Western Contra Costa county

Logan Kahle

Hi all,
Today I birded western Contra Costa county, focusing on Tilden Regional
Park and the bayside.

First, I birded along Wildcat Canyon Road. Just past the Brazilian Room,
I found a Varied Thrush skulking deep in the bushes. In the next couple
pullouts, I found a singing Pacific Wren, a couple Pine Siskins, and
many Red-breasted Nuthatches (around 12). The early migrants were
abundant, and I heard many Pacific-slope Flycatchers and Wilson's and
Orange-crowned Warblers. I then got to Inspiration Point, where I found
a Sharp-shinned and a Cooper's Hawk soaring overhead and a Wild Turkey
on the grassy hillside. I then biked along Nimitz way eventually to
Jewel Lake. I passed through chaparral, grasslands, and Pine and
Eucalyptus forests, making it quite an eventful journey. I found both
Nuttall's and Hairy Woodpeckers in a stand of Pines, many California
Thrashers and a single Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in the scrub, a flyover
American Goldfinch, and a Pine Siskin. At Jewel Lake, there were
possibly as many as 15 Wilson's Warblers singing among the willows, in
addition to several females. On the Pack Rat trail, I found a confiding
Golden-crowned Kinglet. By the pond, there was an actively calling
female Belted Kingfisher. As I was riding north along Wildcat Creek
Trail it started to rain. Luckily, by the time I got to the entrance of
Wildcat Canyon, the rain had stopped for the most part. So, I headed for
the bayside.

My first bayside stop was Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline. The pond
hosted many Dunlin and Black-bellied Plovers and a single Greater
Yellowlegs but nothing else of note. Then, it started to really rain. I
decided to take shelter in the deteriorating concrete houses by Ferry
Point. Conveniently, I could scan the bay and be inside at the same
time. However, this tactic didn't produce much, and the only interesting
birds I found were Common Loons, Caspian Terns, and a Black
Oystercatcher. Soon after, though, I noticed there was an American Pipit
in the rocks right next to me. Not to far from the Pipit, I found a
Spotted Sandpiper. I then decided to leave the shoreline to look at some
other bayside locations. Before I was completely gone from the
shoreline, though, I decided to check the end of Sandpiper Spit. To my
amazement, this was the best seawatching of the day. I saw two flocks of
Brant (of 7 and 2) heading southwest over Brooks Island. I wonder how
far into the bay they were blown in the storm. I noticed then how
difficult it is to identify roosting shorebirds at half a mile away.
However, I was able to determine that probably all of the county's
Dunlin (at very least 400) were roosting on Brooks Island, as well as a
smattering of Black-bellied Plovers. On the beach of Brooks Island,
there were several hundred gulls, a few Sanderlings and a couple
Long-billed Curlews. Then, something sent most of the shorebirds flying.
During this time, I was able to see about 10 Black Turnstones and 5
Surfbirds among the hordes of other shorebirds. I then went to Richmond
Marina in hopes of the Black Scoter. No such luck, but I did find
several Surf Scoters and 16 Horned Grebes. As I was riding to Point
Isabel, I found two Northern Rough-winged Swallows circling over an
overpass. At Point Isabel, the rain had stopped, so there was quite a
bit of glare off the bay. The lack of glare was the one useful part of
the rain. So, the seawatching wasn't any good. When I got to the
"mudflats" (at this high tide it was all pickleweed), I found virtually
no shorebirds whatsoever. Then, I noticed that they were all on the
south side of the inlet in Alameda county. When I went over there, I
found hundreds of Marbled Godwits, Dunlin, and Short-billed Dowitchers
along with a few Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teal. Then, I
spotted a Forester's Tern near the county line but still in Alameda.
After looking through the shorebirds for something really good, I gave
up and started riding back towards the road. On my way back, though, I
found a Green-winged Teal just on the Contra Costa side of the Channel,
a few American Avocets, Long-billed Curlews, Marbled Godwits, and
Northern Shovelers in a small pond, and a Whimbrel and a calling
Killdeer on some rocks. That last string of good birds concluded my day,
and I was surprised to see I'd found 106 species (104 in Contra Costa).
Not too bad considering I was only in a small slice of the county.

Good birding,

Logan Kahle

San Francisco

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