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Fwd: House Finch request
Thu, 27 Sep 2001 19:00:51 -0700
From: Larry Tunstall


I am forwarding the following request for Matt Shawkey of Auburn University, Alabama. You can learn more about the work in Geoffrey Hill's lab at

Matt Shawkey is new at the lab this year and not yet listed on the website, but he has been working on scrub-jays in Florida.

Larry Tunstall

Date: Thu, 27 Sep 2001 20:42:32 -0500
From: Matt Shawkey
Subject: House Finch request

Fellow birders,

I am a doctoral student in Geoff Hillís lab at Auburn University studying proximate causes of plumage variation in House Finches. I will be in the San Francisco/Berkeley area from October 12 to 17 to check out a possible study site (Alcatraz) and catch finches for captive breeding back at Auburn. The birds will be housed in an aviary and treated very well.

Does anyone have a yard with feeders that attract House Finches? If so, would you be willing to let me trap them there for 1 or 2 days?

This trapping will not impact the overall House Finch population, or the number of birds you find at your feeder. You will be gratefully acknowledged by name in all publications resulting from this research. I have all the necessary equipment and permits, but need trapping sites. If you have any questions, feel free to call me at 334.844.4829.

Thank you very much for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Note: If you wish to e-mail Matt, send your message to and I will forward it to him.

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Re: Where are the robins?
Fri, 28 Sep 2001 12:11:42 -0700
From: Mary

On September 13, George McRae wrote:

I have noticed recently that the American Robins are missing. ... Is there a summer migration? has there been a problem with them? Very curious.

I saw about 15 American Robins on a patch of lawn in Palo Alto yesterday - might be very regional to your spot? (Robins are among my absolute favorite birds.)


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Re: Where are the robins?
Fri, 28 Sep 2001 12:35:15 -0700
From: Lisa Viani

George, I saw some robins up at Poinsett Park in El Cerrito the other day (near your house)....  :-)


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Re: Where are the robins?
Fri, 28 Sep 2001 14:55:53 -0700
From: Tom Condit

There sure seems to be a shortage of robins here in Central Berkeley, and I only saw one when I was up at the UC Botanical Garden Wednesday.

Tom Condit

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"Secret park" north of Hilltop Mall
Fri, 28 Sep 2001 15:02:49 -0700
From: Tom Condit

Someday I'll actually memorize the real name of this park. Anyway, in the semi-abandoned park below [north of] the Hilltop Mall in Richmond, the following birds were present on Tuesday, 24 Sept 2001:

American Wigeons (many in eclipse plumage)
"Park" ducks and geese*
Pied-billed Grebe (with a weirdly splotched red and white bill)
Song Sparrows

The Song Sparrows were staying in the willows and no other passerines were visible at all. I suspect they felt the storm coming.

The "park" ducks and geese included:

One pair of Chinese Geese
One pair of Greylag Geese
numerous white barnyard types
What appeared to be a hybrid Chinese Goose X barnyard goose
A molting Muscovy with the red facial skin of the domestic type, but "wild" plumage

(I don't think the Muscovy is naturalized anywhere in the US except a small part of Texas, so this is undoubtedly a domesticated one of some sort or a product of a game farm escapee X domestic marriage, or some kind of domestic one with the same plumage as wild, or ....)

Signs of attention: The Richmond City Parks Department has posted an hours sign at one of the access points, and the DFG has put up a notice that they're stocking the lake. (They don't say with what.)

Tom Condit

Editor's Note: This park (around a small lake on Garrity Creek, just north of Hilltop Mall Rd that forms the northern border of the mall) is shown on some maps as Hilltop Lake Park.

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UC Botanical Garden
Fri, 28 Sep 2001 15:10:49 -0700
From: Tom Condit

University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley Wednesday, 25 Sept 2001

Both Anna's Hummingbird and Selasphorus hummingbirds throughout the garden, but in reduced number compared to previous week. Storm casualties?

Spotted Towhee*
California Towhees
Song Sparrows
Dark-eyed Juncos
Steller's Jays
Western Scrub-Jays
Two Red-tailed Hawks, one of them with a lot of white on it
One American Robin
One apparent Yellow Warbler (immature female - didn't stand still long enough to be sure of it)

*I don't see Spotted Towhees often in the Garden, although they're resident there. I bumped into Chris (Carmichael?), the Horticultural Director, who said that they have spread from the chaparral areas into just about every habitat in the Garden over the past few years.

Tom Condit

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Robins, and Tilden Regional Park
Fri, 28 Sep 2001 20:57:37 PDT
From: Steve Glover

Hello all,

First a comment on American Robins, and then a few birds at Jewel Lake, Tilden Regional Park, this morning.

Though I haven't actually pored through the notebooks I suspect that most of the robins present right now are the permanent residents. They are a pretty common nesting bird in the East Bay but they become much more common in winter when we are inundated with northern breeders that winter here. Apparently we are a bit early for the fall push of robins and it seems to me that the biggest influxes are typically late October or November. It should also be noted that the size of the influx can vary greatly year to year as can the timing. I remember one Christmas Bird Count a few years ago when everyone commented on the dearth of robins, and as is traditional at Christmas Bird Count dinners, everyone seemed to be convinced that robins were quickly going the way of the Passenger Pigeon. I knew this wasn't the case as just a few days earlier I had driven Hwy 299 through Trinity County and into Humboldt County and saw more robins than I had ever seen in my life, surely hundreds of thousands, all feasting on a bountiful madrone crop. They weren't disappearing, they were just somewhere else.

I have heard a few comment that this seems to be a late winter (for bird purposes, anyway) and though I haven't been out that much the past couple of weeks I had no Yellow-rumped Warblers and only one Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Tilden Regional Park [Berkeley Hills] this morning, two birds which will be abundant in the very near future.

Speaking of Tilden, I birded Jewel Lake this morning. No vagrants, but unusual to me were three Hermit Warblers (always much harder to find here in fall) and a Nashville Warbler (another bird I rarely find here in fall). I then spent an hour up at Inspiration Point wondering if there might be hawks moving south. I wasn't there long enough to determine much though I saw four accipiters circling about but not doing anything that indicated they were migrating. The highlight was a flyby Acorn Woodpecker, heading south. There was also a flyby Red-breasted Sapsucker and several flocks of southbound Band-tailed Pigeons.

Good luck
Steve Glover

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