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2011 Trip Reports

Lake Merritt
December 28, 2011
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 18
# of species: 49

Cloudy weather was predicted for the 4th Wednesday in December, but the sky stayed clear till after the end of the walk.  The bright light and blue skies made birding in the trees across Perkins unusually cheery and satisfying, with good looks at both male and female Townsend’s Warblers as well as Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Oak Titmice and Chestnut-backed Chickadees.

On the lake, all six U.S. ducks of the genus Aythya happily crowded around snarfing grain: both Greater and Lesser Scaup close enough to tell them apart even if you aren’t a scaup yourself, the Ring-necked Duck with his white shoulder flashes and white bill ring, the Tufted Duck and the Canvasbacks with their coppery heads and ski-jump bills, and both female and male Redheads.

We also had all five of the regular herons, four of the five grebes we hope to see, and most of the winter gulls – plus a handsome male Red-breasted Merganser and a female Belted Kingfisher.

 Redwood Shores Bicycle Trip
 December 10, 2011
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: 10
# of species: 57

 A cool but thankfully sunny day found 10 of us on the trail starting from the staging area near Marine Parkway and Oracle Parkway in Redwood Shores. We found many duck species and shore birds during the day. We bicycled on the SF Bay Trail to the sewer ponds on Radio Rd in Redwood Shores, returning via Radio Rd and the extension of it, a trail across the peninsula where we found both Barrow’s and Common Goldeneyes. As usual at this time of the year the bird population at the sewer ponds was high, and we found Cinnamon Teal and Avocets there.

 Delta/Sacramento Valley
 December 3-4, 2011
Leader(s): Rusty Scalf, Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 23
# of species: 97

 The weekend overnight trip to the Sacramento Delta and Valley was almost overwhelming in the abundance of birds. Staten Island hosted hundreds of Sandhill Cranes, a couple thousand each of Cackling Goose and Tundra Swan, and truly astonishing numbers Canvasback. Flooded field after flooded field held many thousands of these unpredictable ducks. The wind was stiff though, and we were happy to be near our cars. The Cosumnes wetlands were delightful: Beautiful and full of ducks. The mid-morning light was perfect; Cinnamon and Green-winged Teal could have been light sources instead of light reflectors. Wilson’s Snipe and American Pipits were confiding, and wind-buffeted Tree Swallows left us wondering how these aerial insectivores make a living through the valley winter.

The Sacramento Refuge was a thrilling spectacle of Snow, Ross’, and White-fronted Geese; tens of thousands covered the ponds in the Saturday evening wind and filled the sky on a calm and pleasant Sunday morning. The naked eye could just detect swarms of tiny dots against the coast range (perhaps because most of these dots were white). Then we’d raise our binoculars to see, against those hills, uncountable swarms. One felt like the Hubble telescope! Each year we seem to see more White-faced Ibis and that trend continues; flock after flock of hundreds of Ibis streamed by. Great Horned Owl and Peregrine Falcon both offered good studies, and the refuge was full of ducks.

Abundance continued at Gray Lodge Refuge Sunday late morning, with huge goose lift-offs all around. At least four blue-morph Snow Geese were found, and we had fine views of Green Heron, flying American Bitterns, and an assortment of passerines—including a surprise Orange-crowned Warbler.

Jewel Lake Tilden Park
December 2, 2011
Leader(s): Alan Kaplan
# of participants: 12
# of species: 29

 Phila Rogers has asked me to lead the First Friday walks for GGAS for a while.  We walked on the Lower Pack Rat Trail from 8:30-10:30 a.m.  Weather was clear, not too chilly, and not too windy.  About one dozen birders turned out.  Good birds included about 60 Band-tailed Pigeons, Brown Creeper, Hermit Thrush, Varied Thrush and Spotted Towhee.

 Lake Merritt
November 23, 2011
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 13
# of species: 45

Our walk had its usual strong turnout the day before Thanksgiving, with absent regulars balanced by guests in for the holidays and looking for a good outing. And the lake obliged with almost all the winter incomers, plus a beautiful dark-morph Red-tailed Hawk in the trees on one of the islands

We had 11 species of ducks, 5 gulls, 4 grebes, and 5 herons – including a Green Heron hiding in plain sight on a bare branch about eight feet above the water – much farther up than you’d normally look for that little fish-hunter. All told, the species count was 45, which is even more impressive considering that 5 species we see so often as to think of them as always there – American Robin, Black Phoebe, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, House Finch, and House Sparrow – were entirely missing.

Now that the Double-crested Cormorants are out of the trees on the islands – though their nests are still there and the floats and islands are still full of this year’s blond youngsters – a Belted Kingfisher was back in residence; first seen arranging a fish to drop down the hatch. And half a dozen crows were playing traffic-cop-and-motorist all over the park – that is, they couldn’t find a hawk to harass (having missed the red-tail), so they were chasing each other from tree to tree and practicing their hassling skills.

So it was all jolly, interesting enough that mostly we didn’t notice the gray sky and brisk wind, and another good day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day….

 Upper Alameda Creek/Quarry Lakes Bicycle Trip
 November 12, 2011
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: nr
# of species: 52

 We started the morning at the Union City Library Pond where we found Wood Ducks, Common Mergansers, Ring-billed Gulls and American Wigeons. Taking the bicycle trail from the library to Alameda Creek, we headed upstream on the unpaved (North) side and went into Quarry Lakes where we found a Hooded Merganser and Spotted Sandpiper at Willow Slough but no Black-crowned Night Herons. Back on the Alameda Creek Trail we then went into Niles Community Park where we found several Black-crowned Night Herons at the large pond. At the staging area at the eastern end of the Alameda Creek Trail we found an Acorn Woodpecker and Hutton’s Vireo. Then we biked back to Union City BART via the paved side of the trail and Decoto Rd, ending around 2pm with the sun finally really out.

Upper San Leandro Reservoir
November 11, 2011
Leader(s): Bob Lewis
# of participants: 20
# of species: 52 

Occasional showers didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of 20 GGAS birders, who examined the varying habitats at San Leandro Reservoir and came up with 52 species, including both Wood Duck and Hooded Merganser, about 40 Common Mergansers, a few Wilson’s Snipe in the mudflats, and a very cooperative Fox Sparrow posing in a Coyote Bush.

Lake Merritt
October 26, 2011
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 14
# of species: 40

Three Downy Woodpeckers chased each other around a tree near the outside corner of the garden, and clouds of Yellow-Rumped Warblers (a.k.a. Butter-Butts) filled several of the trees, along with several Anna’s Hummingbirds, looking for who-knows-what among the branches.

In the lake, a Green Heron sat out on the branch that sticks out of the water near the playground and let us get good long looks – and a second one flew by croaking loudly. Hank-the-rescue-Pelican had one white friend left, which took off and flew around and around overhead, giving us beautiful views of those huge, black-tipped wings. Several Brown Pelicans perched or cruised overhead, and one started to dive – then sheered off fishless. A bunch of crows chased a young Red-tailed Hawk into one of the island trees, then flew off and left the hawk to eye us as we eyed it.

The water was full of American Coots and Ruddy Ducks, with a few Pied-billed Grebes mixed in. None of the other winter migrants were here yet, except for one Canvasback drake with his copper head tucked under one white wing and one Western Grebe in long-necked splendor by the Embarcadero fountain.

A few Double-crested Cormorants were left near the nests in the trees, and more on the floats out in the lake, along with the usual population of gulls and pigeons. And each and every one was more beautiful than all the others on this lovely, crystalline fall day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day….

Richmond Landfill Loop Bicycle Trip
October 23, 2011
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: nr
# of species: 45

Although the Richmond Landfill Loop is just 3 miles, some of us bicycled over 30 miles.

We birded from S 51st St and SF Bay Trail in Richmond to the Richmond Landfill Loop, the Loop, back to Miller-Knox where we put binoculars away to get home. Tide high in the morning and low in the afternoon. Warm clear day. The south side of the Loop had more birds because of the ponds although we saw RT Hawks and Meadow larks on north side; Avocets, Stilts, Yellowlegs on south side. Warblers and Nuttall’s WP at Miller-Knox.

Mines Road, San Antonio Valley Road
October 22, 2011
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi and Rich Cimino
# of participants: 20
# of species: 52

20 birders from Golden Gate Audubon enjoyed a warm Saturday on Mines and San Antonio Valley Roads in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties. Notable were great looks at many raptors, including GOLDEN EAGLES and PRAIRIE FALCONS as well as several LAWRENCE’S GOLDFINCH at Ala. Co. MP 17 , two ROADRUNNERS at the same spot, and the expected LEWIS’ WOODPECKERS on San Antonio Valley Rd.

Arrowhead Marsh/MLK Shoreline
October 12, 2011
Leader(s): Chris and Gary Bard
# of participants: nr
# of species: 41

We had a clear morning in the 70’s.  There are not many migratory ducks yet, but we found a Common Loon,  Cinnamon Teal, Common Yellowthroat, Belted Kingfisher and a decent variety of shorebirds.  Golden crowned Sparrows have arrived.

 Lake Merritt
September 28, 2011
Leader(s): Hilary Powers
# of participants: 3
# of species: 34

 Two Firsts for Lake Merritt:  Firsts for the lake as far as any of us on the September 4th-Wednesday bird walk were concerned, anyway. Fossicking around outside the globe cage was a female Band-tailed Pigeon  – and in among the birds in the fresh-water paddock was a young Heerman’s Gull. (Normally, Band-tailed Pigeons hang out in the wooded hills, and Heerman’s Gulls stick to the coastline.) That got the first 15 minutes off to a good start – even before a flotilla of White Pelicans swam around the islands.

The sun was blazing off the lake like a flame-thrower, so we headed into the garden, which was buzzing with Anna’s Hummingbirds and a couple of different kinds of goldfinches. On the way in, we got a beautiful view of a Bewick’s Wren.  More Bewick’s Wrens in the garden, plus some of the little crested gray Titmice and California Towhees. Then we looped around the back of Children’s Fairyland – disappointingly unbirdy except for a tree full of Bushtits and elusive other winged creatures – and saw a female Hooded Oriole  around by the front. We saw lots of crows and robins – usual for the lake – and a couple of Scrub Jays , which ought to be common there but rarely put in an appearance.

As we returned to the lake, a male Downy Woodpecker flew to the nearest island. The Double-crested Cormorants were still hanging around in fair numbers, but only a few were still paying attention to their nests in the trees. The first of the long-distance migrants had showed up: three Ruddy Ducks  had joined the black American Coots and the buffy Pied-billed Grebes, and a couple of Eared Grebes – still in remnants of their gold and copper breeding plumage – were up toward the boathouse.

A Great Blue Heron flew in while we watched, and the islands were encouragingly crowded with Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets. Coupled with this year’s bumper crop of baby Black-Crowned Night-Herons, that makes it look like the renovation of the islands is really working. Good news indeed, on a good day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day….

 Milbrae-Foster City Bicycle Trip
September 25, 2011
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: 4
# of species:  33

 Four of us braved the threat of rain and indeed found some. The first train of the day was nevertheless late. Our first stop was Bayfront Park in Millbrae, just a short distance from Millbrae BART at E Millbrae Ave and  Bayshore Hwy. This is consistently a good birding spot; and the birds seem oblivious of the sound of jets taking off. Heading south we encountered quite a few groups of Black-bellied Plovers waiting for the tide to recede so they could feed. Rain forced us into Max’s for some hot drinks but then we continued. The SF Bay Trail has been improved through Coyote Point County Park where we stopped for a bicyclist who had neglected to bring a bicycle pump. Considerably late now we found a Spotted Sandpiper as we headed for Ryder Court Park and made the decision to turn around instead of going on to Foster City and the Belmont Caltrain Station. Once again the big birding spot was Bayfront Park and now the birds were feeding in the mud flats as the tide had receded.

 Las Gallinas and McNear Chimneys
September 18, 2011
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi, Rusty Scalf
# of participants: 30
# of species:  44

 It was hot at Las Gallinas, about 90 degrees.  We missed the Eastern Kingbird that’s been around all week, but otherwise saw the expected species.

After birding in the late afternoon at Las Gallinas we drove to the McNear Brickyard chimneys in San Rafael to watch the Vaux’s Swifts come in to roost for the evening.

Based on recent past experience and the large numbers of Vaux’s congregating at other West Coast roost sites, we expected to see thousands of birds.  We were surprised to count only approximately 170 birds last night. Very mysterious.

Arrowhead Marsh/MLK Shoreline
September 14, 2011
Leader(s): Chris and Gary Bard
# of participants: 9
# of species:  38

 We had great looks at a Clapper Rail walking on the mud near the viewing boardwalk.  Other good birds included  Black Turnstone, Red-necked Phalarope,  and Common Yellowthroat.

Lake Merritt
August 24, 2011
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 12
# of species: 29

Strolling across Bellevue and into Lakeside Park near the Nature Center, we paused as usual to describe the “magic tree” phenomenon to the assembled birders on the August 4th-Wednesday Golden Gate Audubon walk. That part of the park – basically, the rolling lawns bordered by Bellevue, Perkins, and Grand, running up to Children’s Fairyland – has lots of trees, and one of them will have a wonderful mixed flock of little birds in it. Find that tree and you’re in birder heaven; otherwise you’re getting a crick in your neck peering into empty branches.

The description is a way of reducing expectations upon coming away from the lake, which even in August has birds wherever you look, so people aren’t too disappointed with the next half-hour or so. But this time, it turned out we were standing right under That Tree, which was alive with Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Oak Titmice. And mixed in, we had a female Downy Woodpecker  and a very bright male Wilson’s Warbler, which we very rarely see in the park. We went on to see most of the usual park birds, including a Black Phoebe lounging near the nest on the corporation yard (which didn’t seem to be occupied), and lots of Anna’s Hummingbirds zooming and chortling around. And the crown of that part of the trip, we got several good looks at a Red-shouldered Hawk – also a rarity here- being chased by a party of crows, and later moseying around in the garden.

On the lake – besides the usual Canada Geese and Mallards – a dozen or so American White Pelicans were visiting with Hank-the-rescue-bird, and several Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets seemed to be sizing up the bushes on one of the islands. We saw TWO Green Herons and lots of Pied-billed Grebes. The cormorant rookery was still in business, but for the first time this season some nests were empty; it looks as though everyone who wanted a family this year has got one. A floating dock of some kind seemed to have slipped its moorings, and 50 or 60 Double-crested Cormorants (mostly this year’s bronze youngsters) were drifting lazily across the lake on it.

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

Richmond to Berkeley on the SF Bay Trail Bicycle Trip
August 20, 2011
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: 7
# of species:  40

A cool but productive day started early at S 51st St in Richmond, looping up to Meeker Slough and back, then on to University Ave in Berkeley. A Whimbrel posed for us at Meeker Slough. Quite a few Black-bellied Plovers were seen at various locations, Semi-palmated Plovers were seen south of S 51st St and also near Buchanan and I-80 in Albany, and a lone Red-necked Phalarope was swimming in the bay next to University Ave. The sun came out and all seven of us sat at the picnic tables at the Sea Breeze Market for lun

Lake Merritt
July 27, 2011
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 9
# of species: 32

July is one of the quiet months at Lake Merritt, but the 4th-Wednesday walk was treated to some unusual sights – including more than a dozen White Pelicans making themselves at home on and among the islands, fly-bys from a Brown Pelican and a Caspian Tern, and a Green Heron sitting and preening on the front of the nearest island. Three Pied-billed Grebes have returned to the lake, along with two of the white-beaked black American Coots. The Mallards are in eclipse plumage, looking oddly butch without their green head feathers.

The Double-crested Cormorants are still at it on the islands. We saw two of the shiny black adults working on the next clutch of eggs at the top of the tallest tree, and a bronze juvenile soaring like a hawk in rising circles over the field in front of Children’s Fairyland – something no one on the walk had ever seen – before heading off toward the bay in the conventional arrow-straight going-somewhere cormorant style. No knowing, of course, but it looked for all the world like the youngster was testing its wings before striking off on its own.

And besides a good look at a Nuttall’s Woodpecker – always a pleasure but more or less expected – the 32 species we saw included a female Downy Woodpecker, which hasn’t happened for more than a year. So it was another very good day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day….

Castle Rock, Diablo Foothills Regional Parks
July 24, 2011
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants:
# of species: 38

Our GGAS field trip to Castle Rock/Diablo Foothills Regional Parks on Sunday provided 38 species. Several of the expected birds were not in attendance.  However, we did see lots of individuals because of the large number of young,   fledged birds, especially Western Bluebirds, Lesser Goldfinches, and Lark Sparrows.  There were also many adults and immature Ash-throated Flycatchers.

Rock Wren was another notable species.

Don Edwards, SF Bay NWR Bicycle Trip
July 23, 2011
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: 9
# of species: 32

This summer visit to the refuge was notable for what we did not see as well as what we did see. 32 species had only one duck, no raptors, and no Black Phoebes. The Burrowing Owls seen in previous trips on Disk Dr were not there last trip, so on the advice of Bob Power we looked out into the grassy area just east of the rail road tracks as we approached the EEC (Environmental Education Center) on Grand and were rewarded with views of two owls. We headed west from the EEC next to Pond A16 and saw both Western and Least Sandpipers south of the trail as well as a large raft of Wilson’s Phalaropes. Forster’s Terns, Double-crested Cormorants and American White Pelicans were in A16.  Both California and Western Gulls were in A12. Back at Alviso Marina County Park we saw a grey fox opposite the picnic area. (Thank you, Anthony!) 11 people enjoyed the beautiful day. Those who rode from the Santa Clara Capitol Corridor station rode about 15 miles and saw a huge number of American Avocets at the intersection of the San Tomas Aquinas and SF Bay Trails as we rode back to the station.

This is the URL for the map of the refuge, which shows the ponds and the trails. South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project – Pond A8 – completed 6/1/2011

http://www.southbayrestoration.org/images/Pond%20Maps/alviso.pdf

http://www.southbayrestoration.org/index.html

PANAMA (1)
June 2011

Click here for a PDF of trip leader Steve Margolin’s official trip report

PANAMA (2)
Report submitted by GGAS member John Poole

I had the pleasure of joining Steve and Renee Margolin on a trip to Panama (June 4 through 12 with an optional 4 day extension).

Being a warm blooded mammal adapted to Bay fog and cool breezes, I was a bit taken aback on landing in Panama City.  Having said that, it wasn’t long before I grew accustomed to the warmth and humidity.

That takes care of my criticisms.

What was overwhelming to me, a temperate climate birder, was the incredible diversity and abundance of tropical birds.  In the Bay Area we are used to logging a few species with large numbers of individuals.  It’s not unusual to count 100 robins or 1000 cormorants on a Christmas Bird Count.  In the tropics there are many more species but fewer individuals in each species.  Panama, the size of South Carolina, has over 900 species of birds.  It’s a different kind of birding.

We were met at the airport by our Panamanian guide, Guido Berguido of Advantage Tours.  Steve and Renee have worked with Guido for several years and have clearly developed a close and friendly relationship.  Guido and his assistant, Michael Castro, are, to put it bluntly, experts.  While I pride myself at recognizing the song of the wrentit and only occasionally confusing robins and black-headed grosbeaks, Guido knows the songs of hundreds of tropical birds.  He can also mimic their calls and pull them in out of the deep, dark jungle tangle for us to see.  He and Michael are, in addition, truly friendly, and nice people.

We drove to a local supermarket to stock up on essentials (wine, beer and snacks) before driving to Gamboa, a small pretty town in what used to be the Canal Zone.

I should note that our accommodations were always comfortable and air-conditioned while our meals were simple but good.

We had time for a bit of birding after getting settled.

The house where Guido’s guests stay has three floors, en suite rooms and a comfortable covered veranda.  There are several hummingbird feeders, generally monopolized by rufous-tailed hummingbirds with an occasional blue-chested that manages to sneak in for a sip.  Feeding platforms stocked with bananas attract blue-gray tanagers, buff-throated saltators, crimson-backed and palm tanagers, red-crowned woodpeckers, blue-crowned (whooping) motmots, and…. well you get the idea.

Coatimundis, tamarins, iguanas, and agoutis also visit the yard.

Gamboa was the base from which we ventured into the surrounding forests.  The famous Pipeline Road in Soberania Natural Park is nearby as is the Rainforest Discovery Center with its 100 ft. high tower that gave us a “bird’s-eye” view of the forest canopy.  Parrots (Mealy Amazons, Blue-headed, Red-lored etc.) are best seen and identified from the tower.

The Discovery Center is the place to go for hummingbirds.  For those of us who get a thrill from seeing an Anna’s or an Allen’s, the abundance and variety of hummers at the Center is breath-taking.

One of the attractions of Panama is the variety of habitats.  Low-land rainforest, Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, western islands and dense eastern rainforests are home to distinct assemblages of species.  On a 1 1/2 day trip to the east (near the border of Darien Province), we found species that would have been at least uncommon elsewhere (including one of the trip’s memorable finds – a black-and-white hawk-eagle).  Our trip to Bocas Del Toro (islands near the Costa Rican border) gave us several other specialties including the red-billed tropicbird).  In the mountains near Boquete (Rio Cristal) we stayed in a delightful mountain lodge at about 6000 feet.  It was a welcome change from the warmth and wetness of the lowlands.  We also got a fleeting glimpse of the resplendent quetzal and longer more satisfying looks at a torrent tyrannulet.

For those of you (like me) who are enamored of numbers, we saw or heard over 330 species (very few heard-only).  In addition, we saw two-toed and three-toed sloths, night monkeys, agouti, coatimundi, tamarins, howler monkeys, snakes, poison dart frogs, tarantulas, and caimans. (Don’t let me turn you off.  They were all very nice.)

If you plan to join Steve, Renee, Guido and Michael in the future, consider signing on for the four day extension.  In addition to visiting some very productive birding locations, you may also get to meet Pat in Bocas Del Toro and her “I Be A Bitch” hot sauce.  Not to be missed.

Alameda Creek, Coyote Hills Bicycle Trip
June 25, 2011
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants:
# of species: 49

At the pond by the Fremont BART station east parking lot the large dead tree had an Osprey with a fish, and in the pond we saw an immature Black-Crowned Night Heron and a Mallard with 10 ducklings.  On the stretch of Alameda Creek between the BART weir and Sequoia bridge we found three Spotted Sandpipers with spots. The creek seemed more lush than usual at this time of year, with Song Sparrows, Lesser Goldfinches and House Finches active and singing. Due to a trail closure west of Ardenwood Rd, we were forced to enter Coyote Hills EBRP on Patterson Ranch Rd. We turned left at the Quarry Staging area and lunched at Dairy Glen before heading out the No Name trail to the Shoreline trail. We saw Black-bellied Plovers and Least Sandpipers along the bay shore and there were American White Pelicans in the salt ponds, but no Chilean Flamingo or Black Oystercatchers. The door way over the visitor center door had a nest full of baby Barn Swallows and there was a pair of Cinnamon Teal in the water right of the road as we left the park. A beautiful day.

Lake Merritt
June 22, 2011
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 2
# of species: 25

We had a glorious, warm sunny summer morning.  The Double-crested Cormorants are still nesting on the islands and there are plenty of young cormorants loafing around on the island edges.  The Black Phoebe nest in the corporation yard was clearly occupied for the first time this year, with three or four young.  We had good scope looks at an immature Nuttall’s Woodpecker and found a nesting Mallard in the hummingbird garden.  Although we saw only 25 species, it was such a beautiful day that it would have been a good trip with none!

Las Trampas Regional Wilderness, San Ramon
June 12, 2011
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 8
# of species: 28

Our hardy participants hiked to the top of Rocky Ridge.   We had great looks at a Grasshopper Sparrow who sang from a perch for five minutes or so.  Other GRSPs were singing nearby, but invisibly in the tall grass.  Lazuli Buntings were numerous, with males singing from many spots on the hillside.  We also had mediocre looks at a few Lawrence’s Goldfinches.  You can find Las Trampas on the EBRPD website.  The Rocky Ridge trail starts at the very last parking lot in Las Trampas and is the steep paved road that ascends to the communications tower.  The tower is on EBMUD land and you’ll need their trail permit to legally enter.  You don’t need to enter their land to see the sparrows or the buntings.

Mitchell Canyon, Mt. Diablo State Park
June 11, 2011
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants:  17
# of species:  41

Well it seems that Mitchell Canyon is receiving lots of press on the EBB listserve the last few days.  Our field trip had a nice morning there today.  Although it’s pretty late in the Spring, and most of the migrants have moved on, 17 good birders had nice looks and listens to 41 species.  Ash-throated flycatcher parents were visiting a nest.  Hutton’s Vireo and European Starlings were also visiting their nests.

Orange County, CA
June 4 & 5, 2011
Leader(s): Rusty Scalf, Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 9
# of species: 93

We started at San Joaquin Marsh, which is a series of sewage ponds that have been replanted with native riparian vegetation.  It’s a joint project between Irvine Water and Sea & Sage Audubon. It’s a marvelous, shady, placid place, oddly stuck between the John Wayne Airport and UC Irvine.  Highlights included nesting Osprey, nesting Avocets, many Yellow-breasted Chats and Common Yellowthroats, great looks at a Green Heron, and a plethora of the usual woodland birds.

In the afternoon we birded at Aliso and Wood Canyons County Park, which is busy with hikers and bikers on the weekend, but also very busy with birds.  Highlights were great close-up looks at Bell’s Vireo and several Blue Grosbeaks, including mom feeding kids on a nest.  Also, comparison looks at Western and Cassin’s Kingbirds.  Plus the extras:  an examination of a working Cowbird trap,  Barn Owls with kids in a nest box,  many Yellowthroats  and a 3 1/2 foot rattlesnake!

On Sunday, we started the day at Crystal Cove State Park, which is on the coast south of Newport Beach and has bluffs covered with coastal sage scrub.  Our target bird here was California Gnatcatcher, and we had a good, long look at a male on territory, although he didn’t sing at all.  Also, nice looks at Say’s Phoebes on a nest (in a restroom), Cal. Quail with chicks, Cal. Thrasher (foraging at our feet), and many Yellowthroats.

Later in the morning we went to Bolsa Chica and watched the various species that occupy this tremendous breeding colony, including Black Skimmer.

Jewel Lake, Tilden Park
June,  3 2011
Leader(s): Phila Rogers
# of participants: 30
# of species:

A big crowd of us (around 30 people including 3 out-of-state guests), gathered
on the lawn next to the Nature Center parking lot.  By “popular demand” Denise
Wight lead us in observing two and a half minutes of listening silence.  Once
you accommodate yourself to what seems a very long time, indeed, you begin to
bring in the quieter and more distant songs that surround you.  In the distance
both an Olive-sided Flycatcher and a Western Tanager were singing.

The big voices came from the Black-headed Grosbeaks and the Swainson’s
Thrushes.  But almost all the residents and summer breeders were singing
surprising everyone familiar with the area.  And it’s always nice to put on such
a fine performance for visitors.  Denise commented that so much song was unusual for a sunless, dull day.

Both warblers — Wilson’s and Orange-crowned sang near and far.  On an old snag
to the right, half way down the fire road road toward Jewel Lake, a pair of
Downy Woodpeckers were in full view.  As other birds came and went from the snag
we were reminded that this is truly a diminutive woodpecker.

Among the other singers near and far were Wrentits, Song Sparrows, both towhees,
robins and a Warbling Vireo singing close enough so we could hear its “begging
bird” (Denise Wight) notes at the beginning of its song. We heard a single
down-slurred peer,  I associate with a Western Wood-Pewee calling repeatedly on
drowsy summer afternoons in the Sierra.

At the lake, not much activity except a Black Phoebe flying back and forth.
Each spring the rushes, reeds, and cattails grow thicker along the margins of
the lake, and one wonders how many seasons will pass before  the Red-wing
Blackbirds return.

For the weather buffs among us, my Davis instruments mounted on the roof (two
blocks north of Larwrence Hall of Science) recorded 1.10″ of rain this morning
breaking all records for June, with 35.10″ for the season-to-date totals.

We will be resuming the first-Friday-of-the-month Jewel Lake walks in
September.  Thanks to everyone for making these walks such a pleasure!

Tilden Park
May 28, 2011
Leader(s): Rusty Scalf
# of participants: 22
# of species: 35

This was an experimental evening walk.  The goal was to hear dusk bird song, especially Swainson’s Thrush.  It was pouring rain at the meeting time and 18 people showed up with four more joining later.  We had lots of bird song and lots of activity once the rain stopped.

Hayward Shoreline Bicycle Trip
May 28, 2011
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants:
# of species: 38

We started at 8:30 at the end of Monarch Bay Dr in San Leandro and covered 14 miles, returning around 1 pm. The number of species seen was not as great as in other trips, but we had some good sightings in spite of the wind and an occasional sprinkle. We were fortunate to meet Bob Richmond at the West Winton entrance to the Hayward Shoreline; he pointed out a red gum tree just opposite the EBRPD office which seems to be a favorite perch for birds, and we found several Western Tanagers there. At the same location we saw Anna’s and Allen’s Hummingbirds, Bushtits, and American Goldfinches; the female finch had her mouth full of nesting material. While lunching at the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive center we were surrounded by nesting Barn Swallows. Near the center Forster’s Terns are nesting on an island, and we were told that Least Terns were nesting nearby. On our return trip we saw a juvenile Avocet which had managed to get on the trail side of the fence just south of West Winton; the parent was frantically calling but the fledgling seemed unable to fly well enough to get back on the other side where there were lots of Avocets. Just near the golf course in San Leandro we found a group of Semi-palmated Plovers, an unexpected treat.

Lake Merritt
May 25, 2011
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 3
# of species: 31

Rain was forecast but we got most of our walk in before the rain cut our trip short.  The Double-crested Cormorants are still nesting on the islands.  They chose the leafless trees first, but are also in the leafed trees now.  An American Robin was building a nest  in an oak tree near Children’s Fairyland.  White-throated Swifts swirled over the lake; this is the first time we have seen them at this location.   Canada Geese are arriving for their molt migration.  We are starting to find their flight feathers on the ground.  One Canada Goose family had three newly hatched goslings in tow.

Point Reyes
May 21, 2011
Leader(s): Martha Wessitsh
# of participants: 10
# of species: 65

It was a very windy day.  We had a good view of a Spotted Towhee near the Bear Valley Visitor’s Center.  We also saw a lot of Great Horned Owls, one with a nice baby at Drakes Beach.  The best for Lynn, a visitor from Connecticut, was a Pigeon Guillemot at the Fish Docks.  Mammals we saw: deer, elephant seals, coyote,  and squirrels.  But it was too windy to find any migrants.

Upper San Leandro Reservoir, Valle Vista
May 18, 2011
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 4
# of species: 60

Our GGAS field trip had a cool, cloudy but pleasant day at Upper San Leandro
Reservoir, entering at the Valle Vista staging area outside Moraga.  We had no rarities, but it was quite birdy and we had good looks and listens to  many of the usual species.  Among the highlights were Wood Duck, California Quail, American White Pelican,  Rufous Hummingbird, Allen’s Hummingbird,  Western Wood-Pewee, Western Kingbird,  House Wren, California Thrasher, Black-headed Grosbeak and Bullock’s Oriole.

Garin Regional Park
May 8, 2011
Leader(s): Anne Hoff
# of participants: 12
# of species: 45

The morning was cool and overcast to start, becoming  partly sunny by the finish.  We had fine looks at a male Rufous Hummingbird gleaming in the sunlight.  Tree Swallows copulated on a fence next to a bird box.  We saw both Wilson’s and Yellow Warblers, also Allen’s Hummingbird and four swallow species.

Jewel Lake, Tilden Park
May 6, 2011
Leader(s): Phila Rogers
# of participants: 25
# of species:

Sometimes everything conspires to produce a morning like this one — a warm sun,
a cool breeze, freshly-leafed-out trees full of singing birds, and like-minded
companions.

As twenty-five of us gathered in the parking lot we were greeted by a singing
Olive-sided Flycatcher.  Denise Wight was there to keep us listening and Dave
Quady kept us looking as we moseyed down the fire road toward the lake.  The
“honey” truck arrived on schedule and we parted waves several times to let
joggers pass.

The dominant singer of the morning was the Black-headed Grosbeak with its lush
contralto voice.  When two birds sang simultaneously we were in danger of
suffering aural overload.  Other members of the spring chorus included Wilson’s
Warblers, Warbling Vireos, an Orange-crowned Warbler,
along with perennials like the Song Sparrow singing from thickets and a warbling
Purple Finch singing from the top of a redwood.  A Western Tanager, a migrant on
its way to the conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada, called and sang a partial
song.  (Denise once saw a WT building a nest in Mt Diablo’s Mitchell Canyon).

Flowering creek dogwood, ninebark, elderberry, and a charming red honeysuckle
were the botanical equivalents of the singing breeders.

Every hue of green was represented at Jewel Lake with the various fresh greens
reflected in the quiet water.  Though no water birds were in evidence (the
buffleheads having left last month), pond turtles sprawled on logs taking in the
rays.  A Black-crowned Night Heron stalked along the muddy edge and then took
flight.  It appears that a pair has taken up residency.

A Swainson’s Thrush revealed its presence with a single inflected call note as
if posing a question.  The answer is “soon” when the Canyon will be filled with
those glorious ascending stanzas which rise beyond our ability to hear them. The
singing will continue well into June after the other spring singers have fallen
silent.

Our next regular walk, June 3, the last for the summer, will give us a chance to
indulge ourselves in the song and hopefully give us a few glimpses of the shy
singer.

Quarry Lakes/Alameda Creek/Coyote Hills Bicycle Trip
April 30, 2011
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants:
# of species:  52

The water was running swiftly in Alameda Creek and the majority of the birds were Mallards and Canada Geese, but we managed to see a Spotted Sandpiper on the upper creek near Quarry Lakes and were fortunate to see a Red-Shouldered Hawk at Hwy 880 where we have often seen them in the past. The Song Sparrows and House Finches were singing and the locust trees beautiful. At Coyote Hills we found a number of ducks including a brilliant Ruddy Duck, some White Pelicans and Least Sandpipers and a Common Moorhen; the small pond just outside the entrance kiosk had a few Western Sandpipers but the pond was much reduced from a few weeks ago and will soon be dried up. There was a Red-tailed Hawk nest near Willow Trail and the Alameda Creek Trail. The Quarry Lakes water level seemed quite high and we only saw a couple of Western Grebes and some gulls on the water at the end of our ride. There was road work on Shinn St in Fremont leading to the trail and we had to endure some unpleasant road biking to get to the Sequoia Bridge; the workers on site had no idea how to direct us and would not let us cross their worksite; returning we went up to Mission Blvd and had even nastier biking to return to Mowry and the Fremont BART station.

Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park
April 27, 2011
Leader(s): Hilary Powers
# of participants: 10
# of species: 34

Hank, our rescued American White Pelican, has been on his own all winter. Lake Merritt isn’t your usual white pelican habitat – but it’s a good place for one to live if it can’t fly, and Hank was brought down here from Oregon several years ago when it became clear that his injured left wing was never going to straighten itself out. Unlike Helen (his predecessor in the rescued-pelican business), who as far as I know lived for decades at the lake and never saw another of her kind, Hank has been luring in company since his second or third year here. Last summer I saw as many as eleven other pelicans with him – but it’s still a treat to see the first one arrive. He and a bud were hanging out on one of the outer islands, where only the last couple of hold-outs at the end of the Golden Gate Audubon fourth-Wednesday bird walk got a glimpse of them. The newcomer flew up and circled – lovely!

And that was the second-most-amazing thing we saw. In the garden – the redwoods by the monkey-puzzle tree – was a bird we thought must be a Scrub Jay… but instead of buff and blue, it was all solid pearly gray, with  no feather darker than any other. Not an albino; it had dark eyes and a dark beak instead of pink and pale, but it was like a pencil sketch – a jay-shaped gray patch in the tree. Weird off-coloration is actually fairly common in birds, but the individuals (called _leucistic_) rarely live long; a species’ normal color has both survival value and mate-selection pressure behind it, and it’s not easy being different from the rest of your kind. But this may be an exception – it looked like a full adult, with no juvenile downy fuzz left, and it was hanging out near a normal-colored jay… which, since we can go months in the park and not see a jay at all, was a good sign.

Other than that, it was a quiet though satisfying day. The Double-crested Cormorants are still going at it in the trees, and although most of the winter migrants have left, the ones that are left – including some splendid Eared Grebes (looking like beaten steel and copper, with gold fans beside each eye) – are truly worth watching.

Only 33 species all told, but no one on the walk felt they hadn’t had a good day at Lake Merritt… where every day is a good day….

Briones and San Pablo Reservoirs
April 16, 2011
Leader(s): Kitty O’Neil
# of participants: 19
# of species:  52

Today we were treated to a warm sunny day and blooming fields of California Poppies as well as Wood Ducks and nesting Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets.  We encountered four species of woodpeckers and three swallow species as well as Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches and Black-headed Grosbeaks.

Rodeo Lagoon
April 16, 2011
Leader(s): Martha Wessitsh
# of participants: 3
# of species:  25

We had good, close up sightings of Wilson’s Warbler, Fox Sparrow and California Quail with many birds heard including Wilson’s Warbler, American Goldfinch and Wild Turkey.

American River Bicycle Trip
April 9-10, 2011
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: 9
# of species:  66

The group was able to bird from the train to Sacramento as well as along the American River Bicycle Trail.  Species seen included Green Heron, Ring-necked Duck, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Swainson’s Hawk, California Quail, White-throated Swift, Western Kingbird, Cliff Swallow, Yellow-billed Magpie, Phainopepla and Lark Sparrow.

Oakley Bicycle Trip
April 2, 2011
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: 9
# of species:  45

We enjoyed an overcast day which turned to sun, starting at the relatively new northern trail head for the Big Break and Marsh Creek trail. (EBRPD has a map.)  At the Ironhouse Sanitary District ponds we saw the hoped-for Bonaparte’s Gulls with a couple of Caspian Terns. Most of the Bonaparte’s Gulls were well into breeding plumage with the black head. I love those red-orange legs! There were quite a few species of ducks and shorebirds; a pair of Cinnamon Teals were showing their blue speculums and a couple of Eared Grebes were in breeding plumage. Northern Harriers were active just east of the ponds. Seven of us rode about 5 miles before turning back and a couple of us drove to the intersection of Marsh Creek (just north of Marsh Creek Rd) and Hwy 4 Bypass/Vasco Rd and saw a Swainson’s Hawk in a tree along the creek just west of the road, as reported recently. There are pullouts just past the bridge in both directions; the hawk was seen from near the south-bound pull-out.

Jewel Lake, Tilden Park
April 1, 2011
Leader(s): Phila Rogers
# of participants: 20
# of species:

No surprise that 20 people were waiting at the parking lot on the third warm day
in a row.  The “heavy hitters” like Dave Quady, Denise Wright, and Alan Kaplan
also showed up,  Denise, on her way through the park had stopped to record
singing Townsend’s Warblers and a Bullock’s Oriole. (Her incomparable “Birding
by Ear” class at the Albany Adult School still has an opening).

We were surrounded by song even before leaving the parking lot–newly arrived
Wilson’s Warblers, distant Orange-crowned Warblers, more Townsend’s, Dark-eyed
Juncos in full-trill.  A group of outraged, and very vocal Steller’s Jays led us
to an upper limb where an accipiter (probably a Sharp-skinned Hawk) sat quietly
ignoring the hub-bub.

Both hummingbirds were active–Anna’s and Allen’s.  In a newly-leafed out
willow, a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon subspecies) was in full breeding
plumage–one month dull winter garb and then abruptly the bright colors of
spring.

At the lake, the remaining Buffleheads flew back and forth on their stumpy wings
as if readying themselves for the long migratory flight to come.  On a branch
overhanging the water, a silent female kingfisher watched.

The real show was put on by the familiar Red-shouldered Hawk who flew over us
circling several times, calling, while revealing its wings from several angles
with their semi-transparent windows, and brilliant cinnamon breast and belly.

To complete a perfect morning, two of us had the chance to talk briefly with Dr.
Gilbert who so many of us love and admire for his tireless work banding and
recording information about Wilson’s Warbler (and other warblers).  Last week,
he had wondered if he would be out in the field at all this year.

By the next First Friday walk, the streamside will be full of singing Warbling
Vireos, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Swainson’s Thrushes.

So enjoy the resplendent spring, all the more intense for its late arrival.  And
join one of the many April Birdathon field trips (like Dave’s to Mines Road)
which go a long way toward supporting our local Audubon’s conservation efforts
that help assure that every spring will be a songful one.

 

Honduras – Natural History and Archeology
March 2011
 

A great group of GGA members travelled to Honduras for a terrific tour.  We stayed at our guide Robert Gallardo’s La Chorcha Lodge just on the outskirts of Copan Ruinas.   Robert and his wife Irma are naturalists focusing on birds, butterflies and orchids.  We spent seven days in the Copan area birding, touring the ancient Mayan ruins, and enjoying the small town of Copan.  From there we travelled to Lake Yojoa, the largest lake in Honduras.  We stayed at a mountain lodge in a national park, toured the lake area, and hiked in the cloud forest. Some of the rarer birds included Laughing Falcon, Lesser Roadrunner, Blue-throated Golden-tail (a hummingbird), Keel-billed Motmot, Paltry Tyrannulet, Bushy-crested Jay, and Orange-billed Nightingale-thrush. All in all we saw about 200 species of birds and hear an additional 32.

Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park
March 23, 2011
Leader(s): Hilary Powers
# of participants: 3
# of species:  38

Despite the threat of serious rain, three hardy participants showed up ready to go.  We were rewarded with Caspian Terns in addition to five Grebe species, six Common Mergansers, the Green Heron and a rare Hermit Thrush.  We sheltered from the heavy rain which started after 11 am, then sprinted for our cars.

Mitchell Canyon, Mt. Diablo State Park
March 19, 2011
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 5
# of species: 25

Five intrepid San Franciscans braved the rain and spent two hours with us slogging through the mud to see a limited number of expected species.  It was so quiet that we saw no Black Phoebes nor heard any Bewick’s Wrens!  We did manage to find Wild Turkeys, California Quail, Varied Thrush, Oak Titmouse and a few other soaked birds.

Corona Heights
March 18, 2011
Leader(s): Brian Fitch, Charlie Hibbard, Dom Mosur
# of participants: 8
# of species:  nr

We cut the trip an hour short due to the weather.  Thee were lots of gulls flying nover before the coming storm including good looks at an adult Thayer’s Gull.  We also had good raptor diversity: Peregrine Falcon, Merlin (2), Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk (3), and also Pine Siskins and Band-tailed Pigeons.

 Honey Lake
 March 12-13 2011
Leader(s): Dave Quady
# of participants: 20
# of species:  84

Twenty birders enjoyed pretty decent winter weather, a fine display by male Greater Sage-Grouse, impressive experiences with Short-eared Owls and Evening Grosbeaks – to name just two other highlights – and nice looks at most of the expected winter specialties of northeastern California.

A calm, warm, gorgeous morning greeted us on Saturday as we met to caravan to a Greater Sage-Grouse lek near Susanville.  After a mile-long trudge (because the road to the lek looked too muddy to drive) we watched at least 10 males display enthusiastically even though no females were present. Well away from the lek, two groups of foraging females had attracted another four or more displaying males, the first time I’ve observed such behavior.

After breakfast we birded a short stretch of the Bizz Johnson trail in Susanville, then caravanned through Honey Lake Valley from Janesville east to the Amedee Mountains; they produced the nevadensis subspecies of Sage Sparrow and several mostly unseen Chukars that seemed to chuckle derisively at us.  Our last stop, at the Fleming Unit of Honey Lake Wildlife Area, produced superb looks at Short-eared Owls as dusk approached.

Amid signs on Sunday morning that the weather was deteriorating we checked the Susanville sewage treatment ponds, sampled productive conifers at Jack’s Valley, then birded Willow Creek Valley before entering the Eagle Lake basin.  There, retired ornithology professor Lew Oring had filled his feeders for us, and he and his wife generously opened their home so that we could warm up while we enjoyed the Pinyon Jays and other species that his feeders attracted.  Then Lew led us into the Spalding Tract, where a friend’s feeders brought in a White-headed Woodpecker, a very fine species with which to end the trip.

During the weekend we found 19 waterfowl species, eight species of diurnal raptors, two owl species, six species of woodpeckers, even though we missed Lewis’s Woodpecker for the second straight year – apparently absent due to an acorn crop failure, and six corvids.  Not bad.

Altogether, the following 84 species were noted by the leader and by at least one trip participant

Seal Rocks to Sutro Heights Park, San Francisco
March 12, 2011
Leader(s): Martha Wessitsh
# of participants: 5
# of species:  31

The best sighting of the day, especially for me, was a Pacific Loon diving near one of the rocks.  For others, some of the highlights were Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Black Oystercatcher and lots of Willets.

Castle Rock/Diablo Foothills
March 11, 2011
Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi
# of participants: 8
# of species:  43

We had a fair, still morning and walked about three miles.  Highlights were a pair of Peregrine Falcons flying together and Red-tailed Hawks copulating in the picnic area.  Numerous Lark Sparrows were singing.  A Great Horned Owl was on a nest.

Redwood Shores Bicycle Trip
March 5, 2011
Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett
# of participants: 5
# of species:  42

Starting from the parking lot on Oracle Parkway near Marine Parkway at 9:20 we followed the SF Bay Trail to the sewer ponds on Radio Road. The tide was low when we started and Belmont Slough had lots of birds in the mud. The Canvasback ducks had their heads covered in mud from dabbling. At the sewer ponds we finally saw Cinnamon and Blue-winged Teal; other ducks were seen throughout the ride. We had our lunch at the dog park. Usually we continue a circuit around Redwood Shores but this time we returned along the same route, which was quicker and gave us sightings of Least Sandpipers and Killdeer. We still had sun when we returned about 1 p.m. after looking to no avail for Wood Ducks on the lagoons of Port Royal Avenue in Foster City.

Jewel Lake, Tilden Park
March 4, 2011
Leader(s): Phila Rogers
# of participants: 18
# of species:  22

Unlike recent first-Friday-of-the-month Audubon bird walks at Jewel Lake which were cloudy, cold, and very quiet, this morning was glorious.  The sun bounded up above the eastern hills flooding the parking lot where we  gathered with warm sunlight.  And the birds were both abundant and  animated.  Stellar’s and Shrub Jays flew into trees in noisy flocks as if there were something troubling within to harass, but the commotion subsided as soon as they were settled.  Juncos trilled.  Ruby-crowned Kinglets burst into small explosions of song.  Song Sparrows sang their variable songs from several thickets.  Robins caroled and “pipped.”  Numerous Spotted Towhees sang and called and even it’s duller relative, the California Towhee, was inspired to sing.  Though Denise Wright didn’t spot them, she confirmed by their wispy voices that Golden-crowned Kinglets were also present. Townsend’s
Warblers were feeding in flowering blue gum eucalyptus.   The only silent bird was a retiring female Varied Thrush partly hidden in a shadowy thicket.

The sky was full of birds taking advantage of the updrafts from the warming earth — both ravens and crows, several vultures, a Red-tailed Hawk, a Cooper’s Hawk, and somewhere a Red-shouldered Hawk.  A swerving swallow was too high to identify.  But the star of the show was an Osprey which wheeling about turned this way and that so we could admire its long wings and white belly.  Osprey most often seen over Tilden Park are probably commuting from San Pablo Reservoir to the Bay shore, but this bird was content to linger awhile (Denise, a font of avian information, said that she has seen osprey perched on the high tension towers at Inspiration Point while consuming a fish — giving new meaning to a meal with a view).

As we neared the lake along the fire road, a Belted Kingfisher rattled by.  In the willows, not yet leafed out, we had a good view of a Myrtle Warbler identified by its whitish throat and flatter ‘chip’ call than the Audubon
Warbler’s more tonal ‘chip.’  From the top of a tall redwood, a rosy-breasted Purple Finch, offered not just its lovely rolling warble, but his complex repertoire which included the question-answer song of the Cassin’s Finch.  I was especially grateful to Denise for enlightening me as I had been struggling with this particular song for much too long.

For dry California, it was the pleasure of water everywhere that gave the morning its particular magic — small, gurgling streamlets, the larger sustained susurrus of Wildcat Creek itself, even the puddles along the road that cupped
perfect small reflected scenes of budding willow branches against a blue sky.

At Jewel Lake itself, the composition was of gray and brown with the silt-filled water and the line of alders still bare.  The startling red twigs of the creek dogwoods are beginning to show new green leafs. We saw several pairs of
Bufflehead but missed the reported male Common Merganser.

On the way back along the board walk, I admired fallen willow trucks upholstered in plush green moss.

There were about eighteen of us, mostly “the regulars” with a welcome addition of a few new faces.  Alan Kaplan, the park’s retired supervising naturalist, came as he often does, adding the depth of someone who knows the area in all its complexity.

Notably absent was the Hermit Thrush (could they have left already?) and we had hoped to hear the first singing warbler of the season — the Orange-crowned Warbler.  But we will surely hear the bird a month from now when so many singing breeders will have returned.

Briones Overlook
February 19, 2011
Leader(s): Kitty O’Neil
# of participants: 7
# of species:  39

Conditions: 37 degrees with rain.  Walked 1.5 miles.  But saw a decent mix of species, including Wild Turkey, California Quail, American White Pelican, Osprey, American Kestrel, Western Bluebird and Hairy Woodpecker.

Lake Merritt
February 23, 2011
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 5
# of species: 45

The work on the islands is complete.  The Double-crested Cormorants are growing their crests and the first couples are scoping out the remaining trees for nests.  There were at least five Common Mergansers, including one male in breeding plumage plus four females.  The Common Goldeneye males were practicing their displays for just a few females.  We got good looks at the Ring-necked Duck and the female Redhead.

Corona Heights
February 18, 2011
Leader(s): Dom Mosur/Brian Fitch/Charlie Hibbard
# of participants: 8
# of species: 35

We had a cold/overcast morning with some rain, but we managed to find a Lincoln’s Sparrow and two overhead Mallards added a duck species to our day list.

Lower Haight, San Francisco
February 13, 2011
Leader(s): Dan Daniel
# of participants: 50
# of species: n/r
Berkeley Meadow/Marina
February 6, 2011
Leader(s): Anne Hoff
# of participants: 11
# of species: 51

We had a beautiful sunny, calm morning.  Good birds included a yellow-shafted Flicker, a Snow Goose and Ross’s Goose, and a Surfbird with several other shorebirds.  The Burrowing Owls were an added treat.

Garretson Point to Arrowhead Marsh
February 6, 2011
Leader(s): Laura Gobbi
# of participants: 6
# of species: 57

We had a Clapper Rail exposed on the mudflat opposite the parking lot feeding at low tide with the other shorebirds.  We usually see them at the marsh proper.  Mostly Common Goldeneye (M & F), but one female Barrow’s Goldeneye.  Also, there was a Burrowing Owl in the field opposite the marsh (near the pier) where the Canada Geese usually are.

Putah Creek/South Fork Preserve
February 5, 2011
Leader(s): Aaron Haiman
# of participants: 6
# of species: 43

Highlights included a very cooperative Cooper’s Hawk, Loggerhead Shrike, White-tailed Kite, Say’s Phoebe, Wood Duck, and Great Horned Owl.  Also Yellow-billed Magpie and Western Meadowlark.

Jewel Lake
February 4, 2011
Leader(s): Dave Quady
# of participants: n/r
# of species:  25

We saw a few nice birds in good light and had a lovely morning in the woods.  Standouts were a Green Heron at Jewel Lake, male Buffleheads in perfect light, showing those flashy iridescent greens along their front, a male Red-bellied Sapsucker who flew into the willows alone Jewel Lake and perched motionless along a tree trunk: the opposite side of the tree trunk, of course, like any self-respecting woodpecker.  Its eye was strikingly HUGE in its face.

Phila told us to watch for and indeed we did see one of the first of the Selasphorus hummingbirds at this area…a showy male perched at the tip-top of a bare branched tree, again at the edge of the Lake.    Orange belly wash, metallic orange gorget,  orange back with a splash of green feathering in the center.    We argued over the species names for a bit and decided on Allen’s.

Mines Road/San Antonio Valley
January 29, 2011
Leader(s): Carol and Steve Lombardi, Rich Cimino
# of participants: 21
# of species: 52

The highlights of this trip included Bald Eagle, Ferruginous Hawk, Golden Eagle, Yellow-billed Magpie, California Thrasher, Phainopepla and a herd of Tule Elk at the south end of San Antonio Valley.

 Lake Merritt
January 26, 2011
Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey
# of participants: 23
# of species: 44

A stunningly warm morning brought out a large group.  The restoration project on the islands is almost complete.  The deadline is the end of February to be in time for the Double-crested Cormorant nesting cycle.  We walked  to the end of the lake to get long lavish views of the Tufted Duck.  We also found the Ring-necked Duck and the Redhead.  The male Common Goldeneyes are starting to practice their displays.

Coyote Hills Regional Park
January 22, 2011
Leader(s): Ann Hoff
# of participants: 24
# of species: 54

A Loggerhead Shrike was at the Quarry Parking Lot.  Other good birds included Cinnamon Teal, Common Moorhen, Say’s Phoebe, Oak Titmouse, Orange-crowned Warbler,  and  Common Yellowthroat.

Corona Heights Park/Randall Museum
January 21, 2011
Leader(s): Dom Mosur and Charlie Hibbard
# of participants: 17
# of species: 36

This was a raptor lover’s day with some views of American Kestrel, Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk and Red Tailed Hawk.

Pescadero Beach and Marsh
January 15, 2011
Leader(s): Martha Wessitsh
# of participants: 14
# of species: 36

Mostly common birds were seen, including all three Cormorant species.  Black Oystercatchers are always a treat.  We also saw Common Yellowthroat and Yellow Warbler.

Arrowhead Marsh/MLK Shorline
January 13 2011
Leader(s): Chris Bard
# of participants: 8
# of species: 54

Despite an overcast day with light rain, we found two burrowing owls on the lawn area near the pier, Clapper Rail and Blue-winged Teal.

Martin Luther King Shoreline
January 8, 2011
Leader(s): Laura Gobbi
# of participants: 6
# of species: 35

On a cool, cloudy morning we found eleven duck species including Common Goldeneye and Barrow’s Goldeneye.  Our list also contained five species of Grebe, Clapper Rails and most of the larger shorebirds.