2013 Trip Reports
Lake Merritt December 18, 2013 Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey # of participants: 13 # of species: 49
Our fourth Wednesday walk moved to the 3rd Wednesday, as the leaders and many probable participants had plans for the regular date, and people did manage to find us despite the first-ever change in the schedule. The crew of 13 birders, one here from Florida, began by beating feet for the El Embarcadero end of the lake, where the Tufted Duck was in residence and even condescended to pull his beak out of his back feathers so we could get a proper look. He’s hard to spot at this time of year as his black pony-tail is only about half grown and his wings are more gray than white, but his back is as black as ever. A female Tufted Duck has been reported here this year – for the first time in a decade – but we couldn’t find her, despite a lot of looking at brown ducks in the hope of seeing a small tuft and a mostly brown face.
We got good looks at several other rarities, too. A Barrow’s Goldeneye was slumming down in the area below the children’s playground instead of sticking with others of his kind at the 12th Street end of the lake, and we saw a Hermit Thrush in the garden and a Red-breasted Sapsucker across the street from it.
All the winter regulars were here, both on the lake and in the garden, and Hank-the-rescue-bird still had one White Pelican friend to keep him company. All told, except for a bit of a chill when the sun ducked behind one of the numerous clouds, it was another very good day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day….Corte Madera Marsh Bicycle Trip December 14, 2013 Leader(s): Pat Greene, Jeffrey Black # of participants: 16 # of species: 40
The birding highlight of the day were (1) Hooded Merganser at Pixley Pond: we were treated to a handsome male and 2 female types. (2) American Pipit spotted by one of our participants along the levee beside San Clemente Drive near the southern most pond. (3) Lesser Yellowlegs on Corte Madera Creek . We had seen Greater Yellowlegs earlier on the Marsh and the Creek wetlands. This bird had a shorter, straighter, thinner bill, and then a Black-necked Stilt joined it and the smaller size clinched the id. (4) Greater White-fronted Goose. Spotted before the ride by one of our participants in the large Canada Goose flock at the Park. It was still there at the end when some of us went to confirm.Sutro Heights, Lake Merced San Francisco December 14, 2013 Leader(s): Dan Murphy # of participants: n/r # of species: n/r
On Dan Murphy’s Golden Gate Audubon trip today highlights included a WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, several PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHERS, and at least 10 WESTERN TANAGERS in addition to the Tanager without wingbars at North Lake. At the East Wash, there was an early HERMIT THRUSH. At Sutro Heights Park there were three WESTERN BLUEBIRDS, an early YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER and a flyover OSPREY. Lake Merced had two GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES and a BACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER. YELLOW, ORANGE-CROWNED, WILSON’S and TOWNSEND’S WARBLERS were seen at multiple locations.Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline December 8, 2013 Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi, Maureen Lahiff # of participants: 14 # of species: 61
Our group braved a cold, clear, blustery day to walk from Garretson Point to Arrowhead Marsh. Winter Bay Area birding at its finest. Right at the start, we got a good look (through spotting scopes) at a female Merlin perched on an electrical wire pole north of us along Oakport Street. Near the end, at Arrowhead Marsh, we were rewarded with a good look at a Clapper Rail (thanks Erica and John), walking in the shade at the edge of Arrowhead Marsh. We got to observe a Black Turnstone working the rocky shore near the bridges over Elmwood Creek and San Leandro Creek. Many, many Ruddy Ducks; Scaup, Widgeon, Gadwalls, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintail, Common Goldeneye; Surf Scoters; a few Black Bellied Plovers. Grebes – Horned, Eared, one Pie-Billed, many Westerns. The usual winter assortment of gulls; Great and Snowy Egrets, 2 Great Blue Herons. Between Garretson Point and the bridge over Elmwood Creek, a lone Spotted Sandpiper on the rocky shore and a Black-Crowned Night Heron.Tilden Nature Area December 6, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 18 # of species: 23
Our bird walk was up the sunny Meadows Canyon Trail due to construction in Tilden Nature Area (Canon Drive closed today).
Margaret T. brought the cold weather of New York with her! The Bennetts and Bob
Smith had scopes today- thanks! And Maury Stern brought a gift for all attendees
today- the Checklist of the Birds of Contra Costa County from Mount Diablo
Audubon Society (May 2010 edition, with month-by-month, habitat and nesting
status data). Thanks, Maury! Most numerous bird: Band Tailed Pigeon.
Oh, and a resident of Woolsey St (cross-street is Eaton, in Berkeley) who lives
where the Painted Redstart has been seen for three weeks came by!
We found loads of shorebirds. The greatest numbers were Western Sandpiper, Dunlin, Marbled Godwit, Willet, Black-bellied Plover and American Avocet. The most unusual bird was a Spotted Sandpiper which was seen by one person. There were few ducks. Thanks to the experienced birders who brought their scopes and shared their knowledge with the beginning birders in our group.Strybing Arboretum December 1, 2013 Leader(s): Dominik Mosur, Ginny Marshall, Allan Ridley # of participants: 60+ # of species: 56
Highlights of today’s trip included 13 Aleutian Cackling Geese flying NE, 2 Green-winged Teal on the main pond., a Gray Catbird continuing in the same area of the Chile/Andean Cloud Forest sections, a Nashville Warbler also near the Chile section; a Black and White Warbler at John Muir Pond, two Wilson’s Warblers also at the John Muir Pond; a White throated Sparrow and a Western Tanager, both near the moon viewing pond.Lake Merritt November 27, 2013 Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey # of participants: 20 # of species: 51
Our walk was back to the day before Thanksgiving this year, well-attended as ever. We had our first 50+-species day of the season, even without a glimpse of the three more rare migratory ducks often seen at this season (Tufted, Ring-necked, and Redhead, if you’re counting). One big consolation: an Oak about 2/3 of the way from the Nature Center to El Embarcadero that was absolutely jumping with little birds, including the rarely seen (here) Wilson’s Warbler and even more rarely seen Black-throated Gray Warbler — looking like the burglar-masked Townsend’s Warbler (also present) with the bright yellow replaced by a gray so pale as to look quite white
Almost all the more common regular winter visitors were crowding the lake: lots of scaup some Canvasbacks with their ski-jump forehead-to-bill-tip profiles, and several Common Goldeneyes,. (No crescent-marked Barrow’s Goldeneyes, we were sorry to find, though they’ve been seen in the area.) Hank-the-rescue-pelican still had a couple of snow-white companions, though they’re usually gone by November, and we saw two Brown Pelicans as well.
A dark-morph Red-tailed Hawk was perched on the art-deco brick building beside the lake, moving from corner to corner and generally showing off its unusual coloring. Red-tails can be anywhere from palest cream with cinnamon trim to almost black, but the extremes are scarce — and this was a dark reddish brown in all the parts where a normal midrange bird is nearly white.
The female Kingfisher spent several minutes on a branch trying to smash a large fish into swallowability, and a young Cooper’s Hawk was lurking in a cormorant nest on one of the islands — being utterly ignored by the vast flock of Double-crested Cormorants (hundreds of them, mostly bronze juveniles) that were crowding the trees and the shores and the floats for some reason. (We always see a few in November, but this looked like every bird hatched here from early spring through late summer had returned for a visit.)
All in all and even without the expected rarities, we couldn’t have asked for a better day at the lake, where every day….El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area November 24, 2013 Leader(s): Tara McIntire # of participants: 9 # of species: 30
We covered 650+ vertical feet of climbing, including 207 +/- stairs! But we saw a wonderful mix of birds. The highlights were a Brown Creeper, several Red Tails and a soaring Sharp shinned Hawk. Overall, it was an amazing hike through wonderful and varied habitats within a very urban settingSan Francisco Bay Boat Trip November 16, 2013 Leader(s): Bob Lewis # of participants: 25 # of species: 48
I was surprised by the large number of Brandt’s Cormorants on the end of the Berkeley Pier, and thought we had lots of good looks at Grebes. Nice day, nice folks, and a good trip.
San Leandro Reservoir Valle Vista Staging Area November 8, 2013 Leader(s): Bob Lewis # of participants: 50 # of species: 49
We had a good time, with beautiful weather and some great birds. The whole huge group had good looks at both Wood Duck and Hooded Merganser, and a Red-shouldered Hawk repeatedly posed beautifully for us. A handful of woodpecker species added to the fine day, and we finished off with a California Thrasher. Luckily there were a good number of experienced birders in the group to help out those still learning, and it all worked out nicelStrybing Arboretum November 3, 2013 Leader(s): Dominik Mosur, Ginny Marshall, Allan Ridley # of participants: 50 # of species: 53
Some of the highlights were:
Eared Grebe – on main pond, an Arboretum first for most if not all the participants
CA Quail – heard calling a couple of times from between the Succulent and Children’s gardens
Northern Flicker– intergrade with red nape and red malar mark
Red-breasted Sapsucker – in the Chilean oak, usual spot for this species in late fall/winter
GCKinglets – in the Redwood section
late migrant Yellow Warbler/Western Tanager
(2) White-throated Sparrow
All three groups also watched a Red-shouldered Hawk team up with several Common Ravens in mobbing a Great-horned Owl in the Redwood stand.
Martin Luther King, Alameda Shoreline Bicycle Trip November 2, 2013 Leader(s): Pat Greene, Jeffrey Black # of participants: 7 # of species: 48
It was a beautiful fall day for cycling and birding. The tide was very high, and Garretson point was dry; both factors diminished the bird population on the way in to Arrowhead. We should have seen Clapper Rails with these conditions–but the pier has been deemed unsafe, and that eliminated the prime view site seeing for rails. Birding seemed very slow.
Elsie Roemer made up for it with hundreds of close in roosting shorebirds near the deck and at other sites along shore. Flocks would rise and then settle again, but then several rose and coalesced for a spectacular display of “allelomimesis’. We looked for the predator, and there was a Perigrine roaring through and stooping several times on the flock. It looked like he knocked a bird down and then retrieved it from the water.Tilden Nature Area November 1, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 30 # of species: 27
Our Bird walk today met at Meadows Playfield, Tilden Regional Park (where Central Park Drive meets Lone Oak Road) because of construction in the Tilden Nature Area. Chris W. from Yorkshire, England joined us ( and added Red-breasted Sapsucker to his Life List!). Thanks to Herb for great scope views of the Fox and Golden-crowned
Sparrows at the start, and sapsucker at the finish.
Starting at the San Leandro Marina, at 8:30 AM, six bike-birders headed south along the bay trail to the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center. In total we saw 70 species of birds, including large rafts of ducks (Pintails and Surf Scoters were the most abundant), giant mixed-flocks of thousands of shorebirds, Black and Ruddy Turnstones, and a Red-necked Grebe. The highlight of the trip by far was when thousands of shorebirds took to the air to avoid the simultaneous threat of a male Northern Harrier and a Peregrine Falcon. The ballet of dancing flocks, which rapidly changed directions and shifted shape and color with each turn was mesmerizing to watch. We enjoyed a nice lunch at the Interpretive Center before biking back to the San Leandro Marina. We had a beautiful clear morning with an incoming tide. High of 70, with light winds.Lake Merritt October 23, 2013 Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey # of participants: 11 # of species: 44
For the first time in a decade and more of 4th Wednesdays at the lake, the October Golden Gate Audubon walkers were treated to the sight of an Osprey. And not just a fly-over; it was sitting on one of the dead trees on the islands, taking its ease for half an hour or so from the time we first noticed it. (A few years ago, someone suggested putting up an Osprey nest platform at the lake, and I laughed; as well try to coax in an elephant. But maybe… if we see a few more… and the new water access brings in a few more big fish….)
And that was only the highlight. A big raft of scaup – probably both Greater and Lesser Scaup – had showed up in the last few days, almost all juveniles. (Well, the males were mostly juveniles, with a lot of brown on their soon-to-be-white wings; with the all-brown females, who can tell?) We also had Ruddy Ducks on the lake, along with one Clark’s Grebe, and a lot of pelicans, both brown and white
Over in the trees, the warblers and woodpeckers were out in force. Along with the predictable chickadees and titmice and burglar-masked Townsend’s Warblers, we had an unusual number of Yellow-rumped Warblers – at least a couple of dozen, foraging on the ground as well as in the trees – plus an Orange-crowned Warbler (olive drab, with olive drab streaks on a yellow breast; another first sighting), both Nuttall’s and Downy Woodpeckers, a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and both Scrub and Steller’s Jays – the former uncommon and the latter vanishingly rare at the lake.
All told, we saw 44 species of birds – a great opening to the fall migration season and an all-round good day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day…Corona Heights October 18, 2013 Leader(s): Brian Fitch, Dominik Mosur # of participants: 20 # of species: 42
Our 3rd Friday GGAS walk on Corona Hill was well attended with 20 participants and great weather. we saw 42 species, most notable for the date and location being : Merlin, Red-breasted Sapsucker, House Wren, Yellow Warbler.Point Pinole October 11, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 28 # of species: 47
It was a marathon (more than 5 hours) bird walk at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline,
Thanks to all who showed up, many with spotting scopes, some from San Ramon, San Francisco and Novato. A couple of furloughed Federal employees from NPS and USDA attended.
Bird o’ the Day was Black Oystercatcher (14 of them). Reptile of the Day was a juvenile Yellow-bellied Racer; Brandon of the firm BIOMASS took a photo, e-mailed it to his boss, and in a few minutes we got a confirmation of identity. His boss, Steve P., used to attend Tilden Nature Area bird walks before his high school classes very early on Thursdays. Thanks to Bill Yuen who has posted photos of the Friday, October 11, 2013 GGAS bird walk on the GGAS Meet-up group website. We are really in the digital/social media age.Strybing Arboretum October 6, 2013 Leader(s): Dominik Mosur, Ginny Marshall, Allan Ridley # of participants: 40 # of species: 58
We enjoyed great weather and a diversity of species, nothing too rare. The group split into three groups. Species seen included Vaux’s Swift, Northern Flicker, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Hutton’s Vireo, Brown Creeper, Cedar Waxwing (a good sized flock), Yellow Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler and Western Tanager.Tilden Nature Area October 4, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 33 # of species: 25
This was my 40th bird walk for GGAS. Bird o’ the Day was Black-throated Grey Warbler at the dam; we also had a good look at Hutton’s Vireos feeding in the alders at the dam, too. Butterfly was California Sister (2).Other migrants were a pair of Canadians, Andy and Dorothy from Toronto. We talked about A Field Guide to Common Birds of Toronto (at FLAP.org; this is the Fatal Light Attraction Project, and an unusual guide with a conservation message).Our theme was Binocular Vision, by Spencer Schaffner (University of Massachusetts Press, 2011). Late 19th century field guides (really the first of their kind) by Florence Merriam and by Mabel Osgood Wright included conservation messages with the goal of bird preservation at a time when birds were ornaments for hats. Their sentimental and aesthetic arguments for birds were written to change people from consumers to conservers of birds. They also valued some birds for their sweet song or excellent family manners (!) and de-valued others for their scratchy voices or poor behavior. This was an era that hated “birds of prey” and promoted bounties or other controls against them.
Look at your own guide: today, over 100 birds in them are listed in some state or another as pests to be managed or controlled. Conservation messages began to disappear from field guides as the technical guides arose with Peterson’s in 1934. Does your guide have a conservation message somewhere in it? More next month.Next two months’ First Friday GGAS Birdwalks (November 1 and December 6, 2013) will meet at a (temporary) new location: Meadows Playfield parking lot at the intersection of Central Park Drive and Lone Oak Road in Tilden Regional Park, due to construction in the Tilden Nature Area. Lake Merritt September 25, 2013 Leader(s): Ruth Tobey # of participants: 7 # of species: 32
Our walk began with the spirited fly-by of a female Belted Kingfisher; she vocalized with her rattling cry just to be sure that everyone saw her well, then perched on a dead tree on one of the islands for clear looks. The Double-crested Cormorant nests on the islands are finally empty, but the floats were full of mature and immature cormorants, some with their wings spread to dry.
Hank-the-rescue-Pelican still had a few friends loafing with him on one of the islands. There are now several dozen Pied-billed Grebes at the lake, but they were joined today by three Eared Grebes. The Eared Grebes dove continuously, making it hard to see the “dirty” necks that distinguish them from the similar Horned Grebes.
A Great Egret and a Snowy Egret foraged conveniently close by to give a good size and field mark comparison. The immature Black-crowned Night Herons seemed to outnumber the adults, but perhaps the adults were roosting further back in the bushes after a good night’s feed.
Near Children’s Fairyland we found our Bird of the Day: a Townsend’s Warbler. It was very hard to see due to the way it moved so quickly through the trees, gleaning insects. Also along the fence by Children’s Fairyland we were amazed to see a pair of Bewick’s Wrens out in full view. Across the street in the garden we found a decent number of White-crowned Sparrows. Our final bird was an energetically foraging Pacific-slope Flycatcher. In all, we found 32 species today despite finding no Lesser Goldfinches or House Finches. As usual, it was a beautiful day at Lake Merritt.Coyote Hills September 22, 2013 Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi, John Colbert, Erica Rutherford # of participants23 # of species: 50
23 birders enjoyed a fabulous first day of Fall at Coyote Hills where we saw 50 species. We didn’t see anything particularly unusual, although there seemed to be a lot of Western-type flycatchers around, probably more than we recorded. The main marsh is quite dry, and we had to walk to the DUST Trail (il.e., the tree swallow boxes) before we saw ducks or shorebirds. Yesterday’s rain added some water to the marsh in that location. Hoot Hollow was very active.Coastal San Francisco September 14, 2013 Leader(s): Dan Murphy # of participants: n/r # of species: n/r
Today’s highlights included a WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, several PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHERS, and at least 10 WESTERN TANAGERS in addition to the Tanager without wing-bars at North Lake. At the East Wash, there was an early HERMIT THRUSH. At Sutro Heights Park there were three WESTERN BLUEBIRDS, an early YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER and a flyover OSPREY. Lake Merced had two GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES and a BACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER. YELLOW, ORANGE-CROWNED, WILSON’S and TOWNSEND’S WARBLERS were seen at multiple locations.Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park September 13, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 42 # of species: 27
Our walk today was to the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in the heart of Tilden Regional
Park. This was my 40th birdwalk for GGAS; we had 42 participants, including many
who had not visited the RPBG before. Anthony from the GGAS staff joined us, also.
Best birds were WILLOW FLYCATCHER at the little pond near the aspens, female
Western Tanager bathing in the creek, Swainson’s Thrush, Warbling Vireo, and
Olive-sided Flycatcher (on the way out), and Townsend’s Warbler (on the way in
for the winter).
This morning I had the pleasure of substituting for Alan Kaplan on his Friday Tilden walk. 29 observant people showed and we had a fine outing.
Highlights: A flock of 3 Warbling Vireos foraged over Jewel Lake, then a flock of 5 Townsend’s Warblers in the confers above the dam, then 3 Western Tanagers; an immature Black Crowned Night Heron captured a BIG fish in Jewel Lake right in front of us. I was quite surprised by this fish as it was almost certainly a trout…. Jewel Lake does not seem like trout habitat, but given the fish’s head shape I don’t know what else it could have been. We estimated 7-8 inches in length.Hayward Shoreline September 1, 2013 Leader(s): Rusty Scalf, Steve and Carol Lombardi # of participants: 34 # of species: 45
We walked about 2 ½ miles, from Grant Avenue to Winton. We birded at high tide, when the shorebirds were mainly roosting, with a few species still foraging, mainly Black-necked Stilts and Avocets. Although nothing was unusual, we were pleased to find a lone Wilson’s Phalarope, a nice number of Long-billed Curlews and both Black and Ruddy Turnstones. We had close scope looks at a young White-tailed Kite near the end of our route. A few Black-bellied Plovers still had at least partially black bellies.Strybing Arboretum September 1, 2013 Leader(s): Dominik Mosur, Rob Cullison, Kimberly Jannarone # of participants: n/r # of species: n/r
Today Rob Cullison and I co-lead a group at the monthly Golden Gate Audubon Society walk at the Arboretum. We saw at least 5 Western Tanagers foraging in some pines alongside a slew of Robins. Later, Nicole and I saw one WESTERN KINGBIRD perch briefly on a tall pine, and then it quickly disappeared.
Our group re-found a mixed flock that Dom’s group had seen by the succulent garden. It had Wilson’s, Townsend’s, Orange-Crowned, and Yellow Warblers, in addition to a Hutton’s Vireo. (We did not find the Black-Throated Gray that Dom’s group had.)
I stuck around for a few minutes afterwards and saw 5 Red-Tailed Hawks circling above. I also watched a BELTED KINGFISHER foraging and calling over the fenced-in pond near the nursery.
Afterwards, I went to Buena Vista to see if the Acorn Woodpecker was still there. I did not find it, but I did get to watch the female HAIRY WOODPECKER foraging on a branch not 15 feet from my head–she sent bark flying! I also heard the continuing NUTTALL’s WOODPECKER. Two OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHERS were still working the snag, and at least one WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE was nearby, along with 2 Western-style flycatchers. Two PINE SISKINS were the first I’d seen at BV in a long time.Lake Merritt August 28, 2013 Leader(s): Hilary Powers, Ruth Tobey # of participants: 6 # of species: 28
Our walk encountered some wonderful creatures today, but missed some of the expected regulars, too — for 28 species all told.
Twenty American White Pelicans were cruising in flotillas or lounging on the islands, providing Hank-the-rescue-pelican all the company he could want, if not at the best time of year for him, all the families having long since formed and raised their youngsters. And we saw two different Green Herons — one first-summer bird and one full adult, neither (as is the way of the species) particularly green, but showing off handsome cinnamon-and-cream chests. One of the early returning American Coots brought a chick along — 2/3 the size, dark gray-brown instead of black feathers, and dull beige bill instead of bright white — not something often seen here.
The first Belted Kingfisher (or possibly the first two Belted Kingfishers; we weren’t quite sure) were back in the trees on the islands, even though the Double-crested Cormorants haven’t quite finished with the nests. Several of the nests are still occupied, and we saw one parent in full feeding mode, head deep in the beak of a full-sized fledgling. (The scavengers are out as well; several crows and a couple of gulls were prowling among the nests, looking for leftover goodies.)
The trees in Lakeside Park were unusually quiet, except for a lively flock of Chestnut-backed Chickadees. We saw exactly one American Robin and one House Finch instead of the usual dozen or so of each, and no House Sparrows at all. On the other hand, the tree with the lone robin in it also had an odd, broken-off looking lump on top, and that turned out to be one of the only Mourning Doves we’ve ever seen in the park. No idea why they don’t hang out there, but they just don’t…. No swallows, no jays, no raptors, but still a thoroughly worthwhile morning at the lake, where, come to think of it, every morning is worthwhile…Abbott’s Lagoon August 24, 2013 Leader(s): Martha Wessitsh # of participants: 13 # of species: 31
We had a number of good birds today including American Bittern, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Red-necked Phalarope. Of course, any day that includes Osprey and Caspian Tern is not too shabby!Point Isabel Regional Shoreline August 9, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: n/r # of species: 30
Highlights this morning were the Osprey and Northern Harrier (the first was out over the Bay, the second very close over the marsh). We arrived at very low tide, and it had turned and was filling in when we left. Lots of Black-bellied Plovers were still in breeding plumage.
Several nice Swarovski spotting scopes really helped (thanks, Terri and Dan). Drizzle at times, mostly windy and cold throughout the morning. “Welcome to summer” (but it is the 3rd day of Autumn by the lunar calendar of Japan).Tilden Nature Area August 2, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 29 # of species: 25
Our First Friday Birdwalk at Tilden Nature Area (Contra Costa County, though the mailing address is Berkeley) had 29 birders seeing 25 species, plus an unidentified falcon and a Rufous/Allen Hummingbird (not a hybrid, just that a distinction between the two is not possible without the bird in the hand, at this time of year). The Sakumas joined us from Hawaii.
Our theme was the life and work of Major Allan Brooks, the illustrator of William Leon Dawson’s Birds of California (there are 15 color illustrations by Brooks in the Student Edition and 100 in the Deluxe Edition). Brooks also did a series of 20 articles for National Geographic in the 1930s, plus Taverner’s Birds of Canada, the third volume of Forbush’s Birds of Massachusetts, and a series of educational materials for the Audubon Society. Louis Agassiz Fuertes (the “Audubon” of the early 20th century) and Brooks had something of a mutual admiration society, and some ornithologists thought Brooks a better illustrator than Fuertes. He is honored and remembered at the Allan Brooks Nature Centre in Vernon, British Columbia, Canada. Go to their website for more information on this important bird illustratorLake Merritt July 24, 2013 Leader(s): Hilary Powers # of participants: 6 # of species: 28
The air was full of Anna’s Hummingbirds, buzzing and diving all over Lakeside Park. Aggressive little guys, and not just with each other; we saw one chase a crow into a tree! I swear, if hummingbirds were the size of pigeons, you wouldn’t dare leave the house.
The lake was in its usual summer drowse – the Double-crested Cormorant rookery seems to be closing down early this year (only about a quarter of the nests still occupied), and the swimming birds mainly reduced to Canada Geese, Mallards and mutt ducks, a few Pied-billed Grebes showing off their bright black-striped white beaks, and a lonely American Coot. And the gulls, of course – in order of size, Ring-billed, California, and Western.
Hank-the-Rescue-Pelican had a dozen or so wild friends lounging on one of the islands, and we got glimpses of four species of long-leggedy waders: Black-crowned Night-Heron, Green Heron, Snowy Egret, and Great Egret – but only the first in any significant numbers. All big birds; the juvenile Cooper’s Hawk lounging on one of the islands may have been keeping the small-bird count down out there.
Over in the trees, the main delight was a family of robins feeding their fledglings in the grass. The Nuttall’s Woodpecker was a welcome sight, too. All told, we saw only 28 species, but it was another lovely day at the lake, where every day….Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve July 12, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 28 # of species: 27
Twenty-eight observers saw 27 species (or 26, see below) at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve on our Second Friday Birdwalk.
We also saw several labyrinths, including the large one, the Mazzariella Labyrinth, at the bottom of the Quarry Pit. Birds of the day were Golden Eagles (adult and two juveniles heard begging, one flying briefly) [this is our classic site for seeing Golden Eagles for nearly three decades, I think], and American Kestrels (male and female, the male later carrying a large prey item it devoured at the top of a Eucalyptus pole).
Ambiguous/anomalous sighting was of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, which is a month too early for the area [no e Bird records for July or even August in Contra Costa; one record for second week of August in Alameda]. As a side-note, Sibley is in both Alameda County (a small portion on the west side of Skyline Blvd) and Contra Costa County (the majority of the park, though the street address is in Oakland).
Does anyone have as of yet unreported RC Kinglet records this early for East Bay? Global Weirdness will bring anomalous records for awhile, until the new becomes the norm!
Thanks to all who participated, particularly Roger L. who scouted some of the labyrinths [and taught us if you keep one hand on the wall you will always get out] for us and Doug H. who nailed the Hairy,Tilden Nature Area July 5, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 40+ # of species: 23
A mob (Many OBservers) showed up for today’s First Friday Birdwalk at Tilden Nature Area, walking to Jewel Lake (and back!).
This included GGAS Director of Communications Ilana DeBare. People came from San Francisco and Covina (Holiday weekend travelers?).
Our theme was William Leon Dawson and “Dawson’s Avian Kingdom” from Heyday Press, and his The Birds of California (1923).
Dawson should be remembered not only for his charming portraits of California birds; as Wilson Ornithological Club member, he suggested (in 1897, three years before Frank Chapman) that the Club’s members spend a day or two of the Christmas holiday looking for birds and counting them.
Dawson also is the person who suggested we keep lists (called “horizons” in the jargon of the day) of birds seen in a day, at a particular place over a period of time, in a year or a lifetime.
His egg collection formed the nucleus of what is now the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum; Ralph Hoffman (Birds of the Pacific States) succeeded Dawson as director of the museum in 1925.
Dawson’s mentor was Lynds Jones, professor at Oberlin College in Ohio, who taught the first course in ornithology at any institution of higher learning in the US.Lake Merritt June 26, 2013 Leader(s): Hilary Powers, Ruth Tobey # of participants: 12 # of species: 30
June is usually one of our quietest months, but this year’s walk was enlivened by about 15 American White Pelicans who’d dropped by to visit Hank (our rescue pelican) and a couple of skeins of them wheeling high overhead. We also had a returning Pied-billed Grebe showing off the brilliant black-striped white bill of the breeding season, and a pair of black-headed Greater Scaup drakes who seem to have decided to skip that tedious migration business. “Well phooey,” it looks like one said to the other, “we didn’t pick up chicks this winter, so why should we hike up to the breeding grounds?” (At any rate, I’ve heard that they mostly pair off before leaving us, though we don’t see them doing any obvious courting….)
Molt migration was well under way, with perhaps half the expected Canada Geese in residence – say, a thousand or so. Almost all have lost their wing feathers, and some have started shedding their tails. By the end of July, they’ll mostly have regrown their flight suits and gone on their way. FYI, only half a dozen pairs of geese – out of the couple of hundred that spend the year here – actually breed at the lake; the huge summer population is made up of visitors drawn by large lawns, easy access to water, and relative lack of harassment. There’s nothing Oakland can do to stop them without changing any of those factors….
Among the molt-migration geese we spotted one wild/domestic hybrid – probably a quarter-breed back-cross. At any rate, its neck was brownish instead of pure black and blended into the body tone rather than stopping at a sharp line. It was a bit bigger than the rest of the flock, had a clear white border around the upper bill, and – the key element defining it as part domestic – had a notably fat tail end. (But much less than half the watermelon-sized hindparts of a domestic goose – hence the quarter-breed call.)
Under the trees across Bellevue, the most notable sight was a crowd of Dark-eyed Juncos, many in the speckled juvenile plumage instead of the crisp, black-headed adult version. We rarely see juncos here – so where they bred is a mystery.
So Lake Merritt continues to keep us guessing. It was yet another beautiful day at the lake, where every day has beauty of its own….Hayward Shoreline June 22, 2013 Leader(s): Rusty Scalf, Steve and Carol Lombardi # of participants: 16 # of species: 34
Sixteen people from multiple jurisdictions showed for our walk. Members of Sequoia and Ohlone Audubon were welcome company as were visitors from Michigan and New York.
This was a trip of surprises. Our two goals were finding Avocet and Stilt chicks, and observing the tern colony .
For the first, we struck out with Avocets though there were plenty of adults around. Young Stilts (and an apparently incubating female) were found at the second stop, at the end of Grant Avenue in San Lorenzo. The main tertiary wastewater pond near the tern colony has been drained, which has precluded the nesting of the Stilts, Avocets and Forster’s Terns there.
The tern colony near the interpretive center was vibrant, and unlike any year I can recall, it seemed to consist entirely of Least Terns! And not just a few of them but scores! Forster’s Terns, which in past years which in previous years have always dominated that area seem absent as breeders, though both Forster’s and Caspian Terns passed by and must be breeding elsewhere.
Other rewards for our efforts:
- at least two Snowy Plovers in the salt flat just west of the visitor’s center
- at least 150 Willets, mostly in alternate or partially alternate plumage. Apparent summering birds. Quite a large number for the date.
- At the end of Grant Avenue, very large numbers of Black-bellied and Semi-palmated Plovers (for the date) about 130 and 30 respectively.
- Long-billed curlews were seen at both stops, and a Whimbrel at the end of Grant
EBMUD Inspiration Trail June 14, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 29 # of species: 39
A beautiful day in our East Bay neighborhood! We saw 39 species of birds, some butterflies (including a Papillio Hat Trick- Pipevine, Western Tiger, and Anise Swallowtails), and “Bird” of the Day was a LONG-TAILED WEASEL (though Grasshopper Sparrow, Say’s Phoebe, Western Wood-Pewee and California Thrasher are not too shabby). Clarkia (Farewell to Spring) were in bloom, and
Gooseberries were ripe. A fine day!
We met at the Inspiration Point parking lot and then walked on the EBMUD Inspiration Trail (permit required) north to the Nimitz Way and returned on the EBRPD Nimitz. Thank you to those who also brought their permits.
Additional butterflies were Cabbage White, Alfalfa, Ox-eyed Satyr (boopis), and Buckeye.
“Widespread but generally uncommon or rare” is how the Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America, 2006 (the new edition by Fiona A. Reid) describes the Long-tailed Weasel.Mosquito Ridge Road, Placer County June 1, 2013 Leader(s): Rusty Scalf, Steve and Carol Lombardi # of participants: 12 # of species: 51
Twelve intrepid field-trippers plus three co-leaders outran a hot day with a steady climb through the multiple life zones of Mosquito Ridge Road (Placer County), from Foresthill to French Meadows (3,200 to 5,800 ft.). Their work ethic turned what looked to be a slow day into a rewarding study of elevation, habitats and birds… especially warblers.
It’s sure nice when field trip attendees find tough ones for the leaders like Townsend’s Solitaire and White-headed Woodpecker (Who says” no good help is available”?)
What is it about Black-throated Grays that ties them to the lower elevation oak-connifer associations? What is it about Hermit Warblers binding them to the dense mature coniferous forest further upslope? By day’s end we all wondered. The group’s considerable application was rewarded with Nashville, MacGillivray’s, Yellow-rumped, Wilson’s and Yellow Warblers as well, all detected and most well seen. The day’s botanical highlight was the walk around the northernmost naturally occurring grove of Giant Sequoia –towering above dogwood, azalea and a chorus of Pacific Wrens.
Mosquito Ridge Road is noted for its presence of Flammulated and Spotted Owls, along with other, more common, owl species. Our original plan was to bird our way to French Meadows Reservoir during the day and owl our way back to Foresthill by night. However, after scouting, we determined that a full day of birding was going to be plenty, especially since many people had a long drive back to the Bay Area. We elected to skip the owling, so the Flams are still waiting for us at Little Oak Flat. Maybe next year!Lake Merritt May 29, 2013 Leader(s): Hilary Powers, Ruth Tobey # of participants: 9 # of species: 36
The Double-crested Cormorants nesting in the trees still think it’s springtime – one pair has even kept their bunny-ear crests, even though the neighbors are slick-headed as snakes. But the Canada Geese figure it’s summer already; the population is up, and the ground is starting to be strewn with feathers. (A month from now, every third Canada Goose in northern California will be here, shoulder to shoulder to shoulder, grazing on the lawns and dropping feathers and other things with wild abandon, but NOT raising families – they do that elsewhere.) What seem to be all the geese that did breed here this year have teamed up, with four adults shepherding nineteen goslings in three sizes – an impressive flotilla.
Almost all the winter visitors are gone, leaving behind two Lesser Scaup drakes (black head, white wings, gray back) who look like they’re thinking of just skipping the migration thing this year. “We didn’t pick up girls of our own; why should be flap all that way when we can be comfortable and no lonelier here….” We also saw several Pied-billed Grebes (the other four regular grebes were gone) and a couple of American Coots bobbing their black heads and white beaks around.
Hank-the-rescue-pelican had a friend again, which was good to see even though the friend was Not In The Mood – perfectly smooth beak with no sign of the breeding bump that Hank still sports. We saw a couple of Brown Pelicans, too; one cruising over the lake and the other bundled up on the floats with head and feet and all tucked in, looking like a large brown paper parcel. Meanwhile, the little brown Northern Rough-winged Swallows are nesting again in the lake wall between the playground and El Embarcadero. It’s interesting to look down on a swallow….
It was a little too windy to see much in Lakeside Park – we could hear birds and occasionally get a glimpse of one, but with all the branches moving, we couldn’t tell which moving branches to look at. But it was lovely all the same, on the pleasant edge of cool, and all in all another fine day at Lake Merritt, where every day is fine in its own way.Rodeo Lagoon May 18, 2013 Leader(s): Martha Wessitsch # of participants: 7 # of species: 35
There were no unusual sightings on today’s trip, but a nice list of birds seen included Caspian Tern, Wild Turkey and Common Yellowthroat.Corona Heights May 17, 2013, Leader(s): Dominik Mosur, Brian Fitch # of participants: 20+ # of species: 29
The walk this morning was rather uneventful (only 29 species in mid-May), though well attended with 20+ participants. The only obvious migrant was a female WESTERN TANAGER, found by Brian Fitch, that was still present in the afternoon calling occasionally from the trees in the Randall Museum parking lot. We did have some great looks at Nuttall’s White-crowned Sparrows gathering food for recently fledged young. At one point a sparrow was feeding within 3 feet of the group in a moth infested coyotebush. Many thanks to Josiah Clark for coming through as a guest co-leader and sharing his immense knowledge of local ecology with the group.Mt. Diablo State Park – Mitchell Canyon May 11, 2013 Leader(s): Mary Krentz and Steve Steinke # of participants: 17 # of species: 44
Breeding birds were singing up and down the riparian canyon on this warm spring day. Highlights were a singing Lazuli Bunting Male in glorious plumage and several Western Tanagers. We saw an insistently singing Hutton’s Vireo just off the path and got many excellent views of Ash-throated Flycatchers. Black-headed Grosbeaks also made their presence known and we were able to get good views of several pairs. Western Bluebirds were in the usual snags as were the Acorn Woodpeckers. The White-breasted Nuthatch continues to feed young in a tree cavity adjacent to the parking lot and we also saw many White-throated Swifts soaring above the quarry.
However, warblers were scarce and we only heard Orange-crowned, Yellow and Wilson’s. A Bushtit nest was found hanging just off the path. A short trip up White Canyon yielded some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and more singing thrashers. We also heard a Grasshopper Sparrow but didn’t find our hoped-for Sage Sparrow.Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park May 5, 2013 Leader(s): Ginny Marshall, Allan Ridley, Dominik Mosur # of participants: 70 # of species: 40
Possibly due to the shift in weather (from warm and little wind to overcast/cool with strong South winds) we didn’t see very many migrants. More notable were the birds we didn’t see, with my group missing California Towhee and Nuttall’s White-crowned Sparrows. Both of these chaparral species used to nest in the west end of the Arboretum (Children’s Garden/John Muir Pond area) but have been notably harder to find in recent times. We had more luck with CALIFORNIA QUAIL, with 3 possibly four birds, unfortunately all males. The day ended for my party with about 40 species and the total turnout was around 70 participants.Briones Park Bear Creek Staging Area May 10, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: n/r # of species: 43
We walked to the scout camp/Archery Range/ acorn woodpecker trees. Sylvia Hawley joined us (and left to meet Phila Rogers, who is convalescing from a broken shoulder- we all wish her a speedy recovery!). Bob Brandrieff attended, again. Sue Morgan from Tuesday for the Birds came, too.
Butterflies were pipevine swallowtail, tiger swallowtail, Lorquin’s admiral
(many), buckeye, Edith’s chalcedon checkerspot, Sara’s orange tip, alfalfa, and
We started with a bang: Lazuli Buntings in copulo ! (twice !) FOS Ash-throated
flycatcher for me and several others. eBird shows this was the week that
Ash-throateds arrived (May 3 thru today May 10), but few Chipping Sparrows have
been seen yet (and none today, by us).
We had our regular First Friday GGAS Birdwalk at 8:30am, an hour after our Dawn Chorus birdwalk finished. Four people attended both walks. We saw at least 3 species of butterfly (Pipevine Swallowtail, Tiger Swallowtail and Buckeye).
Our theme was the Neuroscience of Birdsong. Send me a separate e-mail if you are
interested in some information on this.
Doug H. won the door prize: a set of bird cards from Patricia McQuade. Special
visitor was Larry McCombs (Tunstall), who was the “list mother” for the ListServe predecessor of this EBB Sightings list.
28 birders (20 of them by 5:35 am !) saw 31 species on our Second Annual Dawn
Chorus Birdwalk in Tilden Regional Park. We met at the foot of Canon Drive, and walked up Meadows Canyon Trail a bit and then into the Nature Area and down to the Little Farm.
Swainson’s Thrush singing full song in the morning was a hit, as were displaying
and tussling Wild Turkeys at the end of the walk. We were particularly happy to
see Bob Brandriff, Sylvia Hawley (who left to take Phila Rogers birding later in
the morning), and Susan Schwartz of Friends of Five Creeks.
Our theme was the biology of the Dawn Chorus: males may be singing because it’s
too dark to eat !; birds with bigger eyes start singing earlier; males may be
singing to announce that they survived the night and are still on their
territory and available as a mate; males may be trying to attract any females that arrived during the night.
Thanks to all early risers (human and avian) for a great morning!South San Francisco Waterfront Birdathon Trip April 28, 2013 Leader(s): Noreen Weeden # of participants: 19 # of species: 57
Most numerous by far were the Western Sandpipers with a few Least Sandpipers thrown into a good sized flock. Three Osprey and four Black Oystercatchers were good birds, also Caspian Terns and a few Whimbrels. The Dunlin, and the Eared and Horned Grebes are looking their best now.Lake Merritt April 24, 2013 Leader(s): Hilary Powers # of participants: 7 # of species: 41
My most memorable bird of the day showed up after the walk, as I was heading homeward past the boathouse. And it was a House Sparrow – a cock puffed up to twice his usual size, blazing with burnished auburn, ebony, and cream, and quivering his gray wings and shrieking as he hopped from branch to branch… earnestly pursued by a hen sparrow….
Out on the islands, the Double-crested Cormorants have nests in almost every available fork of the trees, and many of them still had their bunny-ear crests. See ’em while they last! One Green Heron and assorted Black-crowned Night-Herons of all ages were fishing from the rip-rap, accompanied by a few Snowy Egrets and several precariously perched Canada Geese. The kingfisher was absent – as usual during the cormorant nesting season – but a Red-shouldered Hawk spent a few minutes sitting on a snag and contemplating lunch.
In the water, the Ruddy Ducks are mostly ruddy now (the drakes, that is; the ducks don’t change colors), and the Eared and Horned Grebes have almost all donned their party clothes. They’re quite a sight, as the completely replace their soft gray winter suits with metallic-looking copper and steel, with gold fans or bands (respectively) behind their beady red eyes. I wish they’d stay here to breed, but they all go away. Hank-the-rescue-pelican’s buddy also went away, leaving him to swim among the gulls like an ocean liner surrounded by tugboats.
Only a few gulls were left – Western and Ring-billed – but the Forster’s Terns were out in force, diving like white-winged bombs right in front of us, and two species of swallows were bug-hunting over the lake and the nearby grass. I think the brown Northern Rough-winged Swallows are breeding in the bank again, between the tot lot and the Embarcadero Fountain, but didn’t actually spot them heading into the wall.
The day was sunny and just on the edge of cool, but windy enough to keep the tree birds hiding – though we saw chickadees and titmice and most of the rest of the usual suspects by ones and twos. Forty-one species all told, which felt a little light for April, but all welcome on a good day at Lake Merritt, where every day….Corona Heights April 19, 2013, Leader(s): Dominik Mosur, Brian Fitch # of participants: 28 # of species: 48
This morning we had a record turnout of 28 participants for the Corona Heights walk, including some people from the Recreation & Parks NATURAL AREAS PROGRAM who work so hard in restoring bird habitat all over the City. We were treated to excellent weather and a good showing of migrants. Some of the less common species for this walk were:
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
a singing Cassin’s Vireo
After the walk Brian Fitch went out and found another very good migrant, an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER. This bird was still present working the coyotebrush and Toyons in the dry upper portion of the south face of Corona Hill, behind the Randall Museum, a couple of hours later.Elkhorn Slough Birdathon Trip April 15, 2013 Leader(s): Bob Lewis # of participants: 11 # of species: 43
Eleven friends of Golden Gate Audubon did a trip near Monterey aboard the Elkhorn Slough Safari boat, finding about 43 species in two hours, and photographing many. Although the weather report promised high winds and cold temperatures, the elements held off and the morning was pleasant. Captain Yohn is expert at maneuvering close to animals without spooking them, and we got great looks at quite a few.
It was a grand time to see birds in their alternate (breeding) plumage, and we found all three cormorants – Brandt’s on nests with their bright blue gular pouches, Pelagic with bright red faces, and Double-crested sporting bright yellow pouches.
American White Pelicans flew by showing off their “nuptial knobs,” strange protuberances on their bill that are only present during breeding time.
The most interesting bird was a Red-throated Loon in alternate plumage. It’s a plumage seldom seen south of the arctic nesting grounds, so exciting to find. Some of the Common Loons were also in striking black and white breeding plumage, Eared Grebes showed off golden ear tufts, Black-bellied Plovers had black bellies, Greater Yellowlegs were strikingly speckled, and a Pigeon Guillemot showed off his bright red feet.
Best mammal award was a tie between the always adorable Sea Otters and the Harbor Seals with their newborn pups. Sea Lions will probably dispute the judging – they had a lot to say as we cruised by their overcrowded dock.
Many thanks to all the participants and others who contributed to our Birdathon efforts.Mines Road Birdathon Trip April 13, 2013 Leader(s): Rich Cimino, Steve and Carol Lombardi # of participants: 5 # of species: n/r
It was a great day, mainly because of the hard work and energy provided by Rich Cimino and all the participants. We had a really talented bunch of birders who worked hard all day.
The weather was delightful for birding, with temps in the 60s and 70s, little wind, and a light cloud cover that made for excellent viewing.
In addition to Mines Rd. proper, we also birded along Del Valle Rd. and into Del Valle Park, where we scoped Bald Eagles on their nest. We also spent a little time on Mendenhall Rd. where we got nice looks at Lark Sparrows and a pair of Phaenopepla.
We birded all of Mines Rd. and proceeded a few miles into San Antonio Valley (Santa Clara County) where we got good looks at Lewis’ Woodpecker. We lucked out in seeing Wood Ducks and Tricolored Blackbirds at the cattle pond 1.7 miles beyond Junction on San Antonio Valley Rd. where we turned around and headed back to Livermore.UC Botanical Garden April 8, 2013 Leader(s): Phila Rogers and Chris # of participants:20 # of species: n/r
We had a very successful bird outing this morning at the UC Botanical Garden. It was an overflow group of around 20 people. With Chris as co-leader, we had a wonderful morning made even more interesting with the eyes and ears of others.
When I was still awake at midnight listening to the gale winds tossing about furniture, pots, and all manner of things on my deck, and then with a final lashing of rain, I couldn’t imagine having a walk at 9 am the next morning.
But there we were all were bundled up against the mid-forty temperatures, the heavy clouds of the last few days gone. We followed pretty much the now- traditional route — sitting, looking, and listening at the Tribute Deck. and then stopping for a “bird stand,” in front of the South African hill before proceeding up to the benches at the Old Roses garden. The loud mobbing of a group of jays revealed a Great-horned Owl trying to catch a few winks in an alder tree. On the way up we listened to the loud warbling of guess who? A Warbling Vireo. My, that slender pale bird can really project its voice. (Chris, an hour earlier had heard the FOS Black-headed Grosbeak singing near the Japanese Pond — proving the adage that “the early bird gets the worm”)
With time running out (it’s always that way) we proceeded directly down to the Bird Tile Deck just above the stream where the ridge above us cuts out all traffic noise. Passing the Conference Center, someone connected a repeated single note to a male — mostly hidden — male Hooded Oriole high up in a tall tree.
The oaks sheltering the Tile Deck were full of singing warblers – both Townsend’s and Yellow-rumped about to depart (already looking forward to seeing them again next fall!)
The non-avian star of the morning was John Benneman who brought his recording equipment including his parabola which concentrates sound. He showed is how he uses it and told us about the course he took up near Yuba Pass with Cornell University’s Macauly Library: “The world’s most comprehensive online archive of audio and video recordings of animal diversity.”. He plans on posting the sonograms of what he recorded this morning on EBB Sightings so we can listen to them.
Though I am hoping that the participants came away with an appreciation of the value of listening, a true bird sit is probably a solitary (or with several others) endeavor. Sitting, listening, and sensing your surroundings in all its complexity, requires something akin to a meditative state.
No matter, it was a memorable morning in one of the Bay Area’s loveliest places.Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park April 7, 2013 Leader(s): Ginny Marshall, Allan Ridley, Helen McKenna, Dominik Mosur # of participants: 50+ # of species: 53
Migrants were sparse and many of the wintering birds like sparrows had dwindled in numbers. We still came up with a very respectable 53 species, plus a WESTERN KINGBIRD seen only by Allan’s Group near the Moonviewing Garden.
Some of the highlights from my group were:
CALIFORNIA QUAIL (male, calling from the Demo garden, last of the least?) displaying pairs of COOPERS, RED-TAILED and RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS (Ginny’s group was lucky enough to see the RSHA “doing it”) NASHVILLE WARBLER (foraging in bramble at the concrete pond behind “California”, could be a migrant or perhaps the overwintering bird from the Chile section moving around)
RED CROSSBILLS (a flock of 12 flying over, the high-pitched “jip” calls would seem to indicate the Type 2 which “irrupted” this winter, definitely weren’t our local type birds)
Our theme today was Evolution Illustrated by Waterfowl, using David Lack’s 1974 book of the same name.
Carla S. won the door prize of a set of bird cards from Patricia McQuade. First of Season Black-headed Grosbeak and a calling Pacific Slope Flycatcher were birds of the day. The Grosbeaks are right on time- the Box-elder Maple (Acer negundo) is blooming!
The March 4th-Wednesday bird walk saw almost everyone we were expecting — Double-crested Cormorants with their bunny-ear crests on display, about half of the peak-population scaup flock, plus some really ruddy Ruddy Ducks and a lot of Eared Grebes, many of them in their wonderful steel, copper, and gold party outfits. And one lone lorn female Canvasback snoozing by the near island, apparently having missed the departure of her brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts.
About a dozen Snowy Egrets were lounging on one of the far islands — teasing us with the idea that they might start up the rookery again, but they probably won’t. No Great Blue Herons and no Great Egrets, but we saw a lovely little Green Heron mooching along the rocks, almost invisible except for the screaming yellow legs, plus hot and cold running Black-crowned Night-Herons of all ages from full adult to very young juveniles
Hank-the-rescue-pelican was all alone. Apparently his snowy crest and the fine gold calling card on his beak weren’t enough to persuade his winter friend to stay on. Or perhaps the other bird was just off somewhere on business of its own; time will tell, but it looks like Hank’s out of luck again this year.
We searched the bowling greens for last month’s Western Bluebirds and didn’t see them, though the lawns were jumping with American Robins, plus several European Starlings in their amazing speckled breeding plumage. (It’s always a surprise to see how lovely they can be, given their usual ratty appearance and loud aggressiveness. Springtime makes a big difference to a starling.) But then we worked our way around to the garden, enjoying the sight of a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk swooping down to perch on a post at eye level, and found the bluebirds after all — perched at the top of the half-bare trees at the back of the scent garden and near the bonsai collection. They made a perfect finish to another perfect day at Lake Merritt, where every day is its own sort of perfection…Alameda Creek to Coyote Hills Regional Park Bicycle Trip March 17, 2013, Leader(s): Jeffrey Black, Pat Greene # of participants: 13 # of species: 63
This ‘bike and bird’ field trip was co-listed with Grizzly Peak Cyclists. We met at around 10 AM at Union City BART on a beautiful, mild day–almost windless; a little below 60° F when we started, and in the mid-60s when we finished. Eleven of us cycled Decoto Road a short distance to the Alameda Creek Trail which took us into Coyote Hills Regional Park. Kathy Jarrett and Lionel Schour joined us on the trail. With almost no rain since Dec, the creek was very low. The number of birds was low, but despite low water, bird diversity was good. The marshes in the park had good bird numbers and diversity. We visited the active Tree Swallow boxes where we had close up views of the swallow nesting activity, and we also saw White-tailed Kite and a couple of river otters while stopped here. Our total species count was a somewhat surprising 63, considering the condition of the creek. The list included a single male Western Bluebird on the Creek Trail (new to Jeffrey and me for this trip) plus two falcons in the park: American Kestrel and Merlin.Chain of Lakes in Golden Gate Park March 17, 2013, Leader(s): Angie Gieger, Rob Cullison # of participants: 21 # of species: 50
Glorious weather contributed to the fun and productivity of a bird walk around the Chain of Lakes at Golden Gate Park. South Lake was a great starting point with pairs of Gadwall, Hooded Merganser and Varied Thrush. The fine weather inspired bathing in the lake in a number of Cedar Waxwings and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Overhead we had fine scope views of a calling Northern Flicker. A puzzling bird with a white head and nape turned out to be a partially leucistic American Robin. Middle Lake provided our first Accipiter – a fine Sharp-shinned Hawk soaring overhead. We studied Anna’s and Allen’s Hummingbirds dueling for attention and making display flights. It was here that we had our first good looks at the many Stellar’s Jays and Dark-eyed Juncos in the area. On the way to North Lake, we took a slight detour to observe a pair of downy white Great Horned Owl chicks in the nest. North Lake provided excellent close views of Ring-necked Ducks and a family of raccoons. We had fine looks at a pair of Nuttall’s Woodpeckers while also getting scope views of a Red-Shouldered Hawk. North Lake also produced a singing Brown Creeper, a great performance by a Pacific Wren out in the open, a singing Purple Finch and many other good birds including Bufflehead, Ruddy Ducks in breeding plumage, Pied-billed Grebes, Red-winged Blackbirds, Golden- and White-crowned Sparrows and many more. For contrast to our earlier Sharpie, we also had a Cooper’s Hawk soaring overhead. Big flocks of Cedar Waxwings calling from the trees, and singing Orange-crowned Warblers ensured that not only our eyes, but also our ears, were fully engaged.Seal Rocks and Sutro Park March 16, 2013, Leader(s): Martha Wessitsh # of participants: 11 # of species: 40
We found a good assortment of water and land birds including Surf Scoter, Red-throated Loon, Pelagic Cormorant, Black Oystercatcher, Surfbird, Hermit Thrush, Varied Thrush, Pacific Wren and Fox Sparrow.Klamath NWR March 9, 2013, Leader(s): Eddie Bartley and Noreen Weeden # of participants: 18 # of species: n/r
We saw hundreds of thousands of water birds, many raptors including Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Golden and Bald Eagle. The Yellow-headed Blackbird was unexpected.Landfill Loop at Republic Services, Parr Blvd Richmond March 8, 2013, Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 20+ # of species: 47
A large group saw many birds and those who stayed for the entire five hours saw 47 species! Thanks Sue M., Maureen, Carlos, Bob and Steph! Thanks to Nel Benninghof for scouting this trail with me a few weeks ago and to Trails for Richmond Action Committee for getting it done!
Birds of the Day were Savannah Sparrows in vibrant yellow-faced plumage and great voice, and an Osprey that gave us a long fly-over and demonstration dive (successful!). eBird thinks our 3 (maybe 4) Brown Pelicans is an un-seasonal high number! Anyone else got Pt. Molate to Pt. Pinole bay-side Brown Pelican data to share?
We also had a Harbor Seal, and the following butterflies: Anise Swallowtail, Red Admiral, and Alfalfa. And gorgeous weather!Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park March 3, 2013 Leader(s): Ginny Marshall, Juli Chamberlain, Rob Cullison, Bob Toleno # of participants: 30 # of species: 42
The monthly walk was well-attended, including experienced and new birders alike. As usual, we split into two groups and wended our way through the gardens amid singing resident birds and mostly overcast skies. A fairly quiet start gave way to a birdy finish.
Thanks to volunteer leaders Ginny Marshall, Rob Cullison, and Bob Toleno. I had a great time helping to find and identify birds for our group.
Highlights included many getting views of the continuing NASHVILLE WARBLER,
a male PACIFIC WREN gathering nesting material and singing, two female and
one male DOWNY WOODPECKER, and a perched ALLEN’S HUMMINGBIRD showing off his coppery gorget.
We heard, but never laid eyes on several singing PURPLE FINCHES, as well as House Finches, providing a nice song comparison. Some also got brief looks at a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, and a COOPER’S HAWK. The hawks were both fairly high in the sky, providing helpful shape clues for identification.
We could *not* find a Red-breasted Sapsucker, despite concerted effort!Tilden Park Jewel Lake March 1, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 32 # of species: 35
We met at 8:30am and walked down and back to Jewel Lake. We had visitors from Cleveland join us, and Bob Smith won the door prize, a set of bird ID cards from Patricia McQuade.
Bird(s) of the Day were the mallard pair at Jewel Lake (our theme was waterfowl and the work of Paul A. Johnsgard, winner of the 2012 Ralph Schreiber conservation award from the American Ornithological Union). The mallards showed us Head-pumping, Treading, Copulation, post-copulatory displays (whistling, Nod-swimming, Bridling). Another male showed us a vigorous defense of his female against an intruding male, as the defender steamed towards the intruder with his head close to the water and wings extended horizontally to the sides. See Johnsgard’s Handbook of Waterfowl Behavior, and Waterfowl: their biology and natural history for more information. Donald Stokes has nice illustrations of Mallard displays in volume one of his Bird Behavior series.Lake Merritt February 27, 2013 Leader(s): Hilary Powers # of participants: 16 # of species: 40
The prize of the walk was a pair! of Western Bluebirds! working the bowling lawn that fronts on Bellevue. None of us had ever seen them in the park before, and here were a male and female flittering between the fences and the little nearby tree, looking for all the world like they might set up housekeeping.
Lotta housekeeping in the air, of course. The first of the Double-crested Cormorants had staked out nest spots in the trees – picking the ones with leaves this time, somewhat surprisingly. In past years, the bare trees were fully claimed before anyone moved into the shade. But the leafy trees aren’t doing too well, so perhaps they’ve thinned out to the point where the remaining shade isn’t unwelcome. In a tree by the scent garden, an American Crow sat crooning and making the most un-Crow-like klop-klop sounds, though we couldn’t see who it was talking to. Meanwhile, down on the lake, Hank-the-Rescue-Pelican may get lucky this year: one of the summer visitors has stayed with him overwinter, and now they’re both growing breeding bumps on their beaks. (In the past, he’s put up his calling card and seen it start to melt away before the first visiting pelicans arrived in June.) Wouldn’t little pelicans be a treat?!
Most of the winter visitors are still around, though we missed the single individuals representing a few of the rarer species. But the lake was jumping, with four Red-breasted Mergansers paddling about, a whole lot of Bufflehead drakes displaying their white crowns for a single female, and rafts of scaup and grebes.
All round, a very good day at Lake Merritt, where every day….Berkeley Marina February 16, 2013 Leader(s): Anne Hoff # of participants: 19 # of species: n/r
We saw a White-tailed Kite catch prey and eat it while watching a Burrowing Owl/ground squirrel interaction. The Bay was very calm, with a high tide and a smaller number of birds than usual, but still the usual species variety. Possibly the herring run just a few miles away may have interested more birds. Two old Monterey Pines that were across the street from Skates have been removed. The previous finches, titmice and warblers are all gone.Martin Luther King Regional Shorline to Crown Beach Bicycle Trip February 16, 2013 Leader(s): Pat Greene, Jeffrey Black # of participants: 13 # of species: 48
It was a gorgeous day for cycling and for birding. We saw a good assortment of ducks and shorebirds. Highlights: A couple of Common Goldeneye males were actively courting nearby females by tipping their heads waayy back– observation of that behavior was a first for several of us. We saw a Burrowing Owl on mound 2 as we exited Arrowhead. Not visible when we first looked, one of our party persisted in looking as we were getting ready to move, and he spotted the Owl walking out and standing in full view (good views for all through the scope). There were a couple of Western Bluebirds on the lawn across from the Crown Beach restrooms–the male perching brilliantly in the sunshine. Western Bluebird was a trip first for us. A male Barrow’s Goldeneye was spotted on the bay next to Doolittle Drive–where we had serendipitously stopped to view Black Turnstones. Barrow’s Goldeneyes used to be frequent in the Laney Outflow; however the habitat is greatly disrupted by the big changes at that end of the Lake. We did see a pair of Common Goldeneyes in the channel, and then Jeffrey spotted a female Barrow’s Goldeneye with a full yellow bill (almost glowing orange in the sun), so we had a nice little study of the major field mark for differentiating female Common and Barrow’s Goldeneyes. Notable misses: Dowitchers; Great Blue Heron; any raptors; Clark’s Grebe (our views weren’t good enough to differentiate from Western).Arrowhead Marsh February 13, 2013 Leader(s): Chris and Gary Bard # of participants: 7 # of species: 54
It was a foggy morning, but we had great looks at a Merlin and a domestic white rabbit with black ears. Good birds included Cackling Goose, four species of Grebes, an excellent array of duck species, Long-billed Curlew, Burrowing Owl and Western Meadowlark.Shadow Cliffs Regional Park February 9, 2013 Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi # of participants: 7 # of species: 51
Today there were almost as many Ring-necked Ducks (15) as Mallards (20), a very nice sight. Greatest in abundance by far were the American Coots and Double-crested Cormorants. We found a few Common Gallinules, a Green Heron and an Osprey.Bayfront Park, Pinole February 8, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 22 # of species: 42
Twenty-two birders saw 41 species ( plus Dowitcher sp.) at this City of Pinole
park next to the water treatment plant across the railroad tracks at the end of
Tennent Avenue. Parking spaces were limited and limited in time to two hours,
but we had a full morning. Bird of the Day was Common Yellowthroat, first seen
by Jaime and then by everyone for a long time! We had both Coot and Turkey
Vulture making the walk “doubly” official!
This morning I helped co-lead the 1st Sunday walk at the Arboretum with Allan
Ridley, Ginny Marshall and a turnout of around 30 participants. We finished up
with around 50 species for the morning with the following notable sightings:
Band-tailed Pigeon (375+, including a large flock of ~220, all flying north)
Nuttall’s Woodpecker (calling near the entrance)
Red-breasted Sapsucker (2 and possibly 3 birds)
Tree Swallow (FOS arrival to the park over Stow Lake)
Nashville Warbler (wintering bird near the north side restrooms continues)
Pine Siskins (still lots of these around, 60+)
Later I took a walk up Battery Chester with Atria and Lucas. A flock of (25-30)
RED CROSSBILLS flew out of the conifers on top of the battery. By the sound of
the higher pitched and huskier “jip” calls mixed in there were both Type 2 small
billed birds that are irrupting this winter as well as our local Type 3s in this
flock. A scan of the ocean off Mile Rock revealed the continuing male
LONG-TAILED DUCK and a sing male WHITE-WINGED SCOTER in with the Surf Scoters. Lots of Common Murres on the water but no other alcids.
We met at the Tilden Nature Area parking lot and walked to Jewel Lake. We were joined by Susan Schwartz of Friends of Five Creeks, Richard Schwartz, author of books on Berkeley history, and Bob Flasher of El Cerrito Trail Trekkers. Thanks to Richard Harris for bringing the scope so we could see the marvelous Hairy Woodpecker up-close, and
get a gorgeous view of the real “bird of the day” which was an over-wintering
Mourning Cloak butterfly, sunning itself near the Jewel Lake dam. Ed T. won the
door prize: a book on California’s endangered wildlife, California’s Wild Heritage.
We talked about how birds survive in winter, by adding fat or eating from food
caches. Birds do not get as fat as they could physiologically because a fat bird
is a slow bird, and more exposed to predation. Winter survival is a trade-off
between starvation and predation. Caches of food are usually returned to on the
day they are made or within a day or two, but some birds are known to feed their
young with food cached in the previous winter, and Clark’s Nutcracker can
relocate caches more than 200 days after making them.
The traditional Delta/Valley trip is made in November when waterfowl are concentrated on the refuges, often in stunning numbers. As the season progresses (and especially with the end of hunting) the flocks range farther and become more dispersed. We were curious about a late January trip; and we were very pleased with the result, though note that January 26-27 were the final two days of hunting season.
Our best views of Sandhill Cranes were in an alfalfa field off Guard Road, just NE of the Hwy 12/I5 intersection.
Staten Island was rather windswept. There were birds, though not too close, and conditions were difficult.
The wetlands of the Consumnes Preserve were splendid: Great diversity, close proximity and perfect light. Dabblers displayed like jewels and we saw a good variety of shorebirds including a snoozing Snipe. Cranes and Geese of five species criss-crossed the sky. This place seems to get better every year.
The Colusa National Wildlife Refuge viewing platform and auto tour route offered some of the closest and most rewarding views of waterfowl of the entire weekend. A passerine interlude offered a streaked sparrow clinic: Song, Lincolns, Fox and Savannah all foraging together.
Sunday morning the Sacramento Refuge was spectacular. We’d been warned that geese seemed to ‘come and go’ of late. On our visit the refuge has large numbers of geese and truly vast numbers in distant rice fields, rising and falling like avian vortices. Abundant waterfowl and an over-the-top concentration of raptors made for an exciting morning. At least six Bald Eagles were present, five of them adults. The lone juvenile took a Coot off the water as we watched. The vistas of this refuge are splendid.
We finished our journey at Gray Lodge, a state refuge to the east. The cross valley commute offered our best views of foraging Ibis in a rice field along a country road. Gray Lodge provided a welcome opportunity to do some hiking in a natural wetland among big Cottonwoods and dense riparian growth. It was a fine, memorable tour.
At the Sacramento refuge we overheard an FWS employee say that the waterfowl begin to leave the refuge and disperse into the fields immediately after the end of hunting season, so by luck, we may have picked a good weekend for our trip.Lake Merritt January 23, 2013 Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey # of participants: 15 # of species: 50
Our monthly trips rarely find anything interesting in the oaks between the Nature Center and El Embarcadero — perhaps because we rarely look there. But in January, something caught someone’s eye, and we found a Black-throated Gray Warbler bouncing around in the trees. And not alone — we also saw a Townsend’s Warbler, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a couple of Oak Titmice and a Hutton’s Vireo in a beautiful mixed flock.
We’d already seen most of the usual suspects as we strolled down the lake, starting with the Tufted Duck, who was up with the scavenger flock by the Nature Center. There were several Canvasbacks there chasing each other about instead of ignoring each other as they usually do. Hank-the-rescue-Pelican had a companion, something rarely seen at this time of year, and the female Belted Kingfisher sat close in on the island, observing and being observed.
All told, we saw 50 species of birds, and even though it was a gray morning with some rain, it was a very good day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day.Coyote Hills January 20, 2013 Leader(s): Anne Hoff # of participants: 24 # of species: 48
It was a clear morning with calm conditions. We saw a good assortment of ducks and raptors as well as Common Gallinule, Say’s Phoebe, Tree Swallow, Hermit Thrush and Common Yellowthroat.Pescadero Beach and Marsh January 19, 2013 Leader(s): Martha Wessitsh # of participants: 6 # of species: 38
Today we saw both Common Merganser and Red-breasted Merganser as well as Red-throated Loon, Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorant, Brown Pelican, Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, Surfbird and Sanderling.Vollmer Peak, Tilden Park January 11, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: n/r # of species: 20
A very cold morning (balmy to our Minnesota birder, though) for a meet-up at the
Steam Trains parking lot in Tilden Regional Park and then a walk up the paved
road to the top of Vollmer Peak (1905 ft, the highest peak in the Berkeley-Oakland Hills). From the top we could see “Lake Hofffman” (between Rydin Road and Highway 580) formed by the king tide at 10:49 am at Pt. Isabel Regional Shoreline.
We talked about August Vollmer, originally from New Orleans, who moved to
Berkeley as a teenager in the 1890s, fought in the Spanish-American War in the
Philippines, was a postman in Berkeley for four years and then was elected Town
Marshal in 1905 (he only had a sixth or seventh grade education plus some
bookkeeping and typing classes). He became Berkeley’s first police chief in
1909, and is credited with many innovations in police work and criminology,
which he taught as a professor at University of Chicago and UC, Berkeley. Police
on bicycles, then in squad cars, then in squad cars with radios, police
telephone boxes on the street, all were Vollmer innovations. By 1927, Collier’s
magazine could call him “the best known cop in America.” See Dave Weinstein’s
“It Came from Berkeley” and Richard Schwartz’s books, “Berkeley 1900” and
“Earthquake Exodus 1906” for more details of August Vollmer’s career.
The peak is named for him because he was on the first East Bay Regional Park
District Board of Directors (elected in 1934 and again in 1938, he resigned in
1940). The peak, known as Bald Peak or Old Baldy, was named for Vollmer in May
of 1938 by a resolution of the EBRPD Board of Directors.
The highlights today were two species of owls: the Burrowing Owl that regularly winters in the marsh and the Short-eared Owl that has been reported this winter. We also saw a Merlin and a Peregrine Falcon as well as the cooperative Clapper Rails.Tilden Park Jewel Lake January 4, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 37+ # of species: 34
A wonderful mob (many observers) appeared at Tilden Nature Area/Jewel Lake for
our first of the year First Friday Birdwalk sponsored by Golden Gate Audubon
Society: 37 people signed in, another 4 or so came later. Thank you to all for
getting us off on the right foot. Our theme today was (Dr.) Terry Root’s Atlas
of Wintering North American Birds: an analysis of Christmas Bird Count data.
Dr. Root’s conclusion was that many birds are limited in their northern
over-wintering distribution by the average minimum January temperature, and the
limit of their ability to generate more energy than 2.45 times their Basal
Metabolism Rate. After some back-and-forth in the literature in the late 1980s
and early 1990s, her conclusion is accepted widely today.
Dr. Root’s data were the 1962/63 to 1971/72 CBC counts. A 2007 paper reviewed
the 1975-2004 CBC data for 254 species and found northward (“poleward”) shifts
of 1.5 km/year (see La Sorte and Thompson, 2007, Poleward shifts in winter
ranges of North American birds. Ecology 88: 1803-12).
Christmas Bird Counts are fairly robust (accurate) over a wide range of efforts
and abilities of “citizen-scientists” like us, with exceptions for irruptive
species (like Red Crossbills), nomadic ones (Bohemian Waxwings), aggregating
species (Red-winged Blackbirds) and rare ones (Peregrine Falcon). As the skill
and knowledge base of observers improved, corrections have been made
(Semipalmated Sandpipers don’t over-winter in North America–a very few may be in
Florida– but were once widely reported on CBCs). Nocturnal counts of owls
probably reflect the zeal of counters and not the true distribution of birds.