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San Jose, CA - small, night swooping "birds" ?


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#1 PanamaGal

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 10:16 AM

Hello,
I'm new here and very happy to have found this site.
We walk each night or at dusk, on a golf course that has a large pond.
Each night, small, dark, silent "birds" are swooping in the vicinity.
They also swoop above our heads and in front of us - very near to our faces.
They are so fast and quiet, that I can't tell what they are.
They don't look like bats, more like very large moths.
Does anyone have any ideas?
Thanks so much..

#2 BarnSwallow

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 03:20 PM

Do they have a white patch on each wing? That would be nighthawks. However, they aren't silent and don't swoop near people like that. What you're describing sounds exactly like bats, however.

#3 Liam

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 03:24 PM

I would guess Chimney Swifts.

Nevermind, I see you're out of range. I suppose Vaux's Swift is a possibility, but BarnSwallow's suggestion of Nighthawk seems more likely.

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#4 fisherman1313

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 05:34 PM

Welcome to the site, from a San Jose native! Did you see these birds at dusk, full dark or both? Can you give us an idea of size in inches?

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#5 Pat B.

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 05:51 PM

Bats?

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#6 psweet

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 06:15 PM

Possibly one of the Sphinx Moths?

#7 PanamaGal

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 10:40 AM

Thanks for all of your ideas!

I googled "images" for all of the birds, the moth and bats - and I don't think they fit, but am still not sure..
We walked there again this evening at dusk, and they were there - I believe they begin to come out at dusk, and continue in the dark.
I tried to get a better look, and I do believe they were birds from a couple that I saw before it got dark.

They seem to range from 2-4" long, with a wing span about 4-5" wide.
They swoop and flutter very silently, and very quickly - they don't call out or make any noises with their wings - which seems odd, as
it is very quiet at dusk, and you'd think one would hear something.

We saw them specifically it seems, around two separate ponds.
I was aware of insects flying around also, so I'm positive they were swooping around catching the insects.
They also swooped over the water to catch them.
As I mentioned yesterday, they also swoop above and near our heads which I don't really understand.

My husband seems to think that their wings "point forward" instead of "backward," but I'm not sure what he means by that.
It wasn't light enough for me to see if they had a white patch on their wings.
They move so swiftly that you can't pin them down, and I never see them alight anywhere, they are constantly on the move.

San Jose Native, thanks for the welcome! I'm almost a native, 40 years..
I've become very, very interested in water fowl in the past few weeks - they are so varied and beautiful.
I've taken some shots of some great birds and want to post them this week on this site.
I believe I've i.d. all except one - which I would like to get some help on.
San Jose Native/fisherman - do you know of any good birding areas near San Jose, especially for water fowl?

I'm very appreciative of the feedback, I'm very glad I found this site..
panamagal

#8 JimBob

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 04:25 PM

Sounds like a bat. Their wings point forward, and they match the size range.

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#9 fisherman1313

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 05:57 PM

I agree that it sounds like you're seeing bats. I can't think of any birds that size that would be feeding in that manner after dark.

PanamaGal, I did not start birding until years after I moved from San Jose but I have been back to the area a couple of times to bird, so I do have a couple of recommendations. Lake Cunningham can be pretty productive. I used to live just two miles from there and had only been there once (to fish, didn't catch anything), but I've gone back there a couple times since moving and there were some good birds there on each visit. Another great area is along the edge of the bay. Here's a link to a page with some info; http://fog.ccsf.cc.c...jmorlan/scl.htm. I especially recommend the Shoreline Lake area and Palo Alto Baylands, both are excellent for shorebirds, waterfowl (particularly in winter) and some "seabirds". Shoreline Lake and nearby Charleston Slough are one of the few places in the Bay Area to regularly find Black Skimmer. I would also suggest that you go to the Santa Clara Valley Audubon bookstore at McClellan Ranch Park (on McClellan Rd. in Cupertino) and pick up a copy of Birding at the Bottom of the Bay, that is their birding site guide for the county (suggested donation of $10, free for members). It has some great info on the places I mentioned, plus info on 52 other county sites and a few out of area sites.

Here is a link to another resource you might find useful; http://groups.yahoo....outh-bay-birds/. South Bay Birds is a list serve where people from the area post sightings of (mostly) rare or unusual birds. And, lastly, if you ever want to do any biding in the Central Valley let me know and I could show you a few spots. (I live just outside Modesto.)

All Yellow Warblers are yellow warblers, but not all yellow warblers are Yellow Warblers

 

My Year List

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Latest Lifer(s):

Northern Pygmy Owl (FINALLY!): Del Puerto Canyon, Stanislaus County, CA, 3/24/14

Swamp Sparrow: Merced NWR, Merced County, CA, 3/11/14

Little Gull: Modseto Secondary Wastewater Treatment Plant, Modesto, CA, 2/9/14

Ruff; Ceres Sewage Ponds, Ceres, CA, 1/28/14

 

Favorite Recent Birds (non-lifers):

Western Screech-Owl: Enslen Park, Modesto, CA, 4/16/14

Pileated Woodpecker: Indian Grinding Rocks State Historic Park, Volcano, CA, 4/13/14

Semipalmated Plover, Yellow-headed Blackbird: Merced NWR, Merced County, CA, 4/12/14

Pacific Golden-Plover: Ripon Sewage ponds, Ripon, CA, 4/8/14

Horned Grebe, Whimbrel: Woodward Reservoir, Oakdale, CA, 4/6/13

Bald Eagle, Vesper Sparrow: Hunt Rd., Calaveras County, CA, 4/6/13


#10 BarnSwallow

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 08:25 PM

Yeah, I would bet the farm that they're bats. I can't think of any crepuscular birds that fly silently. I was at a friend's once, and she came out of the house and asked her husband to get the starling out of the house that had gotten in there. I went in to help, and was surprised when the "starling" flew around the room silently and very gracefully. Then I realized it was a rather large bat! We did get it safely out.

Even the size you describe doesn't sound like any crepuscular birds I know of.

#11 creeker

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 08:54 PM

Another vote for bats.
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#12 snick

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 10:22 PM

Panamagal, I'm also a newbie here, as well as a San Jose resident (southeast, Blossom Hill area). Perhaps we can compare notes sometime, or do some birding together...

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#13 Totah Sam

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 10:33 PM

I wonder if it could be swallows. They swoop and dive close to me when I'm standing on the banks of the San Juan.


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#14 BarnSwallow

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Posted 20 July 2012 - 11:07 PM

Swallows aren't active at night. They also aren't silent - they're usually twittering and chattering.

#15 threeofhardts

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Posted 21 July 2012 - 01:24 AM

My first thought was bats, also. I see them here quite often at dusk and after dark.

I'd rather be birding.


#16 PanamaGal

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Posted 21 July 2012 - 09:41 AM

Well, I believe you are all right - re: they're being bats..
Went out at early dusk tonight (8:30 p.m.), and they did not show until it was on the brink of the
end of dusk - into dark.

Again, I could not get a good look as it was too dark, even with the moonlight.
But this time I believe I may have seen what possibly looked like bat wings.
As usual, they silently swooped and fluttered all around us, there might have been approx. 100, give or take.
At the second pond, they just kept skimming the surface of the water over and over again, for insects.

I spoke to a lady walking the path, and she confirmed that there had been bats found living on the outside of her home nearby.
I had also remembered seeing some attached to an eave on a home in the neighborhood a couple of years ago.
However, there were just a few then - not the quantity that we've encountered on these walks at night.
I'm curious where they are all living during the day, and will do some further research..

I just now saw the last four replies.
That was cool and interesting footage of the swallows Totah Sam. It gave me pause, but they aren't "fluttering" quite as much as the ones
I'm seeing, and the swallows take a moment to glide occasionally.
Mine are constantly fluttering, with no gliding whatsoever. Also, they don't have the "tails" or the white under bellies of the swallows.
And as BarnSwallow said, mine only come out once it is dark and are utterly silent - I can't even hear wings flapping.
Great footage though..

Snick, I'm in the Villages - very near you - (used to live near the Hayes mansion)..
I'm recovering from a long illness, and am birding here as much as I can at the moment to help get me through each day.
When I'm finally 100%, I'd love to compare notes.. Let's keep in touch!

Fisherman, thanks for all the links..
I took your advice and went to Shoreline today.
There wasn't too much at this time - gulls and Canadian geese - but there was a bunch of Brown Pelicans!!
Very neat.. It was great watching them dunk and drain the water through their pouches, I just love Pelicans!
I will look into your other links, and also the South Bay site..
Thank you for the invite in Modesto, I hope to take you up on that sometime.
By the way, I live very near Lake Cunningham as I'm in the Villages.
I've never been there however, and will go asap this coming week - will keep you posted on what I find.

Thanks so much to all of you for this great welcoming post response.
If you can, look for my post for help on i.ding some water fowl I've taken photos this last week, right here in my
own development.
Quite by accident, I stumbled upon a big pond while walking one day last week.
There I found a Belted Kingfisher, a Great Egret, 3 Double Crested Cormorants, a Brown Pelican - and two neat birds that might be a type of
Tern - (which is what I need help with).
Also a small "Sandpiper."
(This is above the Coots, ducks, Canadian Geese, Turkey Vultures, Hawks, Kites and land birds that can be found here).

It's been extremely helpful to me to re enter the world of birding at this time.
Finding and observing these beauteous creatures is a great gift.
Thanks to all of you..
panamagal

#17 larrcamp

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Posted 21 July 2012 - 01:07 PM

Panamagal, I live in the bay area. Not only are there Brown Pelicans at Shoreline, there are White Pelicans there now as well. It isn't the best time to see a lot of birds now, but in a few months they will be all over.

#18 fisherman1313

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Posted 21 July 2012 - 05:02 PM

My sister's in-laws live at The Villages. She (the mother-in-law) is a backyard birder and she tells me they get a lot of birds at their feeder, so it sounds like you're in a pretty good area. Also, I attended Evergreen Valley College for a semester and remember seeing quite a few birds there as well. There was a Golden Eagle that would fly by my car on the upper parking lot almost everyday while I was waiting between classes. And a Brown Pelican is a very good sighting for that area. Congratulations.

All Yellow Warblers are yellow warblers, but not all yellow warblers are Yellow Warblers

 

My Year List

Spoiler

 

Latest Lifer(s):

Northern Pygmy Owl (FINALLY!): Del Puerto Canyon, Stanislaus County, CA, 3/24/14

Swamp Sparrow: Merced NWR, Merced County, CA, 3/11/14

Little Gull: Modseto Secondary Wastewater Treatment Plant, Modesto, CA, 2/9/14

Ruff; Ceres Sewage Ponds, Ceres, CA, 1/28/14

 

Favorite Recent Birds (non-lifers):

Western Screech-Owl: Enslen Park, Modesto, CA, 4/16/14

Pileated Woodpecker: Indian Grinding Rocks State Historic Park, Volcano, CA, 4/13/14

Semipalmated Plover, Yellow-headed Blackbird: Merced NWR, Merced County, CA, 4/12/14

Pacific Golden-Plover: Ripon Sewage ponds, Ripon, CA, 4/8/14

Horned Grebe, Whimbrel: Woodward Reservoir, Oakdale, CA, 4/6/13

Bald Eagle, Vesper Sparrow: Hunt Rd., Calaveras County, CA, 4/6/13


#19 PanamaGal

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 09:50 AM

Thanks for the heads up Larrcamp, I'll look forward to going there again later.
Could you tell me why that is?
Do the birds come to Shoreline from colder climes in our winter months?
Aren't there warmer places for them to go?

Fisherman, I was wondering about Evergreen as they have a pond/lake - I'll go take a look.
I am pretty amazed at the water fowl I've been sighting here, it's really spoiling me.
I'm bummed that I didn't have a camera when I saw the Pelican at the Verano village lake.
I did a major double take when I saw him/her.
He was waddling around on land, then lifted off, flew up in the air, then purposefully tried to land
on a unsuspecting duck who was napping in the water.
The duck squawked like mad, then took off.
After that, the pelican swaggered (I swear) back onto land and waddled off into one of the parking garages.
It really was comical - I've never left home without my camera since...

#20 PanamaGal

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Posted 24 July 2012 - 09:40 AM

They were bats after all..
Finally got a fast glimpse of their wings -
Thanks all...




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