Monday at Lake Merritt and Arrowhead Marsh


Mount Diablo Audubon Society did a field trip today to the lake and marsh.  We do not understand it, but there seem to be fewer and fewer birds on Lake Merritt.  Of course, it is like that in lots of places.  We did have three gull species, including a very close Glaucous-winged Gull, a fair number of Scaups of both species, and even some female Hooded Mergansers.  A Queenfisher was in a bare tree on the right-hand island.  We could not find a Barrow's Goldeneye.

At Arrowhead Marsh, the marsh was almost non-existent.  There were lots of Ridgeway's Rails visible through scopes at the far north (?) end.  One other observer said he had counted 14 of them.  We also had a couple of Sora's pretty close to us at the wooden pier, which was covered with Dowitchers, Godwits and Willets.

Derek Heins rode by and we talked about his Richmond CBC.  He found a Brant farther along the trail there, but most of the group had already left for Garretson Point.  He and I did see 6-8 Blue-winged Teals in the mitigation area behind the fence.

A Peregrine Falcon came over the pond at Garretson Point, and a young Cooper's Hawk was harassed by Crows.

Hugh B. Harvey
Walnut Creek

Matt Tarlach

It was fun running into the MDAS group at Arrowhead. I'd arrived earlier, and wound up staying later---after the king tide flooded the exit from the parking lot with deeper water than I was comfortable navigating in my Chevy Volt. As an addendum to your report:

Shortly after I arrived at the Arrowhead parking area I heard crows going crazy overhead, and looked up to see a Bald Eagle alighting on the tallest pole above the observation deck. It was perhaps a three-year-old bird with yellow beak and eyes, mostly brown with white coming in around the head and neck. The crows were unable to drive it off and eventually seemed to get bored, leaving it to perch there for ~20 minutes. Eventually the eagle flew out and back over the flooded marsh before heading off at low altitude toward the west. Magnificent bird, even in its immature plumage.

Right around high tide I counted an honest 20 rails out in the flooded marsh. Several were wading neck-deep in the water, and a couple of were perched on floating logs. Compared to egrets that I've seen standing nonchalantly on kelp out in the ocean swell, the perched rails appeared unsteady, and I imagined them to be nonplussed. I bet they were relieved when the tide rolled out again.
I think one of the rails on the most densely occupied island was a Virginia Rail. It appeared to be much smaller than the other rails nearby, and though it was long range I was pretty sure about the gray face and more vivid orange bill.

After the MDAS group left Arrowhead, two raptors had an acrobatic confrontation. One was certainly a Peregrine, the other had similar coloration but was much smaller, and I thought had a more delicate look. It might have been a large female Peregrine vs a small male but I thought the smaller bird might be a dark-backed Merlin. I was too far away and they were flying too acrobatically to be sure of its marks.

While waiting for the tide to ebb so I could escape the parking lot, I walked around the path to see the geese. Foraging in a grassy picnic area with ~40 Canadas were 2 Greater White-fronted Geese, and a Brant. In the trees along the dry-land spine of the park there were Yellow-rumped Warblers, another Yellowthroat and CA Towhee. I also had some Savannah Sparrow and one Fox Sparrow, on and near the little dry island west of the pier. There were a dozen Black Turnstone on the pier, among the larger shorebirds.

When the tide finally receded I drove out to Ballena Bay. Along with more of the same species we'd seen earlier there was a Common Loon fishing in the choppy bay, and a few Surf Scoters. While I was there 30 or 40 Brown Pelicans flew low past by the marina breakwater, heading east. I didn't think of pelicans as unusual but EBird popped up a red exclamation mark for the sighting, demanding an explanation, so thought I'd mention them.

Matt Tarlach
Walnut Creek


I was so relieved to see your post re the Bald Eagle! I was looking out my Alameda kitchen window Monday at the visible patch of sky and saw--floating above--a huge bird (for Alameda) that could only be an eagle, most likely a subadult Bald from what I could see with my naked eye. But it disappeared behind a roof before I could grab my binocs, and the next thing I saw up there was an airplane on the SFO flight path. I thought I was losing my mind as well as my eyesight. I am reassured. Great to see an eagle over Alameda on its way to/from Arrowhead!

Ardith Betts