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Birding article in today's Contra Costa Times
Sun, 13 Feb 2000 08:39:34 -0800
From: Larry Tunstall

East Bay Birders,

Today's Contra Costa Times features a lengthy front-page article by Gary Bogue about the Christmas Bird Count, the Mount Diablo Audubon Society, and bird population trends in Contra Costa County. Jimm Edgar and Steve Glover are quoted at length.


Good birding, Larry

Larry Tunstall
El Cerrito CA

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Martin Luther King Shoreline GGAS trip
Sun, 13 Feb 2000 13:33:49 -0800
From: Courtenay Peddle

Hello folks,

More than a dozen brave souls joined me in unpleasant conditions (especially for those with scopes and spectacles!) [steady rain] at Martin Luther King Jr Regional Shoreline in Oakland Sunday morning for a Golden Gate Audubon Society birdwalk. We missed lots of the common birds, but had a coupla treats. Here's the list:

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)
Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)
Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)
Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis)
Clark's Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii)
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)
Ross' Goose (Anser rossii)
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
American Wigeon (Anas americana)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Canvasback (Aythya valisineria)
Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)
Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)
Barrow's Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica)
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Great Egret (Ardea alba)
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
American Coot (Fulica americana)
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)
Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus)
Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus)
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)
Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)
American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana)
Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
California Gull (Larus californicus)
Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens)
Western Gull (Larus occidentalis)
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri)
Rock Dove (Columba livia)
Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)
Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)

The Ross' Geese especially were neat!

Good birding,

Subject Index

San Joqauin County Smew
Sun, 13 Feb 2000 22:37:22 -0800
From: Mike Feighner

East Bay Birders:

After hearing the reappearance of the Smew as of yesterday, 2-12-2000, from Rich Cimino's report to the Northern California Birdbox, I headed out that way again. It's only 25.7 miles one-way.

When I arrived, at about 9:40 AM, no one was there, but I did see a car parked near the bridge that obviously belongs to an ABA member.

I decided to try to hike along the south bank of the Old River from the west side of the bridge. Two weeks ago the property owner gave us permission to walk the levee as long as we did not walk directly through the junk yard which is not his property. So, I thought I would give this a try. What did I have to lose? This was my 7th try after 28 hours of searching and at least 15 hours of hiking. About 15 minutes later I was even with the private park which is at the north side of the river. There is a large bend in the river here. On the park side there was a 5 MPH speed limit sign even with where I was standing. Here the Smew sat on the water facing south. Within 30 seconds the Smew flew up to the south but not high enough to fly over the trees. It must have just hidden itself below me on the south bank out of view for me.

The Smew was generally not a perfectly clean white. In fact I noticed no markings on the bird until it took to flight. Only the underwings had narrow black markings. I did not notice any black marking in the face. Has this been the experience with others who have seen this bird?

As I was walking back to my car, Jim Lomax drove up asking about the Smew. I passed on to him directions to where I had just seen the Smew at 10:05 AM. I just received a thank you e-mail from Jim. Sure enough, Jim was successful as well. Jim informs me that he found the Smew where I had just discovered the Smew 10 feet off from the South Bank where it must have been hiding when I was trying to relocate the Smew.

Some have offered some hints how to look for the Smew. I can only say: "Just keep on trying."

Directions from Adam Winer's Northern California Birdbox transcript:

From I-205, take the "Central Tracy" exit north; this is Tracy Boulevard. After about 3.6 miles, just after crossing the bridge over the Old River, turn left onto Finck Road, and park on the right. Do not park in the lots for any of the businesses. Walk back to the north end of the bridge and down to the river. Birders can put in a kayak or canoe here, which is the only entirely public access to the rest of the river, and has been by far the most consistent way to locate the bird. Birders have also obtained permission to walk the south levee to the east; walk the gravel driveway of the first house south of the bridge on the east side of Tracy Boulevard up to the levee. After about a mile, by a dairy, a wooden bridge leads over the river to an island - this island is difficult walking with virtually no openings on the river, and so is not likely to be productive. The levee is marked with a "No Trespassing" sign just beyond the dairy, but it is possible to ask for permission to continue.

As a general pattern, the Smew seems to begin its day in an inaccessible area west of the bridge, after which it is flushed to the east; birders can visit this latter area via the south slough. The owners of the private park west of the bridge, however, are definitely not granting further public access - don't bother these people further. The bridge itself seems a poor (and unpleasant) spot to wait.

Mike Feighner, Livermore, CA

Subject Index

Which vireo?
Mon, 14 Feb 2000 17:45:37 -0800
From: Martha Lowe

Hi there,

Am I correct in thinking that what was once the "western" form of the Solitary Vireo is now Cassin's Vireo, such that Vireo solitarius has become Vireo cassinii?

Martha Lowe

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Re: Which vireo?
Tue, 15 Feb 2000 11:34:57 -0800
From: Larry Tunstall

Martha Lowe asked:

Am I correct in thinking that what was once the "western" form of the Solitary Vireo is now Cassin's Vireo, such that Vireo solitarius has become Vireo cassinii?

Yes. What formerly were considered 3 subspecies of the Solitary Vireo (Vireo solitarius) have now been given species status:

in the East, the Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius),
in the Rockies and Great Basin, the Plumbeous Vireo (Vireo plumbeus),
in the West, Cassin's Vireo (Vireo cassinii).

In California, Blue-headed Vireo is a Review Species, meaning that documentation of sightings should be submitted to the California Bird Records Committee.

For the current California species list, see

Good birding, Larry

Larry Tunstall
El Cerrito CA

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