Contra Costa count 12/15
I had an extremely good day around Contra Costa today. I deviated significantly from my typical route by spending until almost noon in Richmond, not hitting any mountains at all (including Coast Ranges), birding the dry foothill/grasslands of the Los Vaqueros area, and not going farther east than Ironhouse. Still, it was interesting change of pace was was also extremely productive. The tide was possibly ideally-timed, as I had enough time to seawatch before checking the mudflats for low tide, and steadily work my way north and eventually reach the high tide roosts.
I started with a seawatch from Pt. Isabel, which was perhaps the best seawatch I have ever had in the county. The bay was absolutely stacked with birds, and there were many birds streaming by near and far, too. Nothing rare, but highlights included:
Surf Scoter-2 was an incredibly low count given the number of birds. Where were they all? Richmond Marina?
Ruddy Duck-3000 including an amazing dawn flight of 2000+ birds streaming by past Brook's Island. I have never seen anything like this before in Contra Costa or elsewhere on the bay. Seemed very anomalous.
Forster's Tern-110 streaming north past Brook's Island
American Pipit-40 that actually landed on the rocks!
Full eBird checklist here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26316324
I then hit the mudflats, which had nothing much of interest but good diversity and numbers nonetheless.
Full eBird checklist here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26316892
From there I headed up to the 51st st Bay Trail entrance. It was quite hopping here, and highlights included:
Say's Phoebe-2, seemingly very out-of-place
Tree Swallow-10, quite scarce (rare?) on the Bayside in winter
Full eBird checklist here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26317345
From there I proceeded onto the Richmond Marina in hopes of finding a long, long overdue county bird. It took about 15 minutes, but I eventually found my target, the continuing female White-winged Scoter. Highlights included:
WHITE-WINGED SCOTER-1 continuing female
BLACK SCOTER-1 continuing male
Full eBird checklist here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26317772
I then headed on to the Canal boulevard viewing platform which had a decent diversity, including only my eighth species of passerine ever for the platform. Highlights included:
Sanderling-13, a decent count for the county.
Full eBird checklist here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26317990
With the tide still rising, I hoped some shorebirds would congregate by the pond at Miller/Knox. So, off it was to Miller/Knox. I was not so successful with the shorebirds, but there was still decent diversity of waterbirds and others around. Highlights included:
Full eBird checklist here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26318328
With the tide approaching peak, I thought shorebirds may concentrate at the West County WTP. Sure enough, there were more shorbirds there than I'd ever seen before. Highlights included:
SNOW GOOSE-6 Shortly after arriving a flock of 99 Geese flew in consisting mostly of Canadas but also Cackling and 6 Snows. This is a good count for perched Snow Geese in West county, possibly one of the highest ever.
Cackling Goose-2 minima subspecies in with the Canadas.
Greater Yellowlegs-20 was a good count for this spot
Lesser Yellowlegs-1 is always a good bird in West county
RUFF-1, was extremely surprised to refind this bird that had not been seen since late October. I believe this represents just the third county record. Great bird!
Least Sandpiper-425 was a very good count for the Sewage Ponds.
Peregrine Falcon-1 flew over right after I'd refound the Ruff, making me lose it initially in the commotion.
American Pipit-40 was a good count for this spot, and should be checked for goodies in the future
Full eBird checklist here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26318888
I left Richmond with 101 birds for the day, a pretty incredible feat for winter!
I next hit the Mountain View Sanitary District. Since most of my Contra Costabirding excursions are on weekends, this was just the second time I have ever been to this spot. Highlights included:
Full eBird checklist here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26319427
I then birded around Waterbird Regional Preserve and found decent concentrations of Green-winged Teal at the south end but failed to find the Eurasian Teal. I did, however, see:
Blue-winged Teal-2 on the south end of the marsh were an amazingly overdue patch bird--only took 20 some visits!
Full eBird checklist here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26319893
I then decided to swing by Mallard Reservoir. There was a bit of exposed mudflats in the south-central part of the reservoir around the bend in the reservoir. Shorebirds were totally absent (!) and duck numbers were low, though gull concentrations were decent. Highlights included:
Western Gull-2 were quite a surprise, as this species is very scarce inland in Central Contra Costa
White-throated Swift-5 low overhead
Full eBird checklist here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26320291
I then started with my largest deviation from my typical route. I proceeded to bird the Walnut Trail region around the Los Vaqueros Reservoir area for about an hour and a half. My main target was Mountain Bluebird, but all of my searching yield not a single Bluebird of any species. However, highlights included:
Common Merganser-310 flying over, presumably from the reservoir
Eurasian Collared-Dove-3 flyovers seemed odd here
Loggerhead Shrike-11 was a healthy count
Lark Sparrow-2 plus 10+ a ways north along the road
American Goldfinch-1 flyover seemed odd in this habtiat
Full eBird checklist here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26322023
I then proceeded to Iron House Sanitary District to spend dusk. It turned out to be an extremely productive stop even all the way up until I left almost an hour after sunset. The shallow pond has lost its pumping from the WTP, but recent rains brought up water level enough so that it could've harbored birds. For some reason, however, it didn't. I watched the dusk flight from the break in the willows north of the deep pond, and while nowhere near comparable to the Holland Tract/Bethel Island flights, it was interesting in its own way, also since I have never done a winter dusk flight watch here before. Highlights included:
Greater White-fronted Goose-50
Canvasback-150 including one continuing bird on the pond, where rare. The others were flyovers
Ring-necked Duck-8 on the deep pond. Rare here
Black-necked Stilt-1 flyover
Killdeer-4 calling in the dark
Greater Yellowlegs-1 flyover
Wilson's Snipe-2 flyovers
Least Sandpiper-1 flyover
Great Horned Owl-4
White-throated Sparrow-1 heard calling from the blackberry bramble north of the entrance eucalyptus patch
Full eBird checklist here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26323223
Overall another fun day to be out in the county. Saw 132 species over the course of the day, not bad for no mountains and no "far east county"!
Ithaca, NY/San Francisco, CA