2012 Trip Reports

Arrowhead Marsh Bicycle Trip
December 29, 2012
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: 8
# of species: 57

Eight of us braved the cold and were rewarded by viewing the Clapper Rail and a Red-Throated Loon among 57 species heard or seen. All of the seasonal wetlands from Garretson Point to the area near the Swan Way entrance were full of water and birds. 

Lake Merritt
December 26, 2012
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 6
# of species: 48

The December fourth-Wednesday Golden Gate Audubon walk drew six intrepid birders – joining the two leaders for one of the best walks of the year, despite the prediction of rain. It did rain, too, but it was also sunny by turns, and the lake birds don’t care about the weather.

We spotted the Tufted Duck – or at least *a* Tufted Duck; this one seemed to be a young male, with only mostly white sides to go with his black back and the merest whisper of a tuft, while earlier reports had described a bird with a solid pony-tail on his head. On the way were two or three Mew Gulls – the rarely seen visitors that make the Ring-Billed Gulls (normally the smallest of the gulls at the lake) look big and burly. We saw six Common Mergansers, which are usually not common at all, including two males all dressed up for the holidays with white backs, green heads, and red beaks. And a Forster’s Tern was showing off a fine set of red legs on the floats, near a lone lorn Double-Crested Cormorant that apparently hadn’t noticed that all the cormorantish brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts had left the lake for the season.

Sadly, we encountered a group of visitors to the lake fishing a dead Brown Pelican out of the water, and one of them explained that it had starved to death because the water was so polluted it killed the fish. We pointed out the thriving ecosystem and said the lake is remarkably clean for a city-bound body of water, and suggested that the young bird might well have dived into shallow water and broken its neck – Brown Pelicans feed by dropping like bombs from twenty or thirty feet up, and large areas of the lake are little more than a pelican body-length deep. Others had by that point placed the bird in a trash container, so we parted in gentle disagreement on that point, and much shared affection for the lake.

The trees in Lakeside Park were quiet – most of the birds apparently distrusting the bits of sun that showed up during the morning – but still all told we saw forty-five species of birds – including a live Brown Pelican, perched on the boathouse roof like the world’s biggest and shaggiest seagull – and generally had a fine morning at Lake Merritt, where every morning is fine, even when it storms….

 Nimitz Way, Tilden Park
December 14, 2012
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 12
# of species: 29

A dozen birders saw or heard 29 species along the Nimitz Way (starting at Inspiration Point) in Tilden Regional Park. We had a Nuthatch Hat Trick: Red-breasted, White-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatch (“yanking”, “tin horning” and “morse-coding away”). Thanks to Susan G. and Marilyn K. for the great listening skills that added to today’s list! Bird of the Day was the California Thrasher, heard but not seen. Behavior of the Day was
allopreening by Ravens (one having its feathers lifted and preened by another).

 Arrowhead Marsh
December 12, 2012
Leader(s):  Chris and Gary Bard
# of participants: 7
# of species: 49

On a clear morning we found a good number of species including a Peregrine Falcon, also greater White-fronted Goose, Ross’s Goose, Black Turnstone, Common Yellowthroat, Western Meadowlark and Clapper Rail.

EBMUD Valle Vista Staging Area
December 9, 2012
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 9
# of species: 66

It was a warm, beautiful day.  We had a number of good birds.  To name just a few: Ring-necked Duck, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Say’s Phoebe, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, California Thrasher and Cedar Waxwing.

Tilden Park Jewel Lake
December 7, 2012
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 25
# of species: 30

Friday, December 7, 2012, twenty-five birders met at the Tilden Nature Area parking lot
to see 30 bird species, including a Picidae (woodpecker) Grand Slam: Nuttall’s and Hairy Woodpeckers, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Northern Flicker.

 Lake Merritt
November 28, 2012
Leader(s): Hilary Powers
 # of participants: 2
# of species: 27

Two intrepid birders joined one of the regular leaders for the  walk at the lake on a blustery morning. We stuck to the lakeshore as none of us wanted to stand under trees peering upward while water dripped into our nostrils, but it really was, as they say, wonderful weather for ducks.

We saw most of the winter regulars — Canvasbacks, Ruddy Ducks, and Bufflehead, both kinds of scaup, both kinds of goldeneye, four of the five common grebes, and four of the five expected herons. The floats were full of young Double-crested Cormorants and a few Forster’s Terns, and assorted gulls were gliding about — including one that might be a cross between a California Gull (red and black spots on the bill) and a Glaucous-winged Gull (wingtips match the gray back instead of black). A female Belted Kingfisher hunched on one of the trees, and another tree sported what looked even in rain-spotted binoculars like a hawk of some kind, but the scope revealed to be a tangle of branches. Only 27 species all told, but only half the distance walked in less than half the time, so it seemed worthwhile.

When the sun tried to peer out and it was _still_ raining sideways and blowing hard enough to threaten to tip the tripod, we headed home, full of the warm sense of having done something difficult with brave companions and of pleasant recollections of yet another good day at Lake Merritt, where every day….

San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge
November 24, 2012
Leader(s): Rusty Scalf, Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 21
# of species: 54

Pelican Nature Trail is a pretty walk through a riparian corridor.  It’s quite birdy.  Beckwith Road viewing platform affords looks at numerous Cackling Geese, Sandhill Cranes, White Pelicans and more.  Beckwith viewing is open seasonally.  Check their website

Weather was beautiful, clear calm and in the ‘70’s.

Arrowhead Marsh
November 15, 2012
Leader(s): Chris and Gary Bard
# of participants: 8
# of species: 45

It was a cloudy morning, but doog birds were seen by all, including Barrows Goldeneye, Common Goldeneye and Northern Harrier.  There were also Surf Scoterrs, a nice assortment of grebes a nice Common Yellowthroat and, of course, the Clapper Rails.

North San Francisco Bay  boat trip with Dolphin Charters
November 10, 2012
Leader(s): Allan Ridley and Helen McKenna
# of participants: 58
# of species: n/r

We had a sunny, warm day with gentle winds.  These mild conditions persisted throughout the day.  A lovely day for a SF Bay cruise!  We had 58 bird species including Black Scoter, Pelagic Cormorant, Peregrine Falcon and Short-eared Owl.  We also saw Harbor Seals, California Sea Lions and Harbor Porpoises.

Berkeley Pier
November 9, 2012
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 23
# of species: 15+

We had beautiful weather today for our Second Friday Birdwalk,
meeting at the Berkeley Municipal Pier at the foot of University Avenue.

Twenty-three observers, a few new birders (new to the group), some old friends,
too. It was a good day to learn about grebes and gulls!

San Francisco Botanical Garden
November 4, 2012
Leader(s): Dom Mosur, Ginny Marshall, Allan Ridley
# of participants: n/r
# of species: 49

After spending some time on Battery Godfrey with Paul and Hugh this morning I
headed over the the Arboretum where I co-lead the Golden Gate Audubon bird walk
with Allan Ridley and Ginny Marshall. The highlight from my group were (2)
VAUX’S SWIFTS that hawked insects low over the Arboretum about a half hour
apart; first near the Chile section and later as we walked past the Succulent

Tilden Park Jewel Lake
November 2, 2012
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 24
# of species: 25

Nice weather today for 24 participants who saw 25 species (thanks to George Suennen who added the Northern Harrier he saw flying over the group as he left- see his nice photos of the Townsend Warbler and kinglets posted yesterday). Visitors from San Luis Obispo joined us. We talked about plumages and molt.

Coyote Point
October 27, 2012
Leader(s): Martha Wessitsh
# of participants: 5
# of species: 34

The best birds of the day included Long-tailed Duck, Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, Surfbird and Elegant Tern. 

Lake Merritt
October 24, 2012
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 5
# of species: 43

The year’s first scaup (all probably Greater) were on the Lake, and the trees in the garden were full of Yellow-rumped Warblers (also known, to those in the know, as Butter-butts). We were up to four of the five grebe species that winter at the lake: the Pied-billed (who have been back in substantial numbers for a couple of months), plus several Western and one Clark’s, and a couple of the tiny dark Eared variety.

The big news was on the fish front – we watched a female Belted Kingfisher snarf down a sculpin-looking critter that seemed bigger than her head, and a Snowy Egret working hard to line up a similar finny monster that was easily three or four times as wide as its black beak. Or it looked like work, anyway – but perhaps it was play; the fish went down the hatch fast enough when a Western Gull came over to try for a grab.

On the floats, this year’s young Double-crested Cormorants lined up with almost military spacing, just far enough apart to spread their wings to dry – apparently in shifts, as almost as many others of their kind were out in the water, fishing in gangs. Along with thirty or forty egrets, mostly more Snowies, a few Great Blue Herons, a couple of Green Herons, and the usual pack of Black-crowned Night-Herons of all ages. Hank-the-rescue-pelican had one wild friend still visiting, but it looked like he’d soon be alone for the rest of the winter (and into the breeding season next spring, poor guy).

Notable for the lake though common elsewhere, we spotted a Brewer’s Blackbird – your basic parking-lot blackbird, for some reason almost never seen near the nature center – and a Mourning Dove, also on the we-never-see-that-here list.  And a Scrub Jay, which ought to be common in Lakeside Park but somehow isn’t.

And lots more besides – forty-three species in all, the highest tally in months – for a very good day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day.

Union City, Quarry Lakes, Alameda Creek Bicycle Trip
October 20, 2012
Leader(s): Michelle Labbe and Jeremy Andersen
# of participants: 7
# of species: 55

We set out with 7 bikers on a refreshingly cool and cloudy day from Union City BART.  In all it didn’t feel like there was that much bird action, maybe all the birds went to Coyote Hills to see the Magnolia Warbler currently in residence there.  That said however, we still managed to see 55 different species of birds, White-crowned Sparrows singing up and down the Creek, and an abundance of Yellow-rumped Warblers.  On our trip, we got some good looks at recently returned ducks, especially Blue and Green-winged Teals, Gadwalls, Northern Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks, and American Wigeons.  However we were a little disappointed not to see Wood Ducks either at the Union City Library or in the Quarry Lakes, but the Library was not a total loss as its collection of inter-species hybrids was quite exciting.  As we were leaving the Lakes, we watched an Osprey fly away with a hard earned meal that any of the fishermen at the Quarry Lakes would have been jealous of.  Lunch was relaxing at the Niles Staging Area, and we biked home while the sun finally broke through the clouds.

Coyote Hills
October 13, 2012
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 20
# of species: 60

20 birders saw about 60 species on a sunny day at Coyote Hills on a GGAS field trip.

We did not see the Magnolia Warbler reported by Steve Tracy and Jerry Ting.
 Nor did we see the Peregrine Falcon seen at Hoot Hollow by another birder.

Other than these minor disappointments, we had a great day.

Tilden Park Inspiration Point, Nimitz Way
October 12, 2012
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: n/r
# of species: 19

A Hazardous Materials situation at the Bear Creek Road entrance to Briones
Regional Park forced a change of venue for our Second Friday Birdwalk , and we moved to Inspiration Point and the Nimitz Way in Tilden Regional Park. Thanks to all for your patience and understanding, stuff happens!

Amazing numbers of Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches, definitely “bird(s) of the

I will put this out there: Ralph P. and I saw, among a group of Golden-crowned
and Song Sparrows, and some Lesser Goldfinches,
a sparrow with a clear, grey chest with a single “stick-pin” black spot and
brown head. It was a brief look, enough to say, “there’s something different,”
and note the characters I mention. No pictures. There are records at eBird of
American Tree Sparrow (go ahead, laugh!) in October (sum of all years records
for the month), some near Sacramento (Yolo Bypass) and others on the SF
Peninsula, but none in the East Bay. This was a little past the 1/4 mile marker
on the Nimitz Way, going northwest away from the Inspiration Point parking lot.
Just sayin’.

Point Pinole – North Richmond Shoreline Festival
October 6, 2012
Leader(s): not reported
# of participants: not reported
# of species: 11

Just eleven species were identified on this short trip.  We found a Red shouldered Hawk, Northern Mockingbird, Black-bellied Plover and a few others.

Tilden Park Jewell Lake

October 5, 2012

Leader(s): Alan Kaplan

# of participants: 19

# of species: 25

We had nice weather for our monthly First Friday GGAS walk at Tilden Nature Area.

We talked a bit about new names in birds: Calliope Hummingbird is no longer in
its own genus; it is a Selasphorus. And the North American Carpodacus finches
(House, Purple, Cassin’s) are now Haemorhous finches.

The answer to the question, Do Oak Titmice join into Mixed Species Flocks in
winter? is no. They remain territorial throughout the year and don’t flock up
with others of their kind or close relatives.

Lake Merritt
Sept 26, 2012
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey# of participants: 5# of species: 33The species count was up a bit from last month, but the real winter water bird migration hasn’t begun. The most notable observation was the American Coot population; the lake was so full of the white-beaked black birds that it seemed like one of them had to be a duck. But no – except for the Mallards, of course, also out in numbers and mostly with their bright green head plumage back in place and shining.Other birds were out in lots, too – half a dozen Great Blue Herons, including one standing in a cormorant’s nest for all the world as though trying it on for size, plus four or five White Pelicans and bunches of Great and Snowy Egrets, and one handsome Belted Kingfisher surveying the lake now the trees are mostly clear.Over in Lakeside Park, we walked round the back of Children’s Fairyland – where the land migrants tend to show up most often – and there found the Magic Tree. Birding the park is a feast-or-famine pastime; you can walk and walk and see very little, but if you can find the tree the mixed flock is visiting, it’s heaven. Besides the usual Bushtits (flying mice) and Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Oak Titmice, and all sorts of little flappers none of us could see well enough to call, we got a good look at an Orange-crowned Warbler and a beautiful view of a Townsend’s Warbler complete with bright gold face and black burglar’s mask.And American Crows – lots and lots of crows  (not in the Magic Tree) – chasing each other and doubtless other birds, too, though we didn’t see any of those except for a Red-tailed Hawk circling high and higher to get away.All in all, a thoroughly good day at Lake Merritt, the oldest bird sanctuary in the country, where every day is a good day….Milbrae to Foster City Bicycle Trip
Sept 23, 2012Leader(s): Michelle Labbe and Jeremy Andersen# of participants: 8# of species: 52The day began with calm winds, sunny skies and high temps, then turned partly clouded by the end of the trip. Our first stop at the Bayfront Park was a highlight of the trip, where we observed hundreds of shorebirds, gulls and terns on the mud flats between the park and SFO, as well as two Clapper Rails, which we watched swim across a narrow stream and run into the marshes. On the Bay Trail from Coyote Point to Bay Slough, we continued to see large numbers of Willets, Marbled Godwits and egrets, and just a few Shovelers and Northern Pintail. We ate lunch at Ryder Park, amidst many Icterids, including juvenile Brewer’s blackbirds that were sporting interesting variations of their pre-basic molt. 

Point Pinole
September 16, 2012

Leader(s): Elizabeth Sojourner, Sheila Dickie and Rue Mapp

# of participants: 35

# of species: 25

The participants on this trip were from Outdoor Afro ( a new group  we are happy to partner with.  Their slogan is “where black people and nature meet.”  There were some very good birds, including Caspian Tern, Elegant Tern and Osprey.  A good day for birds and people!


EBMUD Bear Valley Staging Area
September 14, 2012

Leader(s): Kathryn Sechrist and Bob Lewis

# of participants: 14

# of species: 36

Our group had a chance to observe birds of the oak woodlands (Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Bushtit, Acorn Woodpecker, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, etc.) and hear about Kathryn’s nestbox study which showed there is a dearth of nest sites for small hole-nesting birds in residential areas.  Three Wood Ducks made a brief appearance, and an Olive-sided Flycatcher surveyed the area from a high perch.


Wildcat Canyon Regional Park
September 14, 2012

Leader(s): Alan Kaplan

# of participants: 20

# of species: 27

A great day for birds and birders at Wildcat Canyon Regional Park today. We met at the Alvarado Staging Area (named for Juan Bautista Alvarado, twice governor of California in the 1830s and early 1840s) and walked up the Belgum Trail (named for Dr.Hendrik
Belgum, whose Grande Vista Sanitarium ruins were our destination).

We had a woodpecker hat trick (Hairy, Nuttall’s and ACORN), and a raptor grand
slam (Red-tailed, Cooper’s, Red-Shouldered Hawk, and American Kestrel). Thanks
to Maureen and Aimee, our GGRO-trained hawk watchers.

Abbott’s Lagoon
Aug 25, 2012
Leader(s): Martha Wessitch# of participants: 28# of species: 41We had a foggy morning, but some excellent birds, including Barn Owl, Virginia Rail, Common Yellowthroat, Grasshopper Sparrow,  Snowy Plover, Peregrine Falcon,  Red-necked Phalarope, Red-throated Loon. Lake Merritt
Aug 22, 2012Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey# of participants: 7# of species: 28The most astonishing sight for the bird walk didn’t have feathers at all. Instead, it seemed to be raining on oval patches of the lake, where little silver fish were pushing their whole 4″ or 5″ length out of the water, over and over again. And getting away with it. Aside from a  small group of bronzy young Double-crested Cormorants that were accompanied by a Brown Pelican and doing some casual snacking, and one Caspian Tern trailing its cocktail-frank beak over the water, the birds were uniformly ignoring the finny leapers. I didn’t think gulls could have too much of a good thing, but we saw them swimming near the schools and paying no attention to them.The cormorants were all off their nests in the trees, and a young Belted Kingfisher — also NOT ignoring the fish, come to think of it — was back in residence, and a couple of Green Herons were picking their way along the rip-rap island borders. Hank-the-rescue-pelican was on his own in the bird paddock, but we later saw a wild White Pelican winging in that direction.The Canada Geese are flying again (having spent the last month or two growing their new suits), so the goose population should be on its way down to winter levels. On the lake, the Mallards were in full eclipse plumage, not a shiny green head to be seen, and enjoying having the water more or less to themselves. Only the Pied-billed Grebes that winter here were back in any numbers, though we did see an American Coot or two.On the way back to the cars, we passed a couple of independent birders who’d found one of this season’s young Cooper’s Hawks — recognizable as a youngster by the vertical brown striping on the breast – in an oak tree near the garden. A good finish to a good — though light; only 28 bird species — day at Lake Merritt, which when you come down to it doesn’t have anything but good days….Hayward Shoreline
Aug 19, 2012Leader(s): Rusty Scalf

# of participants: 37

# of species: 51

With a car shuttle, 37 participants managed an ~2 mile one way hike from Grant Ave,

San Lorenzo to Winton Ave, Hayward. It was a beautiful day, and despite quite a low

tide thousands of shorebirds were seen. The biggest show came at the high tide roost

known prosaically as Frank’s Dump where huddled masses produced at least 4 Red

Knot. Five Wilson’s Phalarope spun endlessly about sything  Avocets as incoming

Godwits swooshed overhead. A fine morning


Point Isabel Regional Shoreline
Aug 10, 2012

Leader(s): Alan Kaplan

# of participants: 29

# of species: 32

Today we saw more birds than we had birders (29 people + Mimi’s dog) on our  Second Friday Birdwalk at Point Isabel Regional Shoreline (Contra Costa County, CA). Birders included a former California Audubon Society Board of Directors member (thanks for coming, Wendy), and a new birder from Benicia.

Doris L. won the door prize, Peter Matthiessen’s The Wind Birds (appropriate for
our “returning shorebirds” theme).

We arrived just after the morning High Tide, and 90 minutes later, the mudflats
began to be exposed down the Bay Trail ( to the north).

Our first Bird of the Day candidate, Black-bellied Plover in gorgeous breeding
plumage, was beaten out by a Red-necked Phalarope juvenile, and the true B o’
the D was a BLACK TERN (Yesterday, Denise Wight reported one from the


Don Edwards NWR/Alviso Bicycle Trip
Aug 4, 2012

Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett

# of participants: 8

# of species: 41

Eight bicyclists met at Alviso Marina and made a loop to the visitor center and the marsh. The weather was cool and overcast, but good for birding. Ponds A16 and 17 are essentially empty of water while mitigations are being done to improve habitat, and it was strange to see them. Just past the RR tracks on the entrance road to the visitor’s center we found a Burrowing Owl, and in the marsh we found a large group of Red-necked Phalarope.


Tilden Park
Aug 3, 2012

Leader(s): Alan Kaplan

# of participants: 26

# of species: 29

An overcast morning for our First Friday GGAS Tilden Nature Area/Jewel Lake (and
Loop Road ) birdwalk today, but 26 birders were not disappointed. We had 29
species (including 8 kinds of juveniles). Our theme was Whose Names?- the people
commemorated by common names.

I  saw a Townsend’s Warbler that no one else did, and it is an earlier
record than any of the local lists on eBird have, so if any of you have a record
of a Townsend’s in Tilden as early as the first week in August, please let us

Lake Merritt
July 25, 2012
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey# of participants: 9
# of species: 28On a cool, overcast morning…. The Golden Gate Audubon 4th-Wednesday walk got off to a great start with four, count ’em, FOUR Green Herons on the island nearest the nature center. One gave us beautiful looks along the side of the island; the others flew in to the back of the island, remaining invisible even when we scurried around past the nature center to try for a better angle. Not as great as it coulda been, but still a record number of these rare and usually shy birds. We also saw four of the other heron species often found at the lake: Great Blue Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, and Black-crowned Night-Herons (including some fuzzy-headed though adult-sized babies of the latter).In the channel in front of the nature center, a wild juvenile White Pelican was moseying along looking for fish – recognizable as not-Hank-the-rescue-bird by keeping both wings sleek at its sides, and as a youngster by the extensive gray-brown on the wings and neck. Hank turned up in the bird paddock to confirm the judgment.Most of the Double-crested Cormorants have left their nests (though there were lots of both black adults and bronzy fledglings on the islands and floats), and the remainder were joined in the trees by a group of American Crows and a couple of Western Gulls. The crows and gulls seemed to be scavenging for anything eatable the cormorants might have left behind (best not to think too closely about what that might be).The Pied-billed Grebes were back in force, still wearing their elegant black cravats, and one lone American Coot was paddling by the islands – but this was the lake at about its quietest. Even the Canada Goose population seemed way down with the annual molt migration coming to an end.Only 28 species all told – but that also included a nice look at a female Downy Woodpecker and two Brown Pelicans on the floats when we returned to the cars. So it was another good day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day….Tilden Park
July 13 2012Leader(s): Alan Kaplan# of participants: 30+
# of species: 13More than 30 birders (two from Florida) and a lot fewer birds on our Second Friday walk yesterday, up the Upper Big Springs Trail in Tilden Regional Park.
Heavy fog much of the time made for birding by ear, mostly, with good looks at
immature Red-tailed Hawks along the trail and one at the top of it. Red-breasted Nuthatches both heard and seen (up-close)! We “dipped” on the Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Black-chinned Sparrow (didn’t see them).Tilden Park/ Jewel Lake
July 6, 2012Leader(s): Alan Kaplan# of participants: 18
# of species: 27Eighteen birders (several new birders among them) came to Tilden Nature
Area/Jewel Lake for the monthly First Friday GGAS Birdwalk. Our theme was
Breeding Bird Atlases (Alameda County’s is now out; Contra Costa’s has been
available since 2009; Monterey’s and Marin’s both came out in 1993; San Francisco’s data is not yet published; San Mateo’s is out with data but no text; Santa Clara’s is as big as a phonebook!; Sonoma is published, Santa Cruz is not; Solano is being done).Good birds included a Pacific-slope Flycatcher that came right up to the group, a female Mallard with two ducklings, Band-tailed Pigeon, Swainson’s Thrush and Purple Finch.
Lake Merritt
June 27, 2012

Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey

# of participants: 7
# of species: 30

We had good looks at Brown Creeper and watched the interactions of two Green Herons as they raised their crests and darted at one another before flying away.  We saw more Western Scrub Jays than normal.  The Canada Geese are starting their molt.

 Lakes, Alameda Creek and Coyote Hills Bird-Bicycle Trip
June 23, 2012

Leader(s): Michelle Labbe and Jeremy Andersen

# of participants: 6
# of species: 59

We had a group of six and sunny skies for our bird-bicycle trip on the Alameda Creek Trail to Coyote Hills R.P. on Saturday June 24th. Amidst the many Mallards, we saw Ruddy Ducks, Cinnamon Teal, and White Pelicans at Main and Dust Marsh, and Avocet, Stilts, Shoveler, Greater Yellowlegs, Pintail and American Wigeon at North Marsh. Common Yellowthroat were singing up and down the creek and Goldfinch and flocks of  Red-winged Blackbirds gathered to feed on the seeding forbs and grasses along the banks. Cliff Swallows were frequenting their nests under the bridges, Tree Swallows filled the nest boxes along the Dust Trail, and we watched Lesser Goldfinch and Red-tailed Hawks at their nests south of the creek. Spotted Towhees and Great-tailed

Grackle song accompanied our lunch at the Coyote Hills Visitor Center, and we took a side trip to the butterfly garden where we found Monarchs, Grey Hairstreaks and newly emerged Anise Swallowtails. A Red-shouldered Hawk on the home stretch topped off the day.

Tilden Park

June 8, 2012

Leader(s): Alan Kaplan

# of participants: 25
# of species: 42

An enthusiastic crowd  appeared for our second Second Friday Bird Walk, meeting at the foot of Rifle Range Road and walking into Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, down to the creek and up Havey Canyon a wee bit.  Highlights included a “grand slam” of Picidae (Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Northern Flicker).

UC Botanical Garden

June 6, 2012
Leader(s): Phila Rogers

# of participants: 10
# of species: nr

Ten of us gathered at the Botanical Gardens this morning for a different kind of
bird walk where, though we did walk between sitting locations, our focus was on
quiet, attentive listening — not only to birds, but noting everything in the soundscape.  A good sit can even envolve imagining a place in centuries past and Strawberry Canyon has a rich past to draw upon.

Settling down at the plaza facing the South African hill, we began our listening.  Recently arrived in the Garden, a Western Wood Pewee repeated its two-syllable downward slurred song.  Though an occasional visitor to the Garden, the pewee appears to have settled in.

Before walking on to the Rose Garden, Chris Carmichael lead us on a short detour
where at eye level, a male grosbeak sat on its nest 20 feet from where a Robin had built its nest.  The Grosbeak often sings on the nest unlike other nesting birds who are most often silent and secretive.

Approaching out final sit location on the terrace in front of conference center close to the stream, we stopped to watch both the male and female Hooded Oriole bringing food to nestlings hunkered down in their secure basket, woven of stout palm frond fibers.


Yosemite National Park
June 1-3, 2012
Leaders: Dave Quady and Dave Cornman

# of participants: 10

# of species: 63

Twenty birders joined the leaders on Golden Gate Audubon Society’s annual visit to western Yosemite National Park, where they enjoyed splendid weather and a fine selection of birds.

The weather was a bit warmer than usual, and the landscape, while lush – for example, mountain dogwood blossoms were at their absolute peak, seemed drier than normal.  As a result, we altered our normal routes a bit to favor shaded, more moist areas.  Our bird list, however, seemed pretty similar to past years.  In total, 63 species were seen or heard by at least one leader and one participant, including most of the species found on “normal” trips.  In addition, one participant saw a pair of Oak Titmice while apart from the group.

My personal highlights included Flammulated Owls that were very responsive (but difficult to spotlight as usual), a very late singing male Townsend’s Warbler, a magical encounter with a vocalizing Great Gray Owl, and the dependable, always entertaining American Dippers that nested again at Foresta Falls.

Thanks to all who helped make this a very enjoyable trip to lead.

June 1, 2012

Leader(s): Alan Kaplan

# of participants: 32
# of species: 34Our First Friday walk today (June 1, 2012) at Tilden Nature Area had 32 birders
and 34 birds! Larry McCombs (Tunstall) joined us from Willets, CA (he was the
“list mother” for the East Bay Birders that evolved into this list you read each
day) (some of you may know him also as programmer for “Beadle Um Bum” radio
program of folk music on KPFA).  Both Anna’s and Allen’s Hummingbirds were gathering nesting material, perhaps for a second nesting?  Chestnut-packed Chickadees were feeding fledglings.
Lake Merritt
May 23, 2012
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 2
# of species: 32Our walk encountered a few notable holdouts from the winter migrants – one Greater Scaup drake, very natty with bright white wings, gray back, and shiny green head, one Pied-billed Grebe – chunky and squat and hanging out with the scaup for lack of anyone more familiar – and one white-billed black American Coot.The trees on the islands were full of nesting Double-crested Cormorants, many with quite large youngsters in their nests, and the trees themselves were suffering. (The cormorants prefer dead trees to live ones – the nest sites on leafy branches are always the last to be taken – and now that so many of the old dead trees have fallen, the birds have moved into the live ones in force… where their presence in such numbers is, ah, improving conditions from their point of view.) Meanwhile, on the ground, the Canada Geese seem to be having a bumper year. We saw five different families with youngsters of various sizes stumping along – many more than in recent years.Hank-the-rescue-White Pelican had no company of his own kind, but we saw two very young Brown Pelicans (or possibly one, twice) on or near the islands. (You can tell the age by the color of the head; young birds are brown as mice, while the adults have white heads.)A flock of burglar-masked Cedar Waxwings was working the fruiting trees in the park, and we saw four Oak Titmice in the trees outside Children’s Fairyland. So although the species count was way down – only 32 different kinds of birds – there was plenty to see, and all in all it was a good day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day (and few are so bright and clear and pleasant as this one)! 
Mitchell Canyon
May 20, 2012
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi# of participants: 17
# of species: 48Bird vocalizations seemed relatively quiet compared with earlier in the spring.  Almost no Wilson’s or Orange-crowned Warblers were singing.  Ash-throated Flycatchers were also very quiet.  Overall the species count and general activity level were lower that would be expected at this time.  If seems like the migrants have already passed through and possibly the breeding birds are quiet as they begin to nest.Point Reyes
May 19, 2012Leader(s): Martha Wessitsh# of participants: 7
# of species: 53On a sunny, windy morning we were pleased to find a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Western Tanager, Yellow Warbler, three Great Horned Owls, Red necked Grebe and also Tule Elk and Elephant Seals including females with young.Hayward Shoreline Bicycle Trip
May 19, 2012Leader(s): Michelle Labbe and Jeremy Andersen# of participants: 8
# of species: 52We had a group of eight and calm, warm and sunny weather for our Hayward shoreline bird-bicycle trip on Saturday May 19th.  Starting from the San Leandro Marina on the SF Bay Trail, we found a pair of Ruddy Turnstones in breeding plumage along the shoreline, and Greater Yellowlegs,  Long-billed Curlew, Whimbrel and many Red-winged Blackbirds and Song Sparrows a little further from the shore. Avocets and Stilts were still on their nests, but we had a close encounter with an avocet pair and their chicks on the bicycle trail. Nearer to the Hayward Interpretive Center, we were surprised by a pair of

Semipalmated plovers, and got some good looks at Ruddy Ducks in their breeding plumage. After lunch at the Interpretive Center, we spent some time observing the nearby Least and Forster’s tern breeding colonies.


Garin Regional Park
May 13, 2012

Leader(s): Ann Hoff

# of participants: 5
# of species: 43

The highlight of this trip was finding nests under construction and watching birds work on them (Bullock’s Oriole and Bushtit).  Western Bluebirds and Tree Swallows were nesting in boxes and Brewer’s Blackbirds were copulating, although we couldn’t spot their nest.


Tilden Park
May 11, 2012

Leader(s): Alan Kaplan

# of participants: 15
# of species: 33

We met at Inspiration Point (Tilden Regional Park) and walked up the Seaview Trail to view 33 bird species and talk of many things.  We got good looks at a singing House Wren as well as a singing Purple Finch at the top of a tree.


Tilden Park
May 4, 2012

Leader(s): Alan Kaplan

# of participants: 27
# of species: 37

We had a double-header Friday, May 4, 2012: A Dawn Chorus-themed birdwalk met at
5:30 am at the foot of Canon Drive in Tilden Regional Park, Contra Costa County
(though mailing address is Berkeley, CA). Fifteen birders and I (Alan, who in my
excitement left my binoculars at home!) heard or eventually saw 30 species.

We added 7 species to the list at our monthly Golden Gate Audubon Society First Friday Birdwalk (theme was Bird Brain and Syrinx) starting at 8:30 am from the Tilden Nature Area parking lot, attended by 27 birders (including 10 people who came for both)! I went home and got my binos in-between the two walks.

Mines Road
April 28, 2012Leader(s): Dave Quady
# of participants: 18
# of species: 67

 Eighteen birders joined Golden Gate Audubon Society’s annual late spring birding trip to Mines Road and Del Puerto Canyon.  Beginning shortly after 8:00 am, our route followed Mines Road from the outskirts of Livermore into the San Antonio Valley.  A foray south along San Antonio Valley Road added a few species before we headed down Del Puerto Canyon to a couple of miles beyond Owl Rock, where the trip ended at about 7:00 p.m.

The weather was glorious, with temperatures between 50 and 75 degrees under sunny skies, and breezes that were never bothersome.  Leslie Flint’s scouting, and the efforts of her Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society group, helped us see Great Horned Owl and Lawrence’s Goldfinch, among other species.  Other highlights of the trip (to me) included Costa’s Hummingbird, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Swainson’s Thrush (new to the cumulative trip list), several Rufous-crowned Sparrows, a lovely pair of Blue Grosbeaks (mâle pendant le bain), and many brilliantly plumaged male Bullock’s Orioles.


Lake Merritt
April 25, 2012

Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 6
# of species: 33

We had a fine time observing the nesting Cormorants.  Every available spot is taken in the trees on the islands.  A few birds were trying unsuccessfully to build nests where there was just not enough support to hold them.  Northern rough-winged swallows were building a nest in a broken pipe at the lake edge.  A large flock of Cedar Waxwings was taking advantage of abundant fruit and flowers in Lakeside Park.  Both the Eared Grebes and Horned Grebes are in full breeding plumage.


Tilden Park Jewel Lake
April 6, 2012

Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 29
# of species: 35

Today’s First Friday walk for Golden Gate Audubon Society at Tilden Nature
Area/Jewel Lake (Contra Costa County, though mailing address is Berkeley 94708
[Alameda County]) had great weather, a wonderful turn-out of 29 birders
(including several first time birdwalkers, two birders from San Francisco and
one from Benicia), and 35 species. After most people had left, Travis, Eleni, Ed
and I had a FOS Black-headed Grosbeak. Park Naturalist Anthony Fisher confirmed
that today was the first day he heard this grosbeak, too. eBird had no other
East Bay records of Black-headed Grosbeak before ours, today. I think the Birds
of North America pamphlet says that they all arrive within 24 hours or so of one
another, so this weekend should be the time. Then again, it has been a
misheganah [crazy] year!

We saw Bushtit building a nest in a Coast Live Oak on the Upper Packrat Trail.
We were immersed in Wilson’s Warbler song several times. Oak Titmouse song was

Please remember the Golden Gate Audubon Society’s BIRDATHON is this month. See
their website for remaining walks.

Next month’s GGAS First Friday walk is a double event: Friday May 4th we will
first meet at 5:30am in front of the (defunct)Pony Ride at the foot of Canon
Drive in Tilden Park for a DAWN CHORUS tour, till 7:30am. Then we will meet
again at 8:30am at our regular Tilden Nature Area/Little Farm Parking Lot site,
for a BIRDSONG BIOLOGY-themed walk.


Lake Merritt
March 28, 2012

Leader(s): Bob Lewis
# of participants:10
# of species: 50

The highlight was the wintering male Tufted Duck, now sporting a full black ponytail, and looking very elegant.  The Ruddy Ducks were in breeding plumage, and so were the Eared Grebes.  The Horned Grebes were transitioning to breeding plumage.  The Double-crested Cormorants have started nesting; many were carrying nesting material.


Callipe Preserve
March 25, 2012

Leader(s): Rich Cimino, Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 6
# of species: 46

Callipe Preserve is built around a public golf course and is adjacent to the award winning Koopman cattle ranch.  It provides habitat for the endangered Callipe Siverspot butterfly.  The day was cloudy, turning to medium rain.  Birding rewards included a Ring-necked Duck,  three Golden Eagles, a Loggerhead Shrike, four Yellow-billed Magpies and a trio of Lark Sparrows.


Lassen County
March 24-25, 2012

Leader(s): Dave Quady
# of participants: 15
# of species: 88

Fifteen birders who braved a decidedly threatening weather forecast were rewarded with tolerable, if unsettled, weather, and good luck with northeastern California’s hoped-for March specialty species.

On Saturday we assembled in Susanville under a calm if gray sky pre-dawn. Mercifully, the rutted dirt road near the Greater Sage-Grouse lek had dried enough over the preceding week that we could drive all the way. Darkness still hid the birds when we arrived, but the popping sound of male throat pouches foretold the show that dawn would bring. Eventually we saw 22 displaying males, at least five females, and one act of copulation on the lek. Perhaps many of the additional ten females seen the previous weekend were already on nests. Large numbers of Pronghorns delighted the eye, the more so because they didn’t disturb the dancing grouse. On our drive back to Susanville, Leavitt Lake produced a goodly number of waterfowl to enjoy before our brief breakfast break. Afterward we birded a short stretch of the Bizz Johnson trail in Susanville, visited Peter Lassen’s gravesite, drove to Milford to comb through several thousand white – and a few blue morph – geese, then caravanned through Honey Lake Valley from Janesville east to the Amedee Mountains. There we enticed several nevadensis subspecies of Sage

Sparrow into view, but had to settle for taped renditions of their diagnostic song. At our last stop, at the Fleming Unit of Honey Lake Wildlife Area, a brisk northwesterly wind arose at dusk, and we eventually left for dinner without seeing any Short-eared Owls.

Sunday morning was alternately cloudy, sunny, calm, and windy, but we enjoyed good birds everywhere. Jack’s Valley produced our first Townsend’s Solitaire, while Willow Creek Valley provided Rough-legged Hawks and an immature Bald Eagle. Our last stops, in the Eagle Lake basin, added a few new waterfowl species, dozens of Pinyon Jays, and standout woodpeckers: in the Spalding Tract we re-found a Lewis’s Woodpecker present since at least December, and two long-staying White-headed Woodpeckers near a friend’s cabin. Our final stop was at the Orings’ residence, where Lew and Kay had stocked their feeders and generously opened their home to us. There we enjoyed our lunches as we watched and photographed birds at close range. What a fine ending to an enjoyable trip.


Redwood Regional Park
March 18, 2012

Leader(s): Glen Tepke
# of participants: 2
# of species: 20

We had a cold morning, windy on the ridge.  Birding was slow.  There were about a dozen singing Orange-crowned Warblers.  We had close views of Hutton’s Vireo.  Band-tailed Pigeons and Hairy Woodpeckers called.  It was cold and quiet so we climbed West Ridge Trail to get in the sun instead of taking the Bridle/Stream trail as planned.


Tilden Park Jewel Lake
March 2, 2012

Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 60+
# of species: 38

A real mob (Many OBservers) showed up for the First Friday Birdwalk at Tilden
Nature Area on March 2, 2012.  Over 60 birders came, including a guest from Juneau, AK. Marissa Ortega-Welch from GGAS staff and Steve Lombardi, our birdwalk coordinator, also came along.

Thanks to Marissa for the Ruby-crowned Kinglet song “sighting” and to Ralph P.
for that amazing catch of a White-tailed Kite way, way up there!

Next walk is April 6 at Tilden Nature Area (meet in the EEC/Little Farm parking
lot, 8:30am), and we’ll have a special Second Friday Birdwalk on April 13 at
Inspiration Point in Tilden Regional Park (also at 8:30am) as part of the GGAS
Birdathon. You can sign up at the Golden Gate Audubon website, or just show up.
I will match Birdathon donations up to a total of $500.00.

Lake Merritt
February 22, 2012
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of species: 42 

It was bright and hot for the February 4th-Wednesday bird walk, and people were shedding clothes all along the way. Out on the islands, we saw TWO Belted Kingfishers – first time for more than one – chasing each other through the trees. This may be the last time we see them for a while, though; the Double-crested Cormorants haven’t started to nest yet, but the first-comers were twisting their snaky necks and sizing up the real estate (which is once again severely limited this year).

The species count was down a bit, but we saw some good birds. In the Sensory Garden, an alert walker spotted a not-a-Towhee, not-a-Robin, a brown bird with a bright white eye ring and a streaky breast: a Hermit Thrush !

Other than that, it was pretty much the usual suspects – but lovely views in lovely weather, and all in all another good day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day. 

Emeryville Marina Park to Point Isabel, Richmond Bicycle Trip
February 18, 2012
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: 6
# of species: 51

Six hearty souls began the day with a Horned Grebe, Common Golden Eye, Ruddy Duck and a pair of Buffleheads in the cold at the Emeryville Marina. We then moved to the rocks on the south side of Powell St. west of the fire station and because of the high tide we saw an amazingly large group of shore birds including Willets, Least and Western Sandpipers, Whimbrels, and Marbled Godwits. Offshore there were large rafts of Ruddy Ducks and Scaup. Going north toward Berkeley we found Sanderlings and Black Turnstones on the shore and Surf Scoters and Wigeons in the bay. At Cesar Chavez Park we saw one Burrowing Owl in the fenced off area and one farther along the trail on a rock at the water’s edge. Behind Golden Gate Fields we found Black-bellied Plovers, cormorants and a Spotted Sandpiper near the dilapidated pier. In the mudflats at Buchanan and I-580 we found Avocets, Green-winged Teal, Shovelers and Pintails.  It warmed up enough for us to have lunch at the Dog Park.

Shadow Cliffs Regional Park
February 10, 2012
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 4
# of species: 52

About 50 Double-crested Cormorants were perched near existing nests in the usual rookery on the island at the east end of the levee.  Several pairs of Great Blue Herons were exhibiting nest-building behavior around existing nests  on the same island. Additional birds included a single Greater White-fronted Goose, 6 Common Mergansers, an Osprey, two Common Gallinules and about 100 Tree Swallows.

Richmond-SF Bay Trail Bicycle Trip
February 4, 2012
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: 10
# of species: 47

The highlight of the day was the Black Scoter (previously reported) swimming with a group of Greater Scaup between Shimada and Vincent Parks at Richmond’s Marina Bay. It was so close we did not need binoculars; the bill is almost luminescent orange and the bird quite perky. By the breakwater we also saw a loon quite close, and although someone reported an immature Red-throated Loon in the area, we examined bird books and thought it was a Pacific Loon. Our group of 10 had a sunny but quite cool day. Having started from South 51st St, the trip ended at Point Isabel, so it was entirely in Richmond. Five of us bicycled back to Berkeley and saw the Black Turnstone along the rocky shore between Buchanan and Golden Gate Fields in Albany and the Forster’s Tern on the decrepit pier nearby.

Tilden Park Jewel Lake
February 3, 2012
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 30+
# of species: 30

A wonderful turnout of birders and birds occurred on Friday, February 3, 2012 at Tilden Nature Area (Contra Costa County, though the address is Berkeley, CA. [Alameda County]. Over 30 birders, including visitors from Minnesota. Thanks toDenise Wight, Phila Rogers and Maury Stern. Nel Benningshof promoted the Great Backyard Bird Count two weekends from now; details at the Cornell birds site, I think. Thanks, too, to Bob Lewis for the training on January 21 !  Birds seen included Red-breasted Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Varied Thrush, Hooded Merganser, Band-tailed Pigeon and Brown Creeper.

Lake Merritt
January 25, 2012
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 10
# of species: 53 

In the midst of a borderline-rainy week, Lake Merritt served up a perfectly beautiful morning for the fourth-Wednesday Golden Gate Audubon walk: clear and still and warm. And the birds were out in droves — 53 kinds in all, including a drake that was  a cross between a Barrow’s Goldeneye and a Common Goldeneye, as shown by having a teardrop-shaped white cheek spot instead of the crescent of one side or the pure circle of the other.

The numbers of scaup seemed way down; merely lots of them, but not the huge rafts to be expected at the sheltered end of the lake. We saw all the regular winter migrants and almost all the singleton visitors, including the male Redhead, but not the Tufted Duck, who was keeping his black back and little pony-tail right out of sight.

We got lovely looks at a couple of Red-tailed Hawks, one with a truly blazing red tail — something that despite the name they don’t all have — and a Cooper’s Hawk, probably one of the resident breeding pair, though the nest is well hidden. Other highlights from Lakeside Park included a Red-breasted Nuthatch creeping happily down a tree trunk, a Hutton’s Vireo, and a wide-eyed Hermit Thrush, one of the cutest birds ever to hop along the ground.

All in all, another good day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day….

 Arrowhead Marsh
January 12, 2012
Leader(s): Chris Bard
# of participants: 6
# of species: 57

We had a clear morning and were greeted with a flyby of a Peregrine Falcon.  Other good birds included a Belted Kingfisher, Common Yellowthroat and Cinnamon Teal.  The Clapper Rails were heard, not seen.

Tilden Park Jewel Lake
January 6, 2012
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 40+
# of species: 23

Thank you to the 40+ people who came to the birdwalk at Tilden Nature Area today.  We had good views of a Downy Woodpecker working a branch for insects at the entrance to the nature area, a couple of Varied Thrushes and a pair of Hooded Mergansers (male and female) at Jewel Lake.  The latest edition of the Tilden nature area checklist has them as “very rare” (fewer than 10 records in a season).