On a scouting trip for next week's walk in Stevens Creek
Park, we found a variety of colorful spring birds near the
lower picnic area. There was nearly constant singing from
both Wilson's Warbler and Warbling Vireo in
the thick new foliage. As well, there were occasional bursts
of enthusiastic whistling from several Black-headed Grosbeaks
in the oaks and an Olive-sided Flycatcher near the
top of tall eucalyptus tree. Most colorful of all there
were at least four Western Tanagers and three Bullock's
Orioles to be seen. Purple Finch was vocalizing
loudly as it both courted a female and chased a rival male.
We also found an Anna's Hummingbird nest which was
constructed of cobwebs and lichen. I'm looking forward to
bringing our group to this spot for the first time, and
hopefully we'll have the same kind of good birding experience
we had today.
Mark your calendars! Saturday, June 2 has been set
for this year's Annual Palo Alto Summer Bird Count.
I'd like to get you all started thinking about how you can
help. The Count covers all the same regions as the familiar
Christmas Bird Count, but provides much needed information
about breeding bird species in our area. Because it's set
for Saturday, and the weather is likely to be great, there's
really no reason not to spend a few hours helping the effort.
I think we'd all be birding anyway...
All eight Regions will need to be covered as in winter,
with Regional Coordinators to help assign teams to various
spots within that Region. The Regions are as follows:
Region 1 (Redwood City and East Palo Alto waterfronts)
Region 2 (Palo Alto Baylands, Shoreline Park and
Region 3 (Residential Menlo Park, Atherton and Redwood
Region 4 (Residential Palo Alto, Mountain View and
Region 5 (Woodside)
Region 6 (Los Altos Hills)
Region 7 (Skyline Open Space Areas)
Region 8 (Lower Skyline, Foothills Park and Montebello)
I would like to ask the people who Coordinated these Regions
to take them again and help ensure this year goes as smoothly
as December did. It was a huge success! As the date gets
closer, I will have a better idea which areas still need
volunteers and I may send out another plea for help.
Until the Regional Coordinators have committed, you may
contact me regarding opportunities for the Count.
Finally, to make sure I stay on topic, I'd like to add
that I heard a Nashville Warbler singing by the dumpster
of my apartment complex. This is the first time I've detected
this species in my neigborhood, which is only one block
from El Camino Real and typically not a real warbler hot
After a moderately successful, but very enjoyable walk at
Ano Nuevo State Reserve with our group, a few of us continued
birding along the coast and had a small picnic at Pescadero
Beach (hot garlic artichoke bread from Mussi's Deli...)
We had a few Caspian Terns, Surfbirds, Black
Oystercatcher, scores of Band-tailed Pigeons
and an immature Golden Eagle which flew right over
Our journey continued up to the crest of Hwy 92 where
we made a brief stop at the Skylawn Memorial Garden and
were able to relocate the previously reported pair of Red
Crossbills easily. They very cooperatively posed atop
a small tree to give us great looks at their remarkable
bills which is designed to pry open pinecones, allowing
the bird to remove the pinenut with its tongue.
Finally we stopped at Frenchman's Meadow on Stanford Campus
to see the nesting Hooded Orioles. We observed both
males and females of these more slender, slightly smaller
Orioles. The greenish yellow bellies of the females is a
good feature to look for if the more obvious males are not
seen. Bullock's females have a whitish belly and often a
warmer coloration. As impossible as it seems, I think the
Hoodeds are even more beautiful than the Bullock's Orioles,
but I realize I'm splitting hairs...
Happy Easter to everyone! Today I was awoken by the harsh
rattling of a Belted Kingfisher in my pool area. A moment
later there was the sound of Killdeer, American Kestrel
and Bullock's Oriole. I didn't have to hear much more before
I realized all of these sounds were coming form a single
Northern Mockingbird! I've now heard this bird immitate
a large variety of local birds which also includes Steller's
Jay, Scrub Jay, American Robin, California Quail and Brown-headed
Cowbird. This amazing repetoir is sung almost continuously
both during the day and long after dark... never in the
same sequence. It's nothing less than remarkable how accurate
his impersonations can be. I especially like hearing some
of the birds which do not occur in my immediate neighborhood,
indicating that this individual Mockingbird has come from
somewhere up in the hills where Steller's Jay and California
Quail are common.
The drama continues with the nesting birds around my apartment
complex... Today I saw a Western Scrub Jay attempting
to raid the House Sparrow nest above my neighbor's
door. The Jay, which seemed far too large to gain access
to the small nest hole was determined but apparently unsuccessful.
It will be interesting to see if it continues to pursue
the small birds. At the moment I believe the nest still
contains only eggs as I have heard no high-pitched squeeks
in the hole. I wasn't around to see if the Jay made off
with any eggs. If the eggs remain and they hatch the chicks
will be vulnerable to another attack as they make their
first journeys out of the nest. I am reminded once again
that you needn't go far to find amazing displays of the
natural world; in this case, not eight feet from my front
After this morning's field trip, Kenneth Petersen, Phil
and Joan Leighton and I went to see the Alviso Reeve
which was, as reported, hard to get a good look at... Les
Chibana had already arrived and pointed us toward the bird.
Patience was rewarded with good (but brief) looks at the
bird as it skulked around the weeds opposite the fenced
area at the corner of State and Spreckles in Alviso.
Kenneth Petersen and I later visited Ed Levin Park to
find many more Bullock's Orioles a few Selasphorus
Hummingbirds, two of which were definately Rufous Hummingbirds.
Most likely, there were some Allen's mixed in with this
aggressively territorial group. We also found a Rufous-crowned
Sparrow near the sycamore trees on the hillside near
the hang gliders.
Finally, I went to Charleston Slough where there appeared
to be 13 Black Skimmers on the island including one
immature. A bit farther out along the main trail there were
85+ White Pelicans soaring above Adobe Creek, many
with large breeding horns on their bills and roughly 30
Bonaparte's Gulls with full black heads.
The moment I arrived home after work this evening I heard
the characteristic chatter of an Oriole above the
carport. The sound did not seem exactly like the familiar
Bullock's Oriole, but perhaps the less common Hooded. It
was thinner and shorter than usual and interspersed with
chirps reminiscent of a House Sparrow's, but lacked the
jumble of musical whistles I might expect from a Bullock's.
I searched the top of the huge eucalyptus tree, which is
only few feet away from two large palm trees, but I could
find no bird to go with the sounds. I turned to get my binoculars
out of the glove compartment and managed to raise them just
in time to see a streak of brilliant orange fly out of the
branches and over the next apartment complex. As it flew,
the bird's tail seemed longer in relation to the body than
would be expected for a Bullock's, but it moved so fast
the only color I was conscious of was orange. I'm afraid
I don't have enough information to rule out either species,
so it will just have to remain "Oriole species".
I'll keep my eyes and ears open for its return at which
time I'll try to identify it for sure...
On a sad note, the Mourning Dove nest I've mentioned
before was destroyed two days ago, presumably by a cat.
Two out of the three eggs were found broken on the ground
amid the remains of the nest material and a jumble of adult
feathers. My guess is that a cat got to the nest by jumping
from the roof a one of the cars. The remaining egg was collected
by a neighbor who came by to ask what he should do. I suggested
it was probably too late, but if kept warm for a day or
two it might still hatch. Since Mourning Doves can have
up to six broods a year, the pair may already be setting
up house for a second try. Good luck to them!