESSER SCAUP, some WHITE PELICANS, and 3 BROWN PELICANS gliding slowly to the

north over the bay. The area around Palo Alto Baylands didn’t offer much, with no new

shorebirds, no new gulls, and no Great-tailed Grackle at Geng Road. Next, I scanned the

Flood Control Basin ponds off of Bayshore Road, and was disappointed to see no Bufflehead

or Common Goldeneye. Okay, this was a rough patch for the day. In our county, these

biking big days have a crazy point around 1 or 2pm where you’re only going to find another

10-15 species for the whole rest of the day and 30 miles of biking. But onwards and


Stops from A1 to A2E were uneventful, and my next new birds were COMMON GALLINULE

and CINNAMON TEAL at the Lockheed Ponds. And in the channel between the ponds and

the Sunnyvale Water Pollution Control Plant Landfill was a singing GREAT-TAILED

GRACKLE. Ha, no need for the Geng Road bird. On to A4, where no mergansers were

evident, but I got my first WESTERN GREBES of the day. Nearing Sunnyvale Baylands

Park, there was another male GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE feeding with a mixed blackbird

flock on a baseball field adjacent to the park. A bit farther there was a WESTERN

KINGBIRD on a wire, which ended up being the only one for the day. Biking on to Alviso, I

reached the marina next. No luck with phalaropes or any other shorebirds (I still needed

Black-bellied and Snowy Plover as well). I also realized that I had yet to find a Northern

Harrier, but diligent scanning around the marina yielded nothing. Heading to Jubilee

Christian, a BURROWING OWL was easy for once, and the fields held at least 7 EURASIAN

WIGEON. A few GREATER YELLOWLEGS were about, but no lessers were among them.

An AMERICAN KESTREL was my first of the day. From here I scooted to the Baytech

Drive flooded fields, where I promptly failed to find the late American Pipit. The LONGBILLED

DOWITCHER flock was about 40 strong, with 3 LEAST SANDPIPERS and 1

GREATER YELLOWLEGS in the mix. Only two dowitchers were still in mostly basic

plumage (1 of them seemed fully basic).

At this point, I discovered that I somehow had a flat tire. So we are now 3 for 3 with flat tires

on biking big days. What exactly is my problem? Anyhoo, handled that and was on my way.

At State and Spreckles, there were many SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS (are we at their peak

migration? there were 10+ at almost every mudflat I scanned on this trip), as well as 1 male


Environmental Education Center, where I was disappointed to find that all the trails were

closed due to construction. So I couldn’t fiddle faddle much to seek Blue-winged Teal, and I

never found the A18 Red-breasted Mergansers. But diligent ID of every flyover gull finally

paid off with a second-year HERRING GULL. Next I got onto Zanker Road to check the San

Jose WPCP for gulls. No dice. Ahh, but there was a hunched NORTHERN HARRIER

perched on a distant post (phew). Then on to scan the area closer to 237 for Loggerhead

Shrike or surprises. Nope. Turning around, and feeling a bit dejected, I noticed a small

white egret among two Canada Geese on a lawn at the San Jose WPCP. Hmm, stout

orange bill. Buffy orange on crown/nape, back and breast. A CATTLE EGRET! My first for

the county, and a major bonus. This gave me a bit more energy, and I worked my way back

north in the fading light (it was nearly 7pm at this point). Crossing the Gold Street bridge, a

SORA was calling away in the slough below. I still needed White-crowned Sparrow, so I

went through Sunnyvale Baylands Park to no avail. Back at the Lockheed Ponds, the last bit

of light allowed me to watch the calling WILSON’S SNIPE that had landed in the nearby


Okay, so I still had 3 birds I expected to get at night: Clapper Rail, Short-billed Dowitcher,

and Black-bellied Plover. Time to tally and rally. I figured if those birds would push me over

160, I’d go for it and head to the lock where Mayfield Slough hits the bay. If not, I could take

a fast route home. Counting up with my list illuminated by bike light, I laughed to

myself. 156! Well, maybe I forgot something or didn’t make a complete checklist. I just had

to go for it at this point. So I began the long ride over to the Palo Alto Flood Control Basin,

trying ridiculously hard to find a Canvasback or Blue-winged Teal using the famous bike light

silhouette technique. I arrived at my listening spot at about 9:30pm, with the tide still a bit

high for shorebirds. I had already heard BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (in addition to more

Dunlin, Long-billed Curlew, Long-billed Dowticher, Willet, Marbled Godwit, and

Semipalmated Plover). Now to wait. At about 10:05pm, two CLAPPER RAILS called briefly.

But sill no Short-billed Dowitcher. I decided to set a hard stop at 11pm, so that I’d have time

to ride home before midnight. Fortunately, a SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER called at

10:30pm, just as the mudflat edges were beginning to expose. Turning back, I made it home

at 11:15pm, for a delightful 22 hour day.

I really enjoy this route, but I wonder how many more birds I can squeeze out. With some

better scouting, I could probably find 4 or 5 more bay species on a date this late. And some

signs of passerine migration wouldn’t hurt (although that would probably add only 2-3

species). I keep on considering the ride out to the eastern foothills. Maybe with better

fitness I could handle it, but the prospect of biking hard uphill for an hour at 6pm after 17

hours of birding is daunting to say the least. Next year I suspect I’ll use a similar route to

this, but maybe with scouting to lock down a Grasshopper Sparrow and some more

freshwater ducks, in addition to more bay scouting. Probably a week earlier wouldn’t hurt, as

the biking provides very thorough mountain coverage for finding early arrivals.

But it was fun fun fun, and I can’t wait to try again!

The full list is below.

Santa Clara County, US-CA

Apr 29, 2012 1:15 AM – 11:15 PM

Protocol: Traveling

95.0 mile(s)

159 species

Cackling Goose 1

Canada Goose 140

Wood Duck 2

Gadwall 60

American Wigeon 20

Mallard 150

Cinnamon Teal 7

Northern Shoveler 200

Northern Pintail 5

Green-winged Teal 30

Greater Scaup 1

Lesser Scaup 6

Surf Scoter 3

Common Merganser 2

Ruddy Duck 400

California Quail 15

Ring-necked Pheasant 4

Wild Turkey 20

Common Loon 1

Pied-billed Grebe 10

Eared Grebe 8

Western Grebe 15

Clark’s Grebe 3

Double-crested Cormorant 40

American White Pelican 8

Brown Pelican 3

Great Blue Heron 5

Great Egret 20

Snowy Egret 15

Cattle Egret 1

Green Heron 4

Black-crowned Night-Heron 20

Turkey Vulture 5

White-tailed Kite 2

Northern Harrier 1

Cooper’s Hawk 3

Red-shouldered Hawk 2

Red-tailed Hawk 6

American Kestrel 2

Peregrine Falcon 1

Clapper Rail (San Francisco Bay) 2

Virginia Rail 2

Sora 1

Common Gallinule 3

American Coot 150

Black-bellied Plover 10

Snowy Plover 1

Semipalmated Plover 60

Killdeer 15

Black-necked Stilt 40

American Avocet 30

Spotted Sandpiper 3

Greater Yellowlegs 5

Willet 10

Whimbrel 1

Long-billed Curlew 4

Marbled Godwit 80

Western Sandpiper 100

Least Sandpiper 60

Dunlin 100

Short-billed Dowitcher 1

Long-billed Dowitcher 200

Wilson’s Snipe 1

Ring-billed Gull 20

California Gull 200

Herring Gull 1

Thayer’s Gull 3

Caspian Tern 5

Forster’s Tern 40

Black Skimmer 1

Rock Pigeon 30

Band-tailed Pigeon 20

Eurasian Collared-Dove 4

Mourning Dove 15

Barn Owl 1

Western Screech-Owl 6

Great Horned Owl 15

Northern Pygmy-Owl 1

Burrowing Owl 1

Long-eared Owl 1

Northern Saw-whet Owl 2

Common Poorwill 3

White-throated Swift 6

Anna’s Hummingbird 8

Acorn Woodpecker 20

Nuttall’s Woodpecker 5

Downy Woodpecker 1

Hairy Woodpecker 4

Northern Flicker 7

Pileated Woodpecker 1

Olive-sided Flycatcher 3

Western Wood-Pewee 5

Pacific-slope Flycatcher 10

Black Phoebe 12

Ash-throated Flycatcher 6

Western Kingbird 1

Cassin’s Vireo 3

Hutton’s Vireo 5

Warbling Vireo 9

Steller’s Jay 20

Western Scrub-Jay (Coastal) 30

American Crow 30

Common Raven 6

Northern Rough-winged Swallow 30

Tree Swallow 15

Violet-green Swallow 40

Barn Swallow 20

Cliff Swallow 250

Chestnut-backed Chickadee 25

Oak Titmouse 15

Bushtit 30

White-breasted Nuthatch 1

Pygmy Nuthatch 4

Brown Creeper 5

Bewick’s Wren 30

House Wren 2

Pacific Wren 3

Marsh Wren 15

American Dipper 1

Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1

Wrentit 15

Western Bluebird 4

Hermit Thrush 1

American Robin 40

Northern Mockingbird 20

California Thrasher 10

European Starling 60

Cedar Waxwing 60

Orange-crowned Warbler 20

Common Yellowthroat 10

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 1

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) 2

Black-throated Gray Warbler 7

Townsend’s Warbler 1

Wilson’s Warbler 15

Spotted Towhee 20

Rufous-crowned Sparrow 1

California Towhee 40

Savannah Sparrow 15

Song Sparrow 35

Lincoln’s Sparrow 2

White-throated Sparrow 1

Golden-crowned Sparrow 15

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) 30

Western Tanager 8

Black-headed Grosbeak 20

Lazuli Bunting 9

Red-winged Blackbird (California Bicolored) 50

Western Meadowlark 10

Brewer’s Blackbird 40

Great-tailed Grackle 2

Brown-headed Cowbird 25

Hooded Oriole 4

Bullock’s Oriole 7

Purple Finch 7

House Finch 40

Lesser Goldfinch 15

American Goldfinch 10

House Sparrow 40

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3

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