Category Archives: SCVAS

Green birding for the Santa Clara Valley Audubon

On Saturday, April 19th, the Mean Green Birding Machines hit the trails of Mountain View.  This was a 4-hour birdathon for the SCVAS (learn more here).  In a birdathon, your goal is to find as many species as possible with the time limit.  But we didn’t stop there.  Our extra restriction was that we couldn’t use cars.  So bikes it was!

We birded along salt ponds and tidal sloughs, starting with a little salty mudflat that hosted big groups of plovers: many Semipalmated, but also Snowy Plovers, the white sprites of the flats.  Soon we cut into the small, willow-filled Charleston Marsh.  As the time wound down, we scanned a freshwater lake then scoured the mudflats of the tidal Charleston Slough.  We managed to find 90 species in 4 hours, including wonderful goodies like the Snowy Plovers, hundreds of Bonaparte’s Gulls, 11 species of duck, and a late Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  Check out the full list on ebird.

It was really interesting heading up a team of 13 people on bikes.  A bit tough to wrangle everyone, but we managed to have almost every bird seen by almost every team member.  The trickier part was staying stable on quick, gravely turns.  A few falls, but nothing broken.  And everyone agreed that birding by bike is the bee’s knees.  The birds are all around as you ride, especially in the environment of the SF Bay Trail.  Check out the power and majesty of our team.  And if you’re really feeling inspired, sponsor us by choosing my name (Rob Furrow) from the pull-down tab on the SCVAS site.

Stanford Cardinal takes it (greenly)! — Stanford v. Berkeley birdathon

UPDATE: a little bit of popular press.  Though, for the record, plenty of the Stanford birders actually really like football and enjoy going to The Big Game.

Stanford takes the victory!  With a total of 76 species, our hale and hearty team of 10 edged out Berkeley’s team, who found 64 species.  If you haven’t heard about it before, here are the details on this competition.  And best of all, this was a green effort!  We met at a single location and then divided ourselves up to cover the campus on foot.

10 birders scoured Stanford's campus today (4/13/14) to find 76 species!

10 birders scoured Stanford’s campus today (4/13/14) to find 76 species!

After meeting and planning early this morning, the group split into three sub-teams: one for the Stanford dish trail, one for San Francisquito Creek, and one focusing on the main campus.  The dish team came up big, finding Western Kingbird, Ash-throated Flycatcher, as well as Grasshopper, Savannah, and Lark Sparrows.  The creek team found their own treasures, like Downy Woodpecker, Pygmy Nuthatch, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Yellow Warbler.

The fearless leaders checking for lurking sparrows in the weeds.

The fearless leaders checking for lurking sparrows in the weeds. (Photo by Karen DeMello)

I led the main campus group.  The biggest treat was my group, with Joan Zuckerman, Karen DeMello, and Jasen Liu all providing great spotting and even better company.  As we studied sparrows in front of Bing Concert Hall, a White-throated Sparrow popped out!  We weren’t expecting that.  We did expect (and did find) other birds like California Thrasher, Hooded Oriole, White-throated Swift, and California Gull, but that didn’t keep us from appreciating them just as much!

This bird was foraging in front of Bing Concert Hall.

This White-throated Sparrow was foraging in front of Bing Concert Hall. (Photo by Jasen Liu)

All the groups reveled in the springtime chorus, with the shrill mews of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers exploding from the oaks, the deep blue backs of Western Bluebirds glowing in the sun, and the stammering chatter of White-throated Swifts peppering down from overhead.  It was not a day I’ll soon forget.

A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at the Stanford dish trail.  (Photo by Jasen Liu)

A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at the Stanford dish trail. (Photo by Jasen Liu)

If this is at all inspiring, we’re still taking sponsorships for local SF Bay Area youth nature education and conservation.  Sponsor me or anyone else on the team from the pulldown tab at the SCVAS birdathon website.

Members: Rob Furrow, Carrie Ann (Caroline) Adams, Marion Krause, Marina Dimitrov, Ellyn Bush, Joan Zuckerman, Danny Karp, Karen DeMello, Mike Rogers, Jasen Liu.


Happy birding,

-Rob Furrow



Go Stanford! — Stanford v. Berkeley birdathon 4/13

How many bird species are on Stanford’s campus on a spring morning?  I’ll tell you soon enough!  This Sunday is Birding’s Big Game.  4 hours, 1 Stanford team, 1 UC Berkeley team, 60+ species.  I’ll be coordinating the Stanford side of things, working with an awesome crew of a dozen birders: alumni, undergrads, grad students, community members, oh yeah!  I’m lucky to have such great birders helping, since the critical mission is to BEAT CAL in bird diversity.  Football’s not enough — we need to hit them where it really hurts.  In the birds.

Do you want kids to learn more about nature?  Do you want to protect unique bay area habitats?  SPONSOR US!  The money goes to youth nature education projects and conservation work in the southern Bay Area, run by the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society (I love them!).  You can do it online here.  Just select my name (Rob Furrow) from the pull down tab and make a donation using paypal.  If you want to make a per-bird donation (10 cents, 50 cents?), you can wait for the results and donate then.  And if you don’t like paypal, you can give me a check in person, made out to SCVAS.  Thanks!


Okay, down to the brass tacks.  How can we optimize coverage of Stanford’s campus?  We have a few key habitats.  Oak savanna and grassland, of particularly high quality along Stanford’s dish trail.  Riparian with some willows and alders along San Francisquito Creek.  Brushy edges.  Extensive eucalyptus groves.  A few migrant traps.  To cover it all, we’ll split into two teams.

Team 1 tackles the creekside habitat and the mish-mash of Stanford’s main campus.  We’ll hope for migrants, woodpeckers, Hooded and Bullock’s Oriole, and some Brown Creepers making a breeding attempt behind eucalyptus bark.

The basic route for team 1

The basic route for team 1

Team 2 covers the dish trails, and the lovely riparian where the trail meets Alpine Road.  Lots of excellent grassland with great chances for hawks, kites, falcons, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Western Kingbird, maybe even a Grasshopper Sparrow.

The outline of team 2's route

The outline of team 2’s route

Wish us luck!

-Rob Furrow