UPDATE: As our compilers continue to review data from the count, it now seems like the total number of species sighted was 182, not 184. But there is more study under way. We’ll have final results in February.
By Ilana DeBare
The 73rd annual Oakland Christmas Bird Count on Sunday brought beautiful weather, beautiful birds, and a record number of species — thanks to our friend the Painted Redstart.
About 250 people had signed up to count birds in the field or in their backyards, our biggest turnout ever.
And – even though we won’t have final results for another month or two – the preliminary count for the day was 184 species. That breaks last year’s record of 183!
One of those species was the Painted Redstart that had been found in an oak tree in a Berkeley backyard in mid-November. The redstart drew birders and bird photographers from all over the Bay Area for a couple of weeks, a local avian celebrity.
But would the redstart be here for the CBC? Things didn’t look good when, five days before the count, in the midst of last week’s cold snap… it vanished.
Count compilers Dave Quady and Bob Lewis sent a team over to Woolsey Street on Sunday morning just to scout for the bird. They were prepared to stay as long as it took, all day if necessary.
But there it was, in its familiar oak tree.
“The group basically walked up to it first thing in the morning,” said Dave Quady. “Let’s hope it makes it through the winter and further.”
Among other highlights of the day (besides an absence of sideways rain):
- A “Vega” form of Herring Gull and a Glaucous Gull, which shared the rare bird award for the day.
- A Swainson’s Thrush, unusual for this time of year, reported in Moraga.
- A Golden Eagle sighted eating a jackrabbit in Alameda.
- Two separate pairs of Ruby-crowned Kinglets that were spotted wrestling, talon to talon.
- Five river otters in the Briones Reservoir. (Okay, they’re not birds, but they are darn cool.)
As Dave reported on the East Bay Birds email list:
Other unusual species participants were happy to find included a handful of Snowy Plovers along the Alameda shoreline, a single Ruddy Turnstone that flew over San Leandro Bay, Surfbirds along Emeryville’s rocky shoreline, and three Red Knots at the end of the Albany Bulb. All these shorebirds have become increasingly scarce, and have been missed on many recent counts. Single Ross’s Geese were found in Oakland on Hanover Street near Lake Merritt, near Chuck Corica Golf Course, and at Middle Harbor Park. Single Black-throated Gray Warblers were found on Encina Place in Berkeley, and in Oakland’s Lake Merritt and Mountain View Cemetery areas. Two Hermit Warblers were found in the Oakland Hills. The continuing male Tufted Duck at Lake Merritt and the Common Gallinule at Lafayette Reservoir were also found yesterday.
Heermann’s Gull and Pine Siskin were the only ‘common’ species not reported at the compilation dinner. If you saw, or see, either of these species — or any other unusual species — from Thursday, December 12 through Wednesday, December 18, please send me details.
The count was well documented! A Bay Area News Group reporter and photographer followed George Griffeth’s Lafayette Reservoir team around the reservoir and created a lovely photo essay that conveys the beauty of the day.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle covered David Rice’s team at San Leandro Bay.
We’ve also posted a ton of photos from the CBC dinner on our Facebook page. You can view them by clicking here, even if you’re not signed up for Facebook.
Thank you to compilers Bob Lewis and Dave Quady for organizing such a massive effort! And thanks to the team leaders, participants, volunteer photographer Peter Maiden, and all the dinner volunteers, led by Jacqueline Craig.
Hey, it was so much fun… shall we do it again? Perhaps in San Francisco? On December 27?