On June 5th, the Palo Alto Summer Bird Count conducted by Douglas Brown - Board Member of the Sequoia Audubon Society in San Mateo County, took place here on the St. Patrick's Seminary & University Campus. Bird enthusiasts count the type and number of birds found in various local nature areas on a single day for one hour. The Audubon Society included St. Patrick's Seminary and its beautiful campus in their bird count for the first time.

The Bird count started in the 1900s as an annual Christmas hunt, where they counted the number of carcasses. Fortunately, the Christmas bird count migrated instead to the number and type of birds seen or heard. Unfortunately, some birds are so small and hidden that their call is the only way to identify them. In 1981 the Palo Alto Audubon Society added a second summertime bird count since the summertime is the breeding season for many local birds. The bird count is conducted within a 15-mile radius by sixty participants. Stanford University is the starting point for the bird counter to record the number of birds encountered in one hour. This data provides information on year-to-year changes in the birds' conditions, such as social activities and breeding. The longitudinal data will provide insight into the impact of climate change and whether a given species is improving or declining.

As one can imagine, our campus is full of wildlife. We see the mundane, like squirrels, rabbits, insects, and rodents, to the extraordinary, like foxes and coyotes. Given the number of trees on our campus, we also have a large number of avian residents. Doug Brown and Advancement Associate Myra Phelan walked around campus and added our feathered residents to their vast community science database on the appointed day. This summer count included the prized sighting of the day: a Great Blue Heron!


"It was wonderful to see the Great Blue Heron since it is such a large bird," said Doug Brown. "Even though one expects a Great Blue Heron to be in the marshlands hunting fish, this one was clearly in the recently-plowed field at St. Patrick's searching for small animals like groundhogs." He thanked St. Patrick's for participating in this bird count and is looking forward to a second count during the Christmas break. The list of birds encountered is in the appendix below.

If you are interested in learning more, there are two separate Audubon Societies, one for Santa Clara County and one for San Mateo (Sequoia) county. You can become a member or donate to their mission. They provide free information on their website and anticipate resuming free field trips in the Fall, depending on COVID. Lastly, the two Audubon Societies are heavily involved in conservation activism, particularly around the Baylands.

 Appendix - List of Birds Seen or Heard

  • Acorn Woodpecker
  • American Crow
  • Anna's Hummingbird
  • Bewick's Wren
  • Black Phoebe
  • California Gull
  • California Scrub Jay
  • California Towhee
  • Chestnut-Backed Chickadee
  • Cooper's Hawk
  • Dark-Eyed Junco
  • Great Blue Heron
  • House Finch
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Mourning Dove
  • Pygmy Nuthatch
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Stellar's Jay
  • Violet-Green Swallow
  • White-Breasted Nuthatch