David Quady and Nancy Boas
Hi, Bay Area Birders:
More than 250 field observers and two dozen-plus feeder watchers took part in yesterday's 79th running of the Oakland Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by Golden Gate Audubon Society. Thanks to good coverage and fair weather, participants reported a record high (since 1974) 184 species, seven more than our recent 20-year average.
Single Brants north of the Bay Bridge and on San Leandro Bay, four Redheads at Upper San Leandro Reservoir, and a handful of Black Scoters in two areas topped our list of unusual waterfowl. A Common Gallinule at Lafayette Reservoir was a welcome skulker that was overshadowed by a Black Rail (a first since 2005) at a small inland pond. A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on Vollmer Peak, a Black-throated Gray Warbler in Berkeley, Hermit Warblers in two areas, and small numbers of Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows scattered about deserve mention. So, too, do a Western Tanager in the Dunsmuir Area and the male Black-headed Grosbeak that’s over-wintering for its sixth year in Claremont Canyon. But the passerine spotlight truly shined near 335 Beach Road in Alameda, where a spiffy Tropical Kingbird found itself in a stare-down with an Orchard Oriole. (The kingbird has perviously appeared only as a count week bird in 2012; we have no record of the oriole going back to 1974.) Woodpeckers also deserved notice, with a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Montclair, a Red-naped Sapsucker at San Leandro Reservoir, and a Pileated Woodpecker heard in southern Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park.
Finally, the honor of Best Bird for the count went to a Tufted Puffin (a first since at least 1974) on the bay, south of the Bay Bridge.
Species unreported so far include Loggerhead Shrike (evidently extirpated from the area), Snow Goose, Heermann’s Gull, and Brown-headed Cowbird ((!). If you detect any of these species, or unusual species not mentioned above, during count week (through Wednesday, December 18), I’d appreciate hearing from you.