Eastern Contra Costa county 1/24
Sorry for the belated report. On January 24th, I spent the day bouncing around some of my favorite spots in Eastern Contra Costa county. Weather was far less than optimal, but I still managed to see a decent variety of unusual birds. Also, I have been asked by a reader to clarify my definition of "East county". By my definition this region refers to just the delta islands and associated lowlands, from Big Break to Clifton Court, modeled after Steve Glover's definition in years previous. Indeed, if one were to include the immediately adjacent foothills species that are rare to unrecorded in East county like Oak Titmouse and White-breasted Nuthatch would be commonplace.
Anyway, I arrived at Bethel shortly after 7:30 to find the entire area enshrouded in a thick blanket of Tule Fog. As a consequence, all nearby waterways and fields were, for the most part, invisible, and I spent my entire stay on the island sifting through passerines at various locations. I was hoping to start with dawn flight and get a count of the Mourning Doves, waterfowl, and shorebirds flying over the slough, but with that plan thwarted I instead walked around the entire slough willow/blackberry bramble trying to kick up passerines. In the dense fog activity remained low during my entire visit, but a few large flocks of sparrows spiced things up.
From there I went on to Willowest Marina where activity was similarly subdued. So, I decided to take a breakfast break and returned to birding the neighborhoods on the south side of Bethel. Again, nothing earth-shatteringly rare but there were a healthy number of birds here including some nice sparrow concentrations. Highlights on Bethel included:
Golden-crowned Kinglet-3 was a good bird for East county
Piper Slough appears to be going through somewhat of a transition right now. The large clearing just to the south of the trail near the entrance, formerly one of the best spots for migrant concentrations as well as chats, is now blocked by a mesh gate. There are extensive lines of black tarp spreading across the length of the slough that I fear may foreshadow more removal of vegetation along the entire length of the slough. In happier news, part of the edge of the willows has developed a healthy stand of small cattails and marshy grasses and is already occupied by several Marsh Wrens. Several more years of good winter rains and maybe we'll get back Piper Slough rails.
After Bethel I headed on to Holland Tract where I spent a healthy amount of time working the Central Tract marshes. They didn't quite have the magic they possessed in August and kind of resemble most of the rest of the delta flooded fields in terms of bird concentration and numbers, but still highlights included:
Mute Swan-5 lowlight
A fun day in east county with 126 species observed.