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Western Contra Costa county 3/28/2020 TUFTED DUCK, continuing Pileated Woodpecker, Lawrence's Goldfinch etc


Logan Kahle
 

Hi all,

Spent yesterday exploring some patches of bayside and hills in Western Contra Costa county. I was hoping the recent storm systems would put down some waterbirds locally, though I was not optimistic about passerine movement due to recent NW winds and rain. Sure enough, passerine movement was dull even at migrant traps like Point San Pablo (though Spring movement at this location has still yet to be fully explored), and unfortunately I found little in the way of waterbird drop-ins on the big inland reservoirs.

I got out with a late start to Point San Pablo at low tide at 8:30am. Passerine movement was virtually null, and relatively few breeders were in compared to what I was expecting (e.g. no Pac-slopes, few Orange-crowns, swallows not back en mass). Low tide meant lots of scaup offshore were close to the Marina, and allowed for easy pickings. The highlight by far was a nice male TUFTED DUCK mixed in with the scaup flock just off the Pt. San Pablo Marina, visible from both the elevated road heading down to the Marina and from the Marina itself. The bird was closest off the Marina, perhaps just 100 yards or so offshore. The bird's tuft was relatively small compared to some other tufties, but the back was solid black and I saw no real suggestions of hybridization. This represents a long overdue first record for this species in Richmond (though there is a record of hybrid). Also, a cautionary note that I know of 3 different people who've tried for this bird since yesterday morning and all, so far, have not been able to locate the bird. When I saw it it was just offshore but it seems it moves throughout the whole bay region around there (there are thousands and thousands of scaup around) and unless it is close it may be hard to locate. Also, there are recent signs (and speedbumps!) saying "private road no outlet) and similar messages. I asked some people at the harbor and it seems like they are still alright with visitors, so birding is still fine.

Anyway, highlights here included:
Eurasian Wigeon-1 male was one of only three I have ever seen on the point
TUFTED DUCK-1 details above
Red-throated Loon-1
Pelagic Cormorant-1 on Brothers
Red-winged Blackbird-5 were back on their traditional breeding territories around petrolite dr
'Myrtle' Warbler-1
Wilson's Warbler-4 all of which seemed to be returning breeders

Full eBird list here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S66345000


I proceeded on to Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline and was amazed to see the pond was dead! As in, essentially completely devoid of birds. No wigeon, no gulls etc. It seems to me that maybe the lack of people in recent weeks there due to the recent epidemic have cut off food supplies for some of these birds? Or perhaps it was just tide related. No unusual birds during the brief check.

Full eBird list here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S66338134


I continued on to Sandpiper Spit. As was the theme on the water today, not many birds. The highlight was 48 Brant out by the breakwater. Perhaps some will summer as they have done in years past.

Full eBird list here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S66338546


I then checked Brooks Island and the channel off Canal Boulevard. The Gull/Tern colony is going strong, but it seems that California Gulls have secured their domination of the area. There were 8 Caspian Terns but none seemingly actually on territories. It may be that the historic largest Caspian Tern colony in the Bay Area is no more. Anyway highlights from here/colony numbers included:
Brant-3
Common Goldeney-4
Red-breasted Merganser-1
American Avocet-4 were uncommon for Brook's
Western Gull-60
California Gull-220
Caspian Tern-8
Brown Pelican-21

Full eBird list here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S66338221


From there I checked the Richmond Marina and Vincent Park. The Marina didn't have as many birds as I was hoping, but a few things were still around. Highlights included:
BLACK SCOTER-2 continuing males actively calling and swimming around
Black Turnstone-1
Hermit Thrush-1 singing from neighborhoods by Vincent was, I believe, a migrant

Full eBird checklists here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S66337931
https://ebird.org/checklist/S66338007

I then tried to see if the Greater Roadrunner reported the previous day was anywhere to be seen. No luck with the bird, and I suspect it likely moved on.

From there I proceeded to Redwood Regional Park to try for my 5th or so time for the Pileated. Unfortunately, much of this was in Alameda and I begrudgingly pushed myself over the county line. The main gate was closed so I had to walk an extra .6 miles just to get to the main parking area. Much to my delight, the Pileated was actually not that hard to find, and even see. While it spent most of its time in Alameda it did at one point rocket east and put down along the ridge (near the east ridge trail) inside Contra Costa county. Awesome! Highlights here included:
Red-breasted Sapsucker-1
Hairy Woodpecker-1
PILEATED WOODPECKER-1
Pacific-slope Flycatcher-4
Pacific Wren-2
Townsend's Warbler-1

Full eBird checklist here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S66346918

From there I hopped down Pinehurst Road to Valle Vista, which was relatively slow. A 5-species swallow flock was the sole highlight.

Full eBird checklist here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S66337007


I briefly checked Briones Reservoir to look for drop-in waterbirds and failed completely, with none readily noted. I did however find a beautiful adult dark morph Red-tailed Hawk specimen on the side of the trail. 

Full eBird list here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S66336888

From there I checked San Pablo Reservoir. Access roads were closed so I had to see in from a boat launch accessed off the main road. Highlights here included:
Common Merganser-3
Forster's Tern-1
Double-crested Cormorant-106 was a solid count here
White-breasted Nuthatch-1 which signifies about the western extent of this species common range in the county
Pygmy Nuthatch-6 were the only I detected on this day

Full eBird checklist here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S66336656


From there I checked Kennedy Grove Recreation Area. The spot was quite productive. I walked from the parking lot up to where you can see San Pablo Reservoir. Highlights here included:
Caspian Tern-1
Golden Eagle-1
White-throated Swift-3
California Thrasher-1
LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCH-3 was the first I have ever seen in the Berkeley Hills

Full eBird list here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S66336645


From there I headed back to the bayside to the West County WTP. It was closed and the parts I could see from the road were less than great. Water levels were very high along the parkway ponds with almost no shorebird habitat. The sole highlight was a Lincoln's Sparrow that burst into full song (!), something I dont get to hear in the Bay Area too often.

Full eBird list here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S66337707


I then decided to hike Landfill Loop given the huge number of birds I'd seen offshore from there in the morning (from Pt. San Pablo). Unfortunately, the scaup rafts had dispersed out to the bay by the time I arrived in the late afternoon (likely a tide thing...it was now high). Still decent numbers of roosting shorebirds and ducks here. Highlights included:
Canvasback-20
Common Goldeneye-6
Short-billed Dowitcher-4

Full eBird checklist here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S66340148

With the high tide, I opted for my final stop of the day being Meeker Slough and S 51st st. The mitigation ponds were not as big of a shorebird high tide roost as I was hoping, but a small flock of curlews was using it. There was starting to be a small amounts of mudflat edge at meeker and Dunlin and Western Sandpipers were going nuts. Highlights here included:
Whimbrel-1
Long-billed Curlew-17 on mitigation ponds
BONAPARTE'S GULL-1 in almost complete alternate plumage roosting with the gulls at meeker was my first for here and one of less than 5 that I've ever seen in Richmond (I suspect they are only regular as migrants, such as this bird)

Full eBird checklist here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S66344791

All in all, it was a spectacularly fun day, with 138 species seen, even though some were in, dare I say, Alameda. This is the highest total I have ever had for a day in West Contra Costa, and is especially amazing considering rainy conditions and that I started at 8:30 and ended over an hour shy of sunset. Good to be out seeing the first big pushes of SPRING!

Good birding,

Logan Kahle

San Francisco, CA