East Bay shoreline/Lake Merritt 11/30
I can probably say that today was the best birding of my life. I went with the Yolo Audubon's East Bay field trip, led by my friend from Davis, Terry Colborn, to a number of good East Bay locations. We started at Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline, where Terry picked out a PACIFIC LOON preening on the water near Keller Beach. Bill looked small and neck looked dusky while the bird was preening, and at first I contended for Red-throated Loon, but eventually the bird took up a more conventional posture and looked like a typical Pac Loon. Also at Miller/Knox was a (the? already reported?) EURASIAN WIGEON and a SLATE-COLORED FOX SPARROW.
Our next stop was Albany Bulb, where another male EURASIAN WIGEON was on the mudflats. Has to be the most beautiful of the dabbling ducks! After spending a long time scanning through distant scaup at Emery Point, somebody told us that the LONG-TAILED DUCK was actually in close, and sure enough there she was, repeatedly diving and popping up again on the water just north of the end of the parking lot.
Arrowhead Marsh didn't produce anything out of the ordinary, although a few CLAPPER RAILS were calling in the marsh.
Lake Merritt was where things really picked up. While we were looking for herons at the bird paddock, I noticed somebody throwing bread in the water down at the lakeshore, and the first gull that flew in was a young Herring-type with strongly checkered plumage and coarse barring on the undertail coverts. After yelling "Siberian Vega Gull" far too loudly for anyone's comfort, I raced down to the shore and got point-blank views and photos of what appears to me to be a first-cycle 'VEGA' GULL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73989529@N02/sets/72157638233609256/
Gull people: Do you agree?
While I stayed with the gull, Terry sorted through hundreds of scaup on the north end of the lake with no luck, until his wife Diane picked out the TUFTED DUCK preening his belly inside the enclosed section of water at the fountain! This was a life bird for some in our group, and probably the best views of the duck I've ever had, at least in early winter when he usually seems to stay farther out.
We then went on to see the beautiful little PAINTED REDSTART flitting around and calling in the now-famous "big oak tree" behind the apartment on Woolsey Street in Berkeley. It reminded me of the day five years ago when I saw a Painted Redstart calling in an oak tree in Arizona and thought 'I might really like this thing called birding'.
Noah Arthur, Oakland