Phainopepla; Guadalupe Oak Grove Park


After six failed visits this year, usually late in the afternoon, at 2:15PM today I found the male Phainopepla at the Vargas entrance to Guadalupe Oak Grove Park in San Jose. It was a the top of a small twenty foot tree on the right side of the entrance. This entrance is at the corner of Recife and Vargas one block south of Coleman (near Meridian).

However, I dipped on Janna’s Summer Tanager at Hicks and Burke that she saw earlier today. Also tried for it on Guadalupe Mines Road and Lavendar Creek Road where it was seen last winter. No joy. Might be a morning bird.


Bob Hirt
(408) 821-2732

Please excuse the brevity, the typos, and the sometimes humorous autocorrect changes.

SCVAS Field Trip at Rancho Cañada del Oro OSP

Michael Hawk


Approximately 12 of us birded about 2 1/2 hours at Rancho Cañada del Oro OSP this morning. The weather was surprisingly nice - I scheduled the start for 9 AM because this area is often cloudy and quite cold to start the morning. Not today! The sun came in early and the birds were active as a result.

We ended up with 32 species while covering just under 2 miles including the paved loop and a loop that technically goes into Calero County Park. The biggest highlight was a pair of Golden Eagles soaring not too far away to the N/NE, providing nice views. A Red-shouldered Hawk had multiple fly-by's and was very vocal, as they often are. There was one large (~50) flock of Band-tailed Pigeons, and occasional smaller groups as well. White-breasted Nuthatches and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Spotted Towhees, and Oak Titmouse were numerous and widespread. We also observed some of the Acorn Woodpeckers flycatching from their favorite trees. Eve Meier spotted a Northern Flicker with yellow shafts, but we didn't get a close enough look to see if it was an intergrade or not.

The ebird checklist is here:

And one other note: about 45 minutes prior to the trip starting, Eve Meier alerted me to the trill of a Varied Thrush up near the overflow parking lot, but we were unable to locate it.

Michael Hawk
San Jose, CA

Summer Tanager

janna pauser

A Los Gatos resident reported the male Summer Tanager was back on his property. The closest I could get was parking at Venture Church on Hicks Road just off Camden. I immediately heard the tanager and pished it in. Take the first driveway into the church parking lot and park close to Burke Road, which is a private road. The bright red male tanager flew in from a yard on Burke Road and called. Likely the same male seen in the area last year.
Don't look for it on Sunday morning as they have services.

Janna Pauser
Almaden Valley

San Antonio Valley Transect

Bill Bousman


Today, I did a San Antonio Valley transect, starting at the Alameda County line on Mines Road and finishing at the Mt. Hamilton summit. Mostly it was the usual stuff.  I found two LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS along San Antonio  Valley Road, one north of the Wiesendanger Bridge (former Mallison Ranch) and one at the dogleg.  Something of a surprise was a HOUSE WREN along Sweetwater Creek, across from the Digger Pine Ranch on Mines Road.  But in the past, they have been found on the Mt. Hamilton CBC about 20% of the time.  A pair of BALD EAGLES was in the southern part of the valley, one feeding on something, not sure what.

Bill Bousman
Menlo Park

Continuing Red-Crossbills, Red-breasted Nuthatches & Pacific Wren

Bob Reiling

This morning Peggy Don and I went to the main entrance of Sanborn County Park where we heard and saw a PACIFIC WREN (in the second creek west of the parking areas), continuing RED CROSSBILLS (in the only conifers (4 or 5) found in the park this morning that are near the entrance to the first parking lot after the entrance kiosk, no "KIP" calls were heard), and RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES (in and around the same trees). Some other birds included HUTTON'S VIREO, WILD TURKEY, STELLER'S JAYS, and a SPOTTED TOWHEE. Unfortunately there were no Varied Thrush seen this morning. Peggy later also saw AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES and a PINE SISKIN at my backyard feeders.
Take care,
Bob Reiling

Some Birding at Ed Levin County Park on 1/24/2020

Frank Vanslager


I decided to do some quick birding at Ed Levin to possibly get a couple of year-birds.  I was successful.  The Great Horned Owl was in the left-hand tree as you approach the asphalt-trail-tee just before the Golf Course -- from below the dam.

I made an instant ID when the Loggerhead Shrike bounded just over my head.  Then he nicely stopped on the fence for me to confirm it.

Frank Vanslager

Tropical Kingbird

Jim Yurchenco

After multiple attempts stretching over many weeks passing through the area on my regular bike ride, I finally was able to see the Palo Alto Tropical Kingbird today around noon. It was first perched on the wires a few poles SE of the end of Embarcadero Road. It flew back and forth across the road several times, giving close and low level views as it perched on the bushes west of Embarcadero Way. It would disappear from view in the bushes for periods of time. Good luck.

James Yurchenco
Palo Alto, CA

moderated Re: [pen-bird] Red-breasted Nuthatches in Santa Clara County

William Pelletier


We have a lot to cheer for in the Bay Area this winter, e.g. 49’rs. Most of all I’m enjoying the abundance of Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Siskin and Red Crossbills. Just the other morning I saw a large (50-60 birds) flock of Crossbills swarming above the redwoods at Sanborn. A sight rarely seen in our county, yet we’ve seen them in surprising places, like the Gilroy Wastewater Treatment Plant.

I found an interesting article from September that correlates these same three bird’s irruption to snow pack as it affects the cone crop in the Boreal forest and the Sierras.  
Predicting winter irruptions: Correlating Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Siskin, and Red Crossbill winter invasions with previous years’ snowfall 

Bill P

On Wed, Sep 11, 2019 at 11:54 AM Bill Bousman <barlowi@...> wrote:

It looks like an irruptive year for Red-breasted Nuthatches.  I've taken
a look at some of the Santa Clara County records from the notebooks for
1993 to 2018, about 26 years.  Some of this may of interest to our
county neighbors.

This nuthatch is curious in a number of respects, both for its famed
irruptions and also that we have a resident population.  This is a rare
bird, even though sizeable numbers have showed up during some
irruptions.  For the years I've mentioned, we have about 1342 sightings
or occurrences (about 50 a year).  Not to get too wonky, I try to define
sightings for each calendar day as the total number of birds
encountered.  If six birders see one bird, that is one sighting.  If one
birder sees six birds that six sighting.  And so on.

I have divided the county into three parts.  During the atlas and
post-atlas period we confirmed 19 breeding nuthatches, all near the
crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains (and some in SCZ in edge blocks). Of
these, 11 had elevation recorded and ranged from 1500 to 3080 feet. 
Arbitrarily, I describe birds found in the Santa Cruz Mountains above
1000 feet as permanent residents.  In the 26 years, there are about 407

I treat the Diablo Range as a separate group.  Again, I include birds in
this group found roughly above 1000 feet.  In the 26 years there have
been about 455 sightings

Finally, there is a flatland group, that is, all the birds below 1000
feet in the county.  There are about 480 sightings for this group.

So, we have three groups of similar sizes.

For me, there have been multiple surprises.  I've looked carefully at
the temporal distribution (variation within the year) for the Santa Cruz
Mountain group.  There is no clear indication to me that any significant
fraction of the irruptive birds show up at these elevations.  Typically,
in any year, the maximum count in any day is four and the median count
is one.

The flatlands is where we see irruptive nuthatches.  There has been some
sort of irruption in about half of the 26 years.  The five largest were
1996-97 (63 sightings), 2004-05 (49), 2010-11 (89), 2012-13 (76), and
2015-16 (60).  They are found widely, mostly in planted conifers.  The
temporal distribution is typical of a wintering species.  Over the
years, there have been a scattering of nuthatches in August or even late
July, but the real buildup starts in September and is really underway by
early October.  It is possible that some of these fall birds move on. 
By December the number of sightings stays constant until mid-April when
almost all of these birds leave.  A surprise, however, is that a few are
found in the summer months, maybe about 10% of the winter population.
That tendency, for irruptive Red-breasted Nuthatches not to return, has
been discussed in the literature for more than a century.  What is most
surprising to me is we didn't see this happen until 2008, and now one or
two birds are found every summer.  Maybe one day, some will nest in our
mature Monterey pines?

The Diablo Range is sort of like the flatlands.  But in this time
period, there have been only three or four irruptions.  The three
largest were 1996-97 (56 sightings), 2004-05 (241), and 2012-13 (118). 
These three irruptions match maxima seen on the flatlands, but in many
years there is no evidence of a parallel irruption.  The largest number
of wintering nuthatches are found in the yellow pines in Coe Park.  The
arrival and departure dates differ from that seen in the flatlands.  In
the Diablos they start to appear in late October and leave in early

Bill Bousman
Menlo Park

*Garth Harwood
*Director of Education,
The Trust for Hidden Villa
26870 Moody Rd., Los Altos Hills, CA 94022
*(650) 949-8643*


Short-eared Owl at Charelston Slough

William Pelletier


I decided to have a try at Short-eared Owl again today, trying PA Baylands for the first time in a while. We’d recently tried Palm Ave, Marsh Rd and San Francisquito Creek from Geng Rd. I saw that Mike Mammoser reported the bird and he said that the bird was closer to the Byxbee side.

When I got up to the over-look the sun was shining, the breeze was gentle and it was 65F which felt like summer compared to recent conditions. I ran into Tom Cho and we chatted as we scanned for the elusive Short-eared Owl. After quite some time, Tom decided to split. The temps were dropping as it got dark and the wind picked up considerably.

At 5:38pm I detected the SHORT-EARED OWL over by Charleston Slough. I felt a surge of excitement and joy as it flew in a floppy, moth-like way back and forth low over the marsh, an extreme distance away. I immediately called Tom, who returned at a run. Before Tom arrived (panting) I watched the Owl plunge into the marsh and emerge with its prey. It only flew a short distance before it disappeared into the reeds to feed. 

Tom arrived a couple minutes later and I was worried that the bird might feed into darkness beyond visibility. A minute later the bird was back in the air and flying toward us. In the end, it came over to the channel right in front of us for terrific views. I am super thrilled to have experienced this bird again. You’ve got to love owls that like to come out when it’s still a bit light! Northern Pygmy and Burrowing Owls fit that bill as well.

Good birding,
Bill P

Recent county (and some out of county) notes -- possible new Burrowing Owl location?


I am literally just home and sitting down to catch up from a fun, long birding trip to San Diego and back, and a couple of things I’m seeing that I wanted to pass along.


First, over on facebook we’ve seen a report of Burrowing Owls on the property of Santa Clara Golf Course visible while driving along Lafayette. According to Ryan, this is a previously unknown location for them, so if anyone has any data on them I (and I’m sure Ryan) would appreciate it being passed along. And if someone has a chance to go confirm this sighting before I can, let us know. Unknown how many, just that they’re evidently visible while driving past. No idea if there are others further into the property or not, either, or whether this might be a nesting location or “just” some wintering migrants. But wanted to toss this to the list since I figure a number of you might want to chase and confirm this to verify the report.


Second, driving home over 152 this afternoon (seriously, I just got home), I want to report one full adult bald eagle in the “eagle” tree where we’ve been seeing them for the last few years, a bit to the west of where the incline/decline levels out headed from/to Casa de Fruta. There also is now a nest in that tree that I believe (please correct me!) is new this year, so it seems our eagles might have moved their nest to their favorite tree. I did not due to traffic get to see if someone was in the nest, but didn’t see a bird on it, and the full adult bird was on a different part of the tree. But our eagles are there and evidently moving in for nesting season.


Third, coming home today (I woke up at 3:15 this morning 20 minutes from Disneyland), I decided to bird Merced NWR to do some scouting for the upcoming trip I’m leading for SCVAS on Feb 23 like I do every year. This year it’s member’s only, and it looks like it’s going to be really popular and probably fill up, so if you’re considering it, sign up soon. (info: My visit today was frankly bonkers, with 54 species found in about 2 and a half hours, without seeing some of the usual suspects like House Finch or House Sparrow. The first 30+ minutes I didn’t even get out of the main lot because the wetlands there had 2 soras, a virginia rail and a wilson’s snipe just hanging out and waving for extended looks along with 25+ Cinnamon teal and 3+ Blue-winged teal. I then ran into a couple of Stanislaus area birders who had run into a (not kidding!) California Thrasher and were headed off to try to get pictures. We did get some furtive looks at it, but it didn’t cooperate. They were also looking for a Leuscistic Black Phoebe and a female Vermillion flycatcher that are being seen in one area of the refuge. While we dinged on them (but stay tuned), after they took off and I headed off a few minutes later, where I almost immediately ran into the leucistic phoebe a bit further down the auto trail than it had been seen previously. I was able to catch up with the other birders and clue them in, and as I was headed out to come home and sleep, they were headed back into the refuge for another chase for the bird.  We also had a full adult bald eagle, a great horned owl, Cooper’s and Red-Shouldered hawks, multiple tens of thousands of geese (Greater White-Fronted, Ross’s and Snow) in the air all at the same time, and even a few tri-colored blackbirds in among a red-winged flock. Kinda bonkers day. Oh, and a house wren, multiple kinglets, tree swallows and a downy woodpecker. No Partridge in a pear tree, though.  (Checklist:


I can’t promise bonkers on Feb 23, but the refuge is in good shape and full of birds, and I expect this trip in February to go pretty well. Consider sigining up and joining us!


(my birding trip: since I needed to go south to do some personal business, I turned it into a trip, and overnighted in Morro Bay but basically didn’t bird due to weather, followed by a night in Dana Point, where I was able to bird Bolsa Chicao, got  Lifer 299: Tricolor Heron and Reddish Egret in Newport Back Bay, San Joaquin Reserve in Irvine, a couple of days in San Diego (birding Tijuana Slough NWR, finally, but nothing super special beyond an Allen’s Hummer but a great walk and lots of fun), and more time in Orange County, where I nailed lifer #300: Indian Peafowl (aka Peacock) at Yorba Regional Park, and 15+ Cassin’s Kingbirds in Tri-city park in Placentia. Other than being exhausted and sore, an amazing amount of fun and some really nice photos, I think…. But I’m glad I’m home).


I owe a couple of you email, and I’ll get responses out to you ASAP. Been a bit busy for some reason…


(happy new year!)









Chuq Von Rospach
Email: chuqui@...
Twitter: @chuq
Silicon Valley, California

(formerly chuqvr@.... Same me, less google)

Ed Levin Swallows

Bill Bousman


This morning, 1/22/20, I birded Ed Levin CP.  Near Sandy Wool Lake, small flocks of swallows would pass through over the lake or the fields to the west.  My best count was 13 birds.  Most were hard to identify against the gray sky.  Over a period of an hour I had good looks at about two VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS and four BARN SWALLOWS.  I suspect these are wintering birds.  Based on prior records, the first influx of spring Violet-greens are the last two weeks of February.  Barns tend to show up at the start of March.  A flock of about four PINE SISKINS was picking seeds out of hanging liquidamber seed balls near the lake.

Bill Bousman
Menlo Park

SCVAS field trip to Coyote Valley OSP

Eve Meier

This morning, Dani Christensen, Laura Coatney, and I led a SCVAS field trip to Coyote Valley OSP.  We saw a total of 34 species.  Special sightings were distant views of a GOLDEN EAGLE being harassed by two RAVENS, the two ROCK WRENS who are not shy at all, and a RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW.  We also observed TRI-COLORED BLACKBIRDS, RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS (CALIFORNIA BICOLORED), EUROPEAN STARLINGS, BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS, AND COWBIRDS all in various mixed flocks. These were always hard for me to identify when I first started birding. And, of course, YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIES and WESTERN MEADOWLARKS were everywhere.

Complete list here:

Happy Birding!
Eve Meier

A Note About the Ogier Ponds on 1/22/2020

Frank Vanslager


This morning I decided to do a short checkout of the washed-out old entrance to Ogier Ponds.  It's just as it was on April 9, 2017 for Rich Page's cancelled field trip: someone had folded back a section of the chain-linked fence for fishermen, dog-trainers, bicyclists, hikers, etc to visit the ponds to the north.  On that day I went to visit a few ponds, and was rewarded with an American Bittern -- but nobody else ever showed up.  (There's another entrance point at Ogier Ave, but I have no idea what's legal -- and don't really want to know.)

Today I picked up a couple of year-birds, but the interesting sightings, for me, were an immature Bald Eagle, and a galloping Bobcat.  (I'm assuming that everyone has something like Windows Photo Gallery to enlarge the pictures I post.)
Frank Vanslager

Oka Ponds/Los Gatos Creek Park

Bob Reiling

This morning (1/22) in Oka Ponds the continuing CACKLING GOOSE was in the large Northern most pond, a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE was near the western most of the two islands there, a male GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE was in the reeds in the Southwestern corner of the next pond South (no sign of the Bittern there), at least eight HOODED MERGANSERS (4 adult males and 4 females, one of the females in adult breeding plumage with a light eye and a yellow lower bill) were in the creek, and at least three female COMMON MERGANSERS were seen (last sighting in the larger pond near the Oka Lane entrance).
Take care,
Bob Reiling

Bird Feeder Survey assistance

Sue Pelmulder

Our feeder bird count has not been consistent since we began receiving help from the local Cooper’s Hawk participating in our backyard in West Willow Glen.

Stile Ranch trail is closed

Marion Farber

I went to climb up the switchbacks on the Stile Ranch trail, but it is closed to all users (although I saw one scofflaw biker come down the trail), so I walked the Calero Creek trail to Harry Road, which is mostly dry.  I was rewarded by great views of both a male and female Northern Harrier, including what I suspect was a courtship flight: the female followed right behind the male as they swooped, banked, and turned in sync - amazing!  I also saw a pair of Red-tailed Hawks together, one carrying nesting material up to a large oak tree near Harry Road, and an Accipiter in a tree, which I believe was a Cooper's Hawk.  I got brief looks at a Lincoln's Sparrow, and heard a Rufous-crowned Sparrow, but no Wood Ducks.  I heard a California Thrasher, and watched as a Say's Phoebe gave its mournful call.

Lewis’s Woodpecker at Grant Ranch

William Pelletier


Kitty and I went up to Grant Ranch this morning for a little run and as I was on the Hotel Trail not far from the ranch house in the opposite direction from the highway/lake there was a single Lewis’s Woodpecker. The bird was hawking when I first noticed it, then it flew up the hill to an oak tree on the ridge. I was shocked and excited to stumble upon one of my favorite birds!

Happy birding,
Bill P 

Swamp Sparrow and Yellow-headed Blackbird at Sunnyvale WPCP, more highlights here and there

Adam Burnett

Hi all,

A long bike ride along the Bay Trail, then down through Sunnyvale and Cupertino yielded many highlights today. Chief among them was a SWAMP SPARROW at the Sunnyvale WPCP. Photo and location details here:

I also tracked down the continuing YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD along the Bay Trail in Sunnyvale, though it was not near the Twin Creeks fields. Instead, it was about 0.7 miles to the west along the Bay Trail, with a large flock of blackbirds and starlings at the SMaRT station, where a conveyor belt was throwing garbage into waiting trucks. Further details and a poor photo here:

At the east edge of Shoreline Park, in a ditch between the kite flying area and the Bay Trail, I was excited to find a EURASIAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL. Its horizontal white flank “stripes” appeared more like smudges, making me wonder if it could be an intergrade, but apparently (per this Sibley article:, the appearance of the white horizontal stripe can vary considerably based on the bird’s posture, and this bird still seems consistent with a normal Eurasian. Photos and further details here:

The four SNOW GEESE and four GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE were at the kite flying area among many Canadas. A MERLIN was perched on a power tower at the east end of the kite flying area, along Stevens Creek.

Highlights along the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail included 7 COMMON MERGANSERS, a HOODED MERGANSER, a RING-NECKED DUCK, and 14 WILSON’S SNIPE. Thanks to Mark Kinsman for the recent post recommending this spot.

At Las Palmas Park in Sunnyvale, the flock of MITRED PARAKEETS appeared shortly before 3 PM, along with a single RED-MASKED PARAKEET. No luck, though, with the Chipping Sparrows at Cupertino Memorial Park.

Adam Burnett

Short walk in the Redwoods

Eve Meier

This morning I birded a small portion of the Alma Trail in Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve.  I walked about 1/2 mile to a small clearing with a few non-native trees. The birding up to this point had been very quiet, just a few TOWNSEND'S WARBLERS, BROWN CREEPERS, and RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS, but I stopped here and waited quietly. Soon I heard the chipping of a PACIFIC WREN who later came out to forage down low in some brambles.  I love how these birds are the same color as the redwoods.  At this same spot, there was some quiet movement in a leafless tree which turned out to be a VARIED THUSH. I waited a little more and a few more VARIED THRUSH appeared then they all foraged in the nearby olive tree.

Eve Meier
San Jose

John Nicholas Trail

Bob Reiling

Birding was extremely slow this morning along Sanborn County Park's John Nicholas Trail, from Black the Ranch Reservoir. However, best birds included two RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH on the Southern edge of reservoir (8:05 AM), shortly after 10 AM three RED-CROSSBILLS flew from the Northwestern to the Northeastern side of the Reservoir to where there are a large number of cone bearing trees (no "kip" calls heard), on my way back to the car a PILEATED WOODPECKER did a long call roughly North of my position (in the general direction of the Reservoir).  Only one RING-NECKED DUCK (a male). two GADWALL, two DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS and a half dozen AMERICAN COOTS were in the Reservoir and only one BAND-TAILED PIGEON was seen (atop a tall pine tree). 
Take care,
Bob Reiling