The First 100 Birds

On February 16 of this year I started keeping track of the birds I’ve seen using eBird. The Great Backyard Bird Count got me started, and hooked, on this activity. You can bird anywhere, I’ve found out. There’s a trash-strewn section of freeway on our commute that seems to attract a lot of hawks. We guess there are some mice or rats in the weedy, trashy embankments. So that’s a good spot for birding. I saw a Great Horned Owl there once.

freeway bird

Kind of hard to see, but there’s a Red-tailed Hawk at the top of that tree.

Most of the places we aim at for birding are more picturesque than the 280/880 interchange, and that’s in evidence when looking over my list of bird sightings in eBird. Point Reyes, Yellowstone, San Francisco Bay, San Mateo coastline, Sonora Pass, Yosemite. And the backyard feeder, of course.

Today I was visiting the ancestors at Mission Santa Clara Cemetery, having my lunch and enjoying the beautiful day, when I noticed some birds pecking at the ground nearby. Juncos, they seemed to be. But wait, they’re a bit large for a Junco. And they have a longer tail. And when they fly up into the trees I can see a white patch at the top of the tail. That guy there has a distinctive dark “bib”. Who are these guys? Fortunately I had my laminated fold-out guide to Local Birds with me (I always have it with me), and was able to ID them as the Northern Flicker. Which was fun and exciting, because I didn’t yet have them in my eBird list. I’ve been getting close to 100 birds in that list, but I don’t expect to encounter new birds very often. As I was walking out, a little blue bird caught my eye. Clinging to the side of one of the majestic oaks here, he was deep blue on the back with a rust color below. The Western Bluebird. A small flock was flitting around, perching on tombstones and pecking at acorns. Another new bird for the list! I’d seen both birds before, but at that time I wasn’t yet eBirding so I was on the lookout for them. They’re not particularly rare or anything, but for whatever reason they’d proved elusive until today.

I guess the Western Bluebird is number 100, since I’d already seen the Flicker, but I’d like for both of them to share the honor since they are exemplary birds. I was a little concerned that number 100 might turn out to be some new sparrow, which are always dicey ID’s since they look so much alike.

The next 100 birds are going to be more of a challenge, but if tracking them down means extensive travel to interesting foreign destinations, so be it. I just don’t expect to see too many of them on the 280 during the morning commute.

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