Lake Merritt April 24, 2013 Leader(s): Hilary Powers # of participants: 7 # of species: 41
My most memorable bird of the day showed up after the walk, as I was heading homeward past the boathouse. And it was a House Sparrow – a cock puffed up to twice his usual size, blazing with burnished auburn, ebony, and cream, and quivering his gray wings and shrieking as he hopped from branch to branch… earnestly pursued by a hen sparrow….
Out on the islands, the Double-crested Cormorants have nests in almost every available fork of the trees, and many of them still had their bunny-ear crests. See ‘em while they last! One Green Heron and assorted Black-crowned Night-Herons of all ages were fishing from the rip-rap, accompanied by a few Snowy Egrets and several precariously perched Canada Geese. The kingfisher was absent – as usual during the cormorant nesting season – but a Red-shouldered Hawk spent a few minutes sitting on a snag and contemplating lunch.
In the water, the Ruddy Ducks are mostly ruddy now (the drakes, that is; the ducks don’t change colors), and the Eared and Horned Grebes have almost all donned their party clothes. They’re quite a sight, as the completely replace their soft gray winter suits with metallic-looking copper and steel, with gold fans or bands (respectively) behind their beady red eyes. I wish they’d stay here to breed, but they all go away. Hank-the-rescue-pelican’s buddy also went away, leaving him to swim among the gulls like an ocean liner surrounded by tugboats.
Only a few gulls were left – Western and Ring-billed – but the Forster’s Terns were out in force, diving like white-winged bombs right in front of us, and two species of swallows were bug-hunting over the lake and the nearby grass. I think the brown Northern Rough-winged Swallows are breeding in the bank again, between the tot lot and the Embarcadero Fountain, but didn’t actually spot them heading into the wall.
The day was sunny and just on the edge of cool, but windy enough to keep the tree birds hiding – though we saw chickadees and titmice and most of the rest of the usual suspects by ones and twos. Forty-one species all told, which felt a little light for April, but all welcome on a good day at Lake Merritt, where every day….Corona Heights April 19, 2013, Leader(s): Dominik Mosur, Brian Fitch # of participants: 28 # of species: 48
This morning we had a record turnout of 28 participants for the Corona Heights walk, including some people from the Recreation & Parks NATURAL AREAS PROGRAM who work so hard in restoring bird habitat all over the City. We were treated to excellent weather and a good showing of migrants. Some of the less common species for this walk were:
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
a singing Cassin’s Vireo
After the walk Brian Fitch went out and found another very good migrant, an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER. This bird was still present working the coyotebrush and Toyons in the dry upper portion of the south face of Corona Hill, behind the Randall Museum, a couple of hours later.Elkhorn Slough Birdathon Trip April 15, 2013 Leader(s): Bob Lewis # of participants: 11 # of species: 43
Eleven friends of Golden Gate Audubon did a trip near Monterey aboard the Elkhorn Slough Safari boat, finding about 43 species in two hours, and photographing many. Although the weather report promised high winds and cold temperatures, the elements held off and the morning was pleasant. Captain Yohn is expert at maneuvering close to animals without spooking them, and we got great looks at quite a few.
It was a grand time to see birds in their alternate (breeding) plumage, and we found all three cormorants – Brandt’s on nests with their bright blue gular pouches, Pelagic with bright red faces, and Double-crested sporting bright yellow pouches.
American White Pelicans flew by showing off their “nuptial knobs,” strange protuberances on their bill that are only present during breeding time.
The most interesting bird was a Red-throated Loon in alternate plumage. It’s a plumage seldom seen south of the arctic nesting grounds, so exciting to find. Some of the Common Loons were also in striking black and white breeding plumage, Eared Grebes showed off golden ear tufts, Black-bellied Plovers had black bellies, Greater Yellowlegs were strikingly speckled, and a Pigeon Guillemot showed off his bright red feet.
Best mammal award was a tie between the always adorable Sea Otters and the Harbor Seals with their newborn pups. Sea Lions will probably dispute the judging – they had a lot to say as we cruised by their overcrowded dock.
Many thanks to all the participants and others who contributed to our Birdathon efforts.Mines Road Birdathon Trip April 13, 2013 Leader(s): Rich Cimino, Steve and Carol Lombardi # of participants: 5 # of species: n/r
It was a great day, mainly because of the hard work and energy provided by Rich Cimino and all the participants. We had a really talented bunch of birders who worked hard all day.
The weather was delightful for birding, with temps in the 60s and 70s, little wind, and a light cloud cover that made for excellent viewing.
In addition to Mines Rd. proper, we also birded along Del Valle Rd. and into Del Valle Park, where we scoped Bald Eagles on their nest. We also spent a little time on Mendenhall Rd. where we got nice looks at Lark Sparrows and a pair of Phaenopepla.
We birded all of Mines Rd. and proceeded a few miles into San Antonio Valley (Santa Clara County) where we got good looks at Lewis’ Woodpecker. We lucked out in seeing Wood Ducks and Tricolored Blackbirds at the cattle pond 1.7 miles beyond Junction on San Antonio Valley Rd. where we turned around and headed back to Livermore.UC Botanical Garden April 8, 2013 Leader(s): Phila Rogers and Chris # of participants:20 # of species: n/r
We had a very successful bird outing this morning at the UC Botanical Garden. It was an overflow group of around 20 people. With Chris as co-leader, we had a wonderful morning made even more interesting with the eyes and ears of others.
When I was still awake at midnight listening to the gale winds tossing about furniture, pots, and all manner of things on my deck, and then with a final lashing of rain, I couldn’t imagine having a walk at 9 am the next morning.
But there we were all were bundled up against the mid-forty temperatures, the heavy clouds of the last few days gone. We followed pretty much the now- traditional route — sitting, looking, and listening at the Tribute Deck. and then stopping for a “bird stand,” in front of the South African hill before proceeding up to the benches at the Old Roses garden. The loud mobbing of a group of jays revealed a Great-horned Owl trying to catch a few winks in an alder tree. On the way up we listened to the loud warbling of guess who? A Warbling Vireo. My, that slender pale bird can really project its voice. (Chris, an hour earlier had heard the FOS Black-headed Grosbeak singing near the Japanese Pond — proving the adage that “the early bird gets the worm”)
With time running out (it’s always that way) we proceeded directly down to the Bird Tile Deck just above the stream where the ridge above us cuts out all traffic noise. Passing the Conference Center, someone connected a repeated single note to a male — mostly hidden — male Hooded Oriole high up in a tall tree.
The oaks sheltering the Tile Deck were full of singing warblers – both Townsend’s and Yellow-rumped about to depart (already looking forward to seeing them again next fall!)
The non-avian star of the morning was John Benneman who brought his recording equipment including his parabola which concentrates sound. He showed is how he uses it and told us about the course he took up near Yuba Pass with Cornell University’s Macauly Library: “The world’s most comprehensive online archive of audio and video recordings of animal diversity.”. He plans on posting the sonograms of what he recorded this morning on EBB Sightings so we can listen to them.
Though I am hoping that the participants came away with an appreciation of the value of listening, a true bird sit is probably a solitary (or with several others) endeavor. Sitting, listening, and sensing your surroundings in all its complexity, requires something akin to a meditative state.
No matter, it was a memorable morning in one of the Bay Area’s loveliest places.Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park April 7, 2013 Leader(s): Ginny Marshall, Allan Ridley, Helen McKenna, Dominik Mosur # of participants: 50+ # of species: 53
Migrants were sparse and many of the wintering birds like sparrows had dwindled in numbers. We still came up with a very respectable 53 species, plus a WESTERN KINGBIRD seen only by Allan’s Group near the Moonviewing Garden.
Some of the highlights from my group were:
CALIFORNIA QUAIL (male, calling from the Demo garden, last of the least?) displaying pairs of COOPERS, RED-TAILED and RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS (Ginny’s group was lucky enough to see the RSHA “doing it”) NASHVILLE WARBLER (foraging in bramble at the concrete pond behind “California”, could be a migrant or perhaps the overwintering bird from the Chile section moving around)
RED CROSSBILLS (a flock of 12 flying over, the high-pitched “jip” calls would seem to indicate the Type 2 which “irrupted” this winter, definitely weren’t our local type birds)
Our theme today was Evolution Illustrated by Waterfowl, using David Lack’s 1974 book of the same name.
Carla S. won the door prize of a set of bird cards from Patricia McQuade. First of Season Black-headed Grosbeak and a calling Pacific Slope Flycatcher were birds of the day. The Grosbeaks are right on time- the Box-elder Maple (Acer negundo) is blooming!
The March 4th-Wednesday bird walk saw almost everyone we were expecting — Double-crested Cormorants with their bunny-ear crests on display, about half of the peak-population scaup flock, plus some really ruddy Ruddy Ducks and a lot of Eared Grebes, many of them in their wonderful steel, copper, and gold party outfits. And one lone lorn female Canvasback snoozing by the near island, apparently having missed the departure of her brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts.
About a dozen Snowy Egrets were lounging on one of the far islands — teasing us with the idea that they might start up the rookery again, but they probably won’t. No Great Blue Herons and no Great Egrets, but we saw a lovely little Green Heron mooching along the rocks, almost invisible except for the screaming yellow legs, plus hot and cold running Black-crowned Night-Herons of all ages from full adult to very young juveniles
Hank-the-rescue-pelican was all alone. Apparently his snowy crest and the fine gold calling card on his beak weren’t enough to persuade his winter friend to stay on. Or perhaps the other bird was just off somewhere on business of its own; time will tell, but it looks like Hank’s out of luck again this year.
We searched the bowling greens for last month’s Western Bluebirds and didn’t see them, though the lawns were jumping with American Robins, plus several European Starlings in their amazing speckled breeding plumage. (It’s always a surprise to see how lovely they can be, given their usual ratty appearance and loud aggressiveness. Springtime makes a big difference to a starling.) But then we worked our way around to the garden, enjoying the sight of a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk swooping down to perch on a post at eye level, and found the bluebirds after all — perched at the top of the half-bare trees at the back of the scent garden and near the bonsai collection. They made a perfect finish to another perfect day at Lake Merritt, where every day is its own sort of perfection…Alameda Creek to Coyote Hills Regional Park Bicycle Trip March 17, 2013, Leader(s): Jeffrey Black, Pat Greene # of participants: 13 # of species: 63
This ‘bike and bird’ field trip was co-listed with Grizzly Peak Cyclists. We met at around 10 AM at Union City BART on a beautiful, mild day–almost windless; a little below 60° F when we started, and in the mid-60s when we finished. Eleven of us cycled Decoto Road a short distance to the Alameda Creek Trail which took us into Coyote Hills Regional Park. Kathy Jarrett and Lionel Schour joined us on the trail. With almost no rain since Dec, the creek was very low. The number of birds was low, but despite low water, bird diversity was good. The marshes in the park had good bird numbers and diversity. We visited the active Tree Swallow boxes where we had close up views of the swallow nesting activity, and we also saw White-tailed Kite and a couple of river otters while stopped here. Our total species count was a somewhat surprising 63, considering the condition of the creek. The list included a single male Western Bluebird on the Creek Trail (new to Jeffrey and me for this trip) plus two falcons in the park: American Kestrel and Merlin.Chain of Lakes in Golden Gate Park March 17, 2013, Leader(s): Angie Gieger, Rob Cullison # of participants: 21 # of species: 50
Glorious weather contributed to the fun and productivity of a bird walk around the Chain of Lakes at Golden Gate Park. South Lake was a great starting point with pairs of Gadwall, Hooded Merganser and Varied Thrush. The fine weather inspired bathing in the lake in a number of Cedar Waxwings and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Overhead we had fine scope views of a calling Northern Flicker. A puzzling bird with a white head and nape turned out to be a partially leucistic American Robin. Middle Lake provided our first Accipiter – a fine Sharp-shinned Hawk soaring overhead. We studied Anna’s and Allen’s Hummingbirds dueling for attention and making display flights. It was here that we had our first good looks at the many Stellar’s Jays and Dark-eyed Juncos in the area. On the way to North Lake, we took a slight detour to observe a pair of downy white Great Horned Owl chicks in the nest. North Lake provided excellent close views of Ring-necked Ducks and a family of raccoons. We had fine looks at a pair of Nuttall’s Woodpeckers while also getting scope views of a Red-Shouldered Hawk. North Lake also produced a singing Brown Creeper, a great performance by a Pacific Wren out in the open, a singing Purple Finch and many other good birds including Bufflehead, Ruddy Ducks in breeding plumage, Pied-billed Grebes, Red-winged Blackbirds, Golden- and White-crowned Sparrows and many more. For contrast to our earlier Sharpie, we also had a Cooper’s Hawk soaring overhead. Big flocks of Cedar Waxwings calling from the trees, and singing Orange-crowned Warblers ensured that not only our eyes, but also our ears, were fully engaged.Seal Rocks and Sutro Park March 16, 2013, Leader(s): Martha Wessitsh # of participants: 11 # of species: 40
We found a good assortment of water and land birds including Surf Scoter, Red-throated Loon, Pelagic Cormorant, Black Oystercatcher, Surfbird, Hermit Thrush, Varied Thrush, Pacific Wren and Fox Sparrow.Klamath NWR March 9, 2013, Leader(s): Eddie Bartley and Noreen Weeden # of participants: 18 # of species: n/r
We saw hundreds of thousands of water birds, many raptors including Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Golden and Bald Eagle. The Yellow-headed Blackbird was unexpected.Landfill Loop at Republic Services, Parr Blvd Richmond March 8, 2013, Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 20+ # of species: 47
A large group saw many birds and those who stayed for the entire five hours saw 47 species! Thanks Sue M., Maureen, Carlos, Bob and Steph! Thanks to Nel Benninghof for scouting this trail with me a few weeks ago and to Trails for Richmond Action Committee for getting it done!
Birds of the Day were Savannah Sparrows in vibrant yellow-faced plumage and great voice, and an Osprey that gave us a long fly-over and demonstration dive (successful!). eBird thinks our 3 (maybe 4) Brown Pelicans is an un-seasonal high number! Anyone else got Pt. Molate to Pt. Pinole bay-side Brown Pelican data to share?
We also had a Harbor Seal, and the following butterflies: Anise Swallowtail, Red Admiral, and Alfalfa. And gorgeous weather!Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park March 3, 2013 Leader(s): Ginny Marshall, Juli Chamberlain, Rob Cullison, Bob Toleno # of participants: 30 # of species: 42
The monthly walk was well-attended, including experienced and new birders alike. As usual, we split into two groups and wended our way through the gardens amid singing resident birds and mostly overcast skies. A fairly quiet start gave way to a birdy finish.
Thanks to volunteer leaders Ginny Marshall, Rob Cullison, and Bob Toleno. I had a great time helping to find and identify birds for our group.
Highlights included many getting views of the continuing NASHVILLE WARBLER,
a male PACIFIC WREN gathering nesting material and singing, two female and
one male DOWNY WOODPECKER, and a perched ALLEN’S HUMMINGBIRD showing off his coppery gorget.
We heard, but never laid eyes on several singing PURPLE FINCHES, as well as House Finches, providing a nice song comparison. Some also got brief looks at a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, and a COOPER’S HAWK. The hawks were both fairly high in the sky, providing helpful shape clues for identification.
We could *not* find a Red-breasted Sapsucker, despite concerted effort!Tilden Park Jewel Lake March 1, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 32 # of species: 35
We met at 8:30am and walked down and back to Jewel Lake. We had visitors from Cleveland join us, and Bob Smith won the door prize, a set of bird ID cards from Patricia McQuade.
Bird(s) of the Day were the mallard pair at Jewel Lake (our theme was waterfowl and the work of Paul A. Johnsgard, winner of the 2012 Ralph Schreiber conservation award from the American Ornithological Union). The mallards showed us Head-pumping, Treading, Copulation, post-copulatory displays (whistling, Nod-swimming, Bridling). Another male showed us a vigorous defense of his female against an intruding male, as the defender steamed towards the intruder with his head close to the water and wings extended horizontally to the sides. See Johnsgard’s Handbook of Waterfowl Behavior, and Waterfowl: their biology and natural history for more information. Donald Stokes has nice illustrations of Mallard displays in volume one of his Bird Behavior series.Lake Merritt February 27, 2013 Leader(s): Hilary Powers # of participants: 16 # of species: 40
The prize of the walk was a pair! of Western Bluebirds! working the bowling lawn that fronts on Bellevue. None of us had ever seen them in the park before, and here were a male and female flittering between the fences and the little nearby tree, looking for all the world like they might set up housekeeping.
Lotta housekeeping in the air, of course. The first of the Double-crested Cormorants had staked out nest spots in the trees – picking the ones with leaves this time, somewhat surprisingly. In past years, the bare trees were fully claimed before anyone moved into the shade. But the leafy trees aren’t doing too well, so perhaps they’ve thinned out to the point where the remaining shade isn’t unwelcome. In a tree by the scent garden, an American Crow sat crooning and making the most un-Crow-like klop-klop sounds, though we couldn’t see who it was talking to. Meanwhile, down on the lake, Hank-the-Rescue-Pelican may get lucky this year: one of the summer visitors has stayed with him overwinter, and now they’re both growing breeding bumps on their beaks. (In the past, he’s put up his calling card and seen it start to melt away before the first visiting pelicans arrived in June.) Wouldn’t little pelicans be a treat?!
Most of the winter visitors are still around, though we missed the single individuals representing a few of the rarer species. But the lake was jumping, with four Red-breasted Mergansers paddling about, a whole lot of Bufflehead drakes displaying their white crowns for a single female, and rafts of scaup and grebes.
All round, a very good day at Lake Merritt, where every day….Berkeley Marina February 16, 2013 Leader(s): Anne Hoff # of participants: 19 # of species: n/r
We saw a White-tailed Kite catch prey and eat it while watching a Burrowing Owl/ground squirrel interaction. The Bay was very calm, with a high tide and a smaller number of birds than usual, but still the usual species variety. Possibly the herring run just a few miles away may have interested more birds. Two old Monterey Pines that were across the street from Skates have been removed. The previous finches, titmice and warblers are all gone.Martin Luther King Regional Shorline to Crown Beach Bicycle Trip February 16, 2013 Leader(s): Pat Greene, Jeffrey Black # of participants: 13 # of species: 48
It was a gorgeous day for cycling and for birding. We saw a good assortment of ducks and shorebirds. Highlights: A couple of Common Goldeneye males were actively courting nearby females by tipping their heads waayy back– observation of that behavior was a first for several of us. We saw a Burrowing Owl on mound 2 as we exited Arrowhead. Not visible when we first looked, one of our party persisted in looking as we were getting ready to move, and he spotted the Owl walking out and standing in full view (good views for all through the scope). There were a couple of Western Bluebirds on the lawn across from the Crown Beach restrooms–the male perching brilliantly in the sunshine. Western Bluebird was a trip first for us. A male Barrow’s Goldeneye was spotted on the bay next to Doolittle Drive–where we had serendipitously stopped to view Black Turnstones. Barrow’s Goldeneyes used to be frequent in the Laney Outflow; however the habitat is greatly disrupted by the big changes at that end of the Lake. We did see a pair of Common Goldeneyes in the channel, and then Jeffrey spotted a female Barrow’s Goldeneye with a full yellow bill (almost glowing orange in the sun), so we had a nice little study of the major field mark for differentiating female Common and Barrow’s Goldeneyes. Notable misses: Dowitchers; Great Blue Heron; any raptors; Clark’s Grebe (our views weren’t good enough to differentiate from Western).Arrowhead Marsh February 13, 2013 Leader(s): Chris and Gary Bard # of participants: 7 # of species: 54
It was a foggy morning, but we had great looks at a Merlin and a domestic white rabbit with black ears. Good birds included Cackling Goose, four species of Grebes, an excellent array of duck species, Long-billed Curlew, Burrowing Owl and Western Meadowlark.Shadow Cliffs Regional Park February 9, 2013 Leader(s): Steve and Carol Lombardi # of participants: 7 # of species: 51
Today there were almost as many Ring-necked Ducks (15) as Mallards (20), a very nice sight. Greatest in abundance by far were the American Coots and Double-crested Cormorants. We found a few Common Gallinules, a Green Heron and an Osprey.Bayfront Park, Pinole February 8, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 22 # of species: 42
Twenty-two birders saw 41 species ( plus Dowitcher sp.) at this City of Pinole
park next to the water treatment plant across the railroad tracks at the end of
Tennent Avenue. Parking spaces were limited and limited in time to two hours,
but we had a full morning. Bird of the Day was Common Yellowthroat, first seen
by Jaime and then by everyone for a long time! We had both Coot and Turkey
Vulture making the walk “doubly” official!
This morning I helped co-lead the 1st Sunday walk at the Arboretum with Allan
Ridley, Ginny Marshall and a turnout of around 30 participants. We finished up
with around 50 species for the morning with the following notable sightings:
Band-tailed Pigeon (375+, including a large flock of ~220, all flying north)
Nuttall’s Woodpecker (calling near the entrance)
Red-breasted Sapsucker (2 and possibly 3 birds)
Tree Swallow (FOS arrival to the park over Stow Lake)
Nashville Warbler (wintering bird near the north side restrooms continues)
Pine Siskins (still lots of these around, 60+)
Later I took a walk up Battery Chester with Atria and Lucas. A flock of (25-30)
RED CROSSBILLS flew out of the conifers on top of the battery. By the sound of
the higher pitched and huskier “jip” calls mixed in there were both Type 2 small
billed birds that are irrupting this winter as well as our local Type 3s in this
flock. A scan of the ocean off Mile Rock revealed the continuing male
LONG-TAILED DUCK and a sing male WHITE-WINGED SCOTER in with the Surf Scoters. Lots of Common Murres on the water but no other alcids.
We met at the Tilden Nature Area parking lot and walked to Jewel Lake. We were joined by Susan Schwartz of Friends of Five Creeks, Richard Schwartz, author of books on Berkeley history, and Bob Flasher of El Cerrito Trail Trekkers. Thanks to Richard Harris for bringing the scope so we could see the marvelous Hairy Woodpecker up-close, and
get a gorgeous view of the real “bird of the day” which was an over-wintering
Mourning Cloak butterfly, sunning itself near the Jewel Lake dam. Ed T. won the
door prize: a book on California’s endangered wildlife, California’s Wild Heritage.
We talked about how birds survive in winter, by adding fat or eating from food
caches. Birds do not get as fat as they could physiologically because a fat bird
is a slow bird, and more exposed to predation. Winter survival is a trade-off
between starvation and predation. Caches of food are usually returned to on the
day they are made or within a day or two, but some birds are known to feed their
young with food cached in the previous winter, and Clark’s Nutcracker can
relocate caches more than 200 days after making them.
The traditional Delta/Valley trip is made in November when waterfowl are concentrated on the refuges, often in stunning numbers. As the season progresses (and especially with the end of hunting) the flocks range farther and become more dispersed. We were curious about a late January trip; and we were very pleased with the result, though note that January 26-27 were the final two days of hunting season.
Our best views of Sandhill Cranes were in an alfalfa field off Guard Road, just NE of the Hwy 12/I5 intersection.
Staten Island was rather windswept. There were birds, though not too close, and conditions were difficult.
The wetlands of the Consumnes Preserve were splendid: Great diversity, close proximity and perfect light. Dabblers displayed like jewels and we saw a good variety of shorebirds including a snoozing Snipe. Cranes and Geese of five species criss-crossed the sky. This place seems to get better every year.
The Colusa National Wildlife Refuge viewing platform and auto tour route offered some of the closest and most rewarding views of waterfowl of the entire weekend. A passerine interlude offered a streaked sparrow clinic: Song, Lincolns, Fox and Savannah all foraging together.
Sunday morning the Sacramento Refuge was spectacular. We’d been warned that geese seemed to ‘come and go’ of late. On our visit the refuge has large numbers of geese and truly vast numbers in distant rice fields, rising and falling like avian vortices. Abundant waterfowl and an over-the-top concentration of raptors made for an exciting morning. At least six Bald Eagles were present, five of them adults. The lone juvenile took a Coot off the water as we watched. The vistas of this refuge are splendid.
We finished our journey at Gray Lodge, a state refuge to the east. The cross valley commute offered our best views of foraging Ibis in a rice field along a country road. Gray Lodge provided a welcome opportunity to do some hiking in a natural wetland among big Cottonwoods and dense riparian growth. It was a fine, memorable tour.
At the Sacramento refuge we overheard an FWS employee say that the waterfowl begin to leave the refuge and disperse into the fields immediately after the end of hunting season, so by luck, we may have picked a good weekend for our trip.Lake Merritt January 23, 2013 Leader(s): Hilary Powers and Ruth Tobey # of participants: 15 # of species: 50
Our monthly trips rarely find anything interesting in the oaks between the Nature Center and El Embarcadero — perhaps because we rarely look there. But in January, something caught someone’s eye, and we found a Black-throated Gray Warbler bouncing around in the trees. And not alone — we also saw a Townsend’s Warbler, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a couple of Oak Titmice and a Hutton’s Vireo in a beautiful mixed flock.
We’d already seen most of the usual suspects as we strolled down the lake, starting with the Tufted Duck, who was up with the scavenger flock by the Nature Center. There were several Canvasbacks there chasing each other about instead of ignoring each other as they usually do. Hank-the-rescue-Pelican had a companion, something rarely seen at this time of year, and the female Belted Kingfisher sat close in on the island, observing and being observed.
All told, we saw 50 species of birds, and even though it was a gray morning with some rain, it was a very good day at Lake Merritt, where every day is a good day.Coyote Hills January 20, 2013 Leader(s): Anne Hoff # of participants: 24 # of species: 48
It was a clear morning with calm conditions. We saw a good assortment of ducks and raptors as well as Common Gallinule, Say’s Phoebe, Tree Swallow, Hermit Thrush and Common Yellowthroat.Pescadero Beach and Marsh January 19, 2013 Leader(s): Martha Wessitsh # of participants: 6 # of species: 38
Today we saw both Common Merganser and Red-breasted Merganser as well as Red-throated Loon, Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorant, Brown Pelican, Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, Surfbird and Sanderling.Vollmer Peak, Tilden Park January 11, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: n/r # of species: 20
A very cold morning (balmy to our Minnesota birder, though) for a meet-up at the
Steam Trains parking lot in Tilden Regional Park and then a walk up the paved
road to the top of Vollmer Peak (1905 ft, the highest peak in the Berkeley-Oakland Hills). From the top we could see “Lake Hofffman” (between Rydin Road and Highway 580) formed by the king tide at 10:49 am at Pt. Isabel Regional Shoreline.
We talked about August Vollmer, originally from New Orleans, who moved to
Berkeley as a teenager in the 1890s, fought in the Spanish-American War in the
Philippines, was a postman in Berkeley for four years and then was elected Town
Marshal in 1905 (he only had a sixth or seventh grade education plus some
bookkeeping and typing classes). He became Berkeley’s first police chief in
1909, and is credited with many innovations in police work and criminology,
which he taught as a professor at University of Chicago and UC, Berkeley. Police
on bicycles, then in squad cars, then in squad cars with radios, police
telephone boxes on the street, all were Vollmer innovations. By 1927, Collier’s
magazine could call him “the best known cop in America.” See Dave Weinstein’s
“It Came from Berkeley” and Richard Schwartz’s books, “Berkeley 1900″ and
“Earthquake Exodus 1906″ for more details of August Vollmer’s career.
The peak is named for him because he was on the first East Bay Regional Park
District Board of Directors (elected in 1934 and again in 1938, he resigned in
1940). The peak, known as Bald Peak or Old Baldy, was named for Vollmer in May
of 1938 by a resolution of the EBRPD Board of Directors.
The highlights today were two species of owls: the Burrowing Owl that regularly winters in the marsh and the Short-eared Owl that has been reported this winter. We also saw a Merlin and a Peregrine Falcon as well as the cooperative Clapper Rails.Tilden Park Jewel Lake January 4, 2013 Leader(s): Alan Kaplan # of participants: 37+ # of species: 34
A wonderful mob (many observers) appeared at Tilden Nature Area/Jewel Lake for
our first of the year First Friday Birdwalk sponsored by Golden Gate Audubon
Society: 37 people signed in, another 4 or so came later. Thank you to all for
getting us off on the right foot. Our theme today was (Dr.) Terry Root’s Atlas
of Wintering North American Birds: an analysis of Christmas Bird Count data.
Dr. Root’s conclusion was that many birds are limited in their northern
over-wintering distribution by the average minimum January temperature, and the
limit of their ability to generate more energy than 2.45 times their Basal
Metabolism Rate. After some back-and-forth in the literature in the late 1980s
and early 1990s, her conclusion is accepted widely today.
Dr. Root’s data were the 1962/63 to 1971/72 CBC counts. A 2007 paper reviewed
the 1975-2004 CBC data for 254 species and found northward (“poleward”) shifts
of 1.5 km/year (see La Sorte and Thompson, 2007, Poleward shifts in winter
ranges of North American birds. Ecology 88: 1803-12).
Christmas Bird Counts are fairly robust (accurate) over a wide range of efforts
and abilities of “citizen-scientists” like us, with exceptions for irruptive
species (like Red Crossbills), nomadic ones (Bohemian Waxwings), aggregating
species (Red-winged Blackbirds) and rare ones (Peregrine Falcon). As the skill
and knowledge base of observers improved, corrections have been made
(Semipalmated Sandpipers don’t over-winter in North America–a very few may be in
Florida– but were once widely reported on CBCs). Nocturnal counts of owls
probably reflect the zeal of counters and not the true distribution of birds.