My Big Sit at Shoreline

I led the first event of the birdathon, a Big Sit at Shoreline Lake. Three of us spent a Sunday morning looking for as many species of birds as we could. For those who are new to this, a big sit is just that: you choose a location, and you stay there for a period of time — for us, four hours. You can only count a bird at least two people identify visually or by ear within a circle around your chosen location. And then you sit or stand there and wait for birds to come to you. The traditional location for this at Shorline is where the sloughs, the Casey Forebay and the Lake all meet, right on the Bay Trail, and up on a bit of a hill with good distance views of a large area including about half the lake.

I’d estimated that if we got 45 species, I’d be happy. In fact, we got 51 species in four hours. Our finds included 11 species of ducks, five species of grebe, White-Tailed Kites, a Herring gull, a Belted Kingfisher that caught a fish almost as big as its head, Ravens, 3 species of Swallows and a Common Yellowthroat.

A good time was had by all. One thing I like about doing the big sits is they’re really good for newer birders and for those who aren’t up to a lot of walking. There’s plenty of time for talking and teaching, and it’s a nice casual situation for everyone. If you’re curious about birding but never tried it, come to my next one and check it out.

Come Join Me in Coyote Valley

If you’re here in the Bay Area, please mark down Sunday, April 8 on your calendar and come join me for a morning of birding. I’ll be hosting a Big Sit in Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve from 2PM to 6PM that day. I’m doing this as part of Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society‘s annual Birdathon event. Birdathons are an annual event that Audubon Chapters use to raise funds to help push forward their activities over the year. This is a primary fund raiser for Santa Clara Valley Audubon, funding their ongoing operations, their educational and outreach programs. It also helps find the chapter’s full-time Conservation Advocate, who works with local governments and other groups to help them craft policies that promote bird-safe buildings and protect habitat.

The idea of a big sit is just that: everyone gets together in a group and sees how many species that can see from their fixed location. The location at Shoreline has good views of the lake, the salt ponds, some of the slough areas and parts of the tree areas, so it usually has a good number of birds and variety of species.

These big sits are designed to be fun and casual events with a lot of chance to sit and talk, teach and generally relax and enjoy getting to know people with similar interests. You don’t need special gear, if you have binoculars of any kind bring them along, and I’d suggest a camp or folding chair to be comfortable during the wait. You don’t need to be there for the full four hours, come when you can, stay as long as you want.

Interested? You can find out more and sign up at the SCVAS Birdathon page. There are a number of other teams operating during the Birdathon you can get involved with too, from casual 4 hour outings to 24 hour chases for large numbers of species to extreme birding via bicycle. It’s all a lot of fun and for a good cause.

Why we need your help

There’s currently yet another attempt to open up Coyote Valley for development. It’s a major wildlife corridor and bird habitat, especially for winter raptors, and it seems it’s always under threat to be bulldozed into more generic buildings surrounded by parking lots. You can learn more of what’s being attempted by checking out, and we encourage all of you in the San Jose area in sending feedback to the San Jose government, and getting involved with us at SCVAS can help us work to stop this latest attempt.

Can’t make it to one of the events? Consider sponsoring my teams by donating to the birdathon and helping out. As an added bonus, whoever sponsors the largest amount I’ll do a signed, custom 13×19 print of one of my images and send it to you. If you sponsor, just send me confirmation of it and whoever wins will be able to pick the image they want to have made for them.

This is the first year I’m leading outings for the Birdathon. I’ve participated in them in the past, and they’re a lot of fun, and a great way to learn more about the birds and birding, and get together with others that have the same interest.

If you’re not local to Silicon Valley? Audubon Chapters across the country are doing this as well. If you can’t find the one for your local area, let me know and I’ll help you find it.

Thanks, and see you soon with the birds.