Expanded Diet Choice for Wrentits?

debbie viess

My eloquent friend Phila is a tough act to follow! ;)

I had a delightful walk at Huckleberry Preserve a couple of days ago, with rain threatening (and keeping most other humans away) but kindly holding off for the duration. Despite my carrying along my binocs, most of the birds that I observed were too close for heightened visual aids, plus, that whole rude staring thing...ya know, the birds can see us, too! ;)

My strategy is to just become background and stand and observe. When the jays (or other birds) do scold me, I talk right back, but not in human language so much as paused sounds; they talk, I talk. It switches their emotional mode from fear to curiosity. Much more conversational that way. At any rate, it seems to work. The birds accept me and go about their business freely.

I managed to get just a few feet away from a pair of foraging wrentits...they were picking what appeared to be the blooms off of manzanita bushes. It took a while to see them do it clearly, but eventually I did. Indeed, they were picking and eating the little urn-like flowers. Now whether those particular flowers actually contained a meaty component, i.e manzanita flower bug burritos, I couldn't say. I do know that my cage birds are eager to eat flowers whenever I place them in our aviary.

In reading online about wrentit diet, I saw no mention of flowers; I also saw no mention of them also eating poison oak berries, another direct behavioral observation that I have made at this wonderful park.

Orange flashing hummers were buzzing about, Varied Thrush slipped through the trees (indeed it is an irruptive year, and they are present in goodly amounts). As I walked the upper trail, one Varied Thrush flushed up. As I stood there, silent, my eyes partially unfocused, I could see at least 6 other shadows of thrushes flitting in the trees below me, in response to the sentry's flight. Their size, stealth and white tail marks help me to nail that fleeting ID.

Only ravens were present on the com towers when I hit the trail. In fact I hadn't spied the Sibley eagle pair in awhile, so I worried that perhaps at long last all of that human disturbance had driven them off...maybe to meet their ends, like so many of their brethren, at the arms of the Altamount windmills.

But no, my paranoia was unfounded. As I left the trail at the end of my walk, a boil of ravens circling the com towers gave me a final chance to use my binocs: sure enough, the female golden was perched on the middle tower, and the ravens were not happy about it. Sucks to be them. Soon, their critical mass winter flock numbers will
dwindle and the eagles will again rule their roost handily.

I also spotted the first milk maids (and thought of you, Phila!), the continuing, bright blue hounds tongue, pendulous yellow leatherwood flowers, pink flowering currant (my fave!) and many many ericaceus plants in bloom. Heck, there were even mushrooms, my extra special natural history bonus kingdom!

Heads up natural history fans: all of these lovely plant species and more are currently being showcased at the Botanical Library at the Strybing Arboretum, in the stunning botanical illustrations of the late Ernest Clayton. His granddaughters, now in their 80s themselves, are pushing to get more recognition for their beloved Grandpa.

Check 'em out. The prints are for sale at the library. They can't help but remind you of your favorite walks in the woods. Our beloved Bay Area is currently chock full of natural wonder.

What a privilege it is to live here.

Debbie Viess

Cooper's hawks nesting in Livermore park

jerry.britten <jbritten@...>

I've been seeing a pair of Cooper's hawks at Tex Spruiell Park in Livermore, corner of Felicia and Jessica, in a few blocks from corner of Patterson Pass and S. Vasco. They appear to be nesting here, easily visible at noontime during our ultimate frisbee game, doing their 'cak-cak-cak' calls, flying from tree to tree and soaring above the park.
Jerry Britten,

Barrows Goldeneyes at Lake Merritt outflow channel

j.chiropolos <j.chiropolos@...>

I made my first visit this year to Lake Merritt yesterday to look for Barrows Goldeneyes and did not see any. Prior to all the work on the outflow channel, this area was automatic in the winter for viewing multiple individuels of this beautiful duck since I moved to the bay in 1992.

I have always thought it as important to document what we don't see on this list compared to only what we see so we know what we are missing.

Looking at eBird reports for the bay area this year, maybe one or two Barrows are using Lake Merritt and maybe up to 7 to 8 birds in the bay - including the north bay, east bay, SF and the peninsula. Before the Lake Merritt inflow channel repairs began, looking at eBird reports for Barrow's Goldeneyes and my birding notes from past years, there were between 15 to 20 Barrows Goldeneyes using the outflow channel out of a population of maybe 25 Barrow's in the bay area. The habitat at the inflow channel appears to have been significantly changed compared to before, so we are possibly looking at a 75 percent drop in the population of this duck in the bay. Barrow's reportedly have a stable worldwide population, but are relatively rare and uncommon in the bay area proper.

The City of the Oakland has a great new park and the bridge has been repaired. If we are lucky, next year, the Barrows will return to this area after construction is completed. However there are significant differences. Unlike before, kayakers and boaters can now boat from the bay to Lake Merritt - will the increased boating traffic on the outflow channel prevent the ducks from returning? I have no idea. In addition, on the north side of the outflow channel, all vegetation has now been removed to make this a park perhaps with a lawn that extends to the outflow channel - and a new sidwalk relatively close to the outflow channel. This area was formerly a homeless park with vegetation along both sides of the channel resulting in minimal disturbances to the Barrow's along the outflow channel. It appears with the new sidewalk, if vegetation is not added, any birds using the outflow channel will face more disturbances than before.

But I wonder, is there a way we can make this an win-win for the birds - and the renovation of lake Merritt? If the Barrow's are sensitive to people, can the following measures be implemented?

1. In the winter when the Barrow's use this area, restrict boating traffic along the outflow channel. This has been done at other areas, including one arm of Lake Merritt.

2. Along the outflow channel where all vegetation has been removed, replant it with willow riparian vegetation to obscure the outflow stream from view from the new sidewalk to the bay. The purpose of the vegetation is to protect the Barrow's from disturbance so they will use the outflow channel - this was the area they would rest unbothered in between their feedings at high tide when the bay surged into Lake Merritt. This would also have the side benifit of creating a great new riparian birding hotspot area for warblers and sparrows for birders using the new trail.

Can we make this an oppurtunity? With these measures in place, we could enjoy watching the Barrow's Goldeneyes at high tides when the bay water pours into Lake Merritt - and restore the previous status quo of having these beuatiful ducks at lake Merritt - and the bay.



a nirvana of thrushes

Phila Rogers

Dear Friends:

Chris Carmichael, with the UC Botanical Garden in Strawberry Canyon, had
been telling me about the number of calling and singing Varied Thrushes he
had been hearing the last few days in the Garden. He wasn't sure whether
they were birds passing through on their way to their nesting grounds in
the cool forests to the north, or whether they were the local winter
residents singing more now as they prepared to depart. The lengthening
days and the overwhelming urges of spring are becoming evident all through
the Garden. The only problem was that the Varied Thrush chorus mostly
ceases by 9:00. So at his invitation, I arrived at 8:00 before the
official opening time.

Greeting me at the gate, Chris reported that the birds had stopped
singing. But we walked slowly up the road toward the Japanese Pond, he
filling the silence with wonderful stories about the flowering
rhododendrons and azaleas. A silent Hermit Thrush in the bare branches
above us was harvesting the last few crab apple fruits, tail and wings
switching as if readying for lift off.

We decided to angle back down to the California section where we
discovered, to our delight, that the Varied Thrushes had resumed singing.
The birds were in and around the big live oaks along Snowberry Creek which
flows along the north edge of the Garden, paralleling Centennial Drive.
The word most often used to described the Varied Thrush song is
"haunting." I would elevate the adjective to "ethereal." Each clear,
sustained note on a single pitch is followed by a long pause, as if the
singer is considering where to place on the musical scale, the next note.

As we watched, the thrushes moved about in the shade, lifting with a
moth-like lightness, pausing long enough to give us a silhouette of an
elegant bird standing tall with its slender beak slightly upturned. When
several flickers arrowed across the Garden, one showed yellow under its

To add one more note to this enchanted morning, from the stream a Pacific
Wren sang a brief aria, promising more to come as spring progresses.

-- Phila Rogers

Tropical Kingbird cont. w/pix

Mark Rauzon

Thanks to Eddie Bartley for the post today, the Tropical Kingbird continued in mid-morning at Garretson point along the south border of the wetland. It forayed from the wires in the warehouse storage yard. I was able to photograph it from the parking lot as it ranged up and down the fenceline.

Good Birding.

Mark Rauzon

Looking for SF Bay Osprey Nests


With field-leaders Harve Wilson and Tony Brake, the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory is overseeing a long-term study of Osprey nesting in the SF Baylands. 2012 surveys turned up more than 15 active territories in the main SF bay edge, mostly in the north and east bay regions.

If you observe osprey nesting behavior in the tidal lands of SF Bay within this area from now through August, could you please notify us as to the details? Include precise location, behaviors observed, time and date. Observations should be emailed to Tony Brake at tonybrake (at) sbcglobal (dot) net.

All records will be kept confidential and observers will be credited where appropriate. Any questions or concerns, please email Allen Fish, GGRO Director, at afish (at) parksconservancy (at) org --

Please pass on this request to any sharp-eyed Osprey-watchers.

Appreciatively -

Allen Fish

Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek, Friday Mar 8


A very pleasant morning in Heather Farm park today. The number of Ring-necked Ducks has jumped to at least 46. There are still a number of Buffleheads on the large, mostly natural pond and one male Greater Scaup.

Hugh B. Harvey

Tropical Kingbird at Garretson

Eddie Bartley

Had the pleasure to show Londoner David Lindo AKA "The Urban Birder" around
some Bay Area favorite spots yesterday. He was in town to speak with GGAS &
Rue Mapp's "Outdoor Afro" folks in Berkeley last evening. Quite

East Bay stops included MLK Jr Shoreline where we had knock out looks at
Clapper Rail. One so cooperative I was able to read most of the numbers on a
leg band. The Goose flock in the meadow just south of Arrowhead, while
mostly Canada of the Moffitt persuasion, contained one smaller cousin of
indeterminate ssp., one CACKLING GOOSE (probably minima) and 7 GREATER
WHITE-FRONTED Geese which eBird tells me is a high number for this date and

Garretson Point pond had the usual scrum pile of dabblers and perhaps a high
number of Short-billed Dowitchers, or that was all that I heard calling
anyway. The highlight of the day for me was discovering that a (the?)
TROPICAL KINGBIRD was there flycatching from the willows on the south side
of the pond. Lovely bird that!

Eddie Bartley
San Francisco

Tropical Kingbird at Garretson Point March 7

David Quady and Nancy Boas


Last evening, Eddie Bartley and Noreen Weeden mentioned that they had found a Tropical Kingbird at Garretson Point in Oakland that day.

John Kenny found what's almost certainly the same bird at Garretson Point on December 13, and Jerry Ting photographed it the following day. It was missed on the Oakland Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, December 16 (see <> ), and I cannot recall any reports subsequently. So, good find, Noreen and Eddie!

Just serving as the messenger here . . .

Dave Quady
Berkeley, California

Re: Cackling geese

Doug Henderson

This morning (3/7/13) at 8:30 am there was a flock of geese at Alameda Point that included Canadas, Cackling, Aleutian, and White-Fronted. The location is the soccer field next to 150 W. Hornet, Alameda.
Doug Henderson

From: Bruce Mast <cathrasher4@...>
To: East Bay Birders Circle <ebb_sightings@...>
Sent: Thursday, March 7, 2013 9:02 AM
Subject: [EBB_Sightings] Cackling geese

Two cackling geese right now on lawn at Lakeview Branch Library in Oakland.
Grazing with 24 Canadas.

Bruce Mast

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

Rufous Hummingbird


A Rufous Hummingbird just came to a hummingbird feeder in our Lafayette yard.

Maury Stern

Cackling geese

Bruce Mast

Two cackling geese right now on lawn at Lakeview Branch Library in Oakland.
Grazing with 24 Canadas.

Bruce Mast

Ellis Lake (Concord) 3/4/13

Noah Arthur

Sorry for the late posting. On Sunday afternoon I went fishing at Ellis Lake in Concord. It's a tiny lake surrounded by trees, so I never expected any gulls. I immediately regretted not bringing my bins and camera, however, because gulls were there. Lots of them. But about an hour later Albert Linkowski showed up from out of nowhere, armed with bins and camera, and we had a great time going through the gulls until after sunset. The flock included an adult WESTERN GULL or possibly Western/G-winged hybrid, a bit of a surprise at a tiny lake in Concord. Also an adult MEW GULL (the only Mew present) that seemed very large, as big as the RING-BILLED GULLS, and relatively dark-winged. I'll probably post that one on CalGulls soon. The best non-gull was a female HOODED MERGANSER that Albert spotted swimming near the gull flock. This is a surprisingly productive little lake!
Here are some of Albert's photos (great pics!):
Noah Arthur, Oakland

Three Golden Eagles Vargas Plateau - Fremont


I did a quick bike ride up to Vargas Plateau form Morrison Canyon. I don't know what is it about that place but it was full of raptors. Awesome!

Golden Eagle 3

California Quail X
Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Blue Heron X
Turkey Vulture X
Red-tailed Hawk 4
Ferruginous Hawk 1
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Great Horned Owl X
Anna's Hummingbird X
Northern Flicker X
American Kestrel 4
Merlin 1
Western Scrub-Jay X
Yellow-billed Magpie 3
American Crow X
Western Bluebird X
American Robin X
European Starling X
Savannah Sparrow X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Western Meadowlark X
House Finch X

Davor Desancic

Bald Eagle over the Botanic Garden in Tilden

debbie viess

Took a very nice walk in the springtime fresh CA Native Garden at Tilden this afternoon.

We enjoyed seeing many striking native tree and shrub silhouettes, distinctive and oddly beautiful in their leafless state, a few early flowers (milk maids, hounds tongue, fritillaries, leatherwood) and lots of common, local birds, tame as puppies: CA Towhees, Golden Crowned Sparrows, Hermit Thrush, Dark Fox Sparrow, Dark Eyed Juncos, Mallards on a pond, etc..

Lying about on the long wooden bench right outside of the visitor center, admiring the garden from above and delighting in our day, we spied a large, dark raptorial bird on the horizon, flying from the NE to the west. When I glassed it, it showed a pure white head.

Darn. Bald eagles in the BA are almost starting to be mundane sightings.

Who would've imagined that, twenty years ago?

Debbie Viess

Rufous Hummingbird in Pleasanton

richard s. cimino

This afternoon a Rufous Hummingbird has made several visits to my feeder.
Also in the backyard is a a pair of Pine Siskins.
Typically a Rufous Hummingbird arrives in my yard on March 6th.
One day early.
Hoping he'll stick around into tomorrow.
Rich Cimino

Quail returned today in yard-March 5th

Eugenia Larson


Today, March 5th, two pairs of our resident California Quail finally
returned to feed under the thistle feeder in our San Ramon backyard. We
last had three pair of quail just before Christmas, but none since then.

Happy Spring Birding!

Eugenia Larson

San Ramon

Searching for Red Crossbills in Heather Farm-Walnut Creek No Luck on Mar. 4


After reading Joel Herr's message Sunday afternoon, I checked two times in Heather Farm Park for the Red Crossbills. My first attempt was this morning about 8 AM, which was unsuccessful. I tried again between 4:30 and 5 PM this afternoon, Monday, and still did not see any.

They are an extremely transient species, and I won't hold my breath, but I'll still keep my eyes open to them. We also have a number of liquid amber trees in our neighborhood just north of the park, so I have checked them, too. All I saw was Robins and Cedar Waxwings.

Hugh B. Harvey
Walnut Creek

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Matthew Dodder

If you happen to miss the Lesser Black-backed Gull at the San Leandro
Marina like I did, you could always console yourself with the RED-
BREASTED NUTHATCH in the cypress trees beside the dock parking lot.
One called repeatedly as I slumped back to my car and headed home,

. . .

Matthew Dodder
Mountain View, CA

Red Crossbills @ Heather Farms Park, Walnut Creek


This morning from 9:05-9:10 I saw 9 Red Crossbills at Heather Farms Park in Walnut Creek. They were feeding on round spiky seed balls of what I guess was liquidambar trees along North San Carlos Drive near the playground (37 degrees 55'8.04"N x 122 degrees 2'27.03"W). They were cooperative and provided nice looks as they went from tree to tree. They eventually flew off to the south toward the tennis courts.

There were also at least two Northern Rough-winged Swallows present over the natural pond and there were four otters at the north end of the natural pond near the dog park.

- Joel Herr

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