Birders Tally 195 Species Across County in One Day

Earlier this month, volunteers collected data for the National Audubon Society's annual Christmas bird count.

There were three short-eared owls in Half Moon Bay, a snow goose at Princeton Harbor, a bald eagle at the Crystal Springs Reservoir, and a Pacific Golden Plover in Foster City.

Clapper rails were found in Millbrae and San Mateo, and tri-colored blackbirds were spotted in Half Moon Bay's Skylawn Cemetery.

These were just some of the 195 bird species spotted by the Sequoia chapter of the National Audubon Society when volunteer participants fanned out across San Mateo County on Dec. 17 to document any bird observed over a 24-hour period.

The occasion? Like their counterparts across the country, the birders collected data for the National Audubon Society's .

According to Leslie Flint, the purpose of the count is to gather data which can be used to assess the health of local bird populations over time. Flint, a San Mateo resident, co-organized this year's count with Half Moon Bay resident Gary Deghi and San Mateo resident Al DeMartini.

The count encompassed the San Mateo County Peninsula area between Foster City and Half Moon Bay along the east-west axis, and San Bruno Avenue to Huddard Park (on Kings Mountain Road)  in Woodside along the north-south axis.

While some head out to spectacular vistas along the edge of the Pacific Ocean or on the west side of San Francisco Bay, others can choose to count birds in the comfort of their own backyard.

According to Flint, the National Audubon Society uses the data to inform the direction of their conservation efforts. The database is available to the public on the Society's website.

Flint said that one example of the way scientists — such as ornithologists — could use the data is to look for trends by comparing numbers over time.

Half Moon Bay resident and chapter president Jennifer Rycenga reported the following last week from the Dec. 17 count:

Preliminary total shows 195 species for the day, including:

Bald Eagle - Crystal Springs Reservoir
Golden Eagle - Redwood Shores - San Carlos Airport
Pacific Golden Plover - Foster City Shell Bar
Pileated Woodpecker - Crystal Springs
Lark Sparrow - seen by Al Demartini
Clapper Rail - Millbrae & 3rd Avenue Marsh, San Mateo
Glaucous Gull - flying over Wavecrest
Burrowing Owl - Bair Island and Lobitos Ridge
Short-eared Owl - 3 at Wavecrest
Tri-colored Blackbirds - Skylawn Cemetery
Black-and-white Warbler - Sweetwood Park, Half Moon Bay
Loggerhead Shrike - at least 4 on the coast
Clay-colored Sparrow - Moss Beach (private property)
Snow Goose - Princeton Harbor
Cassin's Auklet, Ancient Murrelet, Marbled Murrelet - sea-watch
Black-legged Kittiwake - sea-watch

Today, the birders will gather yet again at Año Nuevo on the coast south of Half Moon Bay for their second part of the Christmas count. Birders will celebrate at the end of the day with a special barbeque dinner at a coastal ranch and review the day's finds during the meal.

The deadline to volunteer for today's count has already passed.

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