White-crowned Sparrow coastal race in my parking lot

Patricia Bacchetti

HI all,

I work in El Sobrante, about 2.5 miles from the bay as the crow flies. Earlier this week, I heard a White-crowned Sparrow singing in the parking lot and thought that it was a late migrant. I went out to find the bird in a butterfly bush in the parking lot and was able to approach close enough to record the song-it was the nuttalli subspecies that's a resident and breeds along the bayfront. The song matched several that are archived on Zeno-canto

This is a species that is known for breeding right along the bay, though the Contra Costa Breeding Bird Atlas discusses historical records that had it breeding as far east as Lafayette. They seem to like the fog belt and scrubby habitat, and several breeding pairs were discovered in suburban neighborhoods and the edges of golf courses. I've worked here for 28 years and have never seen a White-crown in the summer months, and because I'm interested in these subspecies I was particularly pleased.

Appearance-wise, nuttalli has a yellow bill, brown body, tan and black scapular stripes, and a short primary projection (it doesn't migrate). It looks alot like the wintering White-crowns that we see, the pugentensis subspecies, that breeds along the NW coast of Canada and Alaska. They can be differentiated by their song.

Another exciting recent discovery is Old San Pablo trail along the SE edge of San Pablo Dam reservoir. A turnout lane on San Pablo Dam Road, just past Bear Valley Road, takes you through 1.6 wooded miles to the boat launch area. The road is free-I thought that you had to pay at either end. It parallels the EBMUD Orinda Connector Trail, but if you don't have time to hike it you can drive through wonderful habitat. Even at 3:00 PM, I recorded 37 species-the highlight was a calling WESTERN WOOD PEWEE.

Good birding,

Pat Bacchetti