Albany Mudflats – McLaughlin East Shore State Park
January 26, 2019
Leader(s): Fred Werner
# of participants: 40
# of species: 52
40 people showed up including seasoned experts, total novices and everywhere in between. It was a mild day for January: mostly cloudy but with no wind, the Bay was glassy. We started the day scanning the mudflats, taking in the scattered American Avocets and other assorted shorebirds, coots and ducks. Multiple Red-tailed Hawks flew by but the foraging flocks didn’t seem to concerned.
Moving on to the uplands area of the McLaughlin Eastshore state park, we got even better views of the Canvasbacks and some of the other ducks, and really nice views of a lone Mew Gull.
The biggest highlight of the day was the Burrowing Owl standing in fairly tall grass in the middle of its protected enclosure, patiently awaiting some excitement. For us, he was it!!!
As we rounded the curve at the west end of the Burrowing Owl area, most people headed for home. But a Red-throated Loon cruising along the flooded shoreline below us, beckoned us to continue. Three people joined the optional extension out to the tip of the Albany Bulb, beginning with a chase for the perfect view of that loon. These few intrepid birders were rewarded richly for their efforts. Jutting a half mile further out into the Bay, the rocky spit at the tip of the Bulb was a refuge sought by large flocks of shorebirds as the tides rose, including quite a few we hadn’t seen yet today: Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plover, Least and Spotted Sandpipers, Black Turnstones, a lone Black Oystercatcher, and one Eurasian Wigeon trying to blend in with a large raft of American Wigeons. The massive schooling flocks of Western Sandpipers also put on a spectacular show out there, as did the White-tailed Kites and the Osprey.
Details and photos of some of the birds can be found on the three eBird lists submitted, one for each hotspot:
Albany Mudflats: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S52117472
McLaughlin Eastshore SP: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S52117550
Albany Bulb: https://ebird.org/view/checklistS52117597
January 23, 2019
Leader(s): Hilary Powers
# of participants: 32
# of species: 52
Thirty-two guests encountered fifty-two avian species – the most for the month since 2015. Startling appearances: a Greater White-Fronted Goose for the second time since records start in 2009, the third Northern Pintail ever, a dozen or more Common Mergansers in breeding plumage, and a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneyes — the crescent-moon-marked male being the first seen on any of these walks this season. We also had three separate sightings of Brown Creepers scuttling up trunks and along branches overhead, far enough apart to indicate three different individuals; never had more than one before, and few enough of those.
A juvenile Great Blue Heron perched on the rocks by the pipe outside the nature center, close enough to talk about the signs that indicated the age of the bird. Also, for the first time this season, the water between the nature center – which is reopening, in case you hadn’t heard – and the near island carried enough scaup of both species to make it possible to talk about their differences, which do matter to birders, even if not so much as to the Greater and Lesser Scaup themselves.
The lake seemed to have more birds overall than in recent months – not black with birds as it should be, but goodly numbers of Greater and Lesser Scaup, assorted grebes (including half a dozen or so Western Grebes instead of one or two), Bufflehead, Common Goldeneyes, still-not-ruddy Ruddy Ducks, and Canvasbacks. The big bare tree on the island was still empty (except for the young Red-shouldered Hawk that perched in a nest for a while before raising a kerfuffle of dodging prey species on the next island over), but the floats were lined with adult though still smooth-headed Double-crested Cormorants apparently waiting for the territory-grab starting gun. It was low tide, and the shallows were crowded with Snowy Egrets, all busily snapping up delicious things too small to see from the walkway. Will they come back and nest this year? Always the same question, hoping not to get the same answer.
Hank-the-rescue-pelican was on his own, waddling in the paddock and later swimming across the lake all alone, despite the breeding bump starting to grow on his beak. Poor guy gets a lot of visitors from summer through early winter, but no one ever stays with him through the breeding season. They’re colony nesters, and he can’t compete with the call of the cousins.
Tree bird sightings started in the oaks along Bellevue beside the lake – before we crossed into the main part of the park we had Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Oak Titmice and a cloud of Bushtits, plus both Yellow-rumped and Townsend’s Warblers, the first of the Brown Creepers, and some gorgeous Western Bluebirds (the first since last October). Also some Dark-eyed Juncos – probably always here but not always seen – and some White-crowned Sparrows, a Golden-crowned Sparrow, and a Song Sparrow. That covered everything likely to appear in the oaks outside Children’s Fairyland and it was well after 11:30 already, so we headed straight along the other end of the Bellevue U and into the garden.
There our usual viewing-and-resting platform was full of two-foot-tall humans and their keepers, so we walked along the fence past the composting area, looping under the monkey-puzzle tree and across to the bee hotel, enjoying repeat looks at the tree birds (including hummingbirds and Ruby-crowned Kinglets) and generally reveling in the fairest day offered by 2019 and a lot of the latter part of 2018 as well: sparkling sunny, still, and not-cold. All in all, a peak morning in the unbroken string of excellent mornings we’ve come to expect at Lake Merritt….
January 21, 2019
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: 6
# of species: 54
Our bicycle trip found the Ridgway’s Rails during the high tide this MLK day. We started bicycling from EBRPD’s Tidewater staging area near the High Street Bridge and rode the Bay Trail to the viewing platform and rode the loop around to pond #3 (SE corner). Lots of Surf Scoters in the channel, many Common Golden-eyes everywhere, Blue-wing Teals in Pond #3. Say’s Phoebes and Western Meadowlarks. We also saw a huge number of volunteers clearing out an unimaginable amount of trash from the area. Thank you! Great weather even though a bit cool.
January 20, 2019
Leader(s): David Assmann
# of participants: n/r
# of species: n/r
The GGAS walk at Fort Mason was cut short due to heavy rain at one point, but the few birders who braved the rain afterwards were treated to the sight of the young male ORCHARD ORIOLE preening in a tree in the Community Garden, which also had two WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS and two LINCOLN’S SPARROWS. The WANDERING TATTLER was on the abandoned pier in Aquatic Park.
Golden Gate Park, Chain of Lakes
January 13, 2019
Leader(s): Bonnie Brown and Mitch Youngman
# of participants: 30
# of species: 36
Today’s quarterly walk through Chain of Lakes in Golden Gate Park was led by Mitch Youngman and Bonnie Brown. Even though the park was closed to car traffic this morning due to the Hot Chocolate 15K event with thousands of runners, we had a huge turnout! 30 guests and 3 of those were young kids and enthusiastic birders. Lucky with the weather too; had a cool start with light breeze and ended our walk with more sun but probably still in the high 50’s. Lots of locals in attendance, some repeat guests which is always fun and we had a nice couple from Amsterdam join.
Early on, we heard rumors about the American Bittern at North Lake and when we got there, it was easily spotted in the reeds on the east side of North lake. We all got good looks in the scope. The Red Tailed Hawk nest on the southwestern edge of our walk looks to have disappeared with either recent storm activity or the tree trimming work that has been happening in the park recently. We saw a beautiful Red Shouldered Hawk in the forest just north of the former Red Tailed Hawk nest and it was a glorious specimen with beautiful markings. It was very cooperative and we looked at it for several minutes from different vantage points. Tons of Yellow Rumped Warblers all over the place. mostly heard way up in the Eucalyptus canopies. Another really fun morning in GGP with a great group of birders!
View this checklist online at https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S51681822
Shadow Cliffs Regional Park
January 11, 2019
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 8
# of species: 53
The weather started with temps in the 40s, a10 mph SE wind, and overcast. It continued overcast but warmed to the 50s and the wind died. We walked from the swimming beach along the lake shore, up on the levee to the rookery, then back west and dropped down into the the forest. We continued along the levee to the west end of the park. In general, the land birds were pretty quiet, with little activity or vocalizing. Today’s birds included 6 Hooded Mergansers, a good number of Ring-necked Ducks, Osprey, Kestrel and California Quail. View this checklist online at https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S51569867.
Tilden Park Nature Area
January 4, 2019
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants:
# of species: 29
We walked from the parking lot to Jewel Lake by the road and then back from the Lake by the Lower Pack Rat Trail. Our theme today was Terrestrial Mixed Feeding Flocks. Guest was Malc from UK. There were three Hooded Mergansers in the lake: two females and a male. You can view the checklist online at https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S51487775