2014 Starr Ranch Birdathon Results
April 25 7:30PM through April 26 7:30PM

Birders: Bruce Aird, Steve Alter, Tom Ford-Hutchinson, Pete DeSimone

!A NEW STARR RANCH RECORD! 175 species seen/heard (list at bottom) $6,722 raised in pledges and donations - THANK YOU!!!

Congratulations to Leslie for final species total guess and Camille for guessing the 100th (actually 101st) species seen - Red-winged Blackbird. No one guessed #100 - Yellow-breasted Chat.
Both will get a Starr Ranch T-shirt!

All who pledged to the Birdathon will receive an email with your total and a link to a donate page. Or, if you know how much you pledged you can go HERE to fulfill your pledge and choose a t-shirt if your pledge was $1 or more per species.

All who already donated a flat amount of $100 or more will receive an email so you can choose your Starr Ranch T-shirt size and style.

Post Birdathon donations are also welcomed and can be made HERE. Just be sure to click the "Birdathon" button.

(Back to Birdathon pledge fulfillment page)

2014 Starr Ranch Birdathon Recap
by Steve Alter

We started at Starr Ranch Sanctuary at 7:30 PM on Friday April 25.  Common Poorwill,  Great-horned, Barn and Western Screech Owls got us started.    Then we’re off to Upper Newport Bay for rails.  That’s when it started to rain.  Everyone had heard the forecast of 20% chance of rain, which in Southern California is code for “forgetaboutit”, so we really hadn’t worried.  We should have.  This night “20% ” meant “20% visibility”, or “20% chance of surviving the horrible road conditions”.  Even the geese had enough sense to find cover, and going up into the mountains for more owls was totally out of the question.  To say the rest of the evening was a wash-out is both a cliché and an understatement.

But that’s not the worst of it.  We had planned to start early in the morning, to drive out into restricted areas in the foothills of eastern Orange County.  The Irvine Ranch Conservancy had kindly granted permission for us to have access, but they have a rule…no driving on the back roads after significant rain.  On Friday night the foothill areas had received close to 1.5 inches of rain.  That’s significant.

So here we are at Irvine Regional Park at 4 in the morning and we can’t get in.  Now what?  Well, we couldn’t get up into the Santa Ana Mountains last night for owls, but we can go there this morning for other species.  So with renewed vigor we head up the hill, planning on all the great birds we’ll find.  And half a mile inside the National Forest gate…  we come to a huge downed tree.  Oh for cryin’ out loud.  So we pick up a few birds and head back downhill.  This Big Day is cursed.  What do we do now?   Do we pack it in and try again next week?  No, our schedules won’t allow that.  So we finally decided to do what it is we do best; find birds.

To confirm our choice to just do our best, we make a quick stop at a random pullout along Silverado Canyon Road.  Just to “see what’s there”.  20 species later we’re feelling a lot better.  This was a great unplanned stop that netted some good birds, including Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Violet-green Swallow and Costa’s Hummingbird, difficult birds to find.  Down at the bottom of the hill, we stop at Black Star Canyon Road to see if the resident Shrike is visible.  Alas, no shrike, but a lot of other good birds, including Lark and Black-chinned Sparrow, two more difficult birds out of the way.  And we are also picking up migrants; Black-throated Grey, Townsend’s and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Bullock’s and Hooded Orioles, Blue Grosbeak, and Lazuli Bunting, are already in the bag, and we haven’t gone near a really “good” migrant spot.  Since we are in the area, we return to Irvine Regional Park to visit a grove of silk-oak trees, which are now in glorious full bloom.  The flowers of the silk-oak are like honeycomb, literally dripping with nectar.  And we are not disappointed, here we find all of the remaining migrants we need…Hermit, Orange-crowned and Nashville Warblers, Western Tanager, Warbling Vireo, and a bonus Vaux’s Swift overhead.  We’re beginning to realize that we’re not doing too bad.  So far this morning we’ve been making it up as we go along, finding the birds we needed in unexpected places.

With the migrant passerines accounted for, we don’t have to plan a special stop somewhere out of the way.  So we can now pick up our route as we had originally planned.  Stops at Irvine Lake (Bald Eagle), Peter’s Canyon (Least Bell’s Vireo, three species of migrant ducks and Yellow-Breasted Chat…our 100th bird!), Modjeska Canyon (American Kestrel, Golden Eagle, Black-chinned Hummingbird, and late White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows), El Toro Memorial Park (Mountain Chickadee), and Village Pond (Cackling Goose) are all productive.   We’ve done so well this morning that we can decide to not visit a few other places, this is important to make up valuable time.  By the time we make it down to the coast at Laguna Beach we are sitting at a count of 124!  Surgically precise stops at Heisler Park, Crescent Bay Park, Reef Point, El Moro Canyon, Little Corona del Mar and Upper Newport Bay get us another 14 species.  A quick detour to the Irvine Valley College soccer field yields the nesting pair of Vermillion Flycatchers.  That’s gotta lift your spirits!

But now we are getting into mid-afternoon, from here on out it’s just hard work.  Huntington Central and Harriet Weider Parks give up 10 more species, then we pull in to  Bolsa Chica.  The avian diversity is always great here, but it’s a long walk when you’re tired and strung out on coffee and Dr. Peppers.  Plus we are fighting 30 MPH winds, generally not good conditions for birding.  Still, we get another 19 species by the time we pile back into the car and head north to Seal Beach.

Tom had arranged for Bob & Julie Schallman to take us into the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, a real treat regardless of what we might find there.  Unfortunately we were running late and had to cut our visit short.  So with a few more notches in our tripod we headed south to San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, where we had planned to end the day.  A quick tour around the ponds only netted one additional species, and we were left with about 20 minutes on the day.  So we raced over to the UC Irvine Ecological Reserve were Bruce spotted our last bird of the day…a surprise Lincoln’s Sparrow.

So after all the setbacks and bad luck, torrential rain, muddy roads and fallen trees what did we end up with?  175 species!  One better than last year.  Once we decided to buck up and roll with the punches, our accumulated knowledge and birding skills made the day a success.  Not a record, but one of the most memorable Birdathons in our experience.

(Note from Pete: Full disclosure - these guys are SO good that I was only able to ID 2 species (Great-tailed Grackle and Downy Woodpecker) out of the 175 before any of them did...and that was only by a second or two...)

2014 Starr Ranch Birdathon Species List

1 Mourning Dove Dove Canyon Lake
2 American Coot Dove Canyon Lake
3 Canada Goose Dove Canyon Lake
4 Mallard Dove Canyon Lake
5 Ruddy Duck Dove Canyon Lake
6 Pied-billed Grebe Dove Canyon Lake
7 California Towhee Dove Canyon Lake
8 Spotted Towhee Dove Canyon Lake
9 Song Sparrow Dove Canyon Lake
10 Wrentit Dove Canyon Lake
11 California Thrasher Dove Canyon Lake
12 House Finch Dove Canyon Lake
13 American Robin Dove Canyon Lake
14 Common Poorwill Starr Ranch Sanctuary
15 Western Scrub-Jay Starr Ranch Sanctuary
16 Acorn Woodpecker Starr Ranch Sanctuary
17 Barn Owl Starr Ranch Sanctuary
18 Western Screech-Owl Starr Ranch Sanctuary
19 Great Horned Owl Starr Ranch Sanctuary
20 Sora Upper Newport Bay
21 Clapper Rail Upper Newport Bay
22 Virginia Rail Upper Newport Bay
23 Black Skimmer  San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
24 Caspian Tern San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
25 Forster's Tern San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
26 Whimbrel San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
27 Snowy Egret San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
28 Gadwall San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
29 Semipalmated Plover San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
30 Killdeer San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
31 American Avocet San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
32 Black-necked Stilt San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
33 Double-crested Cormorant San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
34 Western Gull San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
35 Common Gallinule San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
36 Black-crowned Night-Heron Garden Grove Library
37 Great Blue Heron Tri-City Park
38 American Wigeon Tri-City Park
39 Brewer's Blackbird Shopping Center Culver & Michelson
40 Black-headed Grosbeak Silverado Canyon
41 House Wren Silverado Canyon
42 Black Phoebe Silverado Canyon
43 Bewick's Wren Silverado Canyon
44 Mountain Quail Silverado Canyon
45 Band-tailed Pigeon Silverado Canyon
46 Northern Flicker Silverado Canyon
47 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Silverado Canyon
48 Ash-throated Flycatcher Silverado Canyon
49 Anna's Hummingbird Silverado Canyon
50 Bushtit Silverado Canyon
51 Townsend's Warbler Silverado Canyon
52 Oak Titmouse Silverado Canyon
53 Dark-eyed Junco Silverado Canyon
54 American Crow Silverado Canyon
55 Common Raven Silverado Canyon
56 Rufous-crowned Sparrow Silverado Canyon
57 Costa's Hummingbird Silverado Canyon
58 European Starling Silverado Canyon
59 Violet-green Swallow Silverado Canyon
60 Pacific-slope Flycatcher Silverado Canyon
61 Wilson's Warbler Silverado Canyon
62 Bullock's Oriole Silverado Canyon
63 Northern Mockingbird Silverado Canyon
64 Red-tailed Hawk Silverado Canyon
65 Lesser Goldfinch Silverado Canyon
66 Blue Grosbeak Blackstar Canyon
67 Lazuli Bunting Blackstar Canyon
68 Hooded Oriole Blackstar Canyon
69 Lark Sparrow Blackstar Canyon
70 Western Bluebird Blackstar Canyon
71 Black-chinned Sparrow Blackstar Canyon
72 Yellow-rumped Warbler Blackstar Canyon
73 Northern Rough-winged Swallow Blackstar Canyon
74 Black-throated Gray Warbler Augustine
75 Phainopepla Augustine
76 Nuttall's Woodpecker Augustine
77 Cliff Swallow Irvine Lake
78 Western Grebe Irvine Lake
79 Bald Eagle Irvine Lake
80 Turkey Vulture Irvine Lake
81 Warbling Vireo Irvine Regional Park
82 Red-crowned Parrot Irvine Regional Park
83 Wood Duck Irvine Regional Park
84 Hermit Thrush Irvine Regional Park
85 Hermit Warbler Irvine Regional Park
86 Allen's Hummingbird Irvine Regional Park
87 Vaux's Swift Irvine Regional Park
88 Nashville Warbler Irvine Regional Park
89 Orange-crowned Warbler Irvine Regional Park
90 White-throated Swift Irvine Regional Park
91 Western Tanager Irvine Regional Park
92 Tree Swallow Peters Canyon Regional Park
93 American Goldfinch Peters Canyon Regional Park
94 Ring-necked Duck Peters Canyon Regional Park
95 Green-winged Teal Peters Canyon Regional Park
96 Bufflehead Peters Canyon Regional Park
97 Spotted Sandpiper Peters Canyon Regional Park
98 Long-billed Dowitcher Peters Canyon Regional Park
99 Great-tailed Grackle Peters Canyon Regional Park
100 Yellow-breasted Chat Peters Canyon Regional Park
101 Red-winged Blackbird Peters Canyon Regional Park
102 Bell's Vireo Peters Canyon Regional Park
103 Barn Swallow Peters Canyon Regional Park
104 Osprey Peters Canyon Regional Park
105 Yellow Warbler Peters Canyon Regional Park
106 American Kestrel Modjeska Canyon/Tucker 
107 Black-chinned Hummingbird Modjeska Canyon/Tucker 
108 White-breasted Nuthatch Modjeska Canyon/Tucker 
109 Golden Eagle Modjeska Canyon/Tucker 
110 White-crowned Sparrow Modjeska Canyon/Tucker 
111 Golden-crowned Sparrow Modjeska Canyon/Tucker 
112 Ruby-crowned Kinglet Modjeska Canyon/Tucker 
113 California Quail Modjeska Canyon/Tucker 
114 Red-shouldered Hawk Santiago Canyon Road
115 Mountain Chickadee El Toro Memorial Park
116 Cassin's Kingbird El Toro Memorial Park
117 Eurasian Collared-Dove El Toro Memorial Park
118 Hutton's Vireo El Toro Memorial Park
119 Rock Pigeon Serrano Stables
120 House Sparrow Serrano Stables
121 Brown-headed Cowbird Serrano Stables
122 Cackling Goose Village Pond Park
123 Common Yellowthroat Irvine Strawberry Fields
124 Horned Lark Irvine Strawberry Fields
125 Brandt's Cormorant Heisler Park
126 Brown Pelican Heisler Park
127 Heermann's Gull Heisler Park
128 Ruddy Turnstone Heisler Park
129 Black Turnstone Heisler Park
130 Willet Heisler Park
131 Black Oystercatcher Crescent Bay Park
132 Surf Scoter Crescent Bay Park
133 Say's Phoebe El Moro Canyon Unit, CCSP
134 Wandering Tattler Little Corona Del Mar
135 Marsh Wren Upper Newport Bay
136 Belding's Savannah Sparrow Upper Newport Bay
137 Great Egret Upper Newport Bay
138 Marbled Godwit Upper Newport Bay
139 Vermilion Flycatcher Irvine Valley College
140 Belted Kingfisher San Diego Creek at Barranca
141 Cinnamon Teal San Diego Creek at Barranca
142 Least Sandpiper Huntington Central Park
143 Western Sandpiper Huntington Central Park
144 Downy Woodpecker Huntington Central Park
145 Green Heron Huntington Central Park
146 Western Kingbird Huntington Central Park
147 Blue-winged Teal Huntington Central Park
148 Cedar Waxwing Huntington Central Park
149 Northern Pintail Harriet Weider Park
150 Northern Shoveler Harriet Weider Park
151 American Pipit Harriet Weider Park
152 Elegant Tern Bolsa Chica
153 Royal Tern Bolsa Chica
154 Lesser Scaup Bolsa Chica
155 Short-billed Dowitcher Bolsa Chica
156 Horned Grebe Bolsa Chica
157 Eared Grebe Bolsa Chica
158 California Gull Bolsa Chica
159 Glaucous-winged Gull Bolsa Chica
160 Dunlin Bolsa Chica
161 Snowy Plover Bolsa Chica
162 Black-bellied Plover Bolsa Chica
163 American White Pelican Bolsa Chica
164 Redhead Bolsa Chica
165 Gull-billed Tern Bolsa Chica
166 Long-billed Curlew Bolsa Chica
167 Red Knot Bolsa Chica
168 Bonaparte's Gull Bolsa Chica
169 Red-breasted Merganser Bolsa Chica
170 Common Tern Bolsa Chica
171 Greater Yellowlegs Seal Beach NWR
172 Brant Seal Beach NWR
173 Western Meadowlark Seal Beach NWR
174 Clark's Grebe San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
175 Lincoln's Sparrow UCI Ecological Reserve