Berkeley Hills Quasi-Hawkwatch

Michael Park

Dear Group,

I spent a little more four hours casually viewing the sky from various locations in the Berkeley HIlls to the north of Zaytuna College. This was not a continuous effort, lots of chatting with residents, dog-walkers, etc.

Wind was initially unfavorable for bayside movement. There was activity visible over Inspiration Point in Tilden -- a kettle of 4 Red-tailed Hawk. Otherwise, not much activity.

After 1PM there was a slight shift in wind to a more northwesterly. Raptors started appear to the north from the bayside of the hills, including an immature 1st- or 2nd-cycle Bald Eagle that was moving on the bay side of the hills towards Vollmer Peak. There was a single kettle of 3 Red-tailed Hawk, but most were single birds low (near the level of the crest of the hills).

The lack of Vaux's Swift here, which I have seen at this time of year from Inspiration Point massing over San Pablo Reservoir and/or Briones, suggests that raptors and migrants traveling this interior route bypass this portion of the Berkeley Hills and head straight for Vollmer Peak which is more than 500 feet higher and elevation to catch thermals there. Jim Chiropolos sees many more migrants from that vantage than I do from this location. Ethan Monk reported many Vaux's Swift from Vollmer Peak. And I have seen them from Grizzly Peak Blvd (in Alameda County) to the west.

Similarly, the low trajectory of the raptors seen today on the bayside over Berkeley and not along the crest of the hills, suggests the possibility that these too were seeking a direct path to the high point at Vollmer Peak.

Yesterday, as Ethan Monk reported from Vollmer Peak, there wasn't much activity here either -- some local Red-tailed Hawks and a Red-shouldered Hawk. There was a single Cooper's Hawk that unsuccessfully chased birds in the trees below Zaytuna College.

I am curious to see if anyone was on Vollmer Peak today and was able to observe movements there. I have suspicions that it could have been good.

In summary,

1 Bald Eagle
15 Red-tailed Hawk
3 Red-shouldered Hawk
7 Turkey Vulture
1 Sharp-shinned Hawk


1 Red-breasted Sapsucker, first of season for location
1 Black-throated Gray Warbler, possibly a continuing bird seen sporadically during the past few days
1 Purple Finch, vocalizing in the fashion of the song of "Solitary Vireo"
3 Western Tanager

Full checklist here:

Michael Park