As we exit 2018 and move into 2019 I’ve been trying to decide what I want to accomplish in the next year. As my birding has moved more front and center in my interests in the last couple of years, it’s now one of the activities I want to accomplish.

In the last 18 months or so I’ve gotten more involved with the great folks at Santa Clara Valley Audubon, and I now run two of their committees, the Birdathon organizing team and the Social Media and Outreach team (basically, the marketing group). I’ve also started running outings for them, having done big sits in Shoreline Lake and Coyote Valley OSP, as well as an annual half day at Merced NWR. We also started a new type of outing we all a Drop-in, where we go to one of the birding locations and set up a table and a spotting scope and sit and talk with folks who drop by, and we’ve been really happy with how that’s worked so far.

In 2019, I’m trying to set up my schedule so I’m leading or assisting at an outing for SCVAS at least once a month. As I write this, I’ve got a couple set up:

  • NOTE: RESCHEDULED, now February 23 2019: I’m doing the Merced NWR outing again, and I hope to do this annually. You can sign up to join us at the page I linked to. This is a half day on the refuge as we caravan around the auto-tour together and see what we can find. Last year, we ended up with 50 species, a good number for that location for four hours. I’ll be curious to see what we find this year.

  • January 27, 2019: I’ll be assisting in a Drop In birding at Charleston Slough near Shoreline Lake, where we’ll set up at the observation platform, and people are welcome to stop by and say hi and see what we can find.

  • February 17, 2019: Drop In Birding at Coyote Valley OSP. This will be a little mini big sit in the parking lot at the OSP, where with any luck we’ll have a bunch of raptors including, I hope Golden Eagles, and maybe even a Bald Eagle, and we should get visited by the local Yellow-Billed Magpies as well, and perhaps the resident rock wrens.

The Drop Ins are really casual, stop by for a short or as long as you want, hang out and talk find birds together and just have a fun time. They’re intended to not require much or any hiking, so they’re things anyone can do.

As I get more things scheduled I’ll pass them along here on the blog. I’ve also started working on an idea of a birding photowalk, which I hope to launch in the spring to encourage bird photographers to get together and take pictures and chat. As plans for that firm up, I’ll pass along dates and locations.

My Birding Year

Personally, 2018 was the best birding year I’ve had since 2014. I ended the year listing 170 or 171 species (I have one bird still under discussion exactly what it is), and I added eight or nine new life species to my list (again, depending on that bird), so my life list is now at 293. Those are tiny numbers for some birders, but as someone who rarely chases rarities and tends to re-bird the same locations a lot to enjoy how they change over the seasons, I’m fine with them.

In 2014 I listed 180 species, and not coincidentally it was a year I did some serious trips including Yellowstone, Carrizo Plains and a Pelagic that padded the number a bunch. My best year ever was 2009 where I listed 199 species, and the big difference between 2009 and 2018 was the number of times and places I birded; I got out more last year than the couple of years prior, but not as much as I used to.

One amusing point of trivia for 2018: it wasn’t until November that I listed Black-Crowned Night Heron on my year list, and in December, I finally added Lesser Scaup and — of all things — American Robin. How I got to December without noting that I’d seen those species I honestly have no idea, given how common they are around here, but I did. Birding is like that.

So for 2019, I want to get back at it on a regular basis. I’m starting with a few goals:

  • Bird at least weekly: I want to get out and bird at least once a week. It may just be an hour at lunch at Ulistac (about 10 minutes away) or at the nearby park, but still I can get out and get some walking in and see the birds.

  • Bird more places: I have gotten in the habit of visiting a relatively few locations repeatedly. I like the comfortable shoe aspect of birding places I’m familiar with, but it means I’m not really as familiar with the rest of the county as I want to be. So for 2019, at least once a month I plan on birding a location in Santa Clara County I haven’t visited yet in the year, and I ultimately want to bird visit at least 15 locations over the year.

  • Bird Photography Big Year: Tied in to some of my photography goals, I also am going to take on a big year for bird photography in the county. My initial goal will be to get portfolio-caliber images of 100 species in the county in 2019. Assuming I hit that number, I’ll push the goal out to see how many I can get. This’ll get me taking fresh (and good, I hope) images of the many species of the county, and remembering to look for and find the common species that can get ignored when I’m out doing photography – it’s easy to get tunnel vision on the “fun” birds and I want to build out my library of images to include all of them.

  • Out of Area Trips: I need to do more out of county birding that doesn’t involve driving to the refuges.

Silicon Valley Birding

In 2018 I launched Silcon Valley Birding, as a place to start building out a knowledge set for the county, and as a way to help us transition from the old Yahoo Group mailing list to our new home at Groups.io. The South Bay Birds list is alive and happy and much more reliable there, and if you’re interested in birding in Santa Clara County, you ought to join us.

I’ve been working on a project for the site on and off, a guide for out of towners who want to bird the county with a limited amount of time. With everything going on I haven’t gotten it finished, but I intend to in the next month or so.

After that… I want to start building guides to the birding locations around the county to help people know where to bird and what to expect. Which, if you think about it, almost sounds like my goal of visiting at least 15 different locations ties into this, which, yeah, it kinda does. My long term goal for the site is to make it a key resource for everyone who is interested in birds in the county, and so I have ideas on how to take the site and really enhance it over the next year.

So, overall, I think my birding will keep my busy in 2019, and that makes me happy… With any luck, I may finally break 200 species for the year…