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On June 5th, St. Patrick's Seminary participated in the Palo Alto Summer Bird Count with Douglas Brown - Board Member, Sequoia Audubon Society (San Mateo County). On a single day for an hour period, enthusiasts count types and numbers of birds found in various local nature areas. In the past, the St. Patrick's campus was not including in the count.

Bird counts had its start in the 1900s as an annual Christmas hunt, where they counted up the number of carcasses. Fortunately, the Christmas bird counts migrated instead to numbers and types of birds seen or heard. Some birds are so small and hidden that they are only identified by their call. In 1981 Palo Alto added a summertime bird count in addition to the Christmas bird count, since the summertime is the breeding season for many of the local birds. Sixty counters within a 15-mile circle with its center at Stanford University count the number of bird encountered in a one hour period. This data is used to provide information on year-to-year changes in the birds conditions, such as social activities and breeding. The longitudinal data provides insights on what is happening, such as 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 have seen 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. On the appointed day, Doug Brown, together with Advancement Associate Myra Phelan, walked around campus and added our feathered residents to their huge community science data base. This included the prize sighting of the day: a Great Blue Heron!

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"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 the Christmas one. The entire 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 simply donate to their mission. They provide free information on their website and anticipate resuming free field trips in 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