2009 BGBY List (Orange County)

This is all walking from my home, no bike or public transit; and certainly not a car.

January 1, My balcony feeders

  1. House Finch
  2. Lesser Goldfinch
  3. White-crowned Sparrow
  4. Song Sparrow
  5. Mourning Dove
  6. House Wren
  7. Allen’s Hummingbird

January 1, William R. Mason

I meant to spend a good couple of hours in the park this morning to start the year, but ended up troubleshooting my wife’s Mac Mini instead. I had to settle for an hour and a quarter in the late afternoon:

  1. Swan Goose
  2. Egyptian Goose
  3. Cackling Goose
  4. Canada Goose
  5. American Wigeon
  6. Mallard
  7. Northern Shoveler
  8. Ruddy Duck
  9. Eared Grebe
  10. American Coot
  11. Ring-billed Gull
  12. Anna’s Hummingbird
  13. Black Phoebe
  14. American Crow
  15. Bushtit
  16. Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)
  17. Townsend’s Warbler

January 2, William R. Mason

Spent almost 4 hours in the park this morning to get a jump on the year. I managed quite a few species that gave me trouble last year including Bullock’s Oriole, Wrentit, Bewick’s Wren, Cedar Waxwing, Hermit Thrush, Say’s Phoebe, and Golden-crowned Sparrow. However I did not find the gnatcatchers I was hoping for. I also found a Greater Roadrunner in the same spot near Bobcat Junction where I first found it last year, and haven’t seen it since.

  1. California Quail
  2. Double-crested Cormorant
  3. Great Egret
  4. Turkey Vulture
  5. Greater Roadrunner
  6. Nuttall’s Woodpecker
  7. Downy Woodpecker
  8. Say’s Phoebe
  9. Bushtit
  10. Bewick’s Wren
  11. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  12. Wrentit
  13. European Starling
  14. Spotted Towhee
  15. California Towhee
  16. Golden-crowned Sparrow
  17. Red-tailed Hawk
  18. Northern Flicker
  19. Western Bluebird
  20. Hermit Thrush
  21. Cedar Waxwing
  22. Common Yellowthroat
  23. Bullock’s Oriole

January 4, William R. Mason

Looked for the White-throated Sparrow on the way to San Joaquin but didn’t find it. :-(

  1. Red-shouldered Hawk

January 4, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Firs trip to San Joaquin this year, Hoped for a Hooded Merganser and Canvasback, but didn’t get them. I did find the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher that gave me so much trouble last year though.

  1. Barn Swallow
  2. Tree Swallow
  3. Western Grebe
  4. Northern Pintail
  5. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  6. Black-crowned Night-heron
  7. Cinnamon Teal
  8. American Kestrel
  9. American Avocet
  10. Orange-crowned Warbler
  11. Hutton’s Vireo
  12. Gadwall
  13. Green-winged Teal
  14. Northern Mockingbird
  15. Snowy Egret
  16. Greater Yellowlegs
  17. Black-necked Stilt
  18. Great Blue Heron
  19. Bufflehead
  20. Long-billed Dowitcher
  21. Cassin’s Kingbird
  22. Western Gull
  23. American White Pelican

January 4, William R. Mason

On the way back home, I looked for the White-throated Sparrow again and didn’t find it. However I did find:

  1. Black-throated Gray Warbler

January 8, William R. Mason

It took four or five tries, but I finally found the White-throated Sparrow, even if only for a quick glimpse in a bush. It’s the second bird I’ve gotten this year that I didn’t find last year.

  1. White-throated Sparrow
  2. White-faced Ibis
  3. Spotted Sandpiper

January 11, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

A really good walk with the Sea & Sage this morning including one bird I didn’t get till New Year’s Eve last year:

  1. Sora
  2. Canvasback
  3. Redhead
  4. Caspian Tern
  5. Forster’s Tern
  6. Clark’s Grebe
  7. Killdeer
  8. Least Sandpiper
  9. Red-winged Blackbird
  10. California Thrasher
  11. Marsh Wren
  12. Osprey

I also saw my first Wrentit of the year. (Previously I’d only heard them.)

January 11, William R. Mason

On the way home from San Joaquin, I walked through Mason to try and find the Black-and-white Warbler, Nashville Warbler, or American Redstart others had reported. No luck there, but I did find:

  1. Lark Sparrow

This is another one I didn’t have last year.

January 14, Upper Newport Bay

I walked to work today via a circuitous route that takes me past Upper Newport Bay, where I found:

  1. Blue-winged Teal
  2. Brown Pelican
  3. Lesser Scaup
  4. Northern Harrier
  5. Western Sandpiper
  6. Semipalmated Plover
  7. Long-billed Curlew
  8. Willet
  9. Marbled Godwit
  10. Greater Scaup

Greater Scaup is another one I didn’t have last year.

Then I walked home along the same route. This time it was low tide and I added a couple more:

  1. Whimbrel
  2. Horned Grebe

January 21 Upper Newport Bay

I walked to work today via a circuitous route that takes me past Upper Newport Bay. Along San Diego Creek I found California Gnatcatcher. Then crossing the highway I had two Rock Pigeons fly over. These are surprisingly hard to find out here. Last year I had none on the walking routes.

  1. California Gnatcatcher
  2. Black-bellied Plover
  3. Rock Pigeon

Then I walked home through

January 21, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

  1. Great-tailed Grackle
  2. Ross’s Goose

Ross’s Goose is a good one. There were two on Pond 2. I didn’t see them till dusk, and had to jog to the other side of the pond to make sure. Last year I only got this species on my bike, and only once. In fact, last year it was a life bird. For that matter, so was Great-tailed Grackle (though they’re a lot more common around here.)

January 25, William R. Mason

  1. Downy Woodpecker

January 25, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

  1. Common Raven
  2. American Goldfinch

February 3, William R. Mason

Finally found the American Redstart this morning on the other side of the park from where I usually walk:

  1. American Redstart

February 4, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

I walked to work today through Mason, where I found the American Redstart again, and the refuge where I found:

  1. California Gull

Then I walked along Jamboree along one side of the:

February 4, UCI Arboretum

Just as I was about to cross the street to my office a flock of Western Meadowlarks flew over.

  1. Western Meadowlark

It took a few minutes to be sure because I don’t know their song well, and they landed in tall grass on the far side of the barbed wire fence. However eventually one flew out and landed on nicely mowed grass on the other side of Jamboree where I could get good looks at it. This is a species I didn’t have last year.

February 8, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Monthly walk with Sea & Sage:

  1. Peregrine Falcon
  2. White-throated Swift

February 12, San Diego Creek and Upper Newport Bay

Walked to work today:

  1. Nutmeg Mannikin
  2. Belted Kingfisher
  3. Savannah Sparrow
  4. Common Moorhen

Nutmeg Mannikins are erratic in Orange County. You know you’ll see these eventually but never quite sure where or when. Savannah Sparrow is another bird I didn’t get last year, though I should have had it. The Moorhen and Kingfisher I had seen earlier from my bike, but these were my first walking sightings.

February 14, William R. Mason

GBBC today. There are those who say you can find owls by looking for whitewash and those who say you can find them by watching where the crows and jays attack. However I find the best sign o an owl in a tree is usually a bunch of people with Tilley hats with binoculars pointing up into pine tree saying, “Look at the owl!”

  1. Great Horned Owl

March 4, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

walked to work today through the refuge.

  1. Barn Swallow
  2. Hooded Merganser

I didn’t have Hooded Merganser last year, though I did have it from my bike earlier this year.

March 12, William R. Mason

I didn’t find the Black-and-white Warbler, again; but I did find my first:

  1. Wilson’s Warbler

March 13, Upper Newport Bay

I walked to work today via a circuitous route that takes me past Upper Newport Bay, where I found:

  1. Cliff Swallow

I knew I’d find these eventually so I wasn’t too worried about this one. In a few weeks, there’ll be hundreds over the San Diego Creek bridge at Campus and University.

Then on the walk home in the southern part of SJWS (not open to the public, but you can look in from Jamboree) I found

  1. Northern Rough-winged Swallow

hawking over the fields.

March 14, UCI Ecological Preserve

Another one I didn’t get last year despite looking for it here:

  1. Cactus Wren
  2. Rufous Hummingbird

Cactus Wrens are regular but local. You really have to know where to look. They are very tied to a specific form of habitat that is increasingly uncommon in Orange County.

March 16, William R. Mason

I was expecting much on my quick walk after work, but I found:

  1. Red-breasted Sapsucker

These are common in the mountains, but rarely come down this far into the plains. I didn’t have this one last year.

March 23, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

A large flock on the big tower/pole:

  1. Brewer’s Blackbird

April 1, Upper Newport Bay

I walked to work today via a circuitous route that takes me along San Diego Creek and past Upper Newport Bay, where I found:

  1. Bell’s Vireo (singing along San Diego Creek)
  2. Green Heron

Green Herons are regular all year, but generally hard to find. I knew that if I kept looking I’d find one eventually.

April 7, William R. Mason

I was expecting much on my quick walk before work, but I found:

  1. Nashville Warbler

This is an East Coast bird, and justifies a call to the rare bird alert. It was also a new California bird for me.

April 7, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

I also took a walk through the marshes after work and found my first of season:

  1. Black-headed Grosbeak
  2. Brown-headed Cowbird (first walking sighting; seen previously on February 7 on bike)

I may have actually had a Black-headed Grosbeak of these at my feeders the previous day, but it was gone as soon as I spotted it, too quickly to be sure.

April 11, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Monthly Sea & Sage walk:

  1. Ash-throated Flycatcher

April 26, William R. Mason

Few new migrants but I did get my first BGBY

  1. Northern Rough-winged Swallow

as well as a very out of place California Sister butterfly.

April 28, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary (the part that’s not open to the public)

I walked to work today along San Diego Creek. I was expecting Black Skimmers which have started flying up and down the creek, and breed in the hundreds just a little bit south in Upper Newport Bay; but instead I found:

  1. Western Kingbird

The Black Skimmers shouldn’t be hard to find later.

April 28, UCI Arboretum

I walked home and found a beautiful male:

  1. Hooded Oriole

April 29, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary (the part that’s not open to the public)

I walked to work again today along San Diego Creek. I was expecting Black Skimmers which have started flying up and down the creek, and breed in the hundreds just a little bit south in Upper Newport Bay and I found:

  1. Blue Grosbeak
  2. Black Skimmer

The Blue Grosbeak was a state bird for me. My California list is now at 293 (including exotics).

May 1, San Diego Creek, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, and UCI Arboretum

It’s been a good week to talk to work: not too hot, not too cold, and plenty of migrants. Today I got four more BGBY species:

  1. Warbling Vireo along San Diego Creek (state bird)
  2. Least Tern on Pond 2 at SJWS
  3. Bonaparte’s Gull on Pond C at SJWS
  4. Western Tanagers, at least 10, probably more, at UCI Arboretum

May 1, San Diego Creek

I walked home along San Diego Creek, and there I found:

  1. White-tailed Kite

May 6, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary (the part that’s not open to the public)

I walked to work again today along San Diego Creek. I wasn’t expecting anything in particular but it’s migration so anything is possible. I found:

  1. Yellow-breasted Chat

May 6, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary (the part that is open to the public)

I walked home and there I found my first of spring:

  1. Yellow Warbler

June 14, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

This took surprisingly long to find. Last year it was early and easy. I was getting nervous about it.

  1. Pacific-slope Flycatcher

July 12, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

One I missed last year:

  1. Least Bittern

August 9, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

On the monthly Sea & Sage walk I got :

  1. Wilson’s Phalarope
  2. Common Tern

This puts me two over last year’s total, with 4 months to go!

August 23, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

  1. Red-necked Phalarope
  2. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  3. Eurasian Collared Dove

This puts me two over last year’s total, with 4 months to go!


I can add several more from my bike:

January 2, North Lake

I rode my bike over here to see if I could find the Ross’s Goose that was here a week ago. No such luck but I did find the first bird I didn’t have last year, two Mute Swans. Also House Sparrow was surprisingly difficult last year.

  1. Mute Swan
  2. House Sparrow

Also first Brewer’s Blackbird.

February 7, San Diego creek

After the rains stopped I took my bike out for a spin along the Mountains to Sea Trail. However, I got a little lost which was fortuitous because along the less traveled paths I found:

  1. Loggerhead Shrike
  2. Wilson’s Snipe
  3. Common Merganser (7)

I didn’t get a snipe, shrike, or Common Merganser last year.

February 17, San Diego creek

I took a quick ride along San Diego Creek this morning, and got throughly soaked but I did find my first Hooded Merganser of the year between Alton and Main. (got one later walking to SJWS.)

July 13, Bommer Canyon

Last year, I didn’t know there were Acorn Woodpeckers only 5 miles away in Bommer Canyon. I thought the nearest ones were 12 miles away at Irvine Regional Park, but 5 miles is a lot easier to manage than 12 so I made a special trip over for:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker

I also saw about 6 Lark Sparrows, a very unusual bird around here although one I had miraculously seen earlier in the year in Mason Park for about half a second.

August 1, Upper Newport Bay to the Coast

I road my bike along the Mountains to the Sea trail today to try to pick up a few more coastal species. The first surprise was at the very top of the bay where I found a surprisingly far inland:

  1. Surf Scoter

That’s another one I didn’t have last year. From Lookout Point, I could watch the bay entrance, and here I found my first:

  1. Heermann’s Gull

Finally, at Robert Badham, I found the expected

  1. Brandt’s Cormorant

However I missed several I was hoping for including Pelagic Cormorant, Surfbird, Wandering Tattler, Clapper Rail, Common Loon, Pacific Loon, Red-breasted Merganser, and Elegant Tern; so I’ll have to do this again.

August 8, Dilley Preserve

I rode my bike about 8 miles to Nix Nature Center and Dilley Preserve along Laguna Canyon Road. I was looking for Phainopepla and Western Scrub-Jay but I only got the one:

  1. Western Scrub-Jay

I may have to return for the Phainopepla.


If we don’t count exotics, then we have to reduce this list by five: Swan Goose, Egyptian Goose, Nutmeg Mannikin, Eurasian Collared-Dove, and Mute Swan.

Obvious Misses

What should be on my list but isn’t:

  1. Black-and-white Warbler: Seen in Mason Park in January and March but not by me
  2. Phainopepla: Missed at Dilley

Summing Up

Sadly this list ends in August because I finally moved backed to Brooklyn. That loses four months. I could easily have added another 10-12 species, and possibly twice that many, had I stayed for the rest of the year.

I can start a new list in Brooklyn, but I’ll have just over 4 months for that.