Monday, April 23, 2007

Almaden Eagles Birdathon

The following was posted on South Bay Birds by our venerable leader, Ann Verdi. This is the forth year I've participated in Audubon's Birdathon or Big Day, a fund raiser for youth education. It was even more special this year because our best birds were found at Guadalupe Oak Grove Park. Janna

Yesterday (Sun, Apr 22) the Almaden Eagles Birdathon team (Janna Pauser, Kirsten Holmquist, Rich Page, and Ann Verdi) did our run. We go for a full day, although we cover only a limited area on our count - only in the Almaden area and nearby areas - hence we never get up to the baylands, the Diablo Range, or the Santa Cruz Mountains (except for a small portion of Sierra Azul) - however we're able to find a good variety of species within our relatively small circle.

Here's a run-down of some of the highlights of our day. With weather reports of heavy rain predicted for the morning, we had opted to make a later start than usual and do our owling at the end of the day - but lo and behold, the rain had already passed through by morning, but we had a late start anyway.

We started with Guadalupe Oak Grove Park where because of the rain the night before there was a nice fall-out of passerines. Highlights here included two CASSIN'S VIREOS and two NASHVILLE WARBLERS. Other notable birds at the park included PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, HUTTON'S VIREO, COOPER'S HAWK, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, WILSON'S WARBLER, WESTERN TANAGER, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, and VAUX'S SWIFT overhead. To Janna's delight, we also saw a female NORTHERN FLICKER peaking out from one of the nest boxes.

Next stop was Alamitos Creek Trail by Camden Ave & Graystone bridge. Here we found HOUSE WREN, YELLOW WARBLER, AMERICAN GOLDFINCH, a fly-over GREAT BLUE HERON, and Kirsten found a FOX SPARROW. We also saw a pair of nesting WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH.

On to the Stile Ranch trailhead and the ranch lands around Fortini and San Vicente Rds. At the Stile Ranch trailhead we picked up RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW and W. MEADOWLARK. In the ranch lands we saw WESTERN KINGBIRD, SAVANNAH SPARROW, AMERICAN KESTREL, and a lone BAND-TAILED PIGEON in one of the trees.

We visited CALERO RESERVOIR twice during the day but because of high winds and very little roosting area, we didn't find as much as we had hoped here; however, we did see our first GOLDEN EAGLE of the day (an immature). We had some concern about finding our "namesake" Golden Eagle as the eagles have chosen not to nest at the McKean Rd transmission tower nesting site this season. Other birds tallied here included GADWALL, WHITE-TAILED KITE, N. HARRIER, FORSTER'S TERN, and a variety of swallows. (We managed to get to get all five regularly occurring swallow species during our day - Tree, Violet-green, N. Rough-winged, Cliff, Barn).

We headed on to Casa Loma Road and the entrance to Canada del Oro Open Space Preserve. Highlights here included a pair of WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES along Llagas Creek, and a nice male LAZULI BUNTING in Rancho Canada del Oro OSP. Other notable birds here included COMMON RAVEN, WARBLING VIREO, HAIRY WOODPECKER, plus YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIE seen along Casa Loma Rd. We also saw a pair of GOLDEN EAGLES here.

Next stop was Chesbro Reservoir and here we found our bird-of-the-day - a SOLITARY SANDPIPER seen upstream of the reservoir in Llagas Creek along Old Oak Glen Road. Janna originally spotted the bird which was then well seen and studied by all of us. Although Chesbro Reservoir is quite dry right now, we found an interesting assortment of other shorebirds on the mudflats - one GREATER YELLOWLEGS, approximately 60 WESTERN SANDPIPERS, and about dozen DUNLIN (all in full breeding plumage). Other birds tallied here included WOOD DUCK and WESTERN BLUEBIRD.

Then it was time to head back to the Almaden area. At the Mockingbird Hill entrance to Quicksilver CP we found BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER and WRENTIT. At Almaden Reservoir we found our first COMMON MERGANSER of the day plus more Wood Ducks. While we didn't add anything new in Twin Creeks, we finally got some decent looks at Pacific-slope Flycatcher and Warbling Vireo. By then we were into late afternoon and the winds were kicking up. We tallied CALIFORNIA THRASHER on Mt Umunhum, but the township of New Almaden and Hicks Road were quiet.

Back to suburbia, stopping first at Almaden Lake where we noted GREAT EGRET, SNOWY EGRET, GREEN HERON, and BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON on the nesting island. RING-BILLED GULL was our only gull species tallied for the day. Two W. Sandpipers and a Dunlin were also seen here, plus several Common Mergansers. We also saw a beautiful male HOODED ORIOLE on the west side of the park. Last day-time stop was at the Water District as daylight was fading. In the channel we saw a male CINNAMON TEAL and a SPOTTED SANDPIPER in breeding plumage, plus a heard-only COMMON YELLOWTHROAT at the main pond.

After a quick bite to eat, we then headed over to the McAbee entrance to Quicksilver CP for a little owling. It was dark by the time we got there, and we were unable to rouse any Common Poorwills, so we had to settle for heard-only W. SCREECH OWL and BARN OWL. And so ended our big day.

We had a few misses - notably Osprey, Caspian Tern, and no selasphorous hummers - but we ended up with a total of 107 species for the day which is pretty good for this limited inland count, and definitely better than our total of 99 species last year.

Ann Verdi