Richmond 9/30/2020 Yellow-breasted Chat, Red Knot, continuing rarities
Yesterday 9/30 Eric Heisey and I birded around various spots in Richmond, Contra Costa county. We focused our efforts primarily on migrant passerines, checking a variety of coastal traps, parks, and creeks and sidelining waterbirding for the most part. Fog on the coast, overcast skies in Richmond and relatively cool temperatures gave me relatively little hope for a migrant wave, and numbers of neotropical migrants indeed were low. Notably, Warblers, Vireos and Tanagers seemed far lower in number than I would've expected at this date, flycatchers seemed about at normal densities, and Sparrows were clearly undergoing a large pulse. Despite the weather clearing to relatively sunny towards the afternoon, no kind of discernible hawk or swift flight was noted, though little time was spent on ridgetops.
Our first stop was Point San Pablo. Overcast sky, little wind and cool temperature were in contrast to the optimal conditions for this spot--clear, sunny, hot, often with some southwest or northwest winds. Migrants never formed a major pulse aside from more winter-type birds like Sparrows and Thrushes. Highlights included:
Red-breasted x Red-naped Sapsucker-1 near marina looked mostly like a Red-breasted
Willow Flycatcher-1 by county Park
Hermit Thrush-9 must have been part of a pulse here
Spizella sp.-1 near county park evaded identification
Fox Sparrow-25 was a high count for the region, surely representative of a recent wave
White-crowned Sparrow-55 as with Fox Sparrow
NASHVILLE WARBLER-1 bright individual in the fennel south of county park represents one of few individuals of this species I've ever seen in Richmond, and the latest I've encountered in the county
'Audubon's' Yellow-rumped Warbler-4 all together in fennel south of county park was an astoundingly low count for this date
Black-throated Gray Warbler-1
Full eBirding checklist here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S74248001
From there, we headed over to the West County WTP to see what was around. The snazzy juvenile PECTORAL SANDPIPER continues, but not much else. Full eBird list here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S74265287
We proceeded to cover Wildcat Creek, one of the county's overlooked migrant traps, one block up and down from Fred Jackson Way (the normal western parking lot was closed today). The region east of Fred Jackson Way looked fantastic and was where most of the migrants were concentrated. Highlights here included:
Full eBird checklist here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S74265351
We headed on to Hilltop Lake Park, where the afternoon timing had me relatively discouraged for the prospect of finding migrants. However, we stumbled into a fantastic little riparian stretch with a creek just south of the lake that you can walk into. Additionally, there were a couple rough accesses into the willows on the south side of the lake. While migrant numbers were not astonishing (as was the case everywhere today) there were still several around. Highlights here included:
YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT-1 in the riparian stretch south of lake was my first for Richmond, and one of few records. The bird was eating blackberries and I suspect has likely been present for a bit
Yellow Warbler-9 was our best county today
Full eBird list here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S74265429
From there we visited the Richmond Country Club, a spot I'd never birded before. The place is incredibly rich with birds, and is likely even better in Winter than it is in Fall. Nonetheless, highlights included:
PYGMY NUTHATCH-20 of a seemingly resident population represents the first known instance I'm aware of for resident Pygmy Nuthatches in Richmond or anywhere in the western Contra Costa lowlands. Subsequent visits will need to monitor this species but assuming this population is indeed resident this represents a significant northwestern range expansion fro the taxa, which could one day reside in the pine and cypress plantations littered through Richmond.
Chipping Sparrow-4 was a good count for Richmond. It is possible this species could winter here
Yellow-rumped Warbler-70 was a good count, and likely a fraction of the number that winter here
Full eBird checklist here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S74265449
We proceeded on to Booker T Anderson Park. Migrant numbers remained low through the southern passerine traps but they still held some nice birds. Highlights here included:
'Gray-headed' Orange-crowned Warbler-1
CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER-1 continuing individual found by Ethan Monk on 9/24 was still present today in the southern side of the riparian strip, associating with a Townsend's Warbler
Full eBird list here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S74265479
Our next stop was Creekside Park, where we checked for quite a while. Highlights here included:
Great Egret-1 looked rather out of place way up the creek
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH-continuing bird found by Jack Hayden on 9/24. Offered fantastic views. Note this is a different bird than the one present here 9/15-17, as this bird is much less streaked and paler on the breast overall.
Black-throated Gray Warbler-1
Full eBird checklist here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S74265506
We then headed to Point Isabel, mostly hoping for a goody in the Fennel. There were nice numbers of Sparrows there but nothing unusual. Highlights here included:
Black Turnstone-1 out on mudflats was a nice surprise
RED KNOT-2 juvs together out on mudflats with godwits and willlets.
Full eBird checklist here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S74265568
From there we briefly checked Meeker Slough at the mid tide. Shorebird numbers were decent, though smaller species were absent. Highlights included:
Ridgway's Rail-7 was a nice count for the county
Glaucous-winged Gull-1 adult was my first Fall arrival locally
Pelagic Cormorant-6 was a good count for the county
American Crow-560 commuting south to roost (maybe in the albany hill area?) was one of the highest counts I've encountered in Richmond
Full eBird checklist here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S74265593
Given the productivity of Sparrows (for both me and others) during the day and relative lull in Warblers it seems like working fennel patches and scrubby regions along the immediate bayshore is a good idea right now. Some of the productive fennel patches I did not get to include the Landfill Loop Trail, a patch between Meeker and Point Isabel along the Bike Path (across from Hoffman Marsh--where a Harris's Sparrow wintered once), and several regions I'm not as familiar with in the Point Pinole area. Additionally, the patch on Point San Pablo south of the county park and the patch at Point Isabel immediately across from Point Isabel (the historic Dusky Warbler patch) are also very worth checking.
Overall, we had a great time and managed to find 114 species. Great to be back in the bay for FALL!