Brian Christman and I scouted out
Stevens Creek Park in preparation for an upcoming class
field trip. We arrived early afternoon, way too late of
course... Visible activity was slow, but many birds were
detected by voice. Most of our time was spent in the northern
most entrance in the picnic area and visitors center. Among
the birds we located were Sharp-shinned Hawk, Hairy
Woodpecker, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Violet-green
Swallow, Warbling Vireo, Wilson's Warbler,
Townsend's Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler,
and Bullock's Oriole. As an afterthough, we decided
to go to McLellan Ranch and see if we could add a second
species of Oriole. We found both Bullock's and Hooded
Orioles in the trees near the SCVAS headquarters.
On the way to work I saw a Merlin
in hot pursuit over El Camino Real, very close to Rengsdorff.
I couldn't get a read on the bird's sex, but the strong
direct flight and pointed wings, wide at the base allowed
me to identify the species. Too small to be a Peregrine,
of course. Another Raptor, an immature Cooper's Hawk,
flew up into a tree right outside my office as I was searching
for a parking place. Not a bad start to a work day.
Class starts tonight and I'm a little
nervous. I've got lot's of great field trips planned, including
4 new locations: Twin Gates/Smith Creek, Fremont Peak State
Park, Pinnacles National Monument and Cosumnes River Preserve.
Wouldn't it be great if we got to see free-flying California
Condors on a class trip? Well, anyway, news for this morning
was an American Kestrel that flew over my carport.
If it weren't for the bird's reflection in my hatchback
as I loaded up the supplies for tonight, I wouldn't have
seen it. It must have brought me luck because class was
wonderful with many old friends and quite a few new faces
Cricket and I took advantage of the
fabulous weather today and scouted out Fremont Peak Park
for an upcoming spring term trip. Wow! What a gorgeous view,
and definitely on next term's itinerary. Highlights of our
tour included two Red-breaseted Sapsucker, Northern
Flicker, Downy and Nuttall's Woodpeckers,
California Quail a White-breasted Nuthatch,
House Wren, numerous Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned
Warblers as well as Western Bluebirds and singing
Purple Finches. All the while we discussed the possibility
of seeing Golden Eagle and Rock Wren in this great area,
and what do you know... we found both! A pair of Golden
Eagle perched high atop a rocky cliff and one took off
in a stunning aerial display while the other watched. We
heard three different Rock Wrens but only got looks
at one. It came to investigate us and perform its song so
we had great opportunities to see it up close.
and I conducted a 10-mile inline skating tour of the Charleston
Slough and Stevens Creek trail on Saturday and came across
2-3 Northern Rough-winged Swallows in the L'Avenida
section of our course. We were trying to get some aerobic
exercise and not to stop, but we had take a break when we
found another bird of interest, a Burrowing Owl near
the kiosk at the entrance to Shoreline Park. It stood quite
conspicuously on a small mound before returning to its hole.
There were also loads of Canvasbacks, Ruddy Ducks
and a few American Wigeon still on the salt ponds.
A pair of Hooded Mergansers were sleeping peacefully
along a quiet stretch of San Francisquito Creek today during
lunch. I watched them for a few minutes, trying hard not to
startle them, but soon they swam toward cover anyway. It was
strange, they never once lifted their heads, they just paddled
while appearing to be asleep. I suppose
they were awake, but I wasn't important enough to acknowledge.
Later in the afternoon I could hear several White-throated
Swifts overhead near Emerson and Hamilton in Palo Alto.
Spring is in the air!
Just after midnight Cricket and I heard a Barn Owl
screech over our neighborhood somewhere. It was an unmistakable,
blood chilling call! The following morning, on my way to
work I saw a large group, perhaps 50, Cedar Waxwings
flying over Rengsdorff like so many windblown leaves and
just behind them was Merlin in hot pursuit. The Falcon
was flying so fast I couldn't see any fieldmarks other than
its shape and flight pattern which was direct and powerful.
I also didn't see the end of the story. I'm assuming it
succeeded in catching one of the Waxwings, but I had to
keep my eyes on the road...