two streams, two habitats

Phila Rogers <philajane6@...>

Dear Friends:

Friday and Saturday, I participated in two field trips - Friday with Alan Kaplan's Golden Gate Audubon walk at Jewel Lake near Wildcat Creek, and Saturday at the UC Botanical Garden along Strawberry Creek.  Wildcat Creek rises near the highest point of the Berkeley Hills at the south end of Tilden Park and flows north for eight miles to San Pablo Bay, while Strawberry Creek, rising at the head of Strawberry Canyon, makes a shorter run west into SF Bay.

While many bird species overlap, the deciduous thickets and stands of willow along Wildcat Creek favor certain birds like the breeding Swainson's Thrush who will arrive in April and are so abundant that often their glorious songs overlap. Swainson's Thrushes are not common along Strawberry Creek.

Where Wildcat Creek is dammed to form Jewel Lake you can count on resident mallards and this time of year a variety of winter waterbirds including the regular Buffleheads and Friday, a pair of handsome Hooded Mergansers. Recently, a river otter paid a visit and made serious inroads into the local fish population

In early February, the area around Jewel Lake is open and sunny, with much of the vegetation leafless and the stands of creek dogwood revealing their glowing red stems. Narrower Strawberry Canyon is shaded year-round by its evergreen oaks and bays.  But in the upper reaches of Strawberry
Canyon where native chaparral species prevail, you are apt to hear
California Thrashers singing year round.

The two watersheds over the hill from one another are convenient to visit in a morning and provide an interesting comparison of their similarities and differences in habitat. 

Saturday at the UC Botanical Garden we saw 23 species including the resident leucistic Red-tailed Hawk, appearing bright white perched in a dark green conifer. Several soaring Turkey Vultures raised speculation as to whether there might be a recent deer kill (there have been two recent-but unconfirmed mountain lion sightings in the area).  The most abundant species may have been Lesser Goldfinches.  We also saw a small group of Fox Sparrows, who appear to be especially abundant this winter.  We had hoped for an early-arriving Allen's Hummingbird but saw only feeding and displaying Anna's Hummingbirds.

Alan Kaplan has posted his report and bird list from the Jewel Lake walk.

rising south
wind, dropping barometer, and thickening cloud cover this morning are promising indications that we may yet have some rain.

Phila Rogers

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