Date   

Continuing Vesper Sparrow at Briones Regional Park, Contra Costa County

Bruce Mast
 

Hey folks,
I finally made the trek up the ridge to Sindicich Lagoons in search of sparrows. Arriving at the upper pond at the junction of Briones Crest Trail and Lagoon Trail, I located a small flock of Savannah Sparrows hunkered down on in the grass on the north side of the pond but nothing else unusual. I checked out the lower lagoon and enjoyed nice views of a White-tailed Kite, some dabbling ducks, and a swirling flock of Tree Swallows. A Common Gallinule waded through the far lily pads.

Back to the upper lagoon, this time the sparrow flock had moved closer to the water on the north side of the pond, between the water and the fence. Lo and behold, one bird was bigger and paler with a nice white eye-ring. Vesper Sparrow! County bird.

Full checklist with photos at:
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S42659769

Check out the molt pattern on the Kite. Also note the swarm of Tree Swallows checking out the bluebird box (and the bluebirds on full alert).

Bird on,

Bruce Mast
Oakland


Ross's Goose at Lake Merritt, 2/10

Larry Maurin
 

Today, Saturday, February 10th, at 11AM I saw a single ROSS'S GOOSE with 4 Canada Geese on the lawn across Bellevue Avenue from the Rotary Nature Center at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

Larry Maurin
Oakland, CA



Glaucous Gull, Hybrid Wigeon, Meeker Slough

Alan Krakauer
 

We had a beautiful morning for our stint in the Birding the Bay Trail docent program. More than 50 species from Meeker Slough between Marina Bay and Pt Isabel in Contra Costa County. Two particularly noteworthy birds were:

*A pure white gull that we believe was Glaucous. It was fairly distant, but seemed about the same size as the Western Gulls and seemed to have a large-ish bill.

*An apparent hybrid AmericanxEurasian Wigeon. This gorgeous bird looked initially like a pure Eurasian. However, it flashed green behind the eye, and had a two-toned yellow forehead patch (darker, richer yellow closer to the bill and brighter white-yellow closer to the top of the head). Really pretty bird!

We were set up just south of Meeker Slough near the old pilings. We did our best to digiscope these birds- photos are in the eBird list https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S42646092

Good birding,
Alan Krakauer
Richmond, CA


Bird Reporting Issues

Brian Fitch
 

A number of recent developments are prompting me to finally express some questions and concerns about the state of our birding world, mostly pertaining to eBird as it's currently formatted.  The most disturbing news comes from recent letters on CalBirds about the relevance of listservs and the pending demise of Yahoo groups.  I first began to notice the problems listed below as far back as 2015, but since I don't report my sightings on eBird, I've done nothing more than complain occasionally to those around me.  But now it appears that eBird could be the only serious reporting platform left if Yahoo Groups fails.  I've tried to write as succinctly as possible, though each item below could easily be expanded on.

- eBird does not appear to have any internal messaging format, as I've seen that listservs all over the state are hosting messages from eBird reviewers to eBird users.  Can something be set up so that eBird content can expand beyond the checklists and tweet length messages currently visible in eBird reports?

- eBird reviewers' messages contain an increasingly labyrinthine description of protocols for usage.  Filters and hot spots and other new terminologies seem to be creating barriers to simple usage.  I know several people who stopped using eBird because of this type of complexity, and it seems to be growing less user friendly rather than improving.

- until recently, it seemed to be common knowledge that a single observer couldn't visually obtain an accurate reading of population numbers in any given area.  They were considered anecdotal, incidental, lacking in adequate protocols for censusing.  (I exclude migratory watches from this critique.)  A quick survey of eBird lists from the same location in the same time frame shows notably varying results, strongly suggesting that such counts are indeed anecdotal, not reflecting an accurate/scientific result.  If these results are not accurate, then what use are they, and why are so many people spending their time making such counts?  And how many truly newsworthy events are going unnoticed while these counts are being conducted?

- in another recent survey, I found multiple, very obvious errors in ID, timing, and location.  A thorough investigation would likely turn up more problems.  It was suggested to me that eBird's famous metadata functions would smooth things out, but I don't see how false info can do anything but magnify itself at the macro level.  This problem also suggests that the reviewers can't keep up with the inflow of reports.

- I've never met many of the people on eBird's SF daily lists, and I spend a lot of time in the field.  I wonder where they're coming from, what draws them to using eBird, especially people who post a single House Sparrow or Rock Pigeon from somewhere downtown, and I really wonder how eBird can educate them toward posting more usable information. 

- conversely, many of the highly experienced and competent birders here and in surrounding counties make limited to no use of eBird.  The six top birders (numerically) in SF are not to be found in eBird's top ten list, and while this is a minor issue in itself, it does point to the lack of historical linkage which constitutes another huge problem with eBird's database.  eBird is new, and seems to ignore the vast amount of information accumulated prior to its inception.  I also think a top ten list is unnecessary, and makes birding look like just another sport to dabble in.

- eBird has split the birding community, and there are already too few of us.  Important items are falling through the cracks between systems.

- eBird encourages the pedantic repetition of information.  Daily reporting of the same birds in the same locale (again excepting watch sites) is a questionable use of precious birder time.  Stable populations can be monitored once a week, or even once a month in order to show seasonal fluctuations, if any.

- the lack of headlines on individual reports leaves us to sort through the endless lists to find actual news.  A headline reading "Mystery Duck" would have caught the attention of most of us on January 4th, 2018, and then perhaps the King Eider photographed that day at the Sutro Baths could have been refound.  It would also help newer birders learn what birds are considered unusual.

- eBird causes people to follow the herd to the same few hotspots, leaving formerly productive sites under birded.  The East Wash is one example, as there are no longer enough birders visiting to keep the path from getting overgrown.  Here again, I think the top ten list is counterproductive.

- the complexity of filing reports seems to push many people to visit only a single site, so as not to have to file multiple lists.  We used to have more people visiting multiple sites in a day, and thus keeping better tabs on what's happening. 

- the filters/flagging/review system results in some individuals changing their reports.  Several people have told me that they will not report anything unusual on eBird because they don't want to have to face the interrogation process, and a recent report twice stated something to the effect of, "the flock number was higher, but I don't want to trigger  the review process by entering the actual, unusually high number."  The filters thus become a self-fulfilling and artificially limiting factor.

- it leads people to gaze into their screens while in the field, and to lose themselves in checking mail and other hypnotic internet sites.  Again, how many newsworthy events occur while people's eyes are caught up in the screen, especially at migratory watch sites?

- it emphasizes quantitative aspects of birding, and suppresses qualitative aspects like reporting behaviors or giving adequate descriptions of the birds and their actual locations.

- it creates a new layer of problems with vetting/reviewing.  On the listservs, we can mostly post what we want to, and each of us has the freedom to judge the message.  With eBird, I've heard voluminous complaints, suggesting that censorship is being practiced.  (Outright censorship was practiced with the recent Gyrfalcon discovery down south!)  Not being a user, it's unclear to me where the exact problem lies, whether reports are actually being blocked, or perhaps certain claims are not being included in the master database.  I have no interest in a system which removes my freedom to make my own judgments about reports, nor in being flagged/interrogated for every unusual situation I come across.  I only post news, and thus would be constantly flagged by people who have much less experience than I do.  (These comments are directed at reporting news, and are not meant as a critique of groups like the CBRC.)  We should each make every effort to vet our own reports before we publish them, and we should especially vet our attitudes and biases toward other birders and their experiences.  The objectivity needed for proper vetting is a balance between reasonable skepticism and an open-minded acknowledgment that "impossible" events do occur. 

I am deeply opposed to eBird's reduction of our birding experiences to a set of checked off boxes with minimalist descriptive verbiage.  But you're all free to do what you wish, including splitting the community even further through Facebook groups, What'sApp, and ever more increasing fragmentation.  I had hoped when I first heard about eBird that it would be a uniting factor for birders around the country and the world.  I still hope for that to eventually occur, and I regret that I don't have the technical expertise to help fix the problems described above.  I acknowledge that there are a number of positive attributes in eBird that do represent an advance over past systems.  And I am not seeking for private feedback to this letter, as this seems to be a crisis approaching all of us.  If you also see these issues as problems, then communicate openly while you still can, especially with those who can make a difference.  eBird is too young to have become a sacred cow, and should not be creating more problems than it solves.

Brian Fitch, San Francisco


Heather Farms

David
 

My wife and I took a walk around the natural pond at Heather Farms in Walnut Creek today about 3:00 pm. We got to the small beach just opposite the wood railing near the parking lot and there spotted a bird flying out to catch an insect. It flew back to the large tree on the beach, dropped the insect flew down retrieved it and flew back to its perch in the large tree. It was our old friend the Tropical King Bird!
On the same beach we saw a Great White Fronted Goose hanging out with the Canada Geese.
Dave Rose


Mystery of the Beethoven bird solved!

Marilyn Miller
 

Finally, after several years of hearing the beautiful opening phrase of Beethoven's Fifth in the morning as we're feeding the horses, I saw a ... mockingbird!

Pretty obvious I guess, but until I saw him in the act I was puzzled.

Marilyn Miller

Clayton


Unusual Junco Ridge Rd. @ Hearst in Berkeley

Anne Krysiak
 

I work in Etcheverry Hall at Cal. This afternoon I saw a very unusual junco on Ridge Road near the intersection with Hearst. Its breast was white rather than black and buff. Its back was mottled white, although it had the dark grey hood. It was definitely a junco... the white tail flash confirmed that when it flew away. Has anyone seen a leucistic junco or a leucistic/normal hybrid? Any other thoughts?


Prarie Falcon Coyote Hills RP

Chris Bard
 

Seen flying over Dairy Glen area from Quarry area. A park naturalist reported that a prairie falcon had been perched in the ironwwod eucalyptus outside the butterfly garden yesterday.

Chris Bard
Alameda


Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker continues at Tilden Nature Center area

Lee Friedman
 

This post is to confirm the continuation of the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker by the Tilden Nature Area. I observed it this morning from 8:55AM- 9:10. It was first seen by Alan Kaplan’s GGAS group on Friday Feb. 2, and then positively identified by George Suennen on Feb. 5 with excellent photographs. I noted the absence of any red on the nape of the neck, and a red-throat patch that was completely enclosed by black—two characteristics that distinguish the male Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker from the Red-Naped Sapsucker.


I believe this is the only Bay Area location north of Pescadaro where this species is observable. Of course I do not know for how long it will stay, but it is partial to the red-berry tree (cotoneaster I believe) that is behind the picnic table located furthest north on the east side of the Nature Area parking lot. I strongly recommend that any observers stay on the west side of the picnic table itself in order not to frighten the bird. I think 8-9:30AM would be the best time of day to try, if only because the area gets crowded later in the day with families bringing their children to play. Of course there are many other birds worth viewing, like the Varied Thrushes that are also around.


I have posted one photo on my Flickr website:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/99583878@N06/39227157815/in/dateposted-public/

Additional information and photos are embedded in my eBird report:

https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S42553641

Good birding!

Lee Friedman


Re: Bird alarm cry identification

David Brostoff
 

On Feb 5, 2018, at 9:02 PM, Rusty Scalf <rscalf@...> wrote:

Barn Owl
Thank you for the identification -- it certainly sounds like the "territorial scream or advertising call" here:
<https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barn_Owl/sounds>

There have been Great Horned Owls around here from time to time -- in fact, it was one of those many years ago that got me interested in birding -- but never a Barn Owl until now. (At least I have never seen one here myself and haven't read about sightings by others on this list.)

David


Re: Bird alarm cry identification

rfs_berkeley
 


Barn Owl


Tonight from about 8:00 to 8:30 p.m. I heard a loud bird alarm cry from somewhere high in the hillside oaks near the Clark Kerr Campus in Berkeley.

It was a single-note, full-throated scream that lasted for a second or so and was repeated about every five seconds.

There is a recording here:


I would be grateful for an identification.

David



Bird alarm cry identification

David Brostoff
 

Tonight from about 8:00 to 8:30 p.m. I heard a loud bird alarm cry from somewhere high in the hillside oaks near the Clark Kerr Campus in Berkeley.

It was a single-note, full-throated scream that lasted for a second or so and was repeated about every five seconds.

There is a recording here:
<https://www.dropbox.com/sh/sqkcvpf2oet17he/AABnF948HCw_9yJKbIbbxUiva?dl=0>

I would be grateful for an identification.

David


Tilden Nature Area, Jewel Lake

George A Suennen
 

Hello all,

Went back to Tilden Park to confirm the sapsucker we had spotted on Friday.  This time I got a good look and identified it as a young Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  I posted some photo on my website at http://birds.avianist.com/2018/180205-Jewel-Lake .

Also got some photos of the Varied Thrush (saw 6 today) that I missed last week.  The kingfisher is still at the lake, the Fox sparrows were acting pretty tame allowing me to get very close (almost like the California Towhees) and also saw a Northern Flicker.

Best Regards,

George

http://birds.avianist.com


Winter Wren, Rufous Hummer, and more this morning, Tilden Park

Richard Sintchak <rich815@...>
 

3 mile hike with the family today  (Sunday, from about 10am to noon) up in Tilden. Beautiful male Rufous Hummingbird displaying, swooping and buzzing on the Meadows Canyon trail about 100 yards or so east of the intersection with the Curran trail intersection.  Also a singing Winter Wren was at the stream where the Curran trail intersects with the Wildcat Gorge trail. Many flocks of chickadees and bushtits along the Wildcat Gorge trail mixed with loads of Yellow-rumped Warblers. If anyone walks this trail watch for Black and White Warblers amongst the feeding flocks.. A few times over the years I’ve found them here though none today.. 


Hayward Shoreline Tropical Kingbird

Bob Richmond
 

The Tropical Kingbird seen last fall was seen again this afternoon. It was about 1/8th of a mile east of where it was seen before just past the last buildings on the north side of West Winton. It was flycatching from a telephone pole.

Bob


Re: GGAS First Friday Birdwalk February 2, 2018

George A Suennen
 

Alan,

Thanks for leading the group again. Always learn something new on these walks. I posted my photos from the walk at:

http://birds.avianist.com/2018/180202-Jewel-Lake

Good photos of the Hermit Thrush, California and Spotted Towhee, Golden-crowned, Song, and Fox Sparrows, plus a few others. I also got a few shots of a European Starling in the Eucalyptus trees by the parking lot and some American Crows in trees up the ridge on the bay side. These weren't on your checklist.

The one shot of the sapsucker was from the back and didn't show the head, not as good as I would have hoped... The other shots all had tree branches and trunks obscuring the view so I didn't bother to post those.

Best Regards,
George
http://birds.avianist.com

On 2/3/2018 6:18 PM, Alan Kaplan lnkpln67@... [EBB_Sightings] wrote:

Tilden Nature Area, Contra Costa, California, US
Feb 2, 2018, 8:30 AM - 11:40 AM

Golden Gate Audubon Society First Friday Birdwalk, February 2, 2018. Groundhog Day!
Walk to Jewel Lake and back again. Guest Phyllis E. came from Cleveland, OH.

Bird o' The Day was a Red-naped Sapsucker. George S. has pictures.

Groundhog saw his shadow, his old-soul, and returned to his den and will re-emerge without it and start spring, again (we hope sooner, rather than later!). See "Totemism and Civic Boosterism in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, 1899-1909" by Christopher R. Davis [Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, vol 68, number 2, April 1985] [available on-line].
Here are the 35 species seen by 37 observers:

Mallard
Bufflehead
Great Blue Heron flyover at the start of the walk
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Virginia Rail
Band-tailed Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Acorn Woodpecker
Red-naped Sapsucker Seen at the Cotoneaster at the meeting place; George S. has photos, Johan L. saw it, too. I didn't see it, but these others are sure that's what they saw. You can go to "The Avianist" website to see George's photos, I think.
Black Phoebe
Hutton's Vireo
Steller's Jay
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Pacific Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Varied Thrush
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Song Sparrow
California Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Lesser Goldfinch

Best of Boids and Marmots!
Alan Kaplan



GGAS First Friday Birdwalk February 2, 2018

Alan Kaplan
 

Tilden Nature Area, Contra Costa, California, US
Feb 2, 2018, 8:30 AM - 11:40 AM

Golden Gate Audubon Society First Friday Birdwalk, February 2, 2018. Groundhog Day!
Walk to Jewel Lake and back again. Guest Phyllis E. came from Cleveland, OH.

Bird o' The Day was a Red-naped Sapsucker. George S. has pictures.

Groundhog saw his shadow, his old-soul, and returned to his den and will re-emerge without it and start spring, again (we hope sooner, rather than later!). See "Totemism and Civic Boosterism in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, 1899-1909" by Christopher R. Davis [Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, vol 68, number 2, April 1985] [available on-line].
Here are the 35 species seen by 37 observers:

Mallard
Bufflehead
Great Blue Heron flyover at the start of the walk
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Virginia Rail
Band-tailed Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Acorn Woodpecker
Red-naped Sapsucker Seen at the Cotoneaster at the meeting place; George S. has photos, Johan L. saw it, too. I didn't see it, but these others are sure that's what they saw. You can go to "The Avianist" website to see George's photos, I think.
Black Phoebe
Hutton's Vireo
Steller's Jay
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Pacific Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Varied Thrush
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Song Sparrow
California Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Lesser Goldfinch

Best of Boids and Marmots!
Alan Kaplan


Richmond Herring Spawn

Judith Dunham
 

It was party time this morning at Brooks Island and along the jetty extending out from the island. We arrived by boat as the tide was just coming in. The shoreline and nearby waters were filled with thousands of foraging birds: cormorants, gulls of at least four species, scaup, American Wigeon, and Bufflehead. Some of the gulls were plunge-diving like pelicans in order to dredge up strands of eel grass and get to the eggs.

We avoided getting too close and disturbing the birds. I put up some rough numbers on eBird, though I feel they are conservative. I do not have a long lens, but included some so-so photos: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S42465969

The California Audubon team is surveying tomorrow morning at Miller-Knox and Pt. Molate. It will be interesting to see what activity we can observe from the shoreline.

Anyone interested in herring spawn updates can sign up with the CDFW: https://cdfwherring.wordpress.com/

Judith Dunham
Berkeley, CA


Tree Swallow, Wildcat Canyon RP

Alan Krakauer
 

Today I saw a tree swallow zip up to a bird box along the Belgum trail in Wildcat Canyon today. Sure felt like Spring today! Also 2 varied thrushes along Wildcat Creek trail. Otherwise pretty quiet- most noteworthy for not seeing a single coyote all morning!

Alan Krakauer
Richmond, CA


Livermore Probably Cassin's Kingbird and Wild Turkeys

Mike Correll-Feichtner
 

This morning at 8:30 while doing a test drive with a Toyota Mechanic, I
noticed at Laughlin Road and Blue Grass Court a Kingbird perched on the
fence along the east side of the road. This kingbird I would say is likely
to be a Cassin's Kingbird. Obviously, I could not stop for closer
observation On the return drive from the end of Laughlin Road, the
Kingbird was still perched at the same location on the fence.



I discovered a flock of Wild Turkeys along Airway Blvd, east of the Park N
Ride lot east of Isabell Avenue, not the first time I have seen them here.



--

Mike Feighner

Livermore, California, Alameda County


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<http://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelfeighner>
http://www.linkedIn.com/in/michaelfeighner

--

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
<https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3565.Oscar_Wilde> Oscar Wilde





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