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2016 Trip Reports

Lake Merritt
December 28, 2016
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 25
# of species:  44

The Belted Kingfisher in residence at the lake this year, a female, spent much of the morning swooping around the islands and giving her distinctive rattling cry. For a few moments, she hung in the air like a kite, then plunged straight down into the water… but emerged fishless.

All five expected heron species turned out for the enjoyment of the birders (at least 25, and some may have drifted in later) assembled for the walk. We didn’t see the local juvenile, but the adult Great Blue Heron posed portrait-style in the cluster of bare branches on the island nearest the Rotary Nature Center — a spot to check out anytime you walk near the lake with binoculars in hand; all sorts of wonderful creatures sit there, often camouflaged against thick greenery. Today, even in brilliant sun, the bird was hard to see without optics — and doubtless liked it that way. The Great Egret, on the other hand, was sitting on the chain-link fence box inside the duck paddock, 10 feet from the walkway and glowing like the rising moon. The Green Heron was doing its famous rock imitation on the rip-rap along the nearest island, again, very difficult to see unless you knew right where to look (or were simply examining every inch of the rip-rap, which is what you do if you want to see Green Herons and no one is there to point one out).

Out on the lake, we were still scarily without either Western or Clark’s Grebes, but had the other three regulars, including enough Horned and Eared Grebes to begin to get comfortable spotting the differences. At least two pair of Barrow’s Goldeneyes  puttered around the islands and the floats, along with half a dozen pair of Common Goldeneyes, several Buffleheads, some copper-headed Canvasbacks, and what looked like a lot of Lesser and Greater Scaup to those who didn’t know how many more there should have been.

The oaks three-quarters of the way from the playground to El Embarcadero — usually bare of birds when the walk passes by — were hosting a big mixed flock, including Yellow-rumped Warblers, Bushtits, a Black Phoebe, and a couple of others. Most notable: a pair of Orange-crowned Warblers, yellowish and greenish and totally lacking in distinguishing marks (not seen at the lake since December 2015), chased each other back and forth from tree to tree.

Across Bellevue we picked up most of the regulars and a couple of extras, including Dark-eyed Juncos and a California Scrub Jay, but dipped on woodpeckers (not too surprising) as well as House Finches and House Sparrows. All told, we saw 44 species (down one from November) on a shining and amazingly not-too-cold day at Lake Merritt — where every day has its own loveliness, but many make it harder to recognize than this one did.

Fort Mason
December 18, 2016
Leader(s): David Assmann
# of participants: 10
# of species:  45

The best bird of the morning at Fort Mason was seen after the participants in the GGAS field trip had left – a bright yellow ORCHARD ORIOLE in the apple and avocado trees in the garden.  A little while before this sighting, the last few participants got to see the BULLOCK’S ORIOLE fly over the garden.  Generally a very birdy morning with a RED-BREASTED MERGANSER and a COMMON LOON in Aquatic Park, a GREAT HORNED OWL behind the General’s House and both a COOPER’S HAWK and a MERLIN in the garden. The WHITE-THROATED SPARROW was out in the open for all to see on the northern side of the garden, as was a bright ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER.  Late in the morning, the HOUSE WREN was out in the open and a NASHVILLE WARBLER flew west from the avocado tree.  After hiding most of the morning, the SAY’S PHOEBE was flying from post to post on the east side of the Great Meadow. Total species count was 45.  The only species that I saw yesterday that were missing this morning were WESTERN BLUEBIRDS (5 yesterday) and the BELTED KINGFISHER (one female yesterday).

Hilltop Lake Park
December 14, 2016
Leader(s): Kathy Bleier
# of participants:
# of species:

This was a great trip for ducks, especially Ring-necked Duck (22 in all), Gadwall, Bufflehead, Wigeon and others.  There was a big flock of Cedar Waxwings (about 75) as well.

The ebird checklist is on line at http://ebird.org/ebird/shared?subID=UzMzMDIxNTUz&s=t

Arrowhead Marsh Bike and Bird
December 14, 2016
Leader(s):  Kathy Jarrett
# of participants:
# of species: 49

Thanks to Ken with his scope for showing us the Ridgway’s Rails by the viewing platform and for walking over to the SE corner pond to find the Burrowing Owl. We started from the EBRPD Tidewater staging area and rode to Arrowhead. Good view of Northern Flicker and Spotted Sandpiper along trail.

Chain of Lakes Park
December 11, 2016
Leader(s):  Mitch Youngman and Bonnie Brown
# of participants: 19
# of species: 31

We had our largest group yet join us for our walk through the Chain of Lakes – 19 plus us 2 guides!  We had some great birders with us today and they identified a good number of our birds, both by ear and sight.  The more eyes, the better!  Yesterday’s major rain gave way to a chilly and overcast morning but no wind thankfully.  The birding was slower than we expected but the cool temps may have contributed to that.  Even so, we clocked 31 species!

The Yellow Rump Warblers were out in force today and they seemed to enjoy the Eucalyptus flowers (nectar, insects?) up in the canopy of the trees, sometimes hard to get a good look due to our light conditions.  We had two really good looks at Townsend Warblers.  We kept hearing Red Tail hawks and finally had two excellent looks at them – one from behind and below and the other looking right at us.  Caught a few good glances of  Orange Crowned Warbler, Common Yellowthroat and Ruby Crowned Kinglet at a fairly close range. Saw two Pied billed Grebes – one with breeding mark on bill and the other without, that was interesting.  Always a fun walk in the park, thanks for joining and hope to see you again.

View the checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S32968771

Corte Madera Town Park to Corte Madera Creek, Marin Bike and Bird Trip
December 3, 2016
Leaders: Pat Greene and Jeffrey Black
# of participants: 14
# of species: 42 (+3 other taxa)

This birding and biking field trip was co-listed with Golden Gate Audubon and Grizzly Peak Cyclists and co-led by Pat Greene and Jeffrey  Black.  We met at 9:30 AM, with the temperature in the low 50s, but, with the warm sun and lack of wind, we felt warm from the start. Fourteen riders joined the two leaders. We had a few very interested beginners mixed in with birders of varying experience–a fun combination.
Our route started in Pixley Park and followed multiuser paths past ponds and a small channel to Wornum St, which took us east of the freeway to Corte Madera Marsh. We cycled south along the marsh and then returned via Wornum and took multiuser paths north, again along a small channel and finally over Corte Madera Creek.
Although the tide was quite high, we had a decent variety of shorebirds, but the numbers were low; just one Dowitcher?!. Another deficit, having nothing to do with the tides, was a lower number of passerine species–a feeder where we usually see American Goldfinches and a few other species was under patrol by a briefly glimpsed hunter, probably a Cooper’s Hawk. A small stand of trees along the creek in past years has harbored Bluebirds, warblers, and others, and a sparrow flock on the ground. Today this spot was totally quiet. Today most of the really fun birding was along the narrow channels next to the multiuser paths where the birds were very close to us.
At the south end of the path along Corte Madera Marsh, there is a pond where we frequently see interesting birds. Today, even in bad light, Miya Lucas spotted a Eurasion Wigeon. The highlight of the trip for me was a spot where one of the channels was expanded. A Great Blue Heron, Great and Snowy Egrets, and a Double-crested Cormorant were actively feeding in this small spot, with the Cormorant acting almost like a dabbler. Best of all for me, since I rarely get to see this, a male Belted Kingfisher was flying between perches and actively diving for prey. One birder saw him try to grab a morsel from a Snowy Egret. Very near this spot, two spectacular male Hooded Mergansers were swimming in formation with two subtly beautiful females.
view the checklist at  http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S32840206

Tilden Nature Area to Jewel Lake and Return
December 2, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 36
# of species: 30

We had our second annual book exchange (thanks, Terri W. and others who contributed books and magazines for the exchange). Bird of the day: Hooded Merganser (two males and one female), the first ones at Jewel Lake for 2016 (at least as far as I can find on Ebird). The 2015 Hoodies arrived in late October and were seen through November; this year, there were none reported in October or November. Visitors today from Alabama and United Kingdom (Edinburgh, by way of London suburbs) got lifers!

U.C.  Berkeley Campus
November 26, 2016
Leader(s): Christina Tarr
# of participants: 11
# of species: 11

Our walk through the U.C. Berkeley campus yielded just eleven species.  Most numerous were Chestnut-backed Chickadees.  We saw a pair of Ravens and two species of warblers

And here’s the ebird list–
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S32788128

Lake Merritt
November 23, 2016
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 25
# of species:  47

Our walk drew a near-record 25 participants, enjoying brilliant sun after a rainy dawn and celebrating the return of most of the winter migrants. The high point – while scanning to re-find a Red-breasted Merganser (an uncommon sighting at the lake) – was the discovery of a female Hooded Merganser (something seen only twice on these walks since 2009). We finally had good looks at three or four of the Red-breasted, but only the one Hoodie, and she spent most of her time cruising in meatloaf mode, with her beak buried in her shoulder feathers and her beautiful gold-auburn crest folded but still flaring along her neck.

The total species count jumped to 47, up more than 10 from October, even though we missed both large grebes, and we didn’t see even a single robin. Three pairs of Barrow’s Goldeneyes were swimming around the islands and in the area below the Nature Center, and there were almost as many Common Goldeneyes  as scaup. That was partly due to a lack of scaup – the population seemed way down – but even a small population of scaup amounts to a lot of birds on the lake.

The egrets and the herons were out in force – uncountable Snowy and Great Egrets, two Great Blue Herons (one adult and one streaky-breasted juvenile), several Black-crowned Night-Herons, and one lone lorn Green Heron (the latter being harassed by a party of crows, apparently because they hadn’t found a raptor to torment). Hank-the-rescue-pelican had three visitors left, and several Brown Pelicans were in the Fairyland arm of the lake with a fishing flotilla of 200 or 300 young Double-crested Cormorants.

We skunked on woodpeckers, and the only two warblers we saw were both butter-butts (Yellow-rumped Warblers). Lots of sparrows, mostly White-crowned. The best sighting in the park was the flat-rock fountain in the Sensory Garden, where several male House Finches and Lesser Goldfinches were bathing, shining like holiday ornaments. It clouded over briefly around mid-morning and a few drops of rain fell, but that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits or keep it from being yet another wonderful day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day….

San Francisco and San Pablo Bay Cruise
November 21, 2016
Leader(s): Hilary Powers
# of participants: 16
# of species:  52

The cruise on November 21 was as big a delight as it would have been a disaster on the 19th. Perfect weather, with just enough fog lingering just long enough to show off the mysterious fogbow: like a rainbow made of moonstone, with only the barest touch of color in the glow.

It was a 52-species day (if you count the towhees, hummingbird, and turkey seen by various participants before boarding), including three kinds of cormorants, three of herons, two of loons, and seven of gulls, along with rafts and rafts of Bufflehead and lots of Surf Scoters, and crowned by a White-tailed Kite munching something at the top of a cypress as we pulled into dock in the afternoon. The marine mammals were out too, not just sea lions and harbor seals but harbor porpoises (one of the world’s smallest cetaceans, once vanishingly rare) – which few of us had seen before and many hadn’t heard of – wheeling through the water near the Golden Gate.

Fort Mason
November 20,  2016
Leader(s): David Assmann
# of participants: 12
# of species: 33

A dozen hardy birders braved the rain and wind this morning at Fort Mason for the monthly GGAS field trip.  Highlights were a co-operative NASHVILLE WARBLER and a briefly seen Tan-Striped WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. Despite the weather, 33 species were seen or heard.

Shadow Cliffs Regional Park
November 19, 2016
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 4
# of species: 44

We started at the swimming beach, walked the shoreline, then the levee to the rookery, then returned through the riparian trails. Very windy with some scattered raindrops. In general, the birding seemed a little slow, with many of the “tree” birds being absent, and fewer ducks (both numbers and species) than I had expected. View the checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S32624069

Bay Trail Bike and Bird
November 12, 2016
Leader(s):Jeffrey Black, Pat Greene, Cathy Bleier
# of participants: 22
# of species: 45

We had a big group, most of whom were Audubon members.  It turned out to be a really lovely weather window between rainy days – about 62-65 degrees over the course of the 3 hour trip (9:30-12:30), with a few overhead clouds coming and going.  The trip started at Aquatic Park, proceeded to Cesar Chavez Park to look for the burrowing owl (no luck nor much on the inner bay by the owl site).   Then on over the hill at the race track to the east end of the Albany bulb and up the bay trail, west of Highway 580.  Half way to Central Avenue we found our first Eurasian widgeon (we knew it was there somewhere!).   From there, we biked past the dog park and up Meeker Slough to the first turn in the trail where we got great looks at our 2 more Eurasian widgeons.   The usual suspects with a couple white-fronted geese thrown in but no scaups.

Sign-up sheet is below. My ebird list, S32528999, was generated by Pat Greene and Annie Armstrong with a few edits by Jeffrey and me.

North Livermore Raptor Survey
November 11, 2016
Leader(s): Bob Power and Christine Carino
# of participants: n/r
# of species: 9 raptor species

We surveyed raptors from the Brushy Peak staging area to North Livermore Ave and back again.

Most participants drove under a gorgeous adult Ferruginous Hawk w/a staked out territory along Laughlin Road heading into Brushy Peak.

We didn’t budge an inch from the parking lot for half an hour as Christine called out raptors right and left; all I needed to do was tally. Golden Eagles, another adult Ferruginous Hawk — not the same one down the road — Red-tails and Harriers everywhere….Prairie Falcon!!!….. in short, raptor pandemonium on the Pacific. or thereabouts.

We had a mega-highlight bird in the fields northwest of Hartman/North Livermore, an adult DARK-MORPH FERRUGINOUS HAWK, not seen too often in these here parts. Maybe 3% of the Ferruginous population, this was a stunning bird. Christine and I had seen this bird on our scouting trip on Monday and were thrilled it was here for the group.

Burrowing Owls picked out by Tom Bennett in the fields north of Raymond Road were a great find; tough bird to track down these days in lands where they were once abundant.

I haven’t done the final tally. I’m guessing we approached 100 raptors.

Tilden Park Nature Area
November 4, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 34
# of species: 29

Today’s theme was Migration, using the chapter on migration and dispersal in the new (third) edition of the Handbook of Bird Biology from Cornell Lab of Ornithology/Wiley.

We talked about where our winter residents come from (the Red-breasted Sapsucker in the parking lot comes from British Columbia or the Pacific Northwest to northern California; the Ruby-crowned Kinglets are down from the Sierra Nevada; the Fox Sparrows here for the winter come from the coast near where Yukon territory and Alaska meet). And where our summer breeders have gone (Lazuli Buntings are in the Pacific Coast states of Mexico- but not as far as Oaxaca; MacGillivray’s Warblers are similarly dispersed but go further, into Nicaragua; the Barn Swallows are gone to South America, and southern Mexico- but not in Yucatan).

I derived this data from the All About Birds website and the maps there for each of these (except the Fox Sparrow; that story has been around awhile).

We talked about Leapfrog Migration (the northernmost populations of Fox Sparrows go furthest down the Pacific Coast, by-passing perfectly good habitat occupied by others), Drop-out Migration (some Barn Swallows have set-up shop for year-round occupation in Argentina instead of returning to North America), and Obligate Migration (what we typically see, with all the flycatchers and most warblers withdrawing to the south: the entire population migrates).

We also talked about winter philopatry: the Red-breasted Sapsucker we saw in the parking lot could be the same bird we saw last year in the same place, faithfully returning to its winter home with us. Out of 22 White-crowned Sparrows transported from San Jose and released in the eastern US in the winter of 1961-62, six came back to San Jose for the winter of 1963-64. They obviously knew the way!

We had visitors from Vermont who got a few lifers. Thanks also to our Meet-up attendees.

Hilltop Lake Park, Richmond
October 26, 2016
Leader(s): Cathy Bleier
# of participants: 15
# of species:  40

40 species including an obvious Myrtle’s Warbler, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks and the Ring-necked Ducks are back.   The group was jazzed and so was I!  Bird list is at:
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S32241923

Lake Merritt
October 26, 2016
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 14
# of species:  36

This month we enjoyed the year’s first pair of Lesser Scaup, both  swimming in a pose that showed off the divot at the back of the head that distinguishes them from their Greater Scaup cousins. None of the latter appeared, but one was reported from a few days ago: the winter migration has clearly started. It has a long way to go, though, as the Ruddy Ducks  were the only other traveling ducks seen on the lake.

A big school of fish swam among and east of the islands – not that we actually saw fish, except for a few silver glimmers vanishing down the gullets of the dozens of Double-Crested Cormorants, American White Pelicans (and a couple of Brown Pelicans, unusually consenting to swim for fish instead of diving through the birdy throngs), Snowy Egrets (more than have gathered together at the lake since the rookery disappeared after 2005), and some Great Egrets as well to show off the size difference. Two Great Blue Herons – an adult and a streaky-breasted juvenile – joined the fun, too. The Black-crowned Night-Herons and the Green Heron stayed well clear of it, possibly to avoid getting stepped on.

Over in Lakeside Park we saw Yellow-rumped Warblers and White-crowned Sparrows in droves, and a late family of Oak Titmice with the juveniles still fluttering their wings and begging their tired parents for lunch. The Chestnut-backed Chickadees were out too, along with a fine male Nuttall’s Woodpecker, his head looking redder and his ladder back blacker and whiter than any of his kind as he slipped among the leaves at the thin end of an oak branch. And near noon, a dead pine tree visible from the Scent Garden turned into a sort of slide show, with birds we hadn’t seen yet chasing one another off the branches: Cedar Waxwings followed by House Finches and a Lesser Goldfinch followed by Western Bluebirds and back again.

That was amazing enough, but the big event of the day featured a featherless biped demonstrating the species at its best. One of the leaders’ scopes took a dive into the lake – untouched by hand or foot; a tripod leg collapsed and the thing just toppled over and in – to lie there in shallow water about 6′ below the rim. A first-time member of the party slipped off his shoes and socks, rolled up his pants legs, and lowered himself down to the narrow ledge at the foot of the wall, from which (with one foot ankle-deep in the water) he could pick up the scope and pass it dripping to its owner. Then he clambered back out, with some help and a lot of applause from the group. All told, we saw 36 species of birds, but that was the sight that made it an especially good day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day (but they don’t all need to be as good as that!)….

Fort Mason
October 16, 2016
Leader(s): David Assmann,
# of participants: 20
# of species: 43

Before the rain, we had great looks at the continuing ORCHARD ORIOLE.  The PALM WARBLER was also still present in the garden. A WILSON’S WARBLER was the only other migrant warbler seen – the Blackburnian and Chestnut-Sided Warblers have presumably moved on.  There were many YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, along with a few TOWNSEND’S and ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS. A WESTERN TANAGER and a HOUSE WREN were also found in the garden.  A female BELTED KINGFISHER perched on the pier at Aquatic Park.

Vollmer Peak
October 18, 2016
Leader(s): Emilie Strauss
# of participants: 5
# of species: 36

Highlights from today’s Golden Gate Audubon outing to Vollmer Peak included the (continuing) blue-gray gnatcatcher, many looks at singing California thrashers, and a heard-only acorn woodpecker.

Later in the morning I hiked out the Seaview trail and saw a group of 16 slightly late violet-green swallows.

Tilden Regional Park–Vollmer Peak, Contra Costa checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S32098196

Tilden Regional Park–Seaview Trail, Contra Costa checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S32106689

Joaquin Miller Park
October 14, 2016
Leader(s): Maria Sabatini
# of participants: 2
# of species: 6

Heavy steady rain began 15 minutes into our walk and continued for the duration.  We held out for one hour, only seeing three species and hiring three more, including Northern Flicker.

Tilden Nature Area
October 7, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 32
# of species: 30

Honored Guest today was Dave Quady, who cheerfully and expertly answered questions all morning! Thanks, Dave!

Today’s theme was the Breeding Bird Atlases of the north Bay Area Counties (Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano). Dave brought copies of these for us to view and spoke briefly about the Pacific Coast counties and their atlases from San Diego to Humboldt.

Sonoma has recently completed their second BBA, and it is available (preliminary data) at the Breeding Bird Atlas Explorer/Manager website maintained by the USGS Patuxent Bird Research Center. Used copies of most of the other atlases can be found at “the usual suspects” on-line; the coffee-table sized Breeding Birds of Solano County is out of print but stay-tuned for news of a fully-illustrated but reduced-in-size version. Meanwhile, Murray Berner has a smaller version of the Solano BBA available at the Blurb website (maps and species accounts but many fewer photo; print on demand).

Write me if you want a copy of my notes on the Breeding Bird Atlases of Marin, Sonoma (I and II), Napa, and Solano counties.

Next month’s theme will be Migration, using information from the brand-new Handbook of Bird Biology from Cornell Lab of Ornithology/Wiley.

Lake Merritt
September 28, 2016
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 10
# of species:  34

Our participants saw several first-of-season or just plain unusual birds this month. Expected newcomers included an Eared Grebe on the lake and flocks of White-crowned Sparrows and a Yellow-rumped Warbler in the park, but the bird of the day was a brilliant yellow female Western Tanager – only the second of the species we’ve seen since I started keeping records – snarfing fruit in one of the strawberry trees near the bowling green.

We also had two aerial dogfights: a couple of American Crows harassing a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk back and forth overhead and a Common Raven flashing by in close  pursuit of a Red-tailed Hawk, making it look small. That was only the third raven since 2009, so the first assumption was that it was a crow – in which case, what could it possibly be chasing? No hawk smaller than a crow looks like that. But some independent birders joined us at that point and said they’d had a good chance to hear the croak and see the diamond-shaped tail: raven for sure, which put the hawk in perspective.

The last three or four pairs of Double-crested Cormorants were feeding near-fledglings in the island trees. Do late-season birds like these babies have a harder time surviving the winter than their predecessors in the nests? No way to tell – at least in this colony, they’re not being banded. The post-season prospecting session was well under way despite the cormorants’ continued occupation: several Western Gulls were sitting in or near the empty nests and poking around for crunchy bits, and a Snowy Egret settled into the center of the largest tree like it was sizing up a home. (Yah. Wishful thinking. It’d be really really good if the egret rookery were to start up again.)

The species count was up to 34, despite missing a lot of expected regulars: no robins, no wrens, no House Sparrows even. Not that anyone was complaining – the weather was splendid, just the warm side of perfect after two days of blistering heat, and the birds were behaving and misbehaving all around (didn’t mention the two Western Gulls trying to drown one another), and all in all it was a truly lovely day at Lake Merritt, where every day….

Tilden Nature Area to Jewel Lake and Return
September 2, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 36
# of species: 15

Our theme today was Breeding Bird Atlases, with an emphasis on the South Bay Area ones of Monterey and Santa Clara counties, and the East Bay ones of Alameda and Contra Costa counties. A worldwide review of 275 bird atlases (Emu, 108: 42-67, 2008) by Dunn and Weston found them for 50 countries and 6 continents, most (82.4%) for Europe and North America. Most are managed by ornithological societies (the pattern in our area). Nearly 28 million records, with at least 108,000 contributors, covering 31.4% of the Earth’s surface. The grid size for our local atlases has been 5km squared; the smallest in the world has been 0.02km squared, and the largest grids were 3092km squared (Australia, which still required about 2500 sectors).

Dunn and Weston found that breeding bird atlases are an underused resource; some publications use them (Monterey’s has been cited about 20 times since publication in 1993- a San Jose Master’s thesis, a University of Leicester (!) Ph.D., an article by Kimble Garrett on introduced parrots; Santa Clara’s, published in 2007, was cited for an article on mercury and the Common Yellowthroat at New Almaden Mines, and 4 other articles) but mostly natural resources inventories for various environmental assessments use them, and that’s it. They suggest that documenting range and population changes, suggestions of what environmental changes might bring, patterns of movement (need to save the non-breeding habitats, too!), conservation planning, documenting arrival and departures of introduced species, even commercial uses (where and when to send tourists to see birds of interest)- all could be the “added value” of breeding bird atlases, beyond the citizen science, education and recreation values we commonly celebrate.

Let me know if you want the summaries and some highlights of the south and east bay atlases.  Species seen:

Mallard
Wild Turkey
Red-shouldered Hawk
Anna’s Hummingbird
Black Phoebe
Steller’s Jay
California Scrub-Jay
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Wrentit
Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow
Spotted Towhee

Hayward Shoreline
August 28, 2016
Leader(s): Maureen Lahiff
# of participants: 15
# of species:  46

Special birds on today’s trip included Prairie Falcon and Snowy Plover.  Other good birds were Red-necked  Phalarope and a fine assortment of shorebirds including Whimbrel and Long-billed Curlew.

Lake Merritt
August 24, 2016
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 17
# of species:  30

Today’s walk started with a rare treat: a Red-shouldered Hawk showing off black-and-white wings and russet head, shoulders and chest like an ornament on top of one of the island trees. And at that we missed the real party. “I saw one of those sitting on a branch as I was walking in,” one of the attendees said, peering through the scope. “I didn’t know what it was, but another one came up and drove it off its perch, and they both flew away in opposite directions!” We saw the bird a couple more times later in the morning, pursued by crows.

August is about the least-birdy month at the lake, but we had plenty to keep us amused besides the hawk. The Double-crested Cormorants still had babies to fledge on the islands, at least one of the juvenile Belted Kingfishers was rattling around, and two Green Herons were determinedly ignoring each other on one of the islands. In fact, we had all five of the regular heron-type birds, including a lot of flight display from a Great Blue and two Snowy Egrets playing chase-me-chase-you around the islands, and both Brown Pelicans and American White Pelicans – the latter putting on a fine display of fishing near the shore below the Nature Center.

In the garden, the Anna’s Hummingbirds were buzzing like bees near a hive, especially around a big fuchsia bush covered with 3” flowers hanging in purple tubes. Too many hummingbirds to count! A Bewick’s Wren fossicked around near the Bee Hotel, and the rock fountain in the Scent Garden entertained half a dozen House Finches and Lesser Goldfinches.

The  hardy birders who managed to join in despite the near-total absence of parking – we were there on Line Painting Day, and only the boathouse lot had any place to get off the road – had a fine time. All of the species observed were observed doing interesting things, and all in all it was a lovely day at Lake Merritt, where every day, cloudy or sunny, is a lovely day.

Fort Mason
August 21, 2016
Leader(s): David Assmann
# of participants: 20
# of species: 12+

The  participants in this morning’s field trip got good looks at the continuing male SUMMER TANAGER, along with a good selection of migrants. These included a minimum of two each of PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHERS and WESTERN WOOD PEWEES in the Battery, which also had up to three BROWN CREEPERS, as well as a HOODED ORIOLE. A BELTED KINGFISHER, and three NUTTALL’S WOODPECKERS were seen and/or heard. We also heard the distinctive call of a RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, but no one was able to find the bird. The young male WESTERN BLUEBIRD continued along the end of Franklin Street. There were a minimum of 4 YELLOW WARBLERS, a HERMIT WARBLER and a WILSON’S WARBLER, mostly east of Franklin and behind the General’s House.

Oakland Middle Harbor
August 12, 2016
Leader(s): Bob Lewis
# of participants: 20
# of species: 35

A pleasant day, and killer views of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge.  Four tern species, including Least Terns bringing fish to fledglings.
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S31067461  is the EBird checklist.

Golden Gate Park Arboretum
August 7, 2016
Leader(s): Allan Ridley, Ginny Marshall and Angie Geiger
# of participants: 40+
# of species: n/r

A very fun walk on the first Sunday of the month. I accompanied Ginny’s group and we lucked into a good variety of migrants:

Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbirds – 8+, highest concentration at Succulent garden
“Western” Flycatcher – moon viewing pond (D. Scali) and John Muir Pond (G. Zolotar)
CASSIN’S Vireo – JM Pond (Anne Kelley) good migrant for the Park
Orange-crowned Warbler – 2
Wilson’s Warbler – 6
COMMON Yellowthroat – near CA section pond, good migrant for the Park
Western Tanager – 2
Bullock’s Oriole – near Moon Viewing
Hooded Oriole – Demo Garden, in Silk-tassel oak

Tilden Park Nature Area
August 5, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 34
# of species: 24

Our walk went to Jewel Lake and back again. Continuing our theme from last month of the Amazing Life of Georg Wilhelm Steller,  his voyage to North America with Vitus Bering in 1740-42, and his discoveries in botany, anthropology, medicine, mammalogy and birds!

Send me an email if you want a bibliography of the program on Steller and Bering and the voyage to North America that gave us the Steller’s Jay, eider, cormorant and sea cow.

Lake Merritt
July 27, 2016
Leader(s): Hilary Powers
# of participants: 27
# of species:  32

It’s the summer doldrums, but all five of the probable herons put in appearances for our group. A young Great Blue Heron perched between a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron and an adult, and two Great Egrets perched against the sky on top of the near island’s tallest tree. Lots of Snowy Egrets prowled about, and one copper-breasted Green Heron turned up in plain sight after 10 minutes or so of searching the rocks and bushes of the island shores.

On the water, it was almost all Canada Geese and Mallards (the latter still in eclipse plumage, with only the barest glimmer of green visible on their heads), but we did see half a dozen Pied-billed Grebes, plus one lone lorn American Coot. One mama Mallard had eight teacup-sized ducklings, likely no more than a day or two old. Hope she keeps them up in the bird paddock – well away from the big fat raccoon we saw fossicking along the edge of an island.

The Double-crested Cormorants seemed about to fledge the current crop of youngsters, who were still being fed on the nests but were showing bronze juvenile plumage over their black down. Probably the second group of the summer, judging by the number of fledged birds on the floats, with a third yet to come – at any rate, we’ll probably have cormorants on nests into September, and they can’t all be the same cormorants!

Despite all the cormorant activity, we also had three Belted Kingfishers (more than ever before): a female being chased around the islands by two juveniles issuing a near-constant “Feed me! Feed me! Feed me!” rattle, like the adults’ flight call but higher in pitch. Much speculation as to where they were born; kingfishers want a steep earthen bank to dig into, and the lake has few areas that would qualify. Now that the youngsters can fly, of course, they could follow their ma anywhere, whether she wanted them to or not.

Over in the park, we had fair numbers of Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Oak Titmice, and one ladder-backed Nuttall’s Woodpecker. Anna’s Hummingbirds were out in force, especially in the garden, where one purple-flowered bush had so many it looked at first glance like a flock of Bushtits in residence. Thirty-two species in all, on a lovely warm sunny summer day, yet another variety of the best Lake Merritt always has on offer….

Fort Mason
July 17, 2016
Leader(s): David Assmann, John Colbert, Erica Rutherford
# of participants: 35
# of species: 45

Despite the day being cold and foggy, 35 people showed up for our trip, and we had 45 species, including the continuing SUMMER TANAGER, which everyone saw; 2 PEREGRINE FALCONS flying low over the garden, 3 GREAT HORNED OWLS, a BLACK TURNSTONE (early), and lots of HOODED ORIOLES.

San Leandro Reservoir Valle Vista Staging Area
July 8, 2016
Leader(s): Bob Lewis
# of participants: 34
# of species: 55

We had delightful weather, and lots of baby birds.  The plums were fruiting, and we watched Black-headed Grosbeaks and Purple Finches feeding on them.  Acorn woodpeckers and swallows were feeding their young.

Bear Valley,  Point Reyes National Seashore
July 2, 2016
Leader(s): Emilie Strauss
# of participants: 11
# of species: n/r

Several people viewed distant Purple Martins.  Highlights included watching a Western Wood Pewee nest building and observing Violet-green Swallows fly in and out of a nest
cavity in a bole on a large eucalyptus.

Tilden Nature Area
July 1, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 38
# of species: 34


Today’s theme was The Amazing Life and Legacy of Georg Wilhelm Steller: Birds, Botany, Bering and “Beasts of the Sea.” Our Steller’s Jay is named for him, as is a sea-eagle, an eider duck, an albatross, an extinct cormorant, an extinct “sea cow” Sirenian, and a sea lion. Our familiar Pelagic Cormorant was also called Bering’s Cormorant, according to Bo Boelens et al, The Eponym Dictionary of Birds.

 

Lake Merritt
June 22, 2016
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 15
# of species:  32

Breath-catching sight for today’s bird walk: five American White Pelicans cruising in an aerial ballet over the garden, turning slow rising circles and shifting positions in what looked for all the world like careful choreography. Perhaps they were coming to join the two we’d seen swimming and fishing in the lake – neither of whom appeared to be Hank-the-rescue-bird. No idea where he was hanging out; if he wasn’t putting on a remarkable imitation of health with his partner, we didn’t spot him. (Usually, he’s easily recognizable because his left wing rides higher than the right, but you can’t be sure unless he tries to extend it and can’t.)

Someone asked when we’d see Brown Pelicans, and said I wasn’t sure, but more likely in the spring. Then I put the scope on the floats and said, “Well, I can now testify that one of the months they show up is June!” One was hunched out there in a long lump, doing a sterling imitation of a meatloaf. Then a passer-by stopped to ask wistfully if we ever saw kingfishers at the lake, saying she’d seen one 20 years ago in Colorado but never here, despite living nearby for 30 years. “Come back in the winter,” I told her, explaining they’re always here then, but don’t come around when the cormorants are nesting. So she wandered away. I then looked through the scope and turned to run after her shouting “Come back! Come back!” For the first time ever in June, we had a female Belted Kingfisher sitting on top one of the now-branchless dead trees. “Wow,” says another birder, “Show me a Black Tern!” But ya can’t have everything….

The lake was down to its summer minimum: Canada Geese without flight feathers and Mallards in eclipse plumage (no green heads), plus two early black coots and one lone lorn Pied-billed Grebe. On the other hand, we saw all five of the likely herons: Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and a Great Blue Heron close enough together to see in one binocular field, plus Black-crowned Night-Herons of all ages  and two Green Herons flying and flirting with each other.

Swallows – both Violet-green and Northern Rough-winged  – were out in force, more than any of us had ever seen at the park, vacuuming up bugs over every patch of lawn. That still left plenty for the horde of Black Phoebes to snarf down and carry off to their youngsters, surely there are more nests than the one we observed on the wall of the nature center.

Only 32 species all told, but such delights – definitely one of the best days Lake Merritt has to offer in its string of lovely days….

Fort Mason
June 18, 2016
Leader(s): David Assmann, John Colbert, Erica Rutherford
# of participants: 25
# of species: 31

Highlights included Cooper’s Hawk, Peregrine Falcon and Hooded Oriole.

Redwood Regional Park
June 10, 2016
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 15
# of species: 38

We walked from Wayside Parking up the Stream Trail to the redwood grove.
It was fairly birdy, although we didn’t see or hear a single House or Pacific Wren.  Many Pacific slope Flycatchers were vocalizing, also Spotted Towhees and Bewick’s Wrens.

Yosemite National Park
June  3-5, 2016
Leader(s): Dave Quady and Dave Cornman
# of participants: 21
# of species: 68

We enjoyed wonderful weather and a good variety of birds on our annual spring field trip to western Yosemite National Park. Changes wrought by 2013’s massive Rim Fire and the two 2014 fires that swept through Foresta continued to influence where we birded, and hence the birds we saw. We did not bird the edge of Big Meadow, or spots along Foresta Road such as Foresta Falls and the Merced River overlook because of habitat loss and the results of our scouting beforehand. Scouting did not reveal Bullock’s Oriole, for example, and the American Dippers present at the falls on Thursday could not be found on Friday. But most of the burned logs that clogged the stream last year are gone now, and the water was clear. Hopefully American Dippers will continue to nest near the falls for many years to come.

Despite the loss of habitat, our ‘official’ trip list (of birds recorded by at least one leader and one participant) reached 68 species, only a bit lower than average. The total might also have been held down by the lateness of this trip – five days later than last year, perhaps permitting upslope migrants such as Mountain Bluebird to have moved along. Mammals, however, were surely a highlight, with many deer seen in meadows Saturday evening, along with a huge blonde sow bear and her cub, a black, roly-poly fellow that was cute as a button that some of us were able to enjoy.

Tilden Nature Area
June  3, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 42
# of species: 30

Our theme was the life and birds of Alexander Wilson, the Scot who founded (is considered the Father of) American Ornithology. This year is the 250th anniversary of his birth. His 9-volume American Ornithology (two volumes published posthumously by George Ord) was the the first major scientific publication of the new United States, 1808-1814. Wilson was the first American ornithologist to use only the Linnaean system of binomial names for birds, and three of his scientific names, for Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus Wilson 1812), Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus Wilson 1812) and Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria Wilson 1813) are still used today, more than 200 years later. He named another 20 or so species as new, but their genera have been changed over time. He was held in high regard and more birds are named in his honor than for any other American ornithologist. Indeed, we saw and heard Wilson’s Warbler today!

The latest biography of Wilson is, Alexander Wilson: The Scot who Founded American Ornithology, by Edward H. Burtt, Jr. and William E. Davis, Jr. (2013, Belknap/Harvard). See “Empire of Birds: Alexander Wilson’s American Ornithology”, Laura Rigal, Huntington Library Quarterly, 1996, 59 (2 & 3): 232-268 for Wilson’s role in the culture of his day in the United States and Scotland.

We saw a family of Chestnut-backed Chickadees, with the adults feeding several young.  There was also a juvenile Black Phoebe under the Jewel Lake Bridge. The only male Mallard was in eclipse plumage.

Lake Merritt
May 25, 2016
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 18
# of species:  36

Best sight of a chilly May morning: we enjoyed a good view of a newly fledged Western Bluebird – beige and streaky, with just a touch of blue in the primary feathers – assuring us that they’ve been here all spring, even though they’ve escaped unseen until now. Later, a glorious adult male, taking the light as though he was wearing blue LEDs instead of feathers, came and perched within a few feet of the group.

On the lake, the variety was very low, as expected. All the winter migrants were gone from the water, leaving us with Canada Geese (beginning to stream in for the molt migration) and Mallards. No grebes at all, and almost no coots. We did see both kinds of egrets and some Black-crowned Night-Herons, plus *two* Green Herons. In the paddock, some unusual Rock Pigeons have joined the lake flock, including a brilliant black-and-white and a handsome auburn chestnut with a white face and feathered snowshoe feet. (We look at *all* the birds!)

The island trees were full of Double-crested Cormorants, a few retaining their crests unusually late in the year, several feeding babies in the nests and one industriously clipping branches off a young eucalyptus tree. The babies were hard to spot, being almost as large as their parents and startlingly black. (They’re a sort of bronze brown with cream-colored breasts when they fledge, so it was a surprise to see they don’t start out with those colors. But a big black bird with its head buried inside the throat of a slightly bigger black bird just has to be a baby!)

The Lakeshore Park trees and the garden delivered most of the expected birds – the Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Oak Titmice, American Robins, Bewick’s Wrens, and Lesser Goldfinches – plus a pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds (hiss) and a Western Scrub Jay. Both Violet-green and Northern Rough-winged Swallows were zooming over the open areas, and the park was full of Black Phoebes  snarfing gnats. (The phoebes were on the lake, too, skimming over the pond scum with great enthusiasm and perching on floating twigs between expeditions.)

Thirty-six species all told, and despite the unbroken gloom of the weather, yet another good day at Lake Merritt, where every single day is a good good day.

El Cerrito Natural Area
May 15, 2016
Leader(s): Tara McIntire
# of participants: 13 and 7 (2 groups)
# of species: n/r

We had a beautiful, sunny day.  The trip highlight was a Black-headed Grosbeak singing.  We had two very enthusiastic beginner’s groups, the first at 8:30 a.m. and the second at 12:30 p.m.

Fort Mason
May 15, 2016
Leader(s): David Assmann
# of participants: 21
# of species: 42

Started the morning with a SPOTTED SANDPIPER in alternate plumage (with spots) on a rock west of Aquatic Park. A BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER was on the hillside, and a WILSON’S WARBLER was close to the stairs. GGAS walk participants got to see multiple WESTERN TANAGERS in the garden, along with a pretty co-operative young male HOODED ORIOLE at the top of a tree. Two LAZULI BUNTINGS put in a brief appearance, a bright YELLOW WARBLER was viewed periodically in a Eucalyptus tree that also held dozens of CEDAR WAXWINGS. A male HOUSE FINCH was feeding a BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD. One ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER could be heard in the garden as well. There were at least two lingering YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS. Checking out a murder of excited AMERICAN CROWS, we discovered a hatch-year GREAT HORNED OWL being mobbed by at least 10 crows. It essentially ignored the Crows while an adult GREAT HORNED OWL watched from the next tree over. Eventually the owls moved, and the crows quieted down. Moving back down to Aquatic Park, there was a COMMON LOON and a RED-THROATED LOON in the water, and an alternate plumaged WANDERING TATTLER on the abandoned pier. Three PIGEON GUILLEMOTS swam near Alcatraz. We watched young BLACK PHOEBES on the hillside being fed by their parents, a DOWNY WOODPECKER pair going in and out of a nest hole, and back up on the Battery, PYGMY NUTHATCHES going in and out of nest hole with food. A WHITE-THROATED SWIFT flew over.

Hayward Shoreline Restricted Area Birdathon Trip
May 8, 2016
Leader(s): Bob Lewis
# of participants: 16
# of species: n/r

On today’s GGAS Birdathon walk behind locked gates, starting from the Hayward Interpretive Center and going towards the least tern area, then to the shoreline and back to the center, we had the following:

1 Laughing Gull, on a small island just north of Hayward Marsh, visible from the trail going west to the shoreline.  A first-cycle bird.
5 Yellow-headed Blackbirds in the mustard bordering the south side of Hayward Marsh.  One male.
Many red-necked Phalaropes and 1 Wilson’s Phalarope.
1 Snowy Plover in the salt ponds as we returned to the center
8+ Eared Grebes in alternate plumage

Tilden Nature Area- Jewel Lake
May 6, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 27
# of species: 27

Our theme today was The Genius of Birds, by Jennifer Ackerman, particularly the chapter on Vocal Learning.  If you want my notes on Vocal Learning (more extensive than the chapter, but similar material), let me know.

The Downy Woodpeckers that (Dr.) Denny Parker photographed copulating on 1 April 2016 have nested and we saw activity. The same tree had perched Black-headed Grosbeak (male and female), American Robin, and Rufous Hummingbird- a hotspot on the Jewel Lake Boardwalk!

Thanks to Johan L. for copies of Birding magazine to share.

Tilden Nature Area- Dawn Chorus
May 6, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 11
# of species: 28

Golden Gate Audubon Society (early) First Friday Bird Walk / Fifth Annual Dawn Chorus Bird Walk, 6 May 2016. My #100 bird walk for GGAS!

We met at the Big Leaf picnic site (foot of Cañon Drive) in Tilden Regional Park at 5:30 am, walked around to the Blue Gum Gate and returned past the Little Farm (Tilden Nature Area). Complete cloud cover this morning, which is known to both delay and suppress the Dawn Chorus.

Thanks to Kathe J.for reading her poem, “Dawn Chorus”.

An early-bird Birder (Susan M.) heard Great Horned Owl 0500hrs; group heard Black-headed Grosbeak 0535; American Robin 0537; Pacific-slope Flycatcher 0537; Dark-eyed Junco 0544; California Towhee 0548; Swanson’s Thrush 0549; Spotted Towhee 0549; Wild Turkey 0555; Song Sparrow 0602; Wilson’s Warbler 0605; Common Raven 0606; Warbling Vireo 0609; Pacific Wren 0621.

Golden Gate Park Chain of Lakes
May 2, 2016
Leader(s): Bonnie Brown and Mitch Youngman
# of participants: 15
# of species: 36

A fabulous sunny, clear morning in Golden Gate Park warming up to the mid 70’s. Judging by the continuous bird song heard all morning, the birds seemed to appreciate the beautiful weather as well. We had another great and interactive group of 15 participants in attendance including a young couple from Texas, one of whom (Nic) added some bird photos of highlights to our eBird submission; these included an Osprey with fish seen over North Lake, four Red Crossbills, also at North Lake, a Red-tailed Hawk next to an active nest (this nest has chicks, though not visable Sunday morning) and two Olive-sided Flycatchers. Other highlights included a great, long view of a singing Wilson’s Warbler & a hunting Red-tailed Hawk. We met at South Lake, walked the trail over to the Gardener’s shed, then to North Lake and to Middle Lake and back to our starting point. It was a lot of fun as always

Lake Merritt
April 27, 2016
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 20
# of species:  33

Our  group gathered  under a cloudy sky, assuring one another that the rain would probably hold off till after noon. Incorrectly. Within half an hour the sky opened up and we took shelter in the Nature Center museum, along with a squirrel and a duck. Seriously, a real duck – the black Muscovy with the white panels on its wings, to be exact – came stomping through both sets of doors and made itself at home in the museum.

We’d already seen some unusual sights. Several  Forster’s Terns were perched on the floats or soaring to fish, and *three* different types of swallows – Tree and Violet-green as well as the brown Northern Rough-winged that nest along the stone sides of the lake – were swooping overhead. A few of the Double-crested Cormorants crowding the nests still had wisps of crest left, though most were back to their normal snake-headed look. In addition, a surprising number of scaup were swimming around the islands, the drakes showing off the brilliant white wings that will take them to their breeding grounds in pursuit of the bulk of their flock, long since departed.

But that wasn’t enough to call it a day so early. As soon as the downpour tapered off to a steady drizzle, we headed down the lake shore. More lingering scaup, both Greater and Lesser, some mostly ruddy Ruddy Ducks, and a few Pied-billed Grebes. We were dished on the big Clark’s or Western Grebes we hoped to see, but did enjoy some Eared Grebes in their bejeweled breeding plumage – along with one probable Horned Grebe that dove too quickly for its species to be altogether certain.

As we headed back up the lake to cross to the park, what looked like a Snowy Egret flying straight toward us turned out to be a much rarer visitor: a Caspian Tern (with a 50″ wingspread, almost twice that of a Forster’s Tern). It looped back and forth for a while, providing a glorious good look at its graceful hunt.

The rain kept the small tree-perching birds more or less under cover, though we did see one or two of most of the usual suspects – chickadees and a titmouse and one! Bushtit (missing the usual huge flock) – and had a good stroll through the garden, emerging to a gleam of sun. The species count was down to 33, but no regrets – it was a wetter-than-usual good day, but still a good day indeed at Lake Merritt.

Fort Mason
April 17, 2016
Leader(s): David Assmann
# of participants: 26
# of species: 67

Highlights included a minimum of seven BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS (males singing), 2+ WESTERN TANAGERS (male singing), both HOODED and BULLOCK’S ORIOLES, CHIPPING SPARROW, LARK SPARROW, CASSIN’S VIREO, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER, GREAT HORNED OWL, RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, SHARP-SHINED HAWK, TROPICAL and WESTERN KINGBIRD, WANDERING TATTLERS, and seven species of Warblers, including a minimum of six BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS, a YELLOW WARBLER, an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, a WILSON’S WARBLER and two NASHVILLE WARBLERS.

Mines Road/Del Valle Regional Park Birdathon Trip
April 10, 2016
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 18
# of species: 67

Our participants remained enthusiastic, uncomplaining birders on our Mines Rd. Birdathon trip on a cold, sometimes drizzly, sometimes rainy day.  Woodland birds were somewhat skulky and we missed some of this trip’s specialties, like Phainopepla and Lewis’ Woodpecker.  On the other hand, we had great looks at Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles (including the nesting pair at Lake Del Valle), and close looks at a charming pair of Rock Wrens nesting alongside Mines Rd. Wildflowers were blooming in profusion; San Antonio Valley was carpeted with goldfields.

Nimitz Way: Inspiration Point/Inspiration Trail Birdathon Trip
April 8, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 13
# of species: 29
This was Golden Gate Audubon Society’s Bird-a-Thon trip to Inspiration Point, Inspiration Trail (EBMUD permit required) and Nimitz Way in Tilden Regional Park.

Our totem for the trip, MacGillivray’s Warbler, did not disappoint us: singing on the Inspiration Trail (but not showing itself), we found it to see (close-up, in the scope) on the Nimitz Way where Anthony Fisher had it last week: just off the roadway, where the first grove of pine trees begins. Singing in a small bay or adjacent oak. Lots of California Quail on the EBMUD land.  Thank you to all the donors.

Upper Lake San Andreas Breeding Bird Survey (Birdathon trip)
April 3, 2016
Leader(s): Eddie Bartley
# of participants: 6
# of species: 58

The count was held in cool, high fog, then clear weather.   During this early spring count there were 58 bird species and 621 individual species counted within the San Francisco Watershed.  Highlights for this count included
A Grasshopper Sparrow singing as on territory
Two Common Loon one in full alternate plumage and we heard the call of the loon over the reservoir
One Horned Grebe in basic plumage
A sub-adult Golden Eagle flew low overhead
One buteo hawk species could not be identified but it had choppy wingbeats and was too long in the wing for Red-shoulder.  The bird was quickly flying north, missing some tail feathers.  Perhaps a Swainson’s Hawk.

Quite a few birds are still here from winter including one Hermit Thrush, one Ruby-crowned Kinglet, one Red-breasted Nuthatch, a couple Yellow-rumped Warblers, Sooty Fox Sparrows and 6 Golden-crowned Sparrows.  No White-crowned Sparrows were observed or heard.

Three warblers were observed singing vociferously on territory adjacent to the restored areas included the Common Yellowthroat (9), Orange-crowned Warbler (17) and Wilson’s Warblers (16).

The marsh restoration work the SFPUC has done over the last couple years has increased habitat for marsh nesters considerably – especially Red-winged Blackbirds.  No Marsh Wrens were detected.

Mammals we observed were Black-tailed Deer, Brush Rabbits along the trail, and a Bobcat was seen hunting and successfully catching a rodent near the restored marsh.

Tilden Nature Area
April 1, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 42
# of species: 36

Tilden Nature Area, to Jewel Lake via the boardwalk and back on the road to the parking lot. Visitors from Coral Gables, FL and Brooklyn, NY today!

Birds o’ the Day were amorous Downy Woodpeckers, seen in copulo (twice!), on the tree with their nest hole. Plus FOS Warbling Vireo for some of us.

Trochilid hat-trick, Anna’s, Allen’s and Rufous Hummingbirds. Birds of North America accounts say Rufous can have some green on its back, but specimens of Allen’s are never without some green. So, a Selasphorus hummingbird without any green on the back should be a Rufous. Which we saw today.

Today’s theme was Camouflage, Mimicry and Deception (it was April 1st- April Fool (or Fool’s) Day). William Clark in 2004 suggested that the Zone-Tailed Hawk was a Turkey Vulture mimic, holding its wings in the dihedral like a TV, rocking a bit like a TV, hanging out with vultures. The Zone-tailed Hawk is a predator, does it use this resemblance to sneak up on prey that might think it is a harmless vulture?

American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts use an “injured wing” display to distract a predator from the nest site (deception). And avocets have a fake incubation display: when away from the nest, they’ll appear to a predator suddenly, popping up as if to say “Oh, you found me!” and then leave the predator to search for the non-existent nest.

Widow-birds of Africa are brood parasites of Estrildid finches, and their young mimic the mouth linings of the finch’s own young to attract the foster parents’ attention.

Many birds appear thin and brown, camouflaged in marshy habitats (American Bittern) or forest (Potoo of Central and South America).

For information on the day, look for Alan Dundes’s article, “April Fool and April Fish: Towards a Theory of Ritual Pranks”, in Folklore Matters, University of Tennessee Press, 1993.

Lake Merritt
March 23, 2016
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 16
# of species:  46

The big news from today’s walk is a non-happening: the Great Blue Herons that were assessing the island trees for nest sites seem to have decided not to buy. After a couple of months of staking out cormorant nests, playing with sticks, and looking over the trees on a neighboring island, they were all gone this time. Maybe next year….

The Double-crested Cormorants continued to fill the now-bare trees, though their numbers seemed down a bit – perhaps, the speculation went, they’ve moved to the old Bay Bridge, which seems to be crowded with them. The winter-resident Belted Kingfisher was gone (as usual when the cormorants really get going), but a lot of the winter ducks were still around: orange-headed Canvasbacks (seen in March for the first time since 2012), both Greater and Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Ducks, Bufflehead, and Common Goldeneyes and Red-breasted Mergansers (mostly females).

Many of the Eared and Horned Grebes were in nearly full breeding plumage, and the big long-necked Clark’s and Western Grebes could actually be told apart by the placement of their eyes in relation to the black on their heads. A pair of Western Grebes were swimming together and neck-dancing, and we stood and watched for ten minutes hoping they’d rise up and run across the surface together… but they didn’t, and there were warblers and woodpeckers still to chase.

So we went off and watched a pair of Black Phoebes building a nest, and a solitary Bushtit collecting nesting material. A Cedar Waxwing posed like a Christmas ornament at the top of a pine tree, and the last of the White-crowned Sparrows foraged around on the ground. And the warblers and woodpeckers didn’t disappoint, either; all told, we saw 46 species, and enjoyed yet another grand day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day….

Napa River with Dolphin Charters
March 20, 2016
Leader(s): Hilary Powers
# of participants: 27
# of species:  76

The original March 13 schedule would have given us a low-tide view of mud flats that were well under water on the 20th, but even without that we saw 76 species. The list included two – Snow Goose and Western Bluebird – never observed on the cruise before, and we were treated to views of a few Harbor Seals well up the river, also a rarity there. The weather was exquisite for the first couple of hours, with sun under a black sky for perfect viewing light, then switched to cloudy with occasional bursts of light rain – but the viewing stayed good and the participants were all glad of the postponement. At their worst, conditions were probably better than the best the preceding week would have provided.

We saw Peregrine Falcons lurking on a bridge, Double-crested Cormorants raising babies on a power tower, and a White-tailed Kite kiting almost over the boat. A glorious male Ring-necked Pheasant gave us the stink-eye from a nearby bank, and we finished off the day with a good view of an “unoccupied” Osprey nest that turned out to have an Osprey in it, joined while we watched by a second who flew in with a fish and left with half of it.

Fort Mason
March 20, 2016
Leader(s): David Assmann
# of participants:
# of species:

The highlights of this morning’s Golden Gate Audubon Walk at Fort Mason included four PIGEON GUILLEMOTS south of Alcatraz Island, 3 singing WILSON’S WARBLERS in the Battery, a COOPER’S HAWK carrying nesting material, a WANDERING TATTLER and four BLACK TURNSTONES on the abandoned pier, and three COMMON LOONS turning into alternate plumage.  The RED-NECKED GREBE was in Aquatic Park at the beginning of the morning, and a SAY’S PHOEBE and a TROPICAL KINGBIRD were seen at the very end of the morning (after participants had left).

Tilden Nature Area
March 4, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 17
# of species: 26

Rain today, though it held off pouring until the end of the walk. Lots of songs: FOS Orange-crowned Warbler for many of us. Purple Finch singing, too.

Theme today was Life and Times of Junea W. Kelly (1886-1969), a great naturalist who was an important member and leader of the Golden Gate Audubon Society and its predecessor, Audubon Association of the Pacific. See Paul Covel’s Beacons Along a Naturalist’s Trail for details. Also Harold Gilliam’s Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Bay, for details of the Battle of Bay Farm Island, when Junea Kelly tried to prevent the construction of homes on McCartney Marsh, north of the Oakland Airport.

UCSF Mount Sutro Open Space Preserve
February 28, 2016
Leader(s):  Amy Kaeser and Pat Greene
# of participants: 12
# of species: 22

This checklist is online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S27872429

This walk was sponsored by the Sutro Stewards and Golden Gate Audubon. We met in the Woods Parking Lot, which turned out to be a prime birding spot. Our route took us up the Historic Trail to South Ridge to the summit; then down Nike Road past the Nursery, with a short stop at the Aldea Community Center, and from there we walked Fairy Gates back to Woods Lot. It was a beautiful day on Mt. Sutro–a little cool at the start, but warm and sunny by the end, and not too breezy.

Twelve participants joined Amy Kaeser, the Sutro Stewards Conservation Manager, and me. This was the 5th walk I have led on Mt Sutro, and the highest participation. Most participants were members of GGAS or Sutro Stewards (or both). I asked people to introduce themselves and tell where they lived. Most were local, but one was an avid birder who had flown in from Bangalore the day before. Before we left the Woods Lot, I asked everyone to be as alert as possible to spot a well-camouflaged Great Horned Owl(s) that has been reported on daytime roosts (and that many neighbors have been hearing morning and evening). We also talked a little bit about the Mt. Sutro sound track; Song Sparrows are, of course, ubiquitous; today many House Finches were singing on territory, and our favorite, the Pacific Wren. The group included a few very experienced birders who helped the less experienced participants, making the crowd of 14 people on the relatively narrow wooded trails quite manageable. It was a fairly birdy day, but we did have time to look at two of the more mature, large restoration sites along the Historic Trail that have been planted with a variety of native plant species to increase biodiversity and improve wildlife habitat. Amy also pointed out recently emerged and flowering slim Solomon (Maianthemum stellatum), fairy bells (Prosartes hookeri), and Pacific bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa) along the Historic Trail.

Several of the participants seemed very happy to ‘discover’ this open space preserve in the middle of San Francisco and the birding experience it offered. The best bird of the day was the Great-horned Owl, spotted early on the Historic Trail by the visitor from Bangalore, who was having a good day of seeing many life birds! Everyone in the group was able to get excellent close binocular view of this bird.  Probably the best moment of the day (for me anyway) was observing the behavior of a fairly common bird, the Downy Woodpecker. In the Woods Lot at the beginning of the walk, we were listening and looking for what we could hear and see as the group assembled. Someone pointed out a drumming woodpecker, which we spotted on a snag. Then we saw that it was not alone; a male and a female Downy Woodpecker were interacting up on the snag. Seeing a pair of Downy Woodpeckers apparently ‘on territory’ was interesting, but on our return to the

Woods lot, there was even more bird activity near the snag–we were able to sort out two Downy males and at least two Downy females moving about quickly in the vicinity of the snag–the males were sparring and fanning their tails dramatically! The group finished the day with 22 species, which is an excellent winter number, and more than I might have seen walking by myself, without the extra eyes and ears (a few more species were listed by one of the experienced participants).

Lake Merritt
February 24, 2016
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 14
# of species:  41

The cormorant rookery is well under way in the island trees. Shining black adult Double-crested Cormorants were displaying their crests (which many of the watchers saw as resembling devil’s horns more than bunny ears) in nest after nest. But not in the very tip-top two nests, presumably the best of the lot since these birds seem to prefer full sun: Those were occupied by Great Blue Herons (one each, with a third looking on), all dipping and raising their heads and fluffing their chest beards and eyeing one another. It’ll be clear by the time you read this if they stayed or not – but it looked like big news almost happening! This has been exclusively Double-crested Cormorant nesting territory for over ten years.

Out on the lake, things are also changing toward spring. The Common Goldeneyes were visibly courting one another, choosing partners so as to stake out territory in a hurry when they hit the northlands. The female scaup were almost gone, but lots of drakes  still rafted up in the Embarcadero end of the lake and scrounged for snacks by the nature center, and the Ruddy Ducks and Eared Grebes showed the first glimmers of breeding plumage. Only one of the crew of  Mergansers seen in recent months was spotted today, but I don’t know whether the others have moved on or just swum to a different part of the lake.

Across Bellevue in the park, the usual treesy birds filled the air with loud and obvious chirping and the branches with much less noticeable flickers of wings: titmice and chickadees and butter-butts, with trills from woodpeckers and patterned beeps from towhees bringing the total to 41 species. Basically, a glorious summery day at Lake Merritt, which we couldn’t help enjoying even though it would have been better to trudge through pouring rain this month….

Fort Mason
February 21, 2016
Leader(s): David Assmann
# of participants: 25
# of species: 58

We started the morning with great views of the TROPICAL KINGBIRD in the large evergreen tree at the entrance to the Community Garden.  It posed for at least 20 minutes, and at one point flew out to chase an AMERICAN CROW. Also in the garden a NASHVILLE WARBLER foraged in plain sight, and a RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER put in a very brief appearance. A GREAT HORNED OWL was on the back side of the palm tree behind the General’s House.  Moving down to Aquatic Park, we not only found three BLACK TURNSTONES and a WANDERING TATTLER, but also all five grebe species, including the RED-NECKED GREBE, which would only stay on the surface for 3-5 seconds at a time.  There were also three COMMON LOONS, a RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, 2 HORNED GREBES and a perched BELTED KINGFISHER. We looked for Bluebirds in the Great Meadow, which we didn’t find, but we did find the FOS swallows for Fort Mason – two TREE SWALLOWS and at least one VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW. There were four warbler species in total, including two ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS.

Valle Vista – Upper San Leandro Reservoir
February 20, 2016
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 15
# of species:  54

We  enjoyed a chilly morning at Valle Vista practicing our ear-birding. When it warmed up – about 9:30 – lots of thrashers, Wrentits, Spotted Towhees, and many others were singing lustily. Oddly – it seemed to us – the area between the bridge and the horse corral was almost silent and deserted, with none of the usual birds (chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers) in evidence. We didn’t see a single bluebird or Black Phoebe all day!  Additionally, there were relatively few ducks or other water birds in the lake.

Arrowhead Marsh Bike and Bird Trip
February 20, 2016
Leader(s): Jeffrey Black and Pat Greene
# of participants: 10
# of species: 53

Ten riders joined Jeffrey Black and me at Coliseum BART. Three had found us via MeetUP. We rode down to Damon Marsh and along the MLK shoreline to Garretson Point, Arrowhead and on to Elsie Roemer preserve in Alameda. It was so late that we skipped the Lake Merritt estuary (Laney outflow) and headed directly to Fruitvale BART.

The tide was high at ~10:17, and it was still too high at Damon Marsh for good shorebird viewing; however we did have Belted Kingfisher at this site, and within a few minutes we had spotted both male and female for good comparison. The recent rain made the seasonal ponds at Garretson Point rich with dabbling ducks and roosting shorebirds. The highlight her for me was seeing a few male Green-winged Teal, with their bills tucked, and the angle of light made two of the ‘green’ head stripes shine purple, and in an adjacent bird, the same field mark was its usual green. After leaving Garretson Point, a large flock of Cedar Waxwings gathered in a  tree adjacent to the trail, and some flew down to a berry laden shrub–good views in good light. At Arrowhead, we were able to walk out on the newly opened pier, and some of the group were treated to good views of Ridgway’s Rail as it crossed a small channel between the shore and the marsh. A Common Yellowthroat was also well seen by almost everyone from the near end of the pier. During our lunch stop at Doolittle Staging area, 3 male Western Bluebirds perched in good light and repeatedly dropped to the lawn to hunt.

Despite non-ideal tides, we finished the day with 53 species.

Mount Sutro OSP
February 18, 2016
Leader(s): Liza Kachko and Pat Greene
# of participants: 6
# of species: 15

The event listing said ‘Heavy Rain and/or strong wind cancels”. Wednesday evening and through the night, we were getting a much needed soaking—with high wind.  But the main front was supposed to pass by morning, and the forecast was 50% probability of showers, so Liza Kachko and I agreed that we would make a ‘go/no go’ decision early Thursday AM. I woke up several times during the night and things didn’t look good. At ~4-5 AM there was thunder and lightening, but that passed, and by 6 it was pretty quiet. I have a view of the eastern sky from my window, and as the sun came up, I could see the defined dark cloud of the front retreating toward the east bay. When it got light enough, I could see lots of clear blue sky behind the front. Yes! the walk is on!

After some parking confusion at the start, the two leaders, Liza and I, plus 6 participants met at Aldea—here we spotted our first bird of the day, Red-shouldered Hawk perched in good view in a tree on the other side of the lawn, and of course the ubiquitous Dark-eyed Juncos, chattering to each other and even perched up trilling as if it is spring. Song Sparrows also sang throughout the morning. We walked up to the Nursery, along Quarry Road, and up to the summit. The summit gave us great views of a returning male Allen’s Hummingbird glowing ruby-like in the sun, and our year round drabber Anna’s also flashed its gorget in the sunlight. A good sized flock of Band-tailed Pigeons flew over and a couple of smaller groups as well. Maybe next time they will stop and pose for us. This is a regal Pigeon—no one would ever call this species a ‘flying rat’. After a tour of the summit, we descended into that little bowl at the top of Northridge Trail. Here the 50% probablility turned into 100% actual—a brief short shower. We huddled under the bushes and trees at the perimeter. In just a few minutes the sun was out again, and we admired the sun glinting on the drops still falling from the trees. As we descended Northridge, we finally heard what I think of as the signature sound track of the forest (this time loud enough for all of us to hear), the Pacific Wren. We didn’t spot this bird today, but as the season wears on, it will surely pose for us multiple times. We finished our loop on Fairy Gates Trail back to Aldea.

Winter birds can be very spotty; sometimes you see a lot, and sometimes they are just somewhere else. That’s why the Feb 18 and Feb 28 walks were listed as hybrid bird and plant walks. Liza had several chances to talk to us about the nursery and to point out some of the lovely conservation sites that the Stewards are planting in the openings created by removal of hazardous trees. These areas will just get more beautiful as spring progresses.

We missed seeing Maryann Rainey’s Dec. and Jan. featured ‘Birds of the Month’: Hermit Thrush and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. I was also hoping to see the vigorously ground scratching Fox Sparrow, which I have seen on most of my winter walks. These birds should all still be here at least into March. Overall, the walk did not seem super birdy, but we ended with 15 species, which is a pretty good number for a winter walk in Mt Sutro OSP.

Garrison Point, Arrowhead Marsh
February 15, 2016
Leader(s): Maureen Lahiff
# of participants:
# of species:

The Wilson’s Snipe at the Edgewater seasonal wetland was the big highlight of Monday afternoon’s trip to Garretson Point: It was close to the trail and gave good looks, for a snipe.  There were at least two.  Some trip participants saw one fly in and we finally found it well-camouflaged among dry plants at the north end of the seasonal wetland, best seen from along the trail heading towards bridge over Damon Slough.   MLK never disappoints!

Tilden Nature Area- Jewel Lake
February 5, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 33
# of species: 29

“Bird” O’the Day was the River Otter, in a face off with a Great Egret, at Jewel Lake. Good views of Red-shouldered Hawk and Hermit Thrush, lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers (comments were made that this winter seems an exceptionally good year for them), and a Great Blue Heron fly-over rounded out the morning. One Red Admiral butterfly was seen, too.

Chain of Lakes
January 31, 2016
Leader(s): Bonnie Brown and Mitch Youngman
# of participants: 16
# of species: 37

We totally lucked out with virtually clear skies after a week of overcast and rain. Our large group meandered around the east side of Middle Lake, looped North Lake and returned to South Lake via the gardeners’ work area. The skies seemed particularly abundant with Red-tailed Hawks with a pair landing across North Lake to give the group good looks at both front and back field marks. While not seen by this writer several in the group ID’d an early Allen’s Hummingbird at the south end of North Lake and a majority of the group had good looks at a Marsh Wren at North Lake too. North Lake also offered looks at Ring-necked Ducks, several Buffleheads, Pied-billed Grebes, Ruddy Ducks and a trio of black-crowned Night Herons. We caught most of the wintering residents; White-crowned, Golden-crowned, Fox & Song Sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglet (one with its ruby crown glowing in the sunlight) Yellow-rumped and Townsends Warblers and some really fine views of Orange-crowned Warblers and one close look at a Common Yellowthroat . The morning ended with a brief but low and spectacular fly-over of a Cooper’s Hawk, with our group including a Hawk Hill band-er to help confirm.

Lake Merritt
January 27, 2016
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 18
# of species: 47

Sight of the Day: Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk (less than a year old, by the vertical striping on its breast) chasing a squirrel around and around the trunk of a tree. I was going to add that it was surely old enough to know better, but a quick online search reveals that these birds do eat squirrels and not just birds. I’da thought a full-grown fox squirrel was too big, but the hawk didn’t agree. Didn’t catch the squirrel either, though, at least while we were watching.

Out on the lake, the regular winter immigrant crew was joined by two splendid ducks that rarely share a habitat. We had both Common and Red-breasted Mergansers, even though the former generally prefer less salt than Lake Merritt has to offer and the latter want more – a male and several females of each. A dozen American White Pelicans were keeping Hank-the-Rescue-Bird company, and three Graylag Geese provided a fine opportunity to discuss the differences between domestic and wild waterfowl: If the butt floats high above the shoulders, that’s a sure sign of old-style genetic manipulation – all that fat was one of the main value-added features the breeders were after.

The resident queenfisher – female Belted Kingfisher, identifiable by the orange cummerbund below the blue breast band – kept flying from island to island, chortling loudly whenever she left a perch and occasionally hovering in midair like a kite while scanning the water for fish. Two Green Herons played “that’s MY rock!” along one of the islands, boosting the chances that we’ll see baby Green Herons this year. And two raccoons on another island were joined by a third that swam the gap, possibly reducing the chances that the babies will survive.

The lovely day was a rare enough experience this year to be a real pleasure. A total of 47 species and good looks at most of them made this a truly good day among all the truly good days at Lake Merritt….

Berkeley Marina and Meadow
January 18, 2016
Leader(s): Anne Hoff
# of participants: 11
# of species: 52

Everything was very wet,  but it  did not rain.  We saw good sized flocks of both Mew Gulls and Black Turnstones.  A flock of Red-winged Blackbirds included one Tri-colored.  Other good birds included  a Say’s Phoebe, three Whimbrels and a Hermit Thrush.

Fort Mason
January 17, 2016
Leader(s): David Assmann
# of participants: 25+
# of species: 50

Arriving at Fort Mason at dawn, one of the first birds I spotted was a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW hopping on the sidewalk leading back to the General’s House. Heading to the Battery, I was able to see the RED-NECKED GREBE swimming far offshore. The 25 participants arriving shortly thereafter had a number of sightings, starting almost immediately with a COOPER’S HAWK west of the garden. The GREAT HORNED OWL in the palm behind the General’s House was quite cooperative, and the Cooper’s flew over as well. From that vantage point, we could see the PEREGRINE FALCON on a boat mast in Aquatic Park. Three male RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS, a BUFFLEHEAD, a COMMON LOON, and seven WESTERN GREBES were also in Aquatic Park. The WANDERING TATTLER was working the shore and then flew and landed under the pier. Back in the garden, the group was able to find one of the NASHVILLE WARBLERS, and upon exiting the garden, a SAY’S PHOEBE (sitting fairly close to a BLACK PHOEBE). A RED-TAILED HAWK perched on the fire escape overlooking the garden for at least a half an hour. Participants staying until the very end were able to get good looks at the TROPICAL KINGBIRD behind the General’s House.

Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline
January 8, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 32
# of species: 51

Good turn-out of 32 observers, including our Meet-up members and local (Point Richmond) residents. Bird O’ the Day was a Merlin, sitting for a long time, devouring prey, and then scaring the pigeons again and again. Beautiful Meadowlarks, Eurasian Wigeon, Red-breasted Merganser and Pelagic Cormorant also were hits of the day.

Thanks to all who brought spotting scopes, and to e-Birders’ earlier postings this week (nod to Logan K.).

Tilden Nature Area
January 1, 2016
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 41
# of species: 32

MoB (Many oBservers) showed up for this first-of-the-year weekday/holiday bird walk, several newcomers to the Meet-up group among them.

Judith K. says BayNature will soon be publishing an article on White-crowned Sparrows, their songs and dialects, elaborating on Dr. Luis Baptista’s research.

Many birders suggested future themes for walks: Bill shapes, molting, toes, flight patterns, crows and ravens, colors, vision, smell, nests, birding without binoculars. Biographies of birders and the birds they studied or that are named for them is another topic I am interested in, so Nuttall, Wilson, Audubon, Nice, Swainson, Peterson, etc. will get talked about in 2016.

Birds O’ the Day were several: Song Sparrow ICE SKATING (!) on Jewel Lake, Sharp-shinned Hawk scaring the kinglets, etc. at the Lake (this may be the same bird we saw here on the Wren Day walk, December 26), and a deceased Ruby-crowned Kinglet from the Women’s Room of the Jewel Lake restroom (it was the correct gender, too)! We got to see the elusive yellow feet quite well (unfortunately).