Southern East Bay Shorebird Report

Alexander Henry


Today I birded several spots in the southern East Bay with an emphasis on shorebirds.

My first stop was Coyote Hills, I arrived around 9 AM and spent 4.5-5 hours there, covering a little over 12 miles.

There are essentially 3 main shorebird hotspots within Coyote Hills that I am aware of. (There may also be a secret Yellowlegs hotspot somewhere but I haven’t found it yet).

The first I checked today was North Marsh Pond. This is a large freshwater pond north and slightly east of the visitor center, best accessed by the paved Alameda Creek Trail. Today there were a couple hundred Avocets and over a hundred Stilts in North Marsh Pond, as well as a flock of 80 Dowitchers (all I was able to identify in this flock were Long-billed). There were also 35 or so Yellowlegs, of which 3 were Lesser Yellowlegs. There was also over a hundred American White Pelicans and a few California Gulls.

After that, I followed Alameda Creek Trail all the way out to the creek mouth. This is a distance of several miles so a bike is helpful. It can be done on foot but takes most of the day. I scoped out the mudflats on the south bank of the creek mouth, where there were huge flocks of foraging shorebirds. This included at least 5 Ruddy Turnstones, 2 Sanderlings, 1 Dunlin, a couple hundred Black-bellied Plovers, several hundred Willets, between one and two hundred Marbled Godwits, 20 or so Short-billed Dowitchers, 25 or so Semipalmated Plovers, a couple hundred Least Sandpipers, several thousand Western Sandpipers, a handful of Greater Yellowlegs, 25 Long-billed Curlews, one Whimbrel, and 2 Black Oystercatchers. But most shocking of all was that I was only able to find 2 Red Knots, based on the numbers of other shorebirds I would have expected at least a couple dozen, which is more typical at this location. I did briefly see the back side of a flock of shorebirds flying north towards Eden Landing which had some Black-bellied Plovers and some other smaller ones, there could have been more Knots in that flock but I missed it. Anyway I thought it was strange to see so few Red Knots here, especially since there haven’t been very many Red Knots at Franks Dump lately either. Maybe that’s normal for this time of year though and the numbers will increase later on when juveniles arrive. Also maybe all the Red Knots are hiding somewhere at Eden Landing.

Finally, I continued south along Shoreline Trail then east along No Name Trail. I checked the peep flocks that congregate on the algae flats on the north side of No Name Trail, between the pumphouse and the first levee. It was mostly Leasts - over a hundred - with a few Westerns scattered in. I believe this where some or most of the Semipalmated Sandpipers reported at Coyote Hills have been, including one fairly recently, but I was not able to find any Semiplmated or Baird’s in the area. Also a few Semipalmated Plovers. The pond on the south side of the trail across from the pumphouse was quite full of water, so no Yellowlegs or Stilts were there as there often are.

Some non-shore-bird highlights at Coyote Hills included good looks at Green Heron, Common Gallinule, and Peregrine Falcon way back in the Willow Trail/DUST Marsh area. 1 Red-shouldered Hawk, 4 Chestnut-backed Chickadees, 2 Downy Woodpeckers back in that willowy area. Some aerial insectivore flocks mostly Barn Swallows with a few Cliffs and a couple White-throated Swifts. About 20 Least Terns out at Alameda Creek Mouth, and 5 or so Forster’s. Should be keeping an eye out for Commons now too! But I only saw Forster’s. Didn’t check Visitor Center or Quarry Staging Area at all though I imagine some songbird migrants might be starting to move through, they certainly are up in the hills!

After that I checked LaRiviere Marsh at Don Edwards really quickly. Just those ponds next to the main road. Just a couple minutes. Derek H had mentioned a Yellowlegs flock there so I went to check it out. In the big open pond there were 2 dowitchers, 37 Black-necked Stilts, and 6 Yellowlegs - 1 Greater and 5 Lessers, an unusual ratio in the East Bay, but maybe more usual in the South Bay. In the farther off pond with more vegetation, there was a flock of 21 more Yellowlegs. I think they were mostly Greaters but they were farther off and I didn’t pay much attention to them.

After this, I checked a secret shorebird spot in Old Alameda Creek east of Eden Landing. This was another quick stop, about 10 minutes. Today, this spot had about 175 Black-necked Stilts, and about 500 Dowitchers - all that I was able to identify were Long-billed. Tragically, the massive Yellowlegs flock that was here a couple weeks ago has dwindled from over a hundred to less than 15, with only one Lesser, the rest Greaters. Not sure why there are so many fewer Yellowlegs there now. There is another Yellowlegs roost along the Bay Trail inside Eden Landing a mile or two south of the parking lot, but I didn’t take the time to visit that today.

Finally, I finished the day by parking at Winton Ave and visiting Hayward Regional Shoreline for a couple hours. When I got to Franks Dump I realized there was a Peregrine Falcon roosting in the southeastern part of Franks Dump. The result was that I didn’t see any shorebirds in the southern and eastern parts of Franks Dump. So, no Snowy Plovers, and no Semipalmated Sandpiper. (I did not walk to the northeast corner to check for Snowy Plovers up there, there could have been some or many, but I didn’t see any). The other bad thing about the falcon was that all the Willets and Godwits were not there. And they definitely took some of the dowitchers with them. But the good thing about the falcon was that it pushed the remaining shorebirds fairly close to the northwestern corner of Franks Dump, allowing me to study the flock more closely than I have on recent visits. Also, there were just so many Black-bellied Plovers today, rather than 300-400 as I have been seeing recently, I counted 575 today. The continuing Pacific Golden-Plover was there, and was much closer to the trail today, allowing a fairly close study in the scope. There was over a thousand Western Sandpipers, at least 17 Sanderlings, 22 Surfbirds, 8 Ruddy Turnstones, and at least 11 Red Knots. Again this Red Knot count seems kinda low to me. Especially given how many Black-bellied Plovers were present. There was also a three dozen or so dowitchers in Franks Dump, all of them that I was able to identify were Short-billed, easy to hear with a Peregrine Falcon causing havoc flushing stuff, also juvenile Short-bills are showing up now so that always helps.

There was a large flock of gulls in Franks Dump as well which was mostly 200+ California Gulls with at least one Western and a couple dozen Ring-billed. There was also a flock of about 75 or 80 gulls in the sand flats west of the Least Tern colony area. This flock was mostly Ring-billed with a few Californias and a Caspian Tern mixed in. I didn’t go to Oro Loma Marsh or San Lorenzo Creek Mouth, though I assume that the Marbled Godwits and Willets and the rest of the Dowitchers were at one of those two places.

Overall I’d say we aren’t currently at the level of the late August/September peak shorebird migration season, at least in terms of diversity, as it is still a bit early for Baird’s, Pectoral Sandpipers, Dunlins, etc… though they are certainly starting to show up they should be easier to find in another couple weeks or so. But definitely lots of shorebirds out there right now waiting to be seen, and it’s only gonna get better!

Alex Henry