Birding in the Time of Coronavirus

Black Phoebe Feeding Fledglings at Vasona Lake County Park
Black Phoebe Feeding Fledglings at Vasona Lake County Park

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, we’re now starting in on our seventh month of Sheltering in Place and Staying at Home, to slow the spread of coronavirus.  Since many of my usual activities (visiting family and friends in person; going out dancing, to concerts, plays, or lectures; traveling to remote wildlife destinations) have been precluded, I’ve been spending much more of my time in our closest local park, watching and photographing the local wildlife.  I’m very fortunate to live quite near to Vasona Lake County Park.  Before the pandemic, I had been interested in doing more Five Mile Radius Birding (; now I’m doing One Mile Radius Birding!  This is not wilderness, but rather a suburban park in a densely populated area, yet many species of wildlife thrive here.  According to the eBird citizen science project (, Vasona is the eighteenth birdiest hotspot in Santa Clara County, with 191 different species of wild birds recorded here.

I made it a Pandemic Project to visit the park each week; submit eBird checklists reporting on the birds that I’m able to identify; and photograph the birds and other wildlife to document biodiversity, behavior, and breeding activity.  Participating in eBird can directly contribute to research, help to maximize the quantity and quality of data available to inform conservation decisions, and improve outcomes for birds.  What’s good for birds and their habitats is also good for other wildlife, and for humans.

Although people are spending more time at home, the park seems more crowded than ever.  The birds mostly appear accustomed to sharing the park with people, and not often disturbed by their presence.  While humans have been enduring unprecedented disruptions to their lives, the wildlife in Vasona seem to be carrying on as usual.  An important part of their routine includes finding and eating food.

Double-crested Cormorant with Fish at Vasona Lake County Park
Double-crested Cormorant with Fish at Vasona Lake County Park

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