Birdwatching Fieldtrip: Fun in the Rain

We took a hummingbird class at  Los Gatos Birdwatcher last week, then met for a birdwatching field trip over the weekend.  Lead by Lisa Myers of Let’s Go Birding, we drove to the  Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society.  Located at the tip of McClellan Ranch in Cupertino, trees, native shrubs and a number of feeders attract resident and migrating birds.  We stood under the awning with a light rain falling, and made like a tree.  Trees with binoculars, that is, and a few cameras, too.

Lisa pointed out that some people ‘bird’, some people photograph and some (raising my hand) try to do both. You can’t do both well, but I tried, knowing I wanted to share as much as I could with you.

Like so many things in life, once you tune in to something, the world opens up.  Lisa called out several species, pointing out gender, mating patterns, feeding habits and other bits of wisdom.  She has a dry sense of humour along with a vast knowledge of native birds, making for an interesting and entertaining morning.

She jokingly pointed out that serious birders will sneer if you mention seeing Canadian Geese and Seagulls.  The correct terms: Canada Geese and Gulls. Conversely, she has to bite her tongue when customers come into the store and swear they saw a canary or an eagle in their back yard.

Although we did see hummingbirds, they were fairly shy.  They didn’t approach the feeder until we were well out-of-the-way.  At home the resident hummers are quite bold, and will buzz up to us on the deck in the summer.  They definitely know the hand that feeds them.

No matter.  We saw plenty of other birds and I came away with even more appreciation of the songbirds in our area.

McClellan Ranch

McClellan Ranch

Male birds flaunt their colorful plumage in order to attract a mate. The female, on the other hand, is nondescript. Since she’s the one sitting on the nest incubating the young, it makes sense that she blends in, keeping her and the nest safe from predators. When I took the picture, below, I didn’t even know that the female of the pair was there.

Male and Female House Finch

Male and Female House Finch

Some of the pictures, below, are clearer than others, but I wanted to give you an idea of the variety on view Saturday morning.

A variety of song birds

A variety of song birds

Upper Left: Black Phoebe, Song Sparrow (?) Woodpecker and Mourning Dove.

I’ve been working from memory and my trusty Local Birds of the San Francisco Bay Area Quick Guide to identify the birds pictured below. I’m going to have to check with Lisa to see if I got it right.

More song birds

More song birds

I’m more confident about identifying this crowd: Behind the stop sign, a House Finch and a Lesser Goldfinch, at the feeder, Lesser Goldfinch, two White-crowned sparrows, and at the top of the tree, a White-tailed Kite.

Do you have a favorite songbird in your neighborhood? Please let me know in the comments below. Sharing of photos encouraged.

Fabulous resources in Silicon Valley:

43 thoughts on “Birdwatching Fieldtrip: Fun in the Rain

    • I’ve seen them on occasion. We used to have a seed feeder in the front yard, but the neighbors cat started prowling and I saw one or two bird casualties. I didn’t have the heart to continue. The hummingbirds have no reason to come down to the ground (no seed to pick up) so they are safe to feed. I love all animals, and wish I had 100 acres to accommodate all of them.


      • We have noticed so many more birds in our yard now that we have no cats. Also, I put in a birdbath about 6 months ago. The birds love it, and we get so much enjoyment watching their antics.
        Those hummingbirds must be like little jewels, hovering in the air!
        Good luck with the dream of 100 acres. 🙂


        • Anne, that is great to hear. Lisa mentioned the importance of fresh water in your yard for attracting birds. I’ve been scoping out a new spot. If it’s high and on a branch that can’t be breached by a predator, it should be okay. Our three cats are long past their hunting days as they’ve aged, and are confined to the house and back yard with a cat fence-in system. But neighborhood cats roam so I remain vigilant.


  1. OK….I confess….I am terribly afraid of birds. Listening to them chirp and sing in my backyard is a joy, but I am afraid to have them near me….fluttering and leaving feathers…..I don’t even like feather boas for that reason!


  2. We have robins here and so far the cats haven’t gotten them. In my morning meditation time I sit in my chair and listen to them sing. There is nothing on earth like it. I often see their reflection in the china cabinet glass but when I move to the door, they are gone. Guess I’m meant to just listen and enjoy. Loved your photos though. I love birds but my daughter is also terrified of them. Mostly indoor birds. Not sure what that’s about but I don’t push.


  3. Looks like a really nice location to roam around for an afternoon. Even better in a little rain, I love the scent in the air. Is quite amazing that YOUR hummers have become so accustom to you that they feed in your presence as compared to the norm. I didn’t know they were normally so careful. I like the cottage feel of the home there, maybe because of the colours, white and burgundy where the same as our cottage at the lake. But I also like the pergola roof line, the mullioned windows and of course the flower beds leading to the door.

    Is that a field of lavender (the photo under the plague in your collage)? We had a number of birds to watch at the lake that changed with the seasons. Including: Black capped chickadees, Finch, Hummers, Swallows, Blue Jays, Herons, Pelicans, Cormorants, Sand Pipers, Wood Peckers, many different ducks and the occasional Owl or Hawks. Of course plenty of my nemesis, the messy Canada Geese. Karen actually operated birder tours years ago on their first Pontoon Boat.

    I really loved the Swallows and spring Robins for their song and fed the Chickadees all winter. They’re fabulous to watch and listen to when it’s freezing out. The Pelicans were really something when they’d float around in groups of 20 and more. You could canoe up pretty close to them. They fly very close to the water and go by all in a row, kind of like a roller coaster. Very cool.

    It be hard to pick a favourite, I think I loved if company got to watch the Peli’s best. I’ll share some bird photo’s from Maui because I don’t have any lake pictures scanned on my MAC. Thanks for the tour and I thought the teeny Yellowthroat at the link was a riot (standing between two twigs) LOL. Reminded me once when Jim was on a neighbours pier and our boat wasn’t tied tight enough. It started to move away so he put one foot out to catch it. But it kept moving farther away and soon he was doing the splits until he couldn’t recover and then………splash! LOL. xoK


    • What a gorgeous collection of birds! Thanks for including the photo. I hope others see it too. Oh, those islands. Beauty at every turn.

      I know I’ve said it before, but oh my goodness, life at the lake was incredible. I’m gobsmacked at the number of birds you saw on a regular basis. What a treat.

      I would have loved to see the pelicans going by in a row. Like a rollercoaster…that’s a great visual.

      Yes, the Yellowthroat on her link is delightful. I’m glad you clicked over.

      On your next visit here, we’ll make a trip to this park. You can see the buildings and fields up close and take lots of pictures, too.


      • I’d love to go there with you. The gardens look really nice and I love birds. The birds on Mauii are such a treat and so colourful. Our balcony looked out to a bit of grass and there was always something walking around down there and lot’s of birds flying from Palm to Palm. We saw a cute kitty sneaking around to. She watched those big birds for the longest time but luckily didn’t try to get one.

        Lot’s of birds near any body of water I would guess and while we seem to get a fair amount of rain in Edmonton, it seemed like lake levels fell over the last 20 years. There are fewer and fewer lakes to support wildlife in central Alberta and that worries me. I think reserving wetlands for wildlife should be a primary project for all municipalities. Unfortunately these poor animals don’t pay taxes and the money hungry municipalities will pave paradise to make a buck. Do you have the organization Ducks Unlimited in America? Shore birds are an endangered group and we felt very privileged to have them as part of our days.


  4. How cool that you’ve been able to enjoy these classes, Alys. I have a dear friend who is an avid watcher of birds and participated in the Great American Bird Count this year. So much to learn!


  5. Spectacular photos.
    The North American Bird Book was the first book my folks gave to each one of their four kids when we one by one left our own nest. We were told to fly high and have a keen eye.


  6. I’m way behind in my reading and commenting – so sorry Alys.

    I spent the last week in the NZ bush listening to the last of the summer sounds of cicadas, the song of Tuis and admiring the comings and goings of a couple of our native pigeons the Kereru. These gorgeous, weighty birds mate for life and live on nectar. They are clumsy on landing and takeoff and quite amusing to watch. I have missed them from my life since I moved south!

    I think it is wonderful that you are sharing your findings with us 🙂


  7. Pingback: Birds and Blueberries | Gardening Nirvana

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