Stevens Creek Software




Stevens Creek Birdathon 2003
May 10-11, 2003

Team: Stevens Creek Birda/Mara-thoners


  • Deborah Jamison
  • Steven Patt
  • Grant Hoyt

Beneficiary: Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society


Bird the entire length of Stevens Creek on foot, from the headwaters in Monte Bello Open Space Preserve to where it flows into San Francisco Bay between Shoreline Park and Moffett Field, staying as close as possible to the creek for its entire length. At times this would mean right on the creek (for example, along Stevens Canyon Road from the end of the road to Stevens Creek Reservoir, and along the Stevens Creek Trail from Yuba Dr. to the end of the creek); at other times, we would parallel the creek on the closest possible trail or street, never more than 1/2 mile away and probably averaging less than 1/4 mile for the entire length. Total distance would be approximately 26 miles.


  • Total Bird Count: 98
  • Total Mileage: 26.4 (minimum)
  • Stevens Creek Crossings: Too many to count!

Day 1:

Route Description:

Started around 5:30 a.m. on the Canyon Trail in Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, listening for (and hearing) owls. Then up to the main entrance of Monte Bello Open Space Preserve and follow the Stevens Creek Nature Trail counterclockwise until it rejoins the Canyon Trail. Follow the Canyon Trail downstream, with a 1/4 mile out-and-back detour on the Grizzly Flat trail to the creek crossing, and another, much shorter out-and-back detour on the Table Mountain trail to another creek crossing. Continue on the Canyon Trail until it morphs into Stevens Canyon Road, which we follow all the way to Stevens Creek Reservoir. Follow the trail (Tony Look Trail) which circles the eastern edge of the reservoir until it reaches the dam, then down the Stevens Creek trail past the park HQ into the Chestnut picnic area. Follow the creek out through the picnic area into the old quarry area. At that point, the creek goes behind a ridge and fairly shortly enters Deep Cliff Golf Course. Since we can't go that way, we climb out of the far wall of the quarry, then up over a hilltop and a sharp drop down into Linda Vista Park. The Old Haul Rd. is locked, so we use the parallel (but slightly farther from the creek) Linda Vista Dr., following that down to Audubon HQ at McClellan Ranch Nature Preserve. End at 4:00 p.m.

Birding Summary:

Pre-dawn owling by playing tapes and then recorded calls from a Palm (Tungsten/T with voice recorder that had been used to record a number of key calls and songs) brought responses from a Great Horned Owl and a Western Screech-Owl. At first light, there to greet us and start the day with our first actual sighting was a pair of Western Bluebirds perched on a trail sign (picture below). A good omen! Other early highlights included hearing the repeated gobbling of Wild Turkeys. We lingered in the open grasslands near the Monte Bello OSP parking lot for a long time, and were rewarded with many species, but most significantly some great views of Lazuli Buntings. Coming down the canyon (and for the rest of the day, as it turned out), the one bird that seemed to be everywhere was the Black-headed Grosbeak. Orange-crowned Warbler, Warbling Vireo, and Pacific-slope Flycatchers were also heard everywhere we went.

Walking down Stevens Canyon Road we got some amazing close-up views of an American Dipper adult feeding its young, with the fledgling begging and bobbing up and down on a rock. Further downstream, closer to the County Park, another adult/fledgling pair (or possibly the same pair?) was seen as well. A nice Brown Creeper also showed himself in the woods on the right side of the road.

Passing through Stevens Creek County Park and heading into the abandoned quarry, we were hoping for a California Thrasher but none was making himself known. However, playing the song on our Palm brought an almost instantaneous response, and we spotted him up on the canyon wall. Incidentally, all the sightings were also being recorded on the Palm as well, using On Hand inventory software from Stevens Creek Software (well, we were taking an "inventory" of sorts of the birds of the Stevens Creek corridor).

Pictorial Highlights:

5:52 a.m.: At first light, a pair of Western Bluebirds perched on a trail sign to greet us

6:02 a.m.: Monte Bello OSP

6:06 a.m.: Starting the Nature Trail

6:56 a.m.: Stevens Creek Headwaters somewhere in the background

7:42 a.m.: The first of many crossings of Stevens Creek, including three (including this one) unassisted by bridges

10:15 a.m.: Stevens Creek crosses Grizzly Flat trail - a lovely spot for a break

10:41 a.m.: Stevens Creek crosses Table Mountain trail

11:39 a.m.: Stevens Creek flows across the very end of Stevens Canyon Road (the "Stevens Creek Falls"). A culvert, new this year, diverts much of the flow under the paved surface; until recently, all the flow went right across the road

12:44 p.m.

12:57 p.m.

1:14 p.m.

Views of the creek along Stevens Canyon Road
(note the creek switching back and forth from side to side)

2:43 p.m.: Stevens Creek Reservoir (which Stevens Creek "flows through", as you can see quite literally when the reservoir is low). Debi sports her official Stevens Creek T-shirt (which features a picture of the creek at the Grizzly Flat crossing). Our starting point is higher and to the right of the mountains in this picture.

3:01 p.m.: Stevens Creek County Park

3:34 p.m.

3:38 p.m.

Views of Stevens Creek as it flows through Deep Cliff Golf Course, from the ridge above Linda Vista Park.
Destination for the end of Day 2 is seen in the upper portion of the picture, just west of the large Moffett Field hangers

Bird Count Day 1: 69 Species

Estimated Mileage Day 1: 14.6

Species List Day 1:

Blackbird, Brewer's
Blackbird, Red-winged
Bluebird, Western
Bunting, Lazuli
Chickadee, Chestnut-backed
Cormorant, Double-crested
Cowbird, Brown-headed
Creeper, Brown
Dipper, American
Dove, Mourning
Finch, House
Finch, Purple
Flicker, Northern
Flycatcher, Ash-throated
Flycatcher, Olive-sided
Flycatcher, Pacific-slope
Gnatcatcher, Blue-gray
Goldfinch, Lesser
Grosbeak, Black-headed
Hawk, Cooper's
Hawk, Red-shouldered
Hawk, Red-tailed
Hummingbird, Anna's
Jay, Steller's
Junco, Dark-eyed
Kingfisher, Belted
Kite, White-tailed
Meadowlark, Western
Mockingbird, Northern
Oriole, Bullock's
Oriole, Hooded
Owl, Great Horned
Phoebe, Black
Pigeon, Band-tailed
Quail, California
Raven, Common
Robin, American
Screech-Owl, Western
Scrub-Jay, Western
Sparrow, House
Sparrow, Song
Starling, European
Swallow, Barn
Swallow, Cliff
Swallow, Violet-green
Swift, Vaux's
Thrasher, California
Titmouse, Oak
Towhee, California
Towhee, Spotted
Turkey, Wild
Vireo, Cassin's
Vireo, Hutton's
Vireo, Warbling
Vulture, Turkey
Warbler, Black-throated Gray
Warbler, MacGillivray's
Warbler, Orange-crowned
Warbler, Wilson's
Waxwing, Cedar
Wood-Pewee, Western
Woodpecker, Acorn
Woodpecker, Hairy
Woodpecker, Nuttall's
Wren, Bewick's
Wren, Winter

Day 2:

Route Description:

Started around 6:30 a.m. at Audubon headquarters at McClellan Ranch Nature Preserve. The route followed the Nature Trail at McClellan, then into Blackberry Farm. We then detoured out onto Byrne Avenue to bypass Blackberry Farm Golf Course, following it out to Stevens Creek Boulevard. Returning to the creek, we backtracked a bit into the Stocklmeir property, where we picked up a White-breasted Nuthatch and 6 golf balls. From Stevens Creek Boulevard to about a mile south of El Camino, Stevens Creek passes through impassable private property, so we had to follow a somewhat circuitous route: Phar Lap Drive to the railroad tracks (the spur line that ends at the quarry at the end of Stevens Creek Boulevard), then follow the railroad tracks northwest, passing over Stevens Creek. Leave the trackbed on the west side of Foothill Boulevard, then along Foothill and Homestead back to just before Stevens Creek at Fallen Leaf Dr. Fallen Leaf Dr. follows the creek until Fremont, where we turn east, passing over the creek yet again and then under 85 and left on Bernardo. Stevens Creek soon passes under 85 and joins us on the east side of 85, as we follow it closely along Bernardo, Robin, Cardinal [these are streets, not birds!], Knickerbocker, Heatherstone, and Dale until we reach El Camino. Stevens Creek passes back under 85 just before Heatherstone, so when we reach El Camino, we backtrack about a half mile along the section of the creek which is quasi-accessible (no questions, please) on the west side of 85 south of El Camino.

Following a much-needed lunch break at a conviently placed Burger King, we continue across El Camino and down Yuba Dr. until it reaches the end of the paved portion of the Stevens Creek Trail, which then follows the creek all the way to Shoreline Park. Just as we reach Shoreline, we cross over a bridge to the east side of the creek, which puts us on a levee which then goes out another mile or so to the creek mouth (then we have to backtrack a mile to the nearest parking lot to get to our car).

Birding Highlights:

Birding hotspots like McClellan Ranch Nature Preserve and Blackberry Farm didn't add many new species, since we had seen so much the day before. The railroad underpass under Foothill Boulevard afforded great views of Northern Rough-winged Swallows. Walking along city streets from Stevens Creek Boulevard to El Camino, we weren't expecting much, but there in a tree above a garage was a spectacular pair of Western Tanagers (we would see a couple more - possibly the same pair? - further downstream), and then, sitting on a light globe in front of a house, our first American Goldfinch (we would see more of those later as well). Some excellent close-up views of White-throated Swift just past the 101 underpass. Along the Stevens Creek Trail, a pair of Cedar Waxwings moved together from branch to branch, looking very much like they were a breeding pair, which would be extremely rare for Santa Clara County. Nuttall's Woodpeckers were everywhere, making them the "trash bird" of the day, following in the footsteps of yesterday's Black-headed Grosbeak.

Close to the end of the trail, a large group of Ruddy Ducks were in full breeding plumage and very attractive. Hidden amongst one group was a pair of Eared Grebes, also in full breeding plugmage, and hidden in another was a nice Western Grebe. Also, in Stevens Creek itself, a solitary Long-billed Curlew was feeding.

Nearing the Bay, a birding couple told us of the Townsend's Warbler they had just seen, but we could never see it. Later, on our way back from the trail's end, we met them again and they also told us about a Golden Eagle and a Marsh Wren they had just seen. We could actually see the eagle at a VERY long distance, but since none of us could have positively identified it without their assurance, we couldn't add it to the list. Likewise, we were pretty certain we heard the Marsh Wren, but didn't feel we could add that to the list either. Adding those two would have put us at an even 100, but then, we didn't even see a Great Blue Heron, Downy Woodpecker, Harrier, or Kestrel in two days. The extreme lack of diversity at the creek mouth, with numerous expected species among the missing, also held the count down. However, playing "what if" doesn't get us very far - we were perfectly delighted with 98, which far exceeded our original expectations.

At the very end of the day (5:00 p.m.) we reclaimed our car which was in the last parking lot before the Shoreline Park entrance (left there the previous evening). After no more than 100 yards, and still well within our 1/4 mile "target" of Stevens Creek, there perched on a low telephone wire was a Burrowing Owl! We screeched to a stop. The owl dropped down to the road maybe 10 feet from the back of our car, then hopped up on the curb, all the while giving us amazing close-up views of his handsome face. It didn't conform 100% to our "rule" (we weren't on foot at the time), but it was such a perfect end to our expedition we had to add him to the list.

Pictorial Highlights:

6:49 a.m.: McClellan Ranch Nature Preserve

8:13 a.m.: The intersection of Stevens Creek and Stevens Creek (Boulevard)

10:07 a.m.: Fremont Ave.

11:04 a.m.: From the El Camino overpass over 85, a view of the Day 1 starting point in the mountains, as well as the "backtrack" section along the west side of 85

11:21 a.m.: Birding the backtrack section, at one of the few places where the creekbed is wide (not very far upstream from this point, the creekbed becomes very steep and very narrow, which it remains all the way to Stevens Creek Boulevard)

1:18 p.m.: The Stevens Creek Trail affords great views of the creek

2:28 p.m.: Other birders saw a Townsend's Warbler right here, but we weren't as lucky. Timing is everything.

4:10 p.m.: The last stretch of trail to the east of the creek as it heads out toward San Francisco Bay in the distance

4:13 p.m.: Debi & Steve (left) and Grant (right) reach the end of the line, as Stevens Creek flows into San Francisco Bay

4:25 p.m.: Heading back, with one last look at the Santa Cruz Mountains where we started the adventure Saturday morning

Bird Count Day 2: 29 Species

Estimated Mileage Day 2: 11.8

Species List Day 2:

Avocet, American
Coot, American
Crow, American
Curlew, Long-billed
Dove, Rock
Duck, Ruddy
Egret, Great
Egret, Snowy
Goldfinch, American
Goose, Canada
Grebe, Eared
Grebe, Western
Gull, California
Gull, Glaucous-winged
Nuthatch, White-breasted
Owl, Burrowing
Pelican, American White
Pheasant, Ring-necked
Scaup, Lesser
Shoveler, Northern
Stilt, Black-necked
Swallow, Northern Rough-winged
Swift, White-throated
Tanager, Western
Teal, Cinnamon
Tern, Forster's
Yellowthroat, Common

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