Birding at the Bottom of the Bay
Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society (SCVAS) has its headquarters and nature
shop in the historic old ranch house at the park entrance. Bordered by the
meandering Stevens Creek, the 23.5-acre park is managed to preserve a
natural character, although it also accommodates Cupertino's organic
community garden and 4H Club facilities. For its relatively small size,
McClellan Ranch yields a surprisingly large variety of birds in the spring
and is a popular stop for Birdathon teams.
Take I-280 to the Foothill Blvd. exit in Cupertino. Go south (toward the
hills) on Foothill Blvd. Several short blocks past Stevens Creek Blvd.,
turn left on McClellan Rd. Follow McClellan Rd. briefly through a
residential area, after which it winds down into the creek bottom.
McClellan Ranch Preserve is on the left just past the bridge over Stevens
Stevens Creek, with its mature riparian habitat of sycamore, buckeye,
walnut and coast live oak, borders the park on the west and north. The
large central field has non-native wild radish that is managed by the City
of Cupertino to reduce the danger of fire during the dry season. SCVAS has
planted California natives near the ranch house. The community garden, with
its fruit and vegetable plantings, attracts some of the birds in the park.
How to Bird the Area
An excellent loop trail leaves from the comer of the parking lot nearest
Stevens Creek. It follows closely downstream along the creek, skirting the
edge of the park and cutting back through the community garden. The trail
offers numbered interpretive signs that identify trees and plants along the
way. Maps are available in the SCVAS office. If you go through the garden
make sure you close the gates behind you.
A walk on the loop trail should produce many of the species resident
throughout the year. These include Red-shouldered Hawk, Anna's Hummingbird,
Belted Kingfisher (often heard rattling its way up and down the creek),
Acorn, Nuttall's, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Black Phoebe, Steller's Jay,
Bushtit, Spotted and California Towhees, Song Sparrow, and Lesser
Goldfinch, Barn Owls were resident in the park prior to 1998, but have not
returned since their roosting/nesting site was subject to renovation by the
City. They may occasionally roost in the barn. Look for Turkey Vulture and
Red-tailed Hawk overhead.
This beautiful riparian habitat provides nesting for many species in spring
including Olive-sided Flycatcher (occasional), Western Wood-Pewee,
Pacific-slope and Ash-throated (occasional) Flycatchers, Warbling Vireo,
Yellow Warbler, and Bullock's Oriole. Hooded Orioles nest in fan palms in
the park and in the nearby neighborhood. Listen for the flight call note, a
single, clear, rising "wheet." Other species found along the creek in
spring include Wilson's Warbler, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak and
Of special interest in the park are nest boxes built and maintained by
SCVAS volunteers. The boxes have been placed in the middle of the field and
at various spots along the trail. Western Bluebirds and Violet-green
Swallows use these
boxes. Other boxes around the park and along the creek are used by
Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Oak Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch and
In winter Red-breasted Sapsucker and Northern (Red-Shafted) Flicker are
present, making it possible to see six woodpecker species in one day. Other
winter species include Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, California
Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, and Yellow-rumped Warbler. This is a good time for
sparrows, particularly around the community garden area. Occasional Fox,
Lincoln's and White-throated Sparrows are spotted. White-crowned and
Golden-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Junco abound.
The loop trail along the creek and through the community garden returns to
the ranch house complex. Be sure to check the feeders outside the SCVAS
office and nature shop for some easy sightings. In spring the orioles
coming to the feeders are a real treat. Don't forget to stop in at the
SCVAS office to check out the Audubon Nature Shop and to say hello.
— Leda Beth Gray
See more birding opportunities in the Santa Clara Valley in our
Birding at the Bottom of the Bay.
Last modified on September 8, 2005.