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2009 Trip Reports

Lake Merritt & Lakeside Park
December 23, 2009
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 10
# of species: 43
 

A juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk was perched  in a tree on one of the islands to greet us as we arrived.  This is a new bird for our Lake Merritt monthly walk.  Common Goldeneyes continue in good numbers.  We found one and possibly two female Downy Woodpeckers and four species of Grebes:  Pied-billed, Clark’s, Western and Horned.

 
Mori Point and Sharp Park
December 6, 2009
Leader(s): Eddie Bartley
# of participants:
# of species: 62
 

After being treated to a briefing by Brent Plater on the status of the Sharp Park restoration plan we ventured over to the pollywog pond spotting crowned sparrows, Northern Flicker, Pygmy Nuthatches, thrushes, warblers and three Red-legged Frogs. Returning to the main trail there was a Say’s Phoebe perched up on a home satellite dish diligently dashing out to clean the adjacent roof of spiders and then Brent discovered a male Common Yellowthroat in a mixed flock in the chaparral. Next we braved the cold winds and drizzle whipping across the newly restored pond system and someone mentioned a snipe hunt then lo and behold a Wilson’s Snipe magically appeared feeding very near but way out in the open for the whole world to see. Low temps and a serious head wind kept us from lingering very long in the open so we headed to the west side of Laguna Salada where a bit of cover made things a tad more tolerable. The usual suspects here, most of them dozing away. A very lightly colored second cycle Glaucous-winged Gull was auspicious and a flock of 8 Killdeer wheeled in to bath at the lakeside.Back up on the eroding levee we turned our attention seaside where there were huge numbers of Red-throated Loons with some Pacific’s mixed in. On the rocks at the southern end of the beach we were able to find Black Turnstones, Surfbirds, Black Oystercatchers and Pelagic Cormorants amongst the Western and GW Gulls. A hike up Bootlegger Steps warmed us up considerably and took us to some of the best sightings of the day out on the cape of Mori Point. Howard spotted three BLACK SCOTERS which we scoped and then another gull drifted into the same view that turned out to be a hatch-year SABINE’S GULL. While the head of this very interesting Sabine’s was still in juvenal plumage the flight and body covert feathers as far as we could see had already molted to first adult plumage. We were able to study the very cooperative bird for 10 – 15 minutes. Very fun! Many, many more loons, grebes and scoters bobbed in between the water chop. We missed the hatch-year Peregrine that Noreen and I saw Saturday on the cliffside but the significant whitewash under the perches we observed it at yesterday might indicate it has taken up winter residence.Returning on the coastal trail there was a great flock of sparrows and Icterids working the hay at the most recent native plantings. The breezes calmed significantly and passerines began perching up. Jeff Fairclough and Laurie Graham pointed out the spot they had seen Thrashers back in October when we noticed Howard down the trail pointing to the scrub just as the first comic sounds of Thrashers filtered through to our ears. They seemed to be in a bit of a tiff with some scrub-jays when we reached the area but eventually perched up so all could admire those crazy curved bills. We speculated that these birds may have expanded over from the nearly contiguous habitat at Sweeney Ridge where very mature chaparral hosts big numbers of this species. About 1/2 of the group so inspired continued on to the south east side of the park but those of us who had appointments with veggie burgers amongst other things returned to the starting point via Mori Rd. which was greatly enlivened compared to our frigid beginnings three hours earlier. The berry scrubs were getting worked hard by thrushes while the cypress hosted a large group of Pygmy Nuthatches a few kinglets and a Hutton’s Vireo for comparison. As we were leaving a Downy Woodpecker squeak-toyed to us a reminder to return to this area and often.

 

 
Jewel Lake, Tilden Park
December 4, 2009
Leader(s): Phila Rogers
# of participants: 3
# of species: 13

The word must have gotten out that Dave Quady wasn’t going to be with us this morning as he is busy with Christmas Count preparations.  Only three folks showed up.  But Bob Dering, Margaret Dean and Marie Murray were in good spirits ready to see what this chilly December morning would yield.  When the sun rose above the eucalyptus grove illuminating the trees and shrubs along the edge of the frosty lawn, birds became active.  After some conversation about what to expect and some preliminary looks,  I called it a morning and went home to nurse my cold.

Bob Dering sent the following report.  “Margaret, Marie, and I are proud to report seeing several more birds after you took the training wheels off and left us to our own devices.  But the gatherings were much more sparse than all the activity we enjoyed at the beginning.  Near the parking lot we saw scrub jay, dark-eyed junco, ruby-crowned kinglet and in the nearby Doug fir Marie spotted the golden-crowned kinglet and chestnut-backed chickadee.  Along the Upper Pack Rat Trail we saw brown creeper, bushtit, spotted towhee, Hutton’s vireo, Townsend’s warbler.  At Jewel Lake — bufflehead, black phoebe, yellow-rumped warbler.

As for the weather, after some very dank air in the bottomland and tiny ice crystals on the leaves in the shaded margins of the trails, we enjoyed gradually more sun that made Jewel Lake a bright picture with reflections in the glassy dark water.”

Redwood Shores Bicycle Trip
November 29, 2009
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: 13
# of species: 58

It was a three teal, two widgeon, two pelican warm day for 13 bicycle-birders. We made a loop on the SF Bay Trail from Oracle Parkway to the sewer ponds on Radio Road to the pond behind the Nob Hill Grocery and back via Twin Dolphin Drive. At the sewer ponds we saw Black Skimmers and an American Pipit in addition to the multitude of ducks and shorebirds. Great day!

Lake Merritt & Lakeside Park

November 25, 2009

Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey

# of participants: 14

# of species: 41

We had a gorgeous, warm, clear morning.  There were more  Snowy Egrets than usual basking by the lake’s edge and providing a wonderful comparison with the nearby Great Egret.  There was an immature Green Heron accompanying the adult Green Heron and we got good scope looks at both birds.  There are now a good number of Common Goldeneye.  One Brown Pelican fished beyond the floats.

 

Coyote Hills Regional Park

November 15, 2009

Leader(s): Anne Hoff

# of participants: 17

# of species: 49

We had fantastic views looking down on an American Eestrel perched for a long time.  A few of us saw the Sora.   We saw all three Teals: Green winged Teal and Blue winged Teal, and Cinnamon Teal.

 

Hayward Shoreline Bicycle Birding

November 14, 2009

Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett

# of participants: 11

# of species: 67

Eleven stalwart souls started out at 8:30 in rain which was not in the forecast and persisted on and off for the better part of 1.5 hrs. At a little pond in a housing development on the SF Bay Trail where it jogs inland between Lewelling and San Lorenzo Creek was a Wood Duck and Common Moorhens. Where Bockman Channel enters the bay an Osprey was perched. Arriving at the Oro Loma Marsh at high tide, we were greeted with a magnificent number of shorebirds.  From the landfill area just west of the W. Winton Ave. parking area we could look down on the Cogswell Marsh and see N. Shovelers everywhere. We also saw American Wigeons, Green-winged Teals, Gadwalls and Ruddy Ducks and Mallards along the way. We had a 67-species day that turned sunny and warm by lunchtime at the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center,  where there is currently an excellent display of plastic detritus collected over a 10 year period from Kehoe Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Some of us crossed Hwy. 92 on the pedestrian/bicycle bridge and ventured a mile or so into Eden Landing Ecological Preserve. Those who arrived on BART and went into the Preserve rode 22 miles. It is always great to bird with an enthusiastic group!

 

Arrowhead Marsh

November 7, 2009

Leader(s): Rusty Scalf

# of participants: 18

# of species: 60

We had a beautiful morning and were rewarded with an extensive list of birds including Cinnamon Teal, Green-winged Teal, Surf Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Wild Turkey (!), five Grebe species and a great array of shorebirds.

 

Jewel Lake, Tilden Park

November 6, 2009

Leader(s): Phila Rogers

# of participants: 24

# of species: 15

This morning’s first-Friday-of-the-month walk to Jewel Lake probably had the fewest birds and one of the biggest groups of fine birders in my several years of leading the trip.  It was calm, and though overcast, the light was good.  With the big group, we decided to avoid our usual route along the narrow Upper Pack Rat trail.  Instead we struck out along the fire road and took a loop east (Laurel Canyon?) that circles back down to the main road close to Jewel Lake.  The habitat is promising with grassy openings, a tall, thinning stand of old Monterey Pines with an under story of half-grown live oaks, bay, and laurel.  But few birds.  We did see and glimpse winter residents like Hermit Thrush and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, heard Bewick’s Wren variations, Flickers calling, and one brief Song Sparrow song.

Almost back at the lake we caught up with Laz, aged 6 years, our youngest birder, with his mom and dad.  He led us to the shore (while toting the big-sized Sibley) where he pointed out a lone male Bufflehead.  Dave Quady and Laz had a chance to talk about owling plans for the December Christmas Count when Laz plans on being one of the owlers.

While lounging around the bench at the water’s edge, we saw an accipiter circling above the ridge which most thought was a Sharp-shinned Hawk with Russ Wilson (once the GGAS field trip coordinator — among other things) holding out for a Cooper’s.

A slow day for sure, but as always deeply refreshing just to be out.  A sudden gust of wind shattered the calm water and within minutes of returning to our cars, it began to drizzle.

 

Millbrae-Foster City Bicycle Birding

October 31, 2009

Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett

# of participants: 9

# of species: 62

 

It was a great birding day, starting at the wetlands just south of SF Airport where we saw Green-winged Teal and Northern Shovelers, and ending at Belmont Slough where we saw Yellowlegs and American Wigeon. We braved the cool fog all morning until the sun finally came out when we were south of the San Mateo Bridge where we found a Ruddy Turnstone on the bay shore. Thanks to Al for taking some great pictures, including one which gave us the Mew Gull for our list, and for helping with bicycle loading at Caltrain. Just north of Ryder Park, where we had lunch, we found a Say’s Phoebe, American Pipit and Western Meadowlark on the old garbage dump, and south of the park we found a juvenile Peregrine Falcon on a tower.

Lake Merritt & Lakeside Park

October 28, 2009

Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey

# of participants: 11

# of species: 40

One White Pelican remains at the lake along with the rescue bird with the deformed wing.  We got good comparative looks at both Eared and Horned Grebes.  Both the Tufted Duck and the Ring Necked Duck have joined the growing number of Greater and Lesser Scaup.  In the garden we had a wonderful fifteen minutes when the feeding flock all came to us.  We did not have to move at all.

Arrowhead Marsh

October 17, 2009

Leader(s): Rusty Scalf

# of participants: 14

# of species: 53

Today we saw all three Teal species:  Green winged, Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teal.  We found five Clapper Rails and two Sora and a Cackling Goose.

Jewel Lake, Tilden Park

October 2, 2009

Leader(s): Phila Rogers

# of participants: 8

# of species: 20

Evidently the warblers (and other migrants) at Jewel Lake hadn’t gotten the word that migration is slowing down.  We inched along Upper Pack Rat trail and saw new birds at every turn.  Probably the most seen species of the morning were Brown Creepers and Townsend’s Warblers but the group was thrilled to get good looks at a Hermit Warbler and Black-throated Gray Warbler.  One of the earlier birders to join us part way through also saw a Yellow Warbler.  The last warbler in a willow fast shedding its leaves was identified, after much consideration, as a first-winter Orange-crowned Warbler.

We also saw several Pacific Slope Flycatchers and a Warbling Vireo (along with its vocal cousin the resident Hutton’s Vireo).  Winter arrivals are slow to arrive but we did hear the familiar scold of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and several vocalizations from the Northern Flicker.

Birds or no, what a glorious early October morning to be out in the park.  But the lake, shrinking into puddle dimensions, is ready for a good rain.

 

Briones Regional Park

September 20, 2009

Leader(s): Rusty Scalf

# of participants: 24

# of species:  27

It was a warm, quiet day, but persistence did pay off and in the end we had a decent list of birds. Perhaps the highlight was superb studies of an adult and an immature Rufous-crowned Sparrow. There was a sprinkling of migrants: Pacific-slope Flycatcher, a Yellow Warbler, a Lazuli Bunting, a Western Tanager. A Say’s Phoebe was the first any of us had seen this season.

 

Jewel Lake Tilden Park

September 4, 2009

Leader(s): Phila Rogers

# of participants: 20

# of species: 24

Maury Stern was among the 20 or so birders who gathered at the parking lot for the first-Friday-of-the month Golden Gate Audubon trip.  The day before he led a similar walk to Jewel Lake for the Diablo chapter experiencing a banner day for migrants.  He hoped to repeat the performance.  No such luck.  At least he was kind enough not to say: “Why did I bother?”

While yesterday had been clear and warm, today was cool with the morning beginning with fog which cleared away within in an hour.  We speculated that last night the migrants had taken advantage of the clear evening sky and had moved on while the foggy morning in the canyon may have discouraged new arrivals that might have set down.  Nothing stimulates speculation like the mysteries of migration.

The stars of the morning were the two calling Sharp-shinned Hawk fledglings who flew back and forth below us on the Pack Rat trail.  Dave Quady spotted the stick nest in a live oak close to where one of the birds perched.  We had some interesting conversation on the differences between “Sharpies” and the other accipiter nesting in the canyon, the Cooper’s Hawk.

Among the passerines was a Townsend’s Warbler, a Warbling Vireo, a Pacific slope Flycatcher and a still-singing Wilson’s Warbler whose song lacked the vehemence of its spring song.

The Swainson’s Thrush is still around “whitting” in the thickets.  Maury reported that yesterday his group had good looks at a newly-arrived Hermit Thrush confirming that in early September the two species often overlap.

Regular visits to Jewel Lake are likely to turn up many migrants over the next few weeks, along with early arrivals among the birds that will spend the winter.

Lake Merritt

August 26, 2009

Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey

# of participants: 6

# of species: 35

A pair of Saffron Finches were feeding near the Garden Center.  We had close comparison looks at an immature and an adult Cooper’s Hawk.  Both Brown and White Pelicans were at the lake.  Pied-billed Grebes were diving close to shore.  We found an Oak Titmouse and both male and female Downy Woodpeckers.  A good number of immature and adult American Robins were feeding in the garden and park areas.

Lake Merritt

July 22, 2009

Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey

# of participants: 9

# of species: 2

The cormorants continue to nest in the dead and live trees on the islands.  We had good scope views of 13 White Pelicans feeding along the shore.  We intercepted a feeding flock in the garden: bushtits, chickadees and two species of woodpecker were included in the group as well as a Bewick’s Wren.  We saw quite a good number of young robins and lots of Anna’s Hummingbirds in the garden.

 

Mono Lake

July 10-12, 2009

Leader(s): Rusty Scalf and Emilie Strauss

# of participants: 15

# of species: 90

This year’s Mono Lake / Eastern Sierra trip was splendid. Luck was with us the entire 3 days. Very cool temperatures for the time of year and bird activity continued through the day.

Friday was spent on the shore of Mono Lake, in lower Lee Vining Canyon and in the Jeffrey Pine woodlands to the south.  Highlights were many and included a very early Baird’s Sandpiper (who landed right in front of us) a pair of Black-backed Woodpeckers. Even by July 10, flocks of Wilson’s Phalarope were on the lake, though nothing like the staging which was to come.

Saturday was spent hiking Lundy Canyon, 6.7 miles of hiking through one of the most beautiful canyons in California. Public works projects by the local beaver population are truly impressive as the canyon is terraced for miles with beaver impoundments. Townsend’s Solitaire, Olive-sided Flycatcher and Dipper were all well studied. We found a lot of active nests and Aspens ‘apartment houses’ with cavity nesters like Sapsuckers, Swallows and Mountain Chickadee as neighbors. Wildflowers put on quite a show.

Sunday we hiked above Saddlebag Lake, beginning at 1080 ft elevation, then gained several hundred feet, well into subalpine habitat.  Avian highlights included a Gray-crowned Rosy Finch nest on a cliff face with busy parents foraging around snow banks and a clutch of very young White-tailed Ptarmigan and their mother. Everywhere were alpine lakes and striking examples of recent glacial activity. We marveled at the alpine plants such as a tiny inch tall Vaccinium (Huckleberry/Blueberry) that produces just a single flower.

Alameda Creek/Coyote Hills Bicycle Trip

June 27th, 2009

Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: 10
# of species: 51

Highlights: White Pelicans, Red-Shouldered Hawks; Bottlebrush tree at Coyote Hills Visitor Center with Bullocks Orioles as we ate our lunch below. Downers : Squirrel running into a bicycle and causing a fall; afternoon high of approximately 90 degrees; BART police action at Bayfair Station in the morning with BART police entering a train with guns drawn, causing a delay for all and scare for those on that particular train.

Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park

June 24, 2009

Leader(s): Ruth Tobey

# of participants: 9

# of species: 28

The Canada Geese have started molting their flight feathers and the park is full of lounging geese. The Double crested Cormorants are still in their nests on the islands; a few young are still in the nests. We saw a few juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons and the resident White Pelican has attracted three free-flying White Pelicans to keep him company.

Jewel Lake Tilden Park

June 5, 2009

Leader(s): Phila Rogers

# of participants:

# of species:

If what we were hoping for this morning at Jewel Lake was a splendid finale to the season of bird song, we were richly rewarded. Even before starting the climb uphill on the Pack Rat trail we could hear the lush song of the Black-headed Grosbeak and the sweet ascending refrain of a Swainson’s Thrush. Along the trail, thrush song rose up towards us, cascaded down over us — coming from all directions, it seemed. We even had a close encounter when the singer performed, hidden a few feet in front of us. But as we drew abreast, the thrush slipped away still unseen.

Less than a month ago, the Swainson’s Thrush revealed its presence only by a single call note. But now in early June, it’s in full song and will continue to sing each day until the last light when other birds have gone silent. Though slow to start its season of song, the Swainson’s Thrush will still be singing well into July.

We enjoyed Wilson ’s Warblers zipping through the trees. Near the lake’s edge we saw a pair drop into the thick vegetation almost at our feet suggesting a nest or maybe hidden fledglings. We also saw a pair of Orange-crowned Warblers who both sang and gave us good views. Species seemed to come in twos this morning — two vireos (singing Hutton’s and Warbling), two woodpeckers (the diminutive Downy and a noisy Nuttall’s), two towhees, and sweeping across the lake — two species of swallows, Violet-green(?) and a Barn Swallow. Nothing completes the composition of a tranquil, green lake more than the graceful glissades of swallows.

Now for the long summer, and then we will gather again at Jewel Lake to see what the fall season brings.

A few plant notes — a pink-flowered native honeysuckle drapped over the low branches of an oak and thimbleberries ripening.

Grizzly Island , Rush Ranch

May 16, 2009

Leader(s): Rusty Scalf

# of participants: 15

# of species: 46

This was envisioned as a “night sounds” trip (beginning at 3:30 pm, ending at 6 pm), but the day and evening were very hot (99 degrees!) and very quiet, except for American Bittern, Black Rail and Virginia Rail. We did have good sightings of two owls: Barn Owl and Great Horned Owl. Loggerhead Shrike and Bullock’s Oriole were good birds, and there were huge numbers of egrets. We found nine nesting species including Loggerhead Shrike, Bullock’s Oriole, Marsh Wren, Killdeer and Barn Owl.

Sibley Regional Park

May 9, 2009

Leader(s): Rusty Scalf

# of participants: 17

# of species: 49

We found nesting Pacific Slope Flycatchers, Pygmy Nuthatches, Western Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. We heard California Thrasher and saw Allen’s Hummingbirds as well as Anna’s. California Quail, Orange-crowned Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler and Western Tanager were other good birds seen today.

Jewel Lake Tilden Park

May 1, 2009

Leader(s): Phila Rogers

# of participants: 12

# of species: 22

Better than dancing around a maypole was walking along the verdant Pack Rat Trail with raindrops pattering on the surrounding leaves. Twelve of us were prepared for showers, even energized like the birds to the pleasant prospect.

The local singers were in full voice — a number of Wilson’s Warblers and Warbling Vireos — but it was the fulsome melodies of the Black-headed Grosbeaks that filled the canyon.

New leaves are at their freshest now with nine-bark blooming along with that Hercules of the carrot family, the cow parsnip or more properly, Heracleum lanatum named, according to Alan Kaplan, for the big leafy envelope bulging with soon-to-emerge flower heads — the bulge that Alan says resembles Hercules’ club. Along the edge of trail single white star flowers were blooming, held above the surround of their broad, flat leaves.

The oaks were full of Cedar Waxwings which in unison would lift in a swirl of birds numbering in flocks well over a hundred. Dave Quady spotted Western Tanagers in the same trees confirming that their migration is indeed underway.

Across the canyon, an Olive-sided Flycatcher sat on top of a tall Sequoia Redwood in full view (a species that seems to prefer the highest perch).

The best sighting had to be seeing the elusive red-capped Dr. Gilbert below us performing a choreography that probably had to do with gathering or releasing warblers from his mist nets which he uses to band the birds that are the subject of his years-long study.

Half way along the trail, a large live oak had fallen taking another tree or two with it opening up a big gap in the forest cover. The extra light will probably favor some of the sun-loving plants like the elderberries.

The lake was at its best with the green waters dimpled by raindrops. As we watched a diving Double-breasted Cormorant, a Green Heron flew down the length of the lake and then slipped out of sight into the cattails and rushes which each season grow thicker along the water’s edge.

In the willows along the road, an Orange-crowned Warbler sang and a Downy Woodpecker tapped in the same tree which led to a spirited discussion about distinguishing the Downy from the Hairy with similar markings (it’s about bill size!)

The only summer resident not yet singing was the beloved Swainson’s Thrush whose arias are worth waiting for. But from a round, liquid call note coming from a thicket, we know it won’t be long. And we patient listeners are rewarded by knowing that the thrush will continue singing after other singers have fallen silent.

Marsh Creek Trail Bicycle Trip

April 11, 2009

Leader(s): Kathy and Blair Jarrett

# of participants: 11

# of species: 48

Bullock’s Oriole, Western Kingbird and Green Heron were highlights of the day. Cool windy weather as we started at the Fetzer and Jordan Lanes trailhead in Oakley turned warmer later as we went south away from the bay. The Ironhouse Sanitary District Ponds near the trailhead had Bonaparte’s Gulls in breeding plumage, and huge numbers of N. Shovelers and Ruddy Ducks. Only one Kestrel was seen, compared to many more in previous years, as urban encroachment leaves less space for wildlife. We traveled the entire distance of the trail south to Concord Ave, for a round-trip of approx. 20 miles with a stop at Creekside Park in Brentwood for lunch. In general the trail from Jordan and Fetzer Lanes to East Cypress Road was the most productive birding.

Jewel Lake Tilden Park

April 3, 2009

Leader(s): Phila Rogers

# of participants: 15

# of species: 32

A lovely morning at Jewel Lake, cool to begin with but soon warm enough to shed the jacket. We climbed up the slope to the Pack Rat Trail. Wilson’s Warblers were with us from the beginning, singing and darting about on the serious business of nest building. Part way along the trail robins and a male Varied Thrush were feeding on what appeared to be ivy berries.

The sword ferns are unfurling their new fronds and bright green bracken fern is filling in the open spaces. Shade flowers included pale dusty- pink trillium and a clump of blue hound’s tongue, and lots of solomon’s seal fringing the path. Below the trail, in a sunny opening, elderberries are blooming.

And from the trees below we heard the bright, energetic song of a newly-arrived Warbling Vireo (and maybe a short phrase from a Black-headed Grosbeak who along with Swainson’s Thrush fill out the compliment later in the month).

Descending to the northwest corner of the lake, the newly-leafed alders contained singing warblers — possibly a Black-throated Gray and most definitely several of the white-throated Myrtle form of Audubon’s Warbler. To this westerner who has never experienced the Eastern deciduous woods filled with migrating warblers in spring, this small grove of alders was magic enough.

A little water is still running over the dam. Sediment is beginning to settle slowly turning the lake from brown to green. The riparian woodland has lost its ragged winter look — new leaves transforming the thickets to a fresh, mouth-watering lushness.

Early April is that way everywhere. My big live oak, hung with gold-tassles and new light green leaves vibrates with birds who are attracted to the insects who are attracted to the new growth. In fifteen minutes I saw a Yellow Warbler and several Yellow-Rumped Warblers (with vibrant yellow throats), kinglets ready to leave, along with chickadees. And the neighborhood continues to ring with White-crowned Sparrows singing — a most unusual event. In my wildflower garden, I have my first-ever blue Phaecilia.

How sweet it is!

Redwood Regional Park

March 28, 2009

Leader(s): Rusty Scalf

# of participants: 11

# of species: 42

We had a beautiful morning, finding at least fifteen Pacific Slope Flycatchers acting very territorial. Other birds of interest were Varied Thrush, Winter Wren and Hairy Woodpecker. We also found some California newts.

Berkeley Watefront

March 22, 2009

Leader(s): Anne Hoff

# of participants: 1

# of species: 36

A pair of White-tailed Kites were copulating despite high winds. We found both Eurasian and American Wigeon, Greater and Lesser Scaup and four species of Grebes.

San Leandro Marina to Eden Landing via Hayward Shoreline/SF Bay Trail (Bicycle Birding)

March 21st, 2009

Kathy Jarrett, Leader
Highlights: Clapper Rail and Allen’s Hummingbird
Number of species seen: 56

A Clapper Rail was seen foraging in the water between the trail and the golf course in San Leandro , and an Allen’s Hummingbird was seen just outside the West Winton entrance to the Hayward Shoreline. There is a seasonal wetland along the power lines on West Winton Ave, also just before the entrance to the parking lot where we found N. Shovelers. Barn Swallows were flying around the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center (nr. the San Mateo Bridge approach). Whimbrels and Black-bellied Plovers were in abundance on the return trip. High tide was about 9:15, with practically no birds on the bay between 9 and noon, and lots of birds on the mud flats in the afternoon. The day was mostly cool and windy with a few sprinkles about 12:30. Five of the 8 people arrived on BART. One person was very glad that Blair carried an extra tube and patch kit.

 

Redwood Shores Bicycle Trip

March 7, 2009

Leader(s): Kathy and Blair Jarrett

# of participants: 7

# of species:  51

We met at 9:15 at  the staging area at Oracle Parkway and Shoreway Road in Redwood Shores. We made an 11-mile circuit of Redwood Shores on the S.F. Bay Trail and returned about 2:30.  The day was beautiful and sunny, if a bit cool. We started out at high tide and found several Eurasian Wigeons in Belmont Slough. Another highlight of the trip were the sewer ponds at Radio Road where we saw all three teals. We used the picnic tables at the dog park and watched the Long-billed Curlews flying out to feed as the tide receded.

Jewel Lake Tilden Park

March 6, 2009

Leader(s): Phila Rogers

# of participants: 10

# of species:  25

Singing Orange-crowned Warblers yesterday at Jewel Lake affirmed that spring is unfolding apace.  Not just one Warbler — a bright yellow bird singing up in a budding willow — but other warblers near and far in a surround sound of warbler song.

Ten of us gathered yesterday at the parking lot in the cool sun for our first-Friday-of-the-month Audubon walk.  Once again the fruitful corner adjacent to the parking where lawn merges into elderberries and taller trees proved to be rewarding.  Almost immediately Dave Quady spotted several Golden-crowned Kinglets in Douglas firs.  In the elderberry, the usually retiring Spotted Towhee, displayed by snapping open his tail revealing more white spots.  A Nuttall’s Woodpecker hitched up a taller tree while a diminutive Brown Creeper worked its way up another tree.  The always energetic Ruby-crowned Kinglets (revealing its red crown) both scolded and sang fragments of their sweet aria.

Along with the displays and song, the big news was water — welcome water gurgling in culverts, turning low places into a morass of mud, and foaming in the stream making billows of white suds  (no, explained Corinne Greenburg, not detergent but a natural suds called saponin, an ingredient found in ceonothus, buckeyes, and soap plant).

The lake, after last week’s rain, roared over the dam vibrating the bridge that spans the cascade, and flowing into the spillway to race downhill toward San Pablo Bay.

A fine morning and now for the April walk when other singers will be arriving — Wilson’s Warblers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Warbling Vireos and no doubt a surprise a two.

Birding the same area over regular intervals is a fine way of witnessing the passage of the seasons.  I like to think of Jewel Lake as our local Walden.

Lake Merritt

February 25, 2009

Leader(s):  Hilary Powers

# of participants: 1

# of species:  43

One Double-crested cormorant is on a nest; another has sprouted crests for breeding season and was swimming nearby.  We found both Barrow’s and Common Goldeneye.

 

East Shore State Park and Aquatic Park Bicycle Trip

February 7, 2009

Leader(s): Kathy and Blair Jarrett

# of participants: 7

# of species:  59

The Black-crowned Night Herons were in the willows on the southern pond at Aquatic Park, and Common Goldeneyes, Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers on the main pond. About 1/2 mile south of University Ave on the SF Bay Trail were Surfbirds amongst the Willets. At the Berkeley Meadow we had a large group of Western Bluebirds just beyond the gate across from the Sea Breeze Market at University and the freeway frontage road. From the hill behind the race track we spotted a Pelagic Cormorant on the decrepit pier. At Buchanan St we saw our first American Wigeons and at Central Ave we saw our first Green-winged Teals. We found the Ravens on the northern section of the trail beyond Meeker Slough in Richmond. At Marina Bay there was a Spotted Sandpiper on the rocky shore and Eared and Horned Grebes on the water. Returning south we saw Greater Yellowlegs east of Rydin Rd just north of Central Ave. Seven of us ignored threats of rain and enjoyed a quite beautiful day.

Jewel Lake

February 6, 2009

Leader(s): Phila Rogers

# of participants:

# of species:

It did not look auspicious for our morning bird walk.  As I pulled into the Nature Area parking lot at 8:30 sprinkles thickened, becoming rain. I was surprised to find another birder sitting under the open hatch back of his Subaru sipping a hot beverage. By himself in the parking lot, he had seen a male Varied Thrush perch briefly on the split-rail fence.

Then two more cars pulled up as the rain continued to fall even harder.  We closed our windows against the downpour, enjoyed the sound of rain — real rain — pounding down on roof a few inches above our heads.  It was soon over.  We emerged exhilarated by the chance to walk in this fresh-washed morning with juncoes beginning to trill as the shower tapered off.

In most winters, rivulets would be running in every low spot, but in this driest of years, the thirsty earth had nothing to spare.

With just four of us, we had no agenda other than to meander and observe.  Along the path to Jewel Lake, we stopped to finger the fresh, emerging leaves of ninebarks, osoberry, creek dogwoods, and twin berries, taking time to look briefly at a Ruby-crowned Kinglet twitching through a bare willow where catkins are beginning to appear.  The air was rich with the bitter-sweet fragrance of the resinous trees.

What a morning!  The shower had intensified colors of trunk and leaf, plumping up and greening mosses, and bending down grass blades under their burden of moisture. A Hutton’s Vireo called repeatedly from across the canyon.

 

We detoured off the path to visit the ponds in the meadow. In amongst the cattails we watched newts flipping and twisting, showing their bright orange bellies as they performed their spring acrobatics.  David, who knows newts, pointed out that some of these amphibians may have traveled several miles in their swaggering gait to get to these ponds. For music, we had chorus frogs and the high, sweet song of a Brown Creeper who hitched its way up a nearby tree.

I was eager to see how the shower had affected the lake which a few days earlier in the late afternoon shade had appeared shrunken and desolate.  On this morning, enough rain had fallen so the water flowed over a low spot on the dam.  Maybe a dozen mallards shared the lake with several winter ducks — a pair of Buffleheads and a male Ring-neck.  A young Double-crested Cormorant occupied a floating log.

At the end of the lake, a Great Blue Heron stood surrounded by dense rushes.  He allowed us to approach close enough so we could admire his breeding finery — a lacy overlay of feathers across his back and two long blue-black plumes sweeping down from the back of his head.  At some point of unacceptable attention, the bird rose on its broad wings and flew down the pond to the far shore.

We saw no rarities, recording only the deep satisfaction of a morning well spent.

Alameda Creek/Coyote Hills Bicycle Trip

January 31, 2009

Leader(s): Kathy and Blair Jarrett

# of participants: 6

# of spe

Six people braved the cold fog starting from Isherwood Staging Area (adjacent to Quarry Lakes EBRP) at 9 am. We could not even see to the lake beyond the chain link fence and those of us with fingerless gloves were not too happy. We rode to Coyote Hills on the Alameda Creek Trail and little by little the fog lifted and the sun started warming us. We dropped down to the DUST Trail and got warmer and started seeing lots of birds, including a large number of Black-crowned Night Herons. The Tree Swallows were circling but not using the nest boxes. We stopped at the Quarry Staging area (between the entrance station and the visitor center) and were rewarded with a family of Western Bluebirds and foraging Golden-crowned  Sparrows.  At the visitors center we went into the butterfly garden and saw Monarch Butterflies and a Rufous Hummingbird and some Anna’s HB’s and Lesser Goldfinches. Going back to the Alameda Creek Trail on the return, we found lots of ducks and at the crossing of I-880 we found a Red-shouldered Hawk where we have seen one many times before. The car drivers left us at Isherwood and the BART users rode up the trail to the BART weir and  found a Belted Kingfisher, Gadwalls, Lesser Scaup and lots of gulls in the lake. At the end of the trip we were seeing people in shorts and short-sleeved shirts. 57 species seen, plus a deer that was browsing on the north bank between the freeway and Decoto Rd.

Lake Merritt

January 28, 2009

Leader(s):  Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey

# of participants: 12

# of species:  39

We had good comparisons of Greater and Lesser Scaup, good looks at the Ring-necked Duck and the Redhead and a close-up assortment of gulls to compare.  We had scope looks at the Common Goldeneyes and a  flashing look at a Bewick’s Wren.  A Mute Swan is visiting the lake.  A Red Tailed Hawk perched on one of the islands by the cormorant nests.  At the end of the trip a flock of chickadees flooded past with a Nuttall’s Woodpecker in tow.

 

Coyote Hills

January 11, 2009

Leader(s):  Ann Hoff

# of participants: 7

# of species:  53

Our group this morning was greeted by perfect weather and a great variety of birds. Hoot Hollow provided 2 Varied Thrushes, 2 Hermit Thrushes and 2 Fox Sparrows first thing. Many ducks were seen in the North Marsh. A Rock Wren was seen at Lizard Rock and also at the rocks uphill (east) from the visitor’s center. The Loggerhead Shrike and the Say’s Phoebe were in the same scope view in the dry flats below Lizard Rock. We lucked out on the Golden Eagle (seen at the Quarry parking lot) being harassed by a Kestrel! If you are going to look at ducks, bring your spotting scope.

 

Arrowhead Marsh Bicycle Trip

January 10, 2009

Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett

# of participants:

# of species:  47

Great weather and a very high tide made for a great viewing day. Starting near the High Street Bridge, we enjoyed Surf Scoters along the channel, then Avocets at Garretson Pt. At Arrowhead Marsh there were probably more people than birds around 10:30, where the highlights were the Clapper Rails and the Soras. Besides the rails we enjoyed the Marsh Wren and Common Yellowthroat near the viewing platform. Several kind people let us use their scopes to view the Peregrine Falcon which was standing far out in the marsh and the Burrowing Owl at the SE corner of the seasonal wetlands.

 

San Francisco Botanical Gardens

January 4, 2009

Leader(s): Allan Ridley, Helen McKenna, Ginny Marshall, Josiah Clark

# of participants: 50

# of species:  42

There was significant frost on the plants as we began our walk.  Highlights included a female Ring-necked Pheasant in excellent condition by the moon view pond, a Red-breasted Sapsucker, Varied Thrush and eight Northern Flickers.

Jewel Lake Tilden Park

January 2, 2009

Leader(s): Phila Rogers and David Barr

# of participants: 5

# of species:  6+

Still nursing a Christmas cold, Phila was relieved that it was showery on the morning when the first-Friday-of-the-month Jewel Lake walk was scheduled.  No one was apt to show up, right?  Wrong!  At the last moment she decided to drive over to the parking lot.  And there were five intrepid birders waiting for ‘the leader.’ (note the quotes)  She snuffled, wheezed, coughed and handed out lists of birds they might see this time of the year, offered her apologies and headed back home.  Several folks persevered. One of them, David, sent this email :

As you can imagine the birds were pretty hunkered down this morning, but I did see a Varied Thrush quite clearly on the Pack Rat Trail. It was in the low branches of a Bay Laurel about half way along. Colors fairly muted, therefore a female? At the lake I saw Buffleheads (1m, 1f,) and a different duck which took wing before I got close.

Best guess would be a male Northern Pintail. Throw in one Black Phoebe and one Ruby Crowned Kinglet, and that was about it other than Robins and Stellar’s Jays.