Richmond city parks 2/24
Yesterday I got out with the primary intention of birding some of West county's city parks. Unlike one (Heather Farms) park that gets thorough coverage and several (Ellis Lake, Clayton City Park, Newhall, etc) parks that get occasional coverage in the Walnut Creek-Concord Metropolitan area, the parks of Kensington, El Cerrito, and Richmond get essentially no coverage at any time of year. Looking at this from an overall birding standpoint this may not come as much of a surprise given that they are overall out of the way, lack any real pond or other easy-to-bird features, and are in Richmond, but these areas may prove some of the best vagrant traps in the county. Below I will give my best shot at analyzing some of these sites, in rough order of most productive to least productive:
Booker T Anderson Park: Of all the spots I visited today, I was most impressed by this one. Lying on the immediate coastal plain less than a miles from the Bay, the spot had a diversity of trees ranging from Flowering Eucs, mature live oaks, rich willows to long-leafed pines. There is a creek that runs through the center of the park that was hopping with activity, and had several birds I think of as pretty rare in Richmond, such as Pacific Wren and White-throated Sparrow (both firsts for me in Richmond). Other birds here included Purple Finch, a flock of American Goldfinches and other species normally indicative of a lucrative vagrant trap. Visiting here in Fall or slightly less in Spring and Winter could be very productive.
Richmond Field Station: Not technically a "city park" but I was nonetheless impressed by this place's birdiness. I was unable to get inside the station (sounds like thats only possible on weekdays?) but birding from outside the fence was nonetheless productive. There were several large groups of Sparrows, and scattered House Wrens, Warblers, etc.
Canyon Trail Park: Despite its small size, this park seemed to have amazing potential, especially in migration, for migrants and vagrants. There are very few places on the Richmond coastal slope that have low dense vegetation as this site does, and even fewer with water. Birds here on this visit included Pacific Wren, Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatch and Golden-crowned Kinglet.
Blake Garden: While already a known spot, this place seemed to have great potential to me at any season. I was unable to enter the park but could bird and look in from the outside. Of all the sites I visited, only Booker T Anderson Park rivaled this location in sheer number of birds.
Mira Vista Park: While the habitat here is even smaller than Canyon Trail and there is less cover, I still thought this small park had good potential for a fall goody to drop in. There is a small creek, a decent amount of nearby vegetation, and a small flock of Titmice, Purple Finches and other common woodsy passerines on the east end of the park.
Hillside Natural Area: While there were many birds at this large park, it did not strike me as one to concentrate migrants or vagrants. Probably worth checking on a fallout/movement day in either Spring or Fall, but may not be as productive as the previously mentioned spots.
Motorcycle Hill: My impression here was similar to that of Hillside Natural Area, but perhaps this spot is slightly lower quality in habitat.
Arlington Park: Unlike any of the other parks I visited, this one had a pond, but it was unfortunately cobblestone and didn't even have Mallards. The nearby vegetation was rather dense, and I could see the spot having a few migrants in the appropriate season, but overall the park was rather unremarkable. Most interesting was the large redwood grove on the south side.
Cerrito Vista Park: This park (at least on a saturday) was very well populated by people. The only well-vegetated part (the east end) had a large stash of fruiting trees, and a healthy number of thrushes and waxwings amongst them. However, the place did not seem like a great spot for Warblers, flycatchers, or most other goodies.
Tassajara Park: Like Cerrito Vista this place was very crowded, and was the only park I visited that didn't really have any concentration of birds. Would think visiting nearby neighborhoods would be just as productive.
A few notes ab out the birds in the park that I found surprising/notable:
Yellow-rumped Warbler: All of the Yellow-rumped Warblers I saw were Audubon's. While I was expecting low concentrations of Myrtle, it came as a surprise that the taxa was totally absent.
White-crowned Sparrow-I was surprised to find in the upland hills that Gambell's seemed to be the dominant subspecies. On the bayside, Yellow-billed often birds make up much more than 99% of the flocks.
Pygmy Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet: Of the parks I visited, these traditional berkeley hills winterers were noted only at Canyon Trail. Another indication the spot could be interesting in migration
Full checklists below
Richmond Field Station: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43139379
Booker T Anderson Park: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43141443
Hillside Natural Area: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43144609
Cerrito Vista Park: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43145116
Blake Garden: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43145851
Canyon Trail Park: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43150448
Arlington Park: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43149196
Mira Vista Park: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43152586
Motorcycle Hill: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43151572
Tassajara Park: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43152036