Re: Urban Bluebirds

Allen Hirsch <allenvhirsch@...>

Male stood watch this morning from the tree nearest the nestbox for quite
awhile; he eventually went to the nestbox just before the female returned:

I couldn't see any nestlings.

Allen Hirsch

Lake Del Valle

Steve Huckabone

This morning I found a male Lawrence's Goldfinch near the Cedar Group Camp. The most out of place bird today was a Willet flying over the lake near the marina. Last Saturday there where dozens of Yellow-rumped Warblers including a full alternate Myrtle, today not one.
Good birding.

Steve Huckabone
Livermore, CA
Alameda County



So sorry about the mistake with my post of just a few moments ago. In it I said Del Valle when I meant VALLE VISTA STAGING AREA in Moraga. Apologies for the error.

Tracy Farrington
Walnut Creek

Del Valle birds of interest


My target bird, as I set out for Del Valle staging area in Moraga, was the WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE and I was not disappointed. Along the Rocky Ridge trail between its entrance and the bridge over the creek, I was able to see three individuals and hear several more. The calls were nearly constant.

For those interested in good views of the more often heard than seen WRENTIT, three individuals were clearly observed as they sang at the tops of their respective territorial shrubs along the same area as described above.

At least four pair of WOOD DUCKS were clearly seen but none on the ground or in the water. Between the bridge and the little equestrian stable all the birds were found well up in the assorted willows on the reservoir side of the road. While each of the females appeared rather calm, the males were pacing about the larger branches constantly on the look out, or so it seemed. An interesting observation which I have not made in the past.

Good birding,
Tracy Farrington
Walnut Creek

Contra Costa county big day

Logan Kahle

Hi all,
On Sunday, April 21st, the Contra Costa Calliopes (Bruce Mast and I) made a serious attempt at the Contra Costa big day record of 170. On Saturday, though, we did some last-minute scouting.

On Saturday, we started a little after dawn at inspiration point. From the parking lot, we found many Pine Siskins and Band-tailed Pigeons, along with a Lazuli Bunting and Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches. Riding out Nimitz way, we quickly staked out an Olive-sided Flycatcher. When we neared Chaparral, we could hear singing California Thrashers. As we arrived at the previously reported location, the MacGillivray's Warbler was actively singing. We then turned onto the Conlon trail, where we almost instantly found a Western Tanager. Farther along the trail, we flushed a Lark Sparrow. Farther yet, past the gate, we staked out our target bird, Grasshopper Sparrow. We then left for east county.

Our first stop, Iron House Sanitary District, was very productive. There were Northern Harriers and Swainson's Hawks coursing over the fields, and we heard a Yellow Warbler singing in the willows. Above the marsh, we saw a couple American Bitterns, an American White Pelican, and a Peregrine Falcon. In the reeds, we heard a calling Virginia Rail. On the ponds themselves, we found a flock of Boneparte's Gulls, along with small numbers of Bufflehead, Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers, and Eared Grebes. On our next foray to Big Break, where, with a similar amount of time, we found nothing of interest save a couple Forster's Terns. We decided to cut that site from the route. Swinging by Jersey Island, we found 34 White-faced Ibis (actually on the corner of Jersey Island road and Cypress Road), several Northern Harriers, a Swainson's Hawk and a Nuttall's Woodpecker. We continued on to Bethel Island. At Bethel Island, we found two Bullock's and a Hooded Oriole, a Savannah Sparrow, three Horned Larks, a Loggerhead Shrike, a Belted Kingfisher, a male Black-chinned Hummingbird, a flock of Greater White-fronted Geese (foraging), a Greater Yellowlegs, and heard two Ring-necked Pheasants. We proceeded to the Holland Tract, where a Glaucous-winged Gull was the only bird of interest. Clifton Court Forebay was likewise dead, and a few lingering Bufflehead were the only birds of interest. At Byron Hot Springs, we found several Loggerhead Shrikes and Swainson's Hawks along with a Western Kingbird. We decided to check West county before heading home to get a little rest before the day.

At the end of Canal boulevard (including looking at Brook's Island and Richmond Marina), we found an Osprey, a Black Oystercatcher, a Long-billed Curlew, a Whimbrel a few Marbled Godwits, about a hundred Surf Scoters in a northbound flock, and hundreds of Greater Scaup. In the harbor by Sandpiper Spit, we found a Horned Grebe. At Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline, we pinned down a couple Glaucous-winged Gulls but failed to find a Ruddy Turnstone or a Cackling Goose, two recently-reported rarities on the bayside. On the rip-rap, we saw a single Spotted Sandpiper flyby. We then headed home to get some rest before the day.

We arrived at Tilden at roughly 11:45 and got to the Grasshopper Sparrow spot at midnight. After waiting for a little while, we were dismayed that they weren't calling. This was the first of several nightime disappointments in West county. We left the spot with our first bird (which could not have been more typical), Great Horned Owl. At San Pablo Reservoir, we failed to find the Sora or the Barn or Northern Saw-whet Owls we'd found during scouting. Canada Goose and Mallard had to make up for them. However, a Virginia Rail was calling in our scouted location. Additionally, we heard an interesting squack that we thought might have been a Green Heron, but we couldn't confirm. Darn. We headed to the bayside.

At Meeker Slough, we spent many unsuccessful minutes listening for Clapper Rail. We headed off to Point Isabel for shorebirds. We were pretty successful with shorebirds, and we heard Least and Western Sandpipers, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Killdeer, Willit, and Marbled Godwit. Additionally, we found a Black-crowned Night-Heron (our only one of the day), and heard a California Towhee and a Northern Mockingbird. We were off to north county.

North county was good and bad. Martinez regional shoreline, our first stop, was amazing. Not long after arriving, we heard at least one and maybe two Black Rails among the very early morning chatter of Barn Swallows, Marsh Wrens, Song Sparrows, and White-crowned Sparrows. Walking farther along we found a couple Black-necked Stilts. Then, we heard some distinctive squawks that Bruce recognized as a Short-eared Owl! At Waterbird Park, though, highlights were few. I had an American White Pelican and a couple Green-winged Teal, but nothing else of interest. To my shock, those would be the only Green-winged Teal of the entire day! We then headed to the Diablo Ranges.

As we had come to expect, we got both Western Screech-Owl and Common Poorwill. Then, we went to Mitchell Canyon. Mitchell Canyon was somewhat disappointing. As we expected, we found Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds, all three vireos, Fox Sparrow, and Yellow-rumped and Black-throated Gray Warblers. We found a few other gems, namely Band-tailed Pigeon, Hairy Woodpecker, Lincoln's Sparrow, Purple Finch, and Sharp-shinned Hawk (our only Accipiter of the day). However, we were sobered by misses of Western Tanager, Hammond's Flycatcher and Nashville, Hermit, and Townsend's Warblers, none of which we'd get all day. Driving to Black Diamond Mines, we picked up our first Kestrel and Crows. Along Somersville road on the way out to Black Diamond Mines, our scouting payed off. Both Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Rock Wren were just where they were supposed to be, and we also added Tree Swallow, Western Meadowlark, Belted Kingfisher, and Bullock's Oriole. We then got to Black Diamond Mines. Here, wandering around payed off, and in less than 40 minutes we'd scored Phainopepla, Canyon Wren, White-throated Swift, another Lincoln's Sparrow, and two Lawrence's Goldfinches. On our way out on Somersville road, we pinned down Lark Sparrow (as expected) and Western Kingbird. Driving to big break, we spotted our 100th bird, a House Sparrow. How anticlimactic.

Big Break was very productive. We quickly nailed Swainson's Hawk and, a little later, Northern Harrier. Our scouted Yellow Warbler was MIA, much to our disapointment. However, a female Black-chinned Hummingbird took it's place. The ponds held a Greater Scaup (try as we might, it wasn't a Lesser), Norhtern Shoveler, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Eared and Pied-billed Grebes, a couple Forster's Terns, many Bonaparte's Gulls, and, the real surprise, a third-cycle Herring Gull. Over the marsh, we had seven American Bitterns and a flock of White-faced Ibises, saving a stop. We then blasted off to Bethel Island. Bethel hosted Ring-necked Pheasant, Greater White-fronted Goose, Green Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Black-chinned and Rufous Hummingbirds, Loggerhead Shrike, and Hooded Oriole. Our stake-out Savannah Sparrow and Horned Lark were nowhere to be seen (or heard). Off to Waterbird.

At Waterbird some more contemporary scouting would've been helpful: it was dead. Really dead. After two trips, I'd gotten used to seeing tons of ducks here. This time, there were scarcely more than a dozen. However, I did find a Northern Pintail and Cinnamon Teal, along with Northern Harrier, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Greater Yellowlegs. Then as I was about to leave, I saw a male Great-tailed Grackle. Phew. Additionally, one flew over the freeway a little while down. So, we headed for west county. While driving to Richmond, an Osprey flew over the car.

At Canal Street, we found some of the continuing Brant. An American Wigeon by the dilapidated piers, we found our only American Wigeon of the day. I found the fact that we didn't see more quite remarkable. Additionally, we saw Long-billed Curlew and Willit on Brook's Island, an Osprey overhead, Horned Grebes, Greater Scaup, and Surf Scoters in the Marina, and a Glaucous-winged Gull offshore. Miller Knox was pretty productive. Bruce pulled out two great birds from the bay, a Brown Pelican roosting on Brook's Island and a Common Loon offshore. The really good birds, though, were two Common Murres. They came flying in from the south, and then landed and allowed a nice study. Then we went to Point Isabel. The seawatching part was decent, producing a Common Goldeneye and a Pelagic Cormorant. The rip-rap yielded two Spotted Sandpipers. On the mudflats, we added Semipalmated Plover. To our horror, there were no Black-bellied Plovers! Well, we had to move on. Off to tilden.

Driving along and pulling off along Wildcat Canyon road, we nailed Brown Creeper and Pine Siskin. At Inspiration Point, we quickly added Red-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches. At the parking lot, I saw a White-tailed Kite. At the staked-out spot, we found the MacGillivray's Warbler singing away. We then decided to gun it for the Grasshopper Sparrow. At the Conlon trail, we did find the Grasshopper Sparrow, along with a singing Lark Sparrow. We then road back, listening intently for Olive-sided Flycatcher, Downy Woodpecker, and Pacific Wren. No luck. As we arrived at the parking lot, we decided to head to the Orinda Connector Trail. After a while birding along the trail, we added Wood Duck, but nothing else new. Despite Hairy Woodpecker's less common status, we found another one here, and no Downys. Off to east county.

It was now that we made the greatest fluke of the day. We had heard a report on eBird of Common Gallinule at the Dow Wetlands Marina, and went to a spot we thought was the location. We then didn't find hardly any birds there, and were nearing the actual park when we noticed there wasn't a second marina, so we continued. This process cost us 30 minutes. This fluke likely cost us the record. Anyway, since time was running short, we decided to skip Holland Tract, and with it all hopes of Cattle Egret, Ring-billed Gull or Blue Grosbeak. We arrived at Byron Airport shortly after. We soon found shrike and kingbird, but our three targets were nowhere to be seen. A little further along, though, Bruce spotted a Burrowing Owl on a post. Further yet, we saw a Savannah Sparrow and a singing Horned Lark. We headed on to our last daylight stop. Arriving at Camino Diablo Road, we were hoping to have a crack at Lesser NIghthawk. After half an hour, our hopes began to fade. Then, though, a Wilson's Snipe came blasting overhead. Shortly after, I heard a call that I am 90% sure was a Lesser Nighthawk. However, big days have no tolorance for uncertainty, so I let it go. With the sun down, we decided to try for gallinule at a spot we'd found a nest at last weekend. Had we gone to this spot and picked up Gallinule and Say's Phoebe during our 30-minute waste of time, we would've been better off. Oh well. Anyway, we were unable to make a bird call back. When we were out on Somersville Road earlier in the day, Bruce noticed that that area looked like great Barn Owl habitat. So, we went our there just to find a gate in our way. So we listened mostly from that point. After playing the call a couple times, and not hearing anyting, we were about to give up. Then, though, we spotted a whitish owl circling overhead. Bingo. Little did we know, but that would be the last new bird of the day. An owling effort along Pinehurst road was unsuccessful, as we were only able to hear Great Horned and Western Screech-Owl. After counting up our total, I was pleased to find we had a decent 169. However, our list of misses is encouraging. There were several species that we missed that, with more extensive scouting, going out on a better migration day, and had a more refined route, we could've found:
Common Gallinule
Cattle Egret
Ring-billed Gull
Black-bellied Plover
Downy Woodpecker
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Western Wood-Pewee
Hammond's Flycatcher
Yellow-billed Magpie
Yellow Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Hermit Warbler
Sage Sparrow
Blue Grosbeak

Compare that to our list of unexpecteds:
Wilson's Snipe
Herring Gull
Common Murre
Short-eared Owl

I'm not saying that 183 will be easy (as you are sure to miss some common stuff), but certainly the mid 170s is possible.

We'll see next year...
Good birding,

White-faced Ibis and Black-chinned Hummingbird-Eastern Contra Costa County - 4/26

Paul Schorr

Today we observed four White-faced Ibis along Jersey Island Road just north of Cypress Road in Eastern Contra Costa County. Along the north end of Bethel Island Road near the green gate we had a single Black-chinned Hummingbird.

Other sightings included:

Ring-necked Pheasant - 4+
Green Heron
Loggerhead Shrike - 3
Western Kingbird - 6+
Brown-headed Cowbird

We missed on Blue Grosbeak and Yellow-breasted Chat.

Good birding,

Paul and Nancy Schorr

Pewees at Vale Vista, Moraga

Mark Rauzon

Western Wood Pewees have arrived at Valle lVista, Moraga. most heard calling but I did get s sighting of one with a hummer.

I also saw my first tanager of the season, and Black-headed Grosbeaks finally seen rather than heard. Ash-throated flycatchers, many swallows and a pair of Caspian terns made for a nice cool spring morning.

Valle Vista Staging Area for the Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail is an EBMUD parking lot for it and an EBMUD permit is required to park there. Google East Bay bird hot spots to locate map to this site

Good birding,

Mark Rauzon

Pine Canyon Grosbeak and Tanager


Along about a three quarter mile stretch of Pine Canyon beyond the gated boundary with Diablo Foothills Regional Park, just outside Castle Rock Park, I was able to find my first of the year WESTERN TANAGER (three males), and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, two heard and two observed. In all respects, however, this was a particularly "birdy" morning.

Good birding,
Tracy Farrington
Walnut Creek

2 prs of Calif. Quail in San Ramon yard now; Audubon app sale for JJA's birthday

Eugenia Larson


We now have two pairs of California Quail frequenting our yard daily, with
one male very aggressive toward the other one, not letting him get too close
to him or his female. They come into the yard, usually in the mid afternoon,
and feed under the feeders for as much as a half hour before departing

By the way, some of you may be interested to note that the Audubon smart
phone apps are on sale for 99 cents today through Monday in celebration of
John James Audubon's birthday.

Eugenia and Gary Larson

San Ramon


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Mines and Del Puerto Canyon Roads - 3/25

Leslie Flint <lflint@...>

I led a field trip from Murietta's Well in Livermore out Mines Road and Del Puerto Canyon to Hwy 5 yesterday with 7 others. Highlights of the day were: Hooded Oriole at Murietta's Well; many Ash-throated Flycatchers throughout the day; Lawrence's Goldfinches at the previously mentioned spot on Mines Road (also at the Junction), along with a Western Tanager, several Western Kingbirds and at least 50 Cedar Waxwings there as well; good views of Rufous-crowned sparrows in several locations along with many sightings of Phainopepla and Thrasher. Nashville Warbler was seen by one participant at the Del Valle/Mines Road junction. A calling Western Wood Pewee at the Junction was my first of the season. We had an incredible encounter with 2 Roadrunners along Del Puerto Canyon, first right on the road and then across the canyon where one sat in a tree and called! We were unable to find any Costa's Hummingbirds - alas it is perhaps too early? or perhaps the one male has disappeared forever. The Lark Bunting found on Wednesday was long gone - but then we were there at 4:00 in the afternoon when it was hot and windy. We found nest holes of Lewis's Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch and Downy Woodpecker. Everyone is busy feeding young. Also for those interested in Odes, there were many at several ponds and along the creek in Del Puerto Canyon - lots of Flame Skimmers, Pacific Clubtails, darners and Cardinal Meadowhawks.

Good birding/good odeing

Leslie Flint
San Mateo

Leona Regional Open Space

janet ellis

Overcast day so I decided to go for this trail from Campus to Merritt College again. I'm still not up on to many ID by sound, but did recognize some.
On my way north I heard more birds then seen, but on my way back I was spotting more.
One stop I was hearing Wrentits in the chaparral and spotted a bird up the slope in a bush. I took a few shots and reviewed it and first by the color thought it was a Western Bluebird but looking closer I came up with a Lazuli Bunting.

Later I believe from the sound and the picture I took, that this is a Pacific-slope Flycatcher which I heard a few out there.

Other birds I spotted:
Wilson's Warbler
Spotted Towhee
Song Sparrow
Golden-crown Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Stellar Jay
Scrub Jay
Red-tailed Hawk
Northern Flicker-Red shafted
Eurasian Collared Dove
Band-tailed Pigeon
Hermit Thrush
California Quail
Downy Woodpecker
Chestnut-back Chickadee

Janet Ellis
San Leandro

Re: Scaup Hybrid(?) - Lake Merritt

Lee Aurich

Wednesday on the monthly GGAS Bird Walk of Lake Merritt, led by Hilary Powers, she found again the mysterious bird that Bob Lewis initially identified. Two pictures that show a bit more detail are at:

Lee Aurich
510.654.2216 home

On 4/20/2013 11:16 PM, Bob Lewis wrote:
I was photographing at Lake Merritt a couple of days ago and just
looked over images. I've posted one at that
puzzled me. It looks like a mix between scaup and Ring-necked Duck.
I'd be interested in any comments.
Nifty bird - I wish I'd spotted her yesterday morning when I was down

I kind of like Tufted Duck for the cross - the head shape doesn't seem
to have picked up any sort of top peak, and the bill would work for either.

- Hilary Powers - hilary@... - Oakland CA -
- Freelance copyediting and developmental editing -
- "Making Word Work for You" - -
- The edit you want - online, on time, and on target -
- Needle Felting: or -

Black-headed Grosbeak

calete94501 <chrisbard@...>

Just had a new yard bird...Black-headed Grosbeak was singing in backyard.
Chris Bard
Cambridge near Fernside

Mines Road

Ricardo Villasenor <ricardovillasenor57@...>

I have to apologize for my previous report.  I now know I was in error and what I saw was the Lark bunting reported by others in the Del Puerto Canyon Road intersection with Mines Road and NOT the yellow-billed magpie reported in error.  I saw the white patch on the inner wings and just assumed it was a magpie.  The Lark Bunting is a life first for me.  Once again, please accept my apology. 
Ric Villasenor, San Ramon

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

Lark Bunting--Del Puerto Canyon


Yes, slightly out of area, but a Lark Bunting was seen this morning during the Mt. Diablo Audubon field trip to Del Puerto Canyon Road. The Lark bunting was seen about 10 AM at Mile marker 3.0 when starting from I-5 and going west. This is a gully which is a usual stop for Rock Wrens and Bullock's Oriole, both of which we also saw. The Tree Tobacco also attracts hummingbirds and we did see on male Anna's, too.

The Lark Bunting was photographed by Beth Branthaver and is on her website here:!i=2475810093&k=S6b2rkD

We were already beyond cell phone range, but I did leave a message on the Northern California Rare Bird Alert by calling from The Junction.

Sorry for the delay in posting, but I am only just home.

Hugh B. Harvey
MDAS field trip chair
Walnut Creek

No Blue Grosbeak on Patterson Pass Rd.

richard s. cimino

Today Jim Ross and I did some relaxed birding hoping to see a few migrants.
Along South Flynn Rd. we watched an elegant Golden Eagle flying below
the Wind Turbines along a southeastern ridge.
The eagle was using the warm air off the hill side to fly without any
Traveling South Flynn Rd. we counted three Loggerhead Shrikes and two
Western Kingbirds.
We found no Blue Grosbeak on the typical known Patterson Pass spots.
Along Mines Rd. to stopped at the 4351 Mines Rd. field and Sycamore
Grove along the Arroyo Mocho.
We watch up to five Lawrence's Gold finches, Bullocks Orioles, Chestnut
Backed Chickadee's in the Sycamore Trees.
Jim located a Western Kingbird nest high in a Sycamore which ended up
being the highlight of the day.
Rich Cimino

Mines Road

Ricardo Villasenor <ricardovillasenor57@...>

Today I went to see what I could find along Mines Road in the Livermore area. My first stop was at 4351 mines Road where I saw a Western Kingbird  which came out of the trees and perched on the barbwire fence for an extended view.  I then proceeded to MM 8.4 and got a nice view of an Eurasian collared-dove perched on a wooded pole next to a building and then flew directly overhead across the road.  At the county line (Alameda/Santa Clara) I saw a  California quail scurry up a slope into the brush.  Finally at the intersection of San Antonio and Mines Roads I saw an acorn woodpecker and Nuttall's woodpecker.  Elsewhere along the road I saw red-tailed hawks, American robin, European starlings, scrub jays, and a glimpse at what I believed was a yellow-billed magpie in flight near the large horse corral pull out. 
Ric Villasenor, San Ramon

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

Tilden Nature Area & construction warning


I walked to Jewell Lake and the service road this morning looking for spring arrivals. Near the bicycle rack just past the end of the parking lot, in the bushes were many Wilson's Warblers and a probable McGillivrays. I had a brief look before it dove low into the bushes. It was definitely a hooded warbler of the McG, Nashville type and given the habitat I'm guessing the former. A little further up in the underbrush I could hear a Swainson's thrush singing and giving the soft whit call. On ward were a pair of Black-headed Grosbeaks. Pacific slope flycatchers and Wilson's were everywhere.
Noise Warning- When I reached the Little Farm there was major earth digging going on with heavy equipment. All the animals were corralled in one area. A crew was out spray painting underground utility locations (call before you dig). I asked one of workers what was going on and he said there's a huge sewer line replacement project going to happen and even the Little Farm will be closed. He gave me an extensive run down of what work will be done. I asked him when and he said next year. Maybe he meant it'll be finished next year but considering they were spray painting on the lawn very temporary, it looks like it's going to start soon.
Judi Sierra Oakalnd

Judi Sierra

Re: Mitchell Canyon 4/22

Louis Libert

Forgot to mention: Also saw 3 HERMIT WARBLERS - all of them on the main trail, 2 before the Black Point intersection, 1 at the intersection.

Louis Libert

On Apr 22, 2013, at 6:18 PM, Louis Libert wrote:

Birded Mitchell Canyon at Mount Diablo from 9 - 4 today. Highlights were:

2 Calliope Hummingbirds - both on Red Road - one was just before the first patch of sage, the other was just before the woods start again
1 Hammond's Flycatcher - Red Road fairly close to the beginning of the trail.
1 Lazuli Bunting preening and singing after a dip in the creek on main trail 1000 yards before you get to Red Road
1 Black-headed Grosbeak - just before the bunting


Louis Libert

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

Urban Bluebirds


Two pairs of Western Bluebirds are nesting at San Pablo Park in
Berkeley; both in nest boxes. The pair at the south end have young which
are ~7 days old. The north pair are incubating.

Last year (for the first time since 2008) House Sparrows destroyed a
brood on the south side. This year, so far so good. House Sparrows are
nesting across the street in terra cotta roof tiles.

These Bluebirds have a tolerance for weekend crowds that continues to
amaze me.

Rusty Scalf