White Gull at Alviso, 2001

Myrtle Warbler

My 187 Santa Clara County species by February 1 has an element of hindsight to it. I would have counted one fewer at the time because Audubon’s and myrtle warbler were both yellow-rumped warbler. I’d been happy to count indistinguishable birds as the nominate Dendroica coronata, and hence myrtle warbler, because I’d already had them on my USA list, starting from 1996 at Audubon (ironically) Fairfield in Connecticut.

So my first definite Audubon’s at Stanford in April 2000 had technically been a new species. In fact I didn’t positively identify a California myrtle until this first day of February at Alviso when I was more interested in the waterbirds:

Audubon’s Warbler

“On the island just north of the Environmental Education Center was another white gull the size of a herring gull. Here’s what I could see at the time: white head, nape and throat; pale yellow bill with black tip occupying about a quarter of its length; off-white back tending to pale brown rather than pale grey; white primaries with faint rusty centres; white tail; and no legs ‘cos the bird was sitting. At the distance I couldn’t get any more detail than this. In my book this is closer to a first-winter glaucous gull than anything else, without being perfect.

“There was also a red-breasted merganser beyond the island and the fox sparrows were busy calling and sounding a lot like yellowthroats. In fact a lot of birds seem to be preparing for spring now.

“As a curious aside I always keep month lists and site lists and so attempted to enter green-winged teal on my Alviso list. It wasn’t there. I have been regular at the EEC for a year now, so this seems amazing. Have I just failed to record them? Or are they unusual down there?”

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