Harvey Pond/San Tomas Aquino Creek

Wednesday afternoon I decided to play hooky from the conference. I skipped out on “Why Software Still Sucks” keynote and the annual Jolt awards to walk along San Tomas Aquino Creek to Harvey Pond and Sunnyvale Baylands. If the DST change is going to take away my morning preconference birding, I can at least get a little of that back in the afternoon.

First bird in the creek were the usual Mallards. However just after crossing Great America parkway and heading downstream, I found both Black Phoebe and House Finch in the trees lining the path. American Crows and a few European Starlings were flying overhead. Yellow-rumped Warblers were flitting in the trees further down.

There’s a city park with a large pond back here that’s been closed and fenced off as long as I’ve known about it. However, you can still scan it with binoculars easily enough. Today it played host to one Double-crested Cormorant and a Pied-billed Grebe.

Pied-billed Grebe

Continuing down the creek, Marsh Wrens began singing from the reeds, as did Song Sparrows. As I got closer to 237, Western Gulls began to fly over, one by one.

Crossing under the highway, I reached Harvey Pond. I was worried that it would be dry as Sunnyvale Baylands had been the previous day. However it still held a lot of water, enough for several dozen Northern Shovelers and American Avocets.

American Avocets and Ruddy Ducks

I followed the loop around the pond. The Northeast corner was the most active with Mourning Dove, several American Goldfinches, Golden-crowned Sparrows, and two White-tailed Kites perched in the trees.

White-tailed Kite

Continuing along the north side of the pond, I turned my attention back to the water birds. I picked out several Black-necked Stilts next to the Avocets and then a Snowy Egret and a few American Coots. A little further down the trail some Purple Finches made an appearance.

On the west side of the pond, I flushed a rail. I’m not sure who was more surprised, the bird or me. I can’t conclusively identify it but the long bill marked it as either a Virginia Rail or a Clapper Rail. I peeked into Sunnyvale Baylands, but it was still pretty dry despite Tuesday’s rain. All I saw were a couple of Canada Geese.

Continuing around the pond, I spotted both Great Egret and Green-winged Teal. A couple of dozen White-crowned Sparrows were foraging along the bike path.

Adult and juvenile White-crowned sparrow Perched on chain link fence

Dusk was rapidly approaching so I retraced my path along San Tomas Aquino Creek back to the hotel. Just under the 237 bridge I spotted several Cliff Swallows hawking for insects overhead. The final species of the day was a single American Robin on the golf course. Total species count was 27:

  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Egret
  • Snowy Egret
  • American Coot
  • Black-necked Stilt
  • American Avocet
  • Western Gull
  • Mourning Dove
  • Black Phoebe
  • American Crow
  • Cliff Swallow
  • Marsh Wren
  • American Robin
  • European Starling
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Song Sparrow
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow
  • Purple Finch
  • House Finch
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Sparrow

Not bad for a late afternoon walk.


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