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Bald Eagle at Lafayette Reservoir
Mon, 25 Nov 2002 11:43:24 -0800
From: Maury Stern

There was an adult Bald Eagle at Lafayette Reservoir yesterday for several hours around noon. It perched in the oaks in the vicinity of markers 16 and 19. This may be the same bird that hangs out at San Pablo Reservoir. In any event, this is the first year the Bald Eagle was seen before December.

Good birding,
Maury Stern

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Merlin in Oakland
Mon, 25 Nov 2002 14:20:51 -0800
From: Judi Sierra

I too saw a Merlin, perched atop a telephone pole this morning for quite awhile. It was run off by a couple of crows who took over the perch. This was near 60th St and Shattuck Ave, Oakland.

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Escaped Gyrfalcon at Lake Merritt
Fri, 29 Nov 2002 15:56:16 -0800
From: Courtenay Peddle

Hello folks,

At noon Friday I had great views of a Gyrfalcon as it scattered the pigeons at the feeding area beside the Rotary Nature Center at Lake Merritt in Oakland. The bird then flew into the tall Monterey Pine beside the building that houses the children's programs, adjacent to the larger Boathouse parking lot. The bird had pale underwings - no trace of the dark armpits of a Prairie Falcon, and it was huge. It was pale, and completely lacked any mustache. It was not as pale as adult white morphs that I've seen in the wild, but was sand and pale brown on the breast. The relative tones looked like photo 42f in Clark and Wheeler's Peterson Field Guide to the Hawks, which would make it a gray morph juvenile.

Unfortunately, even as it flew I could see the broken jesses (leather straps) streaming from its legs, and when it was perched in the tree the jesses were all too obvious. So it must have escaped from some falconer's collection. Still, it's worth a trip to the Lake to enjoy.

Good birding!
Courtenay Peddle

PS: I couldn't find any Tufted Ducks, which was why I went to the lake in the first place.

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Yellow-headed Blackbirds just north of Antioch Bridge
Fri, 29 Nov 2002 17:08:01 PST
From: Denise Wight

Hi E. B. Birders,

Again this year, just across the Contra Costa County line in Sacramento County, huge flocks of Yellow-headed Blackbirds can be seen with Tricolored Blackbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds.

Driving from Martinez to the Central Valley on Thanksgiving morning, the fog was so thick, I decided to pull off onto Sherman Island Levee Rd, just northwest of the Antioch Bridge. Not expecting to see much because of the thick fog, I was surprised to find about 50 Yellow-headed Blackbirds in a mixed flock, foraging in the corn stubble within 20 feet of the road. The dense fog made their yellow heads hard to distinguish from the straw background, making them look almost headless!

On the way home, the red sun setting, I stopped here again, this time estimating up to 500 Yellow-headed Blackbirds, with at least 200+ in the same spot, still within 20 feet of the road.

I don't know of any other location so near to the Bay Area where one can view huge numbers of Yellow-headed Blackbirds so close. If you're heading out to the Lodi Area via Highway 4, stop and check this area out. It's about one-quarter mile off Hwy 16. Pull over just beyond the pile of trash at the right side of the road. (Currently there is a dresser drawer here, too.) Check both sides side of the road for blackbirds and the bare tree just to your right.

All the Best Birding,
Denise Wight
Martinez, CA

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Owls at the Berkeley Marina
Sat, 30 Nov 2002 12:42:06 -0800
From: John Poole

We had three Chickadee Club walks this morning: Tilden Regional Park, Berkeley Aquatic Park and the Berkeley Marina.

On the Marina walk we found owl pellets under the pine trees next to the Adventure Playground / Cal Sailing parking lot.

I have ruled out (perhaps too presumptuously) Barn Owls, Great Horned Owls and Burrowing Owls. I don't believe that the habitat would support either Great Horned or Barn Owls. The pellets had ground squirrel skulls in them which, I think, eliminates Burrowing Owls. This leaves Short-eared Owl as a possibility. Has anyone seen Short-eared Owls in the area?

Any other ideas?

John Poole

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Snow Bunting in Berkeley Hills
Sat, 30 Nov 2002 14:50:56 -0800
From: Barbara Kelly

Was walking the Nimitz Way Trail in Tilden Regional Park Thanksgiving morning with a friend, when a small white bird flitted across our path. We could hardly believe our eyes as we got a very good and very long look at a male Snow Bunting! Odd that he was alone but odd that he was there at all!!!! This occurred about 9:30 AM, a little over 3 miles out on the trail. The bird was feeding in the driest grass at the very edge of the west side of the trail. He flew across the trail to perch on the wire fence for a few minutes and then returned to his feeding spot. He seemed to be in no hurry at all to leave the area and was certainly not afraid of us!

Editor's Note: At 3 miles north of Inspiration Point on Nimitz Way, you would actually be in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.

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Eurasian Wigeon at McNabney Marsh
Sat, 30 Nov 2002 16:34:38 PST
From: Denise Wight

Hi E. B. Birders,

This morning I scoped out McNabney Marsh from the new Waterbird Regional Preserve in Martinez (Marina Vista becomes Waterfront Rd east of Hwy 680, then turn right on Waterbird Way and watch for the Preserve entrance). The ducks were few, but there was an easy-to-view male Eurasian Wigeon among the few (maybe 10) American Wigeon in the marsh just below the parking lot. He spent most of his time just paddling along, all by himself.

Denise Wight
Martinez, CA

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Berkeley Marina owls redux
Sat, 30 Nov 2002 16:50:51 -0800
From: John Poole

Thanks to the many responders regarding the kind of owls one might expect at the Berkeley Marina. It appears that the culprits could be Great Horned, Barn or Short-eared Owls.

I guess there's one way to make certain. I'll let you know if I find them.

John Poole

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Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and a Black Rail in Oakley
Sat, 30 Nov 2002 17:24:33 -0800
From: Joseph Morlan

East Bay Birders,

On our way home from birding Solano County (good views of up to 100 Mountain Plovers along Robinson Rd, 3.5 miles east of Hwy 113), Robbie Fischer and I stopped at Sherman Island, Sacramento County, to look for blackbirds [in the area described by Denise Wight]. We were not disappointed.

There were thousands of blackbirds in the area, mostly Tricolored Blackbirds but also hundreds of Yellow-headed Blackbirds, mostly males. The directions are as Denise described, except I think this is east of the Antioch bridge, not west. Just north of this site, we stopped along Hwy 160 where we were treated to at least five Swainson's Hawks in the air at once. Unfortunately a special hunt was going on in the area, so we were unable to get permission to go out to the fields where they were.

Later we stopped at the Iron House Sanitary District in Oakley, Contra Costa County, where we heard a single Black Rail calling in the marsh across from the last pond. [From Hwy 4, go north on Vintage Pkwy, right on Walnut Meadows Dr almost to the end, then left on Jordan Ln and park. The trailhead for Big Break Regional Trail is at the north end of Jordan Ln. Follow this trail along the north side of the Sanitary District ponds.]

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Re: Black Rail in Oakley
Sat, 30 Nov 2002 19:54:40 -0800
From: Dennis & Patricia Braddy


On June 10, 2001, at 10:30 AM, we heard a Black Rail in the exact same location [as the one Joseph Morlan describes]. This is one more Black Rail than we have heard or seen at Palo Alto Baylands, perhaps the most famous Black Rail location in the Bay Area.

Dennis and Patricia Braddy
San Ramon

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