Our trip high light was watching an American Bittern at an extremely close vantage point for 10-plus minutes!Pescadero State Beach and Marsh January 25, 2014 Leader(s): Martha Wessitsh # of participants: 6 # of species: 31
This is a good trip for species such as Surf Scoter, Brandt’s Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant as well as Black Oystercatcher and Whimbrel. And sea otters are a welcome bonus.Lake Merritt January 22, 2014 Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey # of participants: 26 # of species: 55
A crowd of birders saw lots of kinds of birds (the max in a long time) on our walk. The weather was unfortunately lovely, and the viewing was excellent. The leader population made it possible to chase down several birds that would otherwise have hidden from the group; most prominent: two Black-throated Gray Warblers, a couple of Orange-crowned warblers, and a Red-breasted Sapsucker.
On the lake, Hank-the-rescue-pelican had a friend again this month (the only other January sighting was in 2013), and we could see the breeding bump on his beak starting to grow. All the expected species were there except for Horned Grebes, Barrow’s Goldeneyes, and the Green Heron; that is, nine species of ducks, four of grebes, four of herons, and five of gulls, and we saw the Tufted Duck twice, once down near El Embarcadero and then again up with the scavenger flock at the Nature Center.
The scavenger flock remains the world’s best place for sorting out Greater and Lesser Scaup; the head shape (round versus baseball-cap-bad-hair) and the beak markings (black triangle versus straight nail) are easy to see with the birds swimming practically underfoot, and the lighting usually makes the unreliable but memorable head color mnemonic (green = Greater; purple = Lesser) work just fine.
We had Dark-eyed Juncos and California Towhees and four other kinds of sparrows, plus two good looks at Red-tailed Hawks and one at a fine juvenile Cooper’s Hawk and all in all an embarrassment of riches when it came to species count. That didn’t quite make up for the scary observation that the populations of some of those species were shockingly low; at a rough estimate, the numbers of scaup and Canvasbacks were around 10% of what was routine a few years ago, and most of the other migratory ducks seemed down as well, though not so dramatically. Does this year’s warm weather mean they have more places to go? We can hope, but not with any great confidence….
But other than that, it was a grand day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a day well worth seeing.Sacramento Valley January 18-19, 2014 Leader(s): Rusty Scalf, Steve and Carol Lombardi # of participants: 28 # of species: 94
Our weekend trip to the Delta and Valley 1/18-19 enjoyed shirtsleeve weather and great numbers of birds.
Cosumnes Preserve: On any winter outing to Delta wetlands one hopes to see cranes, ducks, geese and shorebirds. At Cosumnes, all these species occur together in a beautiful panorama. What we saw depended on which direction we pointed our binoculars, whether close or farther away. We saw a good variety of dabbling ducks–in perfect light and close range, where metallic greens on Green-winged Teal glow like hummingbird gorgets–and watched both Lincoln’s Sparrow and Wilson’s Snipe feeding in good light; not half-obscured in grass. Wonderful place.
Staten Island Road: This Nature Conservancy farming experiment was its bountiful self with large numbers of Cackling Geese, remarkable numbers of Shoveler along with plenty of Sandhill Cranes and Tundra Swans. This might be the best place around for seeing Canvasback, and we had good close views.
Colusa Refuge: This refuge might have the most rewarding auto-tour loop in California. We had great closeup studies of White-fronted, Snow and Ross’ Geese (including “blue” forms for both of the white geese) and some fine views of raptors as well. Beginners had their ‘life” Lincoln’s Sparrow, feeding and eventually sun-bathing near the entrance parking lot, and were delighted by 2 roosting Great Horned Owls and a dining White Tailed Kite.
Sacramento Refuge: This refuge had the full variety of waterfowl one would expect and good numbers (although perhaps just a quarter of what one might see in November during hunting season). Ducks and Geese were plentiful everywhere but clearly more dispersed than during the fall. That contrast alone was interesting. We had a fine day with raptors including very close views of Peregrine Falcon, Cooper’s and Red-shouldered Hawk; and more distant views of adult Bald Eagles.
Gray Lodge: The cross-valley drive to Gray Lodge was itself rewarding with scores of Ibis feeding in flooded fields. At Gray Lodge, spectacular overflights by skeins of white geese were a great way to begin our final venue. We enjoyed the walk (on what is otherwise a driving trip) through the riparian woodlands to the viewing platform, rounding out our trip list with a number of passerines including House Wren. The vista from the platform offered great: large numbers of waterfowl as far as the eye could see–and one can see for miles.Bodega Bay January 12, 2014 Leader(s): Maureen Lahiff # of participants: 11 # of species: 26
We started at high tide. Pelagic and Brandt’s Cormorants were at Bodega headlands. Common Loons and a few Red-throated Loons and a sizable number of Brant (close to 100) were other memorable birds.Berkeley Marina Bicycle Trip January 11, 2014 Leader(s): Jeffrey Black and Pat Greene # of participants: 12 # of species: 42
Even with a 40% possibility of precipitation, 12 participants ignored the weather and joined us at Aquatic Park. It was about 55°F from start to finish with a little breeze; overcast, but excellent bright, diffused light. We made a complete circuit of all the Aquatic Park ponds, and then crossed the Hwy 80 bridge and headed south to Point Emery. We spent so much time on the birds on this route that most riders left us as we passed the bridge on the way north. The rest of us checked out the little inlet behind the SeaBreeze, and then we also called it a day. Many birds were close in and the colors were beautiful. One highlight was watching a Forster’s Tern dive for a fish, come up with one that looked a little to big to handle–two gulls quickly gave chase, and the Tern dropped the fish. I think they all lost out on that one. The rain–really just a drizzle–came later. Other good birds: Black Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Black Turnstone, Pelagic Cormorant, Red-breasted Merganser.Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline January 10, 2014 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: n/r # of species: 48
The herring run has not started here yet, but Richardson’s Bay in Tiburon (across SF Bay in Marin County) was reported in local papers and by Audubon California as active with fish and gulls feeding on them. Thanks to Judi and Bob and Terry for the scopes. Visitor from Astoria, Queens, NY! And thanks to the faithful Pt. Richmond locals who are watching out here most days of the year for their knowledge and insights.Salton Sea January 5, 2014 Leader(s): Eddie Bartley and Noreen Weeden # of participants: 16 # of species: 95
We visited four locations: Dos Palmas Preserve, Salton Sea Yacht Club and two areas of the Salton Sea NWR: Unit 1 and Red Hill. The most numerous species were Snow Goose, Northern Shoveler, Double-crested Cormorant, White-faced Ibis and Red-winged Blackbird. We also found Gambel’s Quail, Cattle Egret, Virginia Rail, Sandhill Crane, Red Phalarope, Greater Roadrunner, Cassin’s Kingbird, Verdin , Cactus Wren, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Phainopepla, Abert’s Towhee and Vesper Sparrow.Strybing Arboretum January 5, 2014 Leader(s): Kimberly Jannarone, Ginny Marshall, Allan Ridley # of participants: 10 # of species: n/r
This morning I led a group of about 10 intrepid birders around the SF Botanical Gardens for the monthly GGAS bird walk.
Numbers of birds were low, but we had great looks at some charmers. We had close-ups of a Downy Woodpecker and Northern Flicker side by side. We spent extended time with two BROWN CREEPERS, who called and foraged on a tree by the main pond. One VARIED THRUSH posed on a branch near the “catbird spot” (we did not see the catbird), and other Varieds foraged with Robins nearby. A flock of ten CEDAR WAXWINGS flew up out of a high tree, rewarding us for our patience in trying to track down their high-pitched calls.
We all got satisfying looks at the continuing BLACK AND WHITE WARBLER down by the pond. One TURKEY VULTURE flew over. Two GREEN-WINGED TEAL were foraging on the main pond. The Canadian Air Force (Canada Geese) made several aerial missions during our three hours in the gardens.
After the walk, I went back and saw the continuing NASHVILLE WARBLER, which was foraging in its usual spot near the bathrooms. An ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER kept it company. This spot is particularly good after the sun has hit the red-flowering bushes.Tilden Nature Area January 3, 2014 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 39 # of species: 29
Large group of observers, many for the first time on this scheduled walk, some for the first time ever birding Visitors from Soissons, France, too! Thanks to Bob S. for the scope and to all for Eyes and Ears!
Highlight was the struggle between a female Hooded Merganser and a crayfish she had seized at Jewel Lake. The bird won! Great Blue Heron arrived to feed on smaller fish.
Our topic was the Origin and Ancestry of Birds, and an introduction to Bird Orders. More next month. Total of 29 species seen or heard (plus one basking Red Admiral “Admirable” butterfly).Arrowhead Marsh Bicycle Trip January 1, 2014 Leader(s): Kathy Jarrett # of participants: 10 # of species: 47
A New Year’s Day bicycle-birding trip was a huge success. Beautiful sunny weather heralded a great birding day. We started from the EBRPD Tidewater staging area in Oakland near the High St bridge to Alameda where a large group of Least Sandpipers was on the dock and House Finches, White Crowned and Golden Crowned Sparrows were in the scrub and on the ground. Large flocks of Greater Scaup, Ruddy Ducks and Coots were on the bay, and smaller groups of Wigeons, Pintails, Green-winged Teals, Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes and Avocets. We also saw Eared, Horned, Clarks and Western Grebes on the bay; some of the Westerns were vocalizing. Thanks to the people with scopes at the Arrowhead viewing platform we were able to see Soras and Clapper Rails. The platform itself was full of birds waiting out the extreme high tide – lots of Willets, Marbled Godwits and Black-necked Stilts along with a Great Blue Heron and Great White Egret. A ride around the loop gave us a Say’s Phoebe and a Burrowning Owl (at #2). We saw the Tropical Kingbird also mentioned by Derek Heins; it was in the grassy area north of 66th Ave.