Normally each year Matthew Dodder would lead his Team DeDUCKtions on a 24 hour birdathon, raising funds for SCVAS. This year he was unable to actively participate due to an illness in the family. Some of us who had planned on doing the birdathon under his leadership decided to go ahead anyway, under the name Team ReDUCKtions, because we were much reduced without him, as the results will show. The team consisted of myself, Mary Ann Allan, Petra Kinsman, Cathy Brown, Kathleen Lee, Eric Goodill, Sonny Mencher. Kay Partelow, a Mid-Pen Open Space docent, joined us for the first part.
We started the day before sunrise in Monte Bello, listening for owls. We had had a Barn Owl going up Page Mill Rd; a good start. Avian nightlife was a bit thin after that, though, picking up only Great-horned Owl and Northern Pygmy-Owl. The morning was cool and breezy, keeping the woodland birds quiet. When it was almost time to leave the area, we heard the siren songs of Lazuli Buntings, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and possibly others we never found, keeping us searching for visuals until we were much delayed ... We sorely missed the expertise of someone with more than 30 years of birding experience to help sort out all the songs.
A Merlin perched on a snag going down the hill was encouraging. Sometimes the best birds are the ones you don't expect! White-throated Swifts zoomed around the bridge at 280 and Arastradero. Next stop was the Stevens Creek area above the reservoir. No dipper, but we visited the spot a couple of miles up the road that Rob Furrow mentioned two days previously, and found most of the birds he found, but not Hermit Warbler, Western Tanager, or Downy Woodpecker. The Cassin's Vireo was a good find there.
Working our way down the creek, we found Spotted Sandpiper at the reservoir, but no mergansers. We found the House Wren reported by Steve Patt, close to the creek just upstream from where the creek last passes under the road before the reservoir.
After picking up a few more species at McClellan Ranch, we headed to La Rinconada Park. In previous years we had gone to the Palo Alto Baylands at this point, but the city was holding an event there that the city warned would run into the early afternoon and so we thought it best to avoid, besides which, it was low tide at the time which would have meant looking for shorebirds on the mud flats half way to Milpitas. We thought the Rose-breasted Grosbeak would be really cool to have on our list, but after running into people who had been looking without luck for a couple of hours, we didn't stay long. Oka Ponds gave us herons and egrets and American Wigeon, but no mergansers. The worst experience of the day occurred here as we found a Green Heron entangled in fishing line in a tree. We could do nothing for it, so we called wildlife rescue, gave explicit directions to locate it, hoped for the best, and continued on.
Lake Cunningham gave us Great-tailed Grackles, but no special geese. We didn't try for mergansers in Thompson Creek because we were too far behind schedule. Things picked up going over the summit on Sierra Rd - going up the hill we had American Kestrel and Loggerhead Shrike. At the summit we found Rock Wren, Horned Lark, Savannah Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, and Western Meadowlark. We skipped Marsh Rd because we didn't think that what we could add there would be worth the time. From Calaveras Rd we saw Bald Eagle, Caspian Tern, Western Grebe, and Bufflehead.
The Grasshopper and Rufous-crowned Sparrows near Sycamore Gulch in Ed Levin County Park were just as cooperative as they had been when scouting. A beautiful male Hooded Oriole, along with several Bullock's, was in the eucalyptus trees in the dog park. Burrowing Owl was found along Disk Drive. Cinnamon Teal, Western Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull and a distant scaup were good finds at the EEC. Leaving the area, just before crossing the train tracks, we were surprised to see a pair of Northern Pintail. A half dozen or so Semipalmated Plovers were at the south end of the pond at State & Spreckles in Alviso.
A sprint to the Palo Alto Baylands found the tide just past peak, and all the shorebirds huddled together on thin stretches of exposed mud for easy viewing. Lots of Whimbrel, but no Long-billed Curlews. A Ring-necked Pheasant called from the fennel patch. No scaup in the duck pond. A sizable flock of Bonaparte's Gulls were in the yacht harbor area. A quick walk into Byxbee Park gave us views of distant American White Pelicans, plus Canvasbacks, Green-winged Teal, and Greater Yellowlegs in Mayfield Slough. A male Northern Harrier floated over our heads.
The sun was setting as we arrived at Terminal Blvd. We did not find any Sora or bittern. We had time to find Surf Scoters on Shoreline Lake, Black Skimmers on the islands on the lake and in Charleston Slough, and our last bird of the day - a Common Gallinule in the small nameless pond across the path from the pump house. We had run across Black-crowned Night-Herons at several locations, but seeing them fly out of the reeds along Adobe Creek one by one after sunset was fun to watch.
Notable misses for the day were California Thrasher, Hermit Thrush, American Goldfinch, Downy Woodpecker, Lincoln's Sparrow, Western Tanager, and Tree Swallow. We should have found Tree Swallow at least at Shoreline, but we got there too late in the day. In some cases we simply neglected to look for the birds in the places we should have found them - perhaps the too-early start to the day was to blame for that!
Total for the day: 138
A few photos from the day can be found here: http://www.kittiwakenaturephotography.com/p799907102