Common Birds that are not common and fall birding the east bay hills

Jim Chiropolos

This has been a very interesting fall birding the east hills at my home below Vollmer peal and at Vollmer peak, the two areas I bird most.

It has been a very slow year for warblers in the hills. Aside from one day early in Septemeber when 9 hermit warblers passed though my yard before 8 am, I am lucky to see one warbler in a day of any species. Both tanagers and pac-slope flyctachers have been as common or more common than all warbler specied combined (thats never been the case before)! Most falls, looking for warblers, I can find multipe flocks of 10 plus birds but this year, I am fortunate to find 1 or 2. Why? I have no idea.

Hummingbird numbers are also very low in the yard. Previous falls at the house feeders we have had more than 20 hummers a day and I need to buy suger in bulk, but this fall - maybe 5 or less and I have not seen a single fall rufous hummingbird - previous years, at least 2 or 3 rufous are present on a daily basis. Why? I have no idea.

On the theme of common birds that are not common, the yard list is about 130 species, but I was missing song sparrow - a common bird 1 mile above the house in the blackberry tangles at Vollmer peak. Yesterday, I finally saw a song sparrow in the yard - a different subspecies with light tan primaries and crisper spotting on the breast. Of course, it ended up in my neighbors blackberry tangle! For good measure today I saw another new yard bird - a Lincolns sparrow - both these species do not typically frequent the dryer east side of the Berkeley hills. Its amazing I never saw a yard song sparrow disperse from the birds breeding on Vollmer peak -but it shows how habitat must be right....

On another note, Ann Griffith and I kayaked around Brooks Island today, and on the west side of the rip-rack rocks where the cormorants and Borwn pelicans perch on - we saw surfbirds and 2 wandering talers - hard to find birds in Countra Costa County. Surprisingly, there were not a lot of shorebirds on Brooks island or the rip-rack rocks with less than 120 individueals of 10 species seen, but Black Oystercathers were abundant!

Jim Chiropolos, Orinda below Vollmer Peak