locked Shorebird bad news

Noah Arthur

2021 will go down as a woeful year in the history of East Bay birding. The loss of Frank's Dump as a shorebird roosting site is causing knock-on effects all up and down the East Bay shoreline, with shorebird foraging habitats empty of birds because they have nowhere to roost. I visited a few shorebird hotspots from south to north this afternoon, starting with Hayward Shoreline and ending at Albany Mudflats, and found dismal shorebird numbers and diversity, a faint echo of what we had before the loss of Frank's. 

At Hayward, Frank's Dump was of course still dry and empty of birds. A modest bunch of shorebirds were roosting in Oro Loma Marsh and moved out onto the mudflats as the tide went down; nearly all were Willets, Marbled Godwits, and dowitchers. Only a smallish flock of Western Sandpipers were there, and no plovers of any kind, nor any Red Knots. Overall shorebird numbers at Hayward are a fraction of what they were before 2021. 

Alameda South Shore/Elsie Roemer was downright apocalyptic. Big mudflats completely empty of birds. There were two or three godwits and nothing else in the whole place, despite a good medium-low tide. Apparently, all the thousands of shorebirds that used to forage at this site were coming from Frank's Dump, and are now gone. 

Middle Harbour in Oakland had a lot of Willets and Marbled Godwits, a few curlews, but only a small flock of peeps, a tiny fraction of pre-2021 numbers, and no plovers except one Semipalmated. 

Albany Mudflats was the only place that seemed like some semblance of pre-2021, with typical numbers of Willets, Marbled Godwits, and dowitchers, a few peeps (less than usual, but this place usually doesn't have all that many anyways). Only two Semipalmated Plovers and zero Black-bellieds. 

Overall, it looks like most shorebirds -- especially small species -- are no longer using the East Bay shoreline as a migratory stopover area. The only ones still arriving in half-decent numbers are the largest and longest-legged species -- Willets, godwits, dowitchers, and curlews. What all these species have in common is that they are tall enough to roost in vegetated marshes and/or marshes that flood at high tide. Smaller species like peeps cannot roost in these places, and need open areas that don't completely flood for high tide roosting. Apparently, the only place in the central East Bay that met these requirements was Frank's Dump. It is now lost, and so are our small shorebirds. 

With great sorrow,

Noah Arthur (Oakland)

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