On Saturday April 7 I hosted the Sitting Ducks Big Sit for the SCVAS Birdathon at Shoreline Lake in Mountain View. Four of us (Julio Mulero, Renee Polizotto and Mary Ann Robertson) were there for the entire four hours, and three others stopped by while exploring the area and joined us for part of it. The morning started out a bit cool and grey with a brisk wind, but the clouds cleared and the day warmed up and it was an entirely pleasant and enjoyable morning to kick off the birdathon this year.
This is my second year hosting the big sit at this location. Last year we found 48 species (+ 2 taxa) here, and I thought that was a good result. I was hoping to repeat it this year.
This year we found — 54 species! It was an interesting and varied birding day all around with lots to find and talk about. This trip added 7 year birds to my county list, so it was personally a lot of fun and quite successful.
Highlights included ducks — Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Green-Winged Teal, Canvasback, Greater and Lesser scaup, Surf Scoter, a single female bufflehead, Common Goldeneye and Ruddy. If you’re counting, that means we basically missed Northern Pintail (they’re gone), Blue-Winged teal and Barrow’s Goldeneye, and the teal was actually seen but not visible within the sit circle.
Grebe’s included an eared grebe in breeding plumage and a couple of Clark’s Grebes, as well as some Western Grebes.
The special shorebird of the day were 4-5 Black-Bellied Plovers, most in full breeding plumage.
Forster’s Terns were everywhere and put on repeated, enthusiastic, noisy fishing displays for us.
Swallows were abundant, and we were able to pull out Barn, Cliff and Tree. I believe there was at least one more in small numbers we never successfully IDed.
Julio pulled out a Belted Kingfisher in a tree in the marsh near the place the Bittern hangs out, which from our sit position I still don’t have a clue how he actually found, given it was partially obscured.
Raptors were low this year, but we had some Turkey Vultures on the move early in the cool morning, which surprised me, but they seemed to be congregating around a carcass close to Byxbee. We found two Northern Harriers soaring high in the sky near Byxbee and a single red-tail hawk (missing multiple tail feathers so with a distinct forked tail) fly over and that was about it.
Small birds included a pair of Western Bluebirds that gave extended looks, Mockingbird, White-Crowned and Golden Crowned Sparrows (not gone yet!), Song Sparrows in full yodel, a bunch of Towhees running around in a group for a while, and Bewick’s Wren (heard only in the circle, seen outside of it). Julio and Renee also found a common yellowthroat as our only warbler.
We also saw one of the now resident Great-Tailed Grackles as it flew by and over the lake towards the boathouse, announcing it’s presence with great enthusiasm and showing of that Grackle tail.
Notable misses: Great Blue Heron, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Common Raven, Killdeer, Long-billed Curlew, Greater Yellowlegs. Gull IDs were few — we had lots of gulls, we had very few that came close or looked different from all of the California gulls.
A good time was had by all.
I’ll be doing my 2nd big sit next week on the 14th at Palo Alto Baylands with the Laughing Gulls, and there’s still time to join up for that (it’ll be a bit of a hybrid, splitting 2 hours near Lucy Evans and 2 hours at the duck pond to maximize what we can see)
My third big sit this year is a return to Coyote Valley OSP with the Shrikes of Joy on 4/28. Last year we had a great collection of birds including Rock Wren and Lewis’s Woodpecker:
The big sits are great for newer birders or those with limited mobility. They’re a great opportunity to come out and not just see birds, but talk birds in a relaxing and fun format. Please consider joining one of my sits and help out SCVAS’s Educational programs at the same time. See you in Palo Alto in a week!
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