Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Pleasant Hill, Lafayette, etc. (and Blue Grosbeaks Bethel)

Ethan Monk <z.querula@...>

Hi All,

It has become better known in recent years that Black-chinned Hummingbird populations exist in small numbers off Happy Valley Road in Lafayette and over a slightly larger area in West Pleasant Hill. The Contra Costa Breeding Bird Atlas ('98-'02) never documented any birds of this species in the general area, possibly either because of the species' extreme locality in the area/lack of coverage or a recent range expansion into these locales. Presumably the former is true, considering a year or so back, I had a conversation with a lifelong birder who spent his childhood years (the '80s, I believe) in Pleasant Hill (he now lives out of state) who mentioned recording Black-chinned Hummingbirds at his feeder multiple times a summer. I tried to refind the emails I exchanged with him to find a more precise location, that way I could check and see if they still summer and/or breed close by (I'm sure Black-chinned Hummingbirds still breed somewhere in the general vicinity) but could not recover the emails. Maybe I deleted them? Whatever the case, I was wondering if anyone who reads this has a) observed breeding evidence of this species in either Lafayette or Pleasant Hill or b) if anyone knows where I can find these birds without walking into private backyards so that I can attempt to confirm breeding, myself.

On another note, since I would like this thread to remain on EBB-Sightings so that it is visible to more people and not removed to EBB-Discussion (it seems rather superfluous to have two separate email groups that both discuss birds in the East Bay... We are the only listserve in the Bay Area--and possibly all of California--that actually segregates bird messages into different groups based on their subject matter) So, here are some bird sightings...

Sunday afternoon, I checked Bethel Island for any signs of migrant or breeder activity for a short hour or so. A quick report:
--On the West side of Bethel Road in the field immediately before the first willows shore up to the side of the road, there is a cooperative breeding pair of Blue Grosbeaks, countercalling. The male probably sings in the morning.
--The fields on the East side of Bethel Island Road that are flooded in winter remain flooded, although few shorebirds are currently using them. 3 Least Sands, 3 Killdeer, 3 Stilt and 9 Avocet.
--The bottlebrush at the end of Bethel Island road was productive as always hosting 5 Bullock's and 1 Hooded Oriole (no Black-chinned Hummingbirds to be seen).
--Piper Slough Willows were entirely devoid of migrant activity (probably partially due to the time of day) save Yellowthroats and one lingering basic plumaged Audubon's Warbler.

Good birding,
Ethan Monk

GGAS Special First Friday Birdwalk, May 3, 2019

Alan Kaplan


Tilden Regional Park, Contra Costa, California, US
May 3, 2019 5:30 AM - 7:45 AM

Golden Gate Audubon Society Special First Friday Dawn Chorus Birdwalk, May 3, 2019. This is the weekend of the International Dawn Chorus Day (Sunday, May 5) and we do the Dawn Chorus on the closest Friday. We started listening to Black-headed Grosbeak, California Towhee at 0530, meeting at Big Leaf picnic site at the foot of Canon Drive.
Here are the 26 species seen by 11 observers:

Mallard 2 flyover
Wild Turkey 4
Mourning Dove 3
Anna's Hummingbird 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Acorn Woodpecker 1
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 3
Black Phoebe 2
Warbling Vireo 2
Common Raven 2
Violet-green Swallow 4
Barn Swallow 2
Oak Titmouse 1
Brown Creeper 1
House Wren 1
Bewick's Wren 2
Swainson's Thrush 1
American Robin 6
Lesser Goldfinch 2
Dark-eyed Junco 4
Song Sparrow 2
California Towhee 4
Spotted Towhee 4
Orange-crowned Warbler 3
Wilson's Warbler 2
Black-headed Grosbeak 8

View this checklist online at

Best of Boids!
Alan Kaplan

GGAS (Regular) First Friday Birdwalk, May 3, 2019 at Tilden Nature Area

Alan Kaplan


Tilden Nature Area, Contra Costa, California, US
May 3, 2019 8:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Golden Gate Audubon Society First Friday Birdwalk, May 3, 2019. Tilden Nature Area, from the entrance to Jewel Lake and back again. Guests from Ontario, Canada and Bangalore (Bengaluru), Karnataka, India. Our topic was Nathan Pieplow's brand-new Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Western North America. See the accompanying websites <> and <> for details. Nathan spoke to GGAS last year.

Here are the 30 species seen by 32 observers:

Mallard 5 (Adult female with two ducklings, two adult males)
Wild Turkey 2
Mourning Dove 1
Anna's Hummingbird 2
Allen's Hummingbird 1
Double-crested Cormorant 1 flyover
Turkey Vulture 2 makes it official
Red-shouldered Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Belted Kingfisher 1
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 2
Black Phoebe 3
Warbling Vireo 3
Steller's Jay 2
Common Raven 3
Violet-green Swallow 5
Barn Swallow 2
Oak Titmouse 1
Brown Creeper 2
Swainson's Thrush 2
American Robin 3
Lesser Goldfinch 8
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Song Sparrow 4
California Towhee 1
Spotted Towhee 1
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 3
Wilson's Warbler 5
Black-headed Grosbeak 6

View this checklist online at

Best of Boids!
Alan Kaplan

Mitchell Canyon trip report, 5-4-2019

Bruce Mast

Hello East Bay Birders,
Yesterday (Saturday), I led an enthusiastic group from Marin Audubon
Society on a 4 hour walk through lower Mitchell Canyon. We followed the
Globe Lily Trail on the way in and the main road on the way out. We birded
only as far as Red Road.

Migrant activity was as good as I've seen it. In the flycatcher department,
we had an Olive-sided, Dusky, Hammond's and Pacific-Slope, along with
numerous Ash-throated Flys.

In the warbler category, we saw and/or heard multiple Townsend's,
Orange-crowned, and Wilson's Warblers and we go pretty good looks at a
Hermit Warbler.

A pair of Western Tanagers was a nice treat as was a returning Lazuli
Bunting. A calling Swainson's Thrush was a personal first-of-season for me.

We got a brief look at a Selasphorous Hummingbird, probably female.

We got to observe behavioral differences of territorial versus migrating
Black-headed Grosbeaks. The territorial birds were, as one might expect, in
the tops of trees along the creek, singing their hearts out. A flock of 5
migrants, meanwhile, were upslope, foraging hungrily near ground level and
moving across the slope as a loose group.

Hutton's and Warbling Vireos were active but we didn't detect any Cassin's.
I suspect we needed to go further up-canyon.

Thank you to our photographers who contributed photo-documentation to our
outing. A complete checklist with photos can be accessed at

Mitchell Canyon is part of Mount Diablo State Park. It drains the north
slope of the mountain and can be accessed via Clayton, in Contra Costa
County. There's a $6/car entrance fee. Gates officially open at 8 am but,
in the spring, the docent often opens it earlier. I arrived yesterday
around 7:40 and the gate was open and a half dozen cars were already in the
parking lot. Early morning birding is best.

Bird on,

Bruce Mast

Chabot Regional Park--Clyde Woolridge Entrance

Judith Dunham

I stumbled upon another spot in the East Bay hills with little eBird coverage. The Clyde Woolridge Staging Area of Anthony Chabot Regional Park had only 39 checklists over all years. Lydia Huang and I made it 40 this morning with our 5.8-mile hike.

We started at the staging area where Skyline Boulevard meets Grass Valley Road. From there we went down Jackson Grade to the Cascade Trail, which we took all the way to the northern arm of the lake. The habitat is diverse, typical of Chabot: grassland, oak woodland, and bay trees and dense vegetation filling the canyon through which Grass Valley Creek flows.

Our FOS species were SWAINSON'S THRUSH and CASSIN'S VIREO. Birdsong was continuous: Black-headed Grosbeak, Wilson's Warbler, Warbling Vireo. The bonus was a nice selection of wildflowers, including a number of globe lilies.

Judith Dunham
Berkeley, CA

Green-Tailed Towhee, MP 5.75 Mines Road


A white-edged Blue-Gray Tanager, a bird of South America, continued this morning at Veterans Park in Livermore. Both parks, Sycamore (on Wetmore) and Veterans (on Arroyo), which adjoin, were closed today for fire training, but I was able to see the bird in the Veterans parking lot by standing on the shoulder of the road and looking into the sycamores through the chain link fence. I looked around for about 15 minutes and I think it actually found me. It seemed curious and friendly as would be expected for an escaped pet.
A female Wood Duck with at least 8 ducklings was swimming around below the white bridge up the road, and at least 3 Ash-Throated Flycatchers were at the end of the road by the Del Valle parking lot.
I moved on to Mines Road around 12:45 PM and found Rufous-Crowned Sparrows at MP 6.2. Just down the road, two Phainopeplas were flying around at MP 5.75 where I also saw several California Thrashers. I was scanning across the thrashers when suddenly a Green-Tailed Towhee with bright greenish-gold wings, long greenish-gold tail, and rufous crest flared, popped up flipping its tail up and down.

Stephanie Floyd

White-crowned Sparrow coastal race in my parking lot

Patricia Bacchetti

HI all,

I work in El Sobrante, about 2.5 miles from the bay as the crow flies. Earlier this week, I heard a White-crowned Sparrow singing in the parking lot and thought that it was a late migrant. I went out to find the bird in a butterfly bush in the parking lot and was able to approach close enough to record the song-it was the nuttalli subspecies that's a resident and breeds along the bayfront. The song matched several that are archived on Zeno-canto

This is a species that is known for breeding right along the bay, though the Contra Costa Breeding Bird Atlas discusses historical records that had it breeding as far east as Lafayette. They seem to like the fog belt and scrubby habitat, and several breeding pairs were discovered in suburban neighborhoods and the edges of golf courses. I've worked here for 28 years and have never seen a White-crown in the summer months, and because I'm interested in these subspecies I was particularly pleased.

Appearance-wise, nuttalli has a yellow bill, brown body, tan and black scapular stripes, and a short primary projection (it doesn't migrate). It looks alot like the wintering White-crowns that we see, the pugentensis subspecies, that breeds along the NW coast of Canada and Alaska. They can be differentiated by their song.

Another exciting recent discovery is Old San Pablo trail along the SE edge of San Pablo Dam reservoir. A turnout lane on San Pablo Dam Road, just past Bear Valley Road, takes you through 1.6 wooded miles to the boat launch area. The road is free-I thought that you had to pay at either end. It parallels the EBMUD Orinda Connector Trail, but if you don't have time to hike it you can drive through wonderful habitat. Even at 3:00 PM, I recorded 37 species-the highlight was a calling WESTERN WOOD PEWEE.

Good birding,

Pat Bacchetti


Green Heron in Glen Echo Creek, Oakland, 5/10/19

Kate Hoffman

I've been walking past the mouth of Glen Echo Creek for 5 years on the way to/from work, and I often see snowy egrets or black-crowned night-herons fishing in it. This is the stretch next to the Veterans Building where the creek is channeled (near the busy Harrison/Grand intersection) just before the creek empties into Lake Merritt. This week I spotted a green heron in the open--two days ago at the mouth of the creek and this morning fishing in the creek itself. The closest I've ever seen a green heron to this location is the islands near the Rotary Nature Center--not far as the heron flies, but this stretch of creek is extremely urban (there are homeless tents adjacent to it). Kind of amazing for such a normally cautious species.

Kate Hoffman

Phainopeplas at Lime Ridge, Walnut Creek


I did a quick check this morning and had two Phainopeplas back at their spot on Lime Ridge in Walnut Creek Open Space. From the trailhead across from the Boundary Oaks golf course clubhouse, proceed up the hill and turn left at the first trail junction. The Phainopeplas were along the trail where it passes above the top end of the golf driving range near coordinates 37.92681 / -121.99368. There were also multiple Lazuli Buntings in the area.

Happy birding,

Joel Herr

Happy Mother's Day to the Juncos


Just after arriving home from church a few minutes ago, we had 3 fledgling Juncos in our little Walnut Creek patio.  What a great sight for this beautiful Mother's Day Morning.
Hugh B. Harveybetween Treat Blvd and Heather Farm ParkWalnut Creek

Del Puerto Canyon / San Antonio Valley / Mines (PAAS trip report)

Matthew Dodder

I led the second half of my Palo Alto Adult School birding class through Del Puerto Canyon, San Antonio Valley, and Mines Roads yesterday. Conditions were sunny and mild with increasing wind in the afternoon. Again we were unable to locate Blue Grosbeak or Costa’s Hummingbird at our usual spots, but we had many highlights nevertheless.

Grasshopper Sparrow (1, on hillside just before cattle grate in grassland section)
Cassin’s Kingbird (3-4, on power towers near only surviving orchard in grassland section)
Rufous-crowned Sparrow (hard to miss in cottonwood grove and Graffiti Rock areas)
Lark Sparrow (several, in cottonwood grove)
Rock Wren (several, various rocky areas along road)
White-throated Swift (several nesting at Graffiti Rock)
Phainopepla (hard to miss in oak savannah areas)
Bell’s Sparrow (1, chamise across from playground on hillside at Frank Raines. During rare, but short-lived silence of ATVs)
Lawrence’s Goldfinch (2 at Creek Crossing, 2 at Frank Raines campground)
Canyon Wren (2, from overlook before Frank Rains picnic area, and in quarry just before Adobe Springs)

(Incidentally, the Odonata at Adobe Springs were wonderful. We had American Rubyspot, Flame Skimmer and Grappletail, and Painted Ladies were also abundant and seen throughout the day)

Tricolored Blackbird (200-300, at traditional pond near Junction)
Western Tanager (1 at Tricolored colony)
Lewis’s Woodpecker (4, in two areas along San Antonio Valley, south of Junction
Lawrence’s Goldfinch (1-2 south of large shallow pond on San Antonio Valley)

Northern Pygmy-Owl (heard and seen in pine-oak woodland habitat near MP 18)
Golden Eagle (2 on Mines Road near MP 5)

(We also had a close encounter with a 3.5 foot California King Snake (around MP 5). A beautiful individual was sunning in the middle of the road. We pulled off and made sure it moved safely away from the traffic.

Matthew Dodder
Mountain View

Castle Rock/Pine Canyon, this morning, 5/12/19


A morning walk in Castle Rock Regional Park (Walnut Creek), and further up into Pine Canyon,
produced some pleasant Springtime rewards. The setting, as is so often the case this time of year, was
positively bucolic: clear skies, mild temperatures, and just enough breeze to gently deliver the redolence
of our oak woodlands.
As I stepped from my car, I was greeted by a singing WILSON'S WARBLER. Shortly thereafter, at the outset
of my walk, I heard the first, of what would become several, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS. West of the
swimming pool and adjacent to the basketball court, sits is a stand of Locust trees. As I expected, there
was a nesting pair of BULLOCK'S ORIOLES; what I did not expect, however, was to also find a nesting pair
of WESTERN KINGBIRDS. A kingbird nest, specifically in these trees, is a first for me.
WESTERN BLUEBIRDS were fairly abundant, and several of the bird boxes provided were occupied by them.
After leaving the recreation area, and ~200 ft. before getting to the first cattle gate, I heard quite a lot of
activity on the right (west side) of the trail. At about this point, there's an old wooden fence post that shares the
space with some short snags. To the left there's a good sized oak right next to the fence. In that one tree I found
two pair of Bullock's Orioles, each tending to a nest; another Western Kingbird nest; a pair of nesting
Western Bluebirds, and a couple of LARK SPARROWS, anxiously courting. The under-story was being defended
by a HOUSE WREN. In the nearby small, broken oak closest to the trail, a pair of MOURNING DOVES were
tending to their nestlings.
A bit further along, near the junction with Shell Ridge Loop trail, I first heard, then finally sighted, a LAZULI BUNTING.
I'm hoping for a successful nest, here. It's been at least three years since I've found any
sign of nest activity for this species, in this particular location.
The stretch of trail beyond, where the canyon narrows and becomes quite wooded, can be very attractive.
Several pair of AMERICAN ROBINS were found nesting, and a female BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK was gathering
what appeared to be nesting material. In the distance a male was singing, non-stop. Moving on, another grosbeak was
heard, along with ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS (2), and a WARBLING VIREO.
Where the trail opens up, I climbed to the bench at the top of the berm, and found another nesting pair of House
Wrens. They were using the small wooden bird box in the oak just to the left of the bench. A BROWN CREEPER, was
singing, almost continuously, and by the looks of several dead branches supporting loose bark, I suspected a nest was nearby.
The face of the Castle Rocks to the north was backdrop for dozens of WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS, and VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS.
One pair of swallows was seen inspecting a couple of cavities in the large oak at the foot of the berm.
At times during my walk, I could hear the collective "laughter" of WILD TURKEYS serving as an occasional chorus, of sorts.
For more than twenty years I've had the good fortune, and the privilege, to live but five minutes from this wonderful and
accessible habitat.

Good Spring, and happy birding.
Tracy Farrington
Walnut Creek

Yellow-breasted Chat at Mountainview Cemetery in Oakland

Bruce Mast

Just heard and then saw. a Chat at the upper end of the lower (west) pond.
It's skulking in a patch of broom near waters edge. Seen from the road
that divides the two ponds.

Bird on,

Bruce Mast

Re: Phainopeplas at Lime Ridge, Walnut Creek


I went looking for the Phainopeplas today. Didn't see them. There were at least two LAZULI buntings, an ASH-THROATED flycatcher and a Red shoulder-hawk that grabbed lunch from the drive range ground.

Judi Sierra- Oakland

On Sat, 5/11/19, joel.herr <emupilot@...> wrote:

Subject: [EBB-Sightings] Phainopeplas at Lime Ridge, Walnut Creek
Date: Saturday, May 11, 2019, 9:48 AM

I did a quick check this morning and had two
Phainopeplas back at their spot on Lime Ridge in Walnut
Creek Open Space.  From the trailhead across from the
Boundary Oaks golf course clubhouse, proceed up the hill and
turn left at the first trail junction.  The
Phainopeplas were along the trail where it passes above the
top end of the golf driving range near coordinates 37.92681
/ -121.99368.  There were also multiple Lazuli Buntings
in the area.

Happy birding,

Joel Herr

Re: Phainopeplas at Lime Ridge, Walnut Creek

Mike Shannon

I saw Phainopepla twice in the past few days, once at Don Castro Regional Park in Fairview and again in Palomares Hills (sitting on a light pole on Villareal).

I wonder if we are having an irruption as I have only rarely seen them around.

Mike Shannon

Sent from Xfinity Connect App

------ Original Message ------

From: judisierra via Groups.Io
Sent: May 13, 2019 at 8:28 PM
Subject: Re: [EBB-Sightings] Phainopeplas at Lime Ridge, Walnut Creek

I went looking for the Phainopeplas today. Didn't see them. There were at least two LAZULI buntings, an ASH-THROATED flycatcher and a Red shoulder-hawk that grabbed lunch from the drive range ground. Judi Sierra- Oakland -------------------------------------------- On Sat, 5/11/19, joel.herr wrote: Subject: [EBB-Sightings] Phainopeplas at Lime Ridge, Walnut Creek To: Date: Saturday, May 11, 2019, 9:48 AM I did a quick check this morning and had two Phainopeplas back at their spot on Lime Ridge in Walnut Creek Open Space.From the trailhead across from the Boundary Oaks golf course clubhouse, proceed up the hill and turn left at the first trail junction.The Phainopeplas were along the trail where it passes above the top end of the golf driving range near coordinates 37.92681 / -121.99368.There were also multiple Lazuli Buntings in the area. Happy birding, Joel Herr

Re: Phainopeplas at Lime Ridge, Walnut Creek

Alan Bade

I thought I'd add to the Lime Ridge sightings; we had three Phainopeplas while helping with Save Mt Diablo's Lime Ridge Mangini BioBlitz on May 4th, on SMD's Mangini property. They were fairly vocal. I'm just now getting our lists entered into iNat (SMD prefers iNat for their data over eBird). We also had a Nashville warbler, a Hermit, several Townsend's, Orange crowned, and Wilson's, along with many Ash-throated Flycatchers. Common Poorwill and a Western Screech owl during an evening effort. I attached the ebird checklists here if folks are interested. We were fortunate to have some very experienced birders helping, and it was a lot of fun.

--Alan Bade

Stellar's Jay near Pleasanton, plus some area populations seem lower than last year, and my Nutall's


Saw a Stellar's on the road side and stopped for a bit. It seemed rather animated and moving around on the ground.  Location - Pleasanton - Sunol Road just south of Verona

For some of you this may be a rather common sighting but for me there are much fewer sightings than 40 years ago, similar to the California Quail that used to be more ubiquitous in the SF Bay Area when I was growing up. Maybe I have bad luck but I haven't seen a Stellar's Jay for years despite my hiking around.

On another note, my partner and I have noticed a marked decline in the number of swifts this season around the Thermo Fisher Campus, and a similar decline of Cliff Swallows a bit south where they nest. [ I can pinpoint the location if you like. Just send an email. ]    We were wondering if anyone else has seen similar declines in their local birds. The winter was a bit prolonged and perhaps had a negative effect despite the fact that as someone who grew up in the area, the winter seemed normal for 50 years ago.  On yet another note, the Thermo Fisher campus Canadian geese are now shepherding 9 goslings this year around the grounds, mostly the pond area.

My Laurel neighborhood Nutall's last month seemed to have abandoned their nest, perhaps for another location. We saw this happen a few years back when the male started on a nest across the street from my house, then abandoned it and started a new nest on the same tree. I do hope they come back next year.

Marcus Pun
Video Editor / Producer/Editor / Camera
C: 510-384-8085 | H: 510-530-2507
Oakland, CA

Swainson's Thrush - Antioch yard - 5/15

Paul Schorr

This afternoon we were delighted to spot a FOS Swainson’s Thrush at our bird bath.

Good birding,

Paul Schorr

FW: Odd weather event--heads up for vagrant shorebirds!


From Yahoo Calbirds
Wed May 15, 2019 6:46 am (PDT) . Posted by:
"Brian Sullivan" heraldpetrel

Odd weather event--heads up for vagrant shorebirds!
Hi Everyone,

We're about to experience a fairly odd weather pattern with 2-3 significant
fronts stacked up very late in the season. It could be nothing, but it
bears keeping our thoughts and eyes open for trans-oceanic shorebirds that
could be affected on their way north. Species such as Bar-tailed Godwit and
Bristle-thighed Curlew come to mind. I wasn't living in California in 1998,
but I did manage to see the Kehoe Beach Bristle-thighed Curlew. The timing
here is similar. There was a lot of discussion then around the fallout of
BTCU from California north through Washington due to odd weather. A
subsequent paper is here:

In any case, it'll be an interesting week. Double-check those Whimbrel on
your local beaches!

New family in town


While sitting upstairs after returning from Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek, I heard the quiet sound of a baby bird in our patio.  We have been having the baby Juncos come to collect seeds, and I thought this was what I might be hearing. 

But I went downstairs anyway to look out the window.  We had three California Towhees, not the occasional two, and one was being fed.  The fledgling has very faint streaks on the breast, but looks mostly like an adult.  Not a first for us, but still exciting and fun to see.
Hugh B. HarveyWalnut Creek