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Lake Merritt gulls
Thu, 6 Dec 2001 00:40:40 -0800
From: Bruce Mast

I could use some help on identification of gulls at Lake Merritt, Oakland.

ID problem #1. There are a half-dozen first-winter gulls hanging out with the California Gulls near the arches at the southeast end of the lake. These gulls are an even light-brown color, as light or lighter than 1st winter Glaucous-winged Gulls (there's some variation). Primaries are the same color. They are smaller than Western Gulls but bigger than California Gulls. Their bills are all black and relatively small and thin, strongly reminiscent of California Gull bills.

As far as I can tell, the light primaries and even coloring rule out California and Western. The small bill rules out Glaucous-winged, Western, and Herring. The size rules out Mew. I'm inclined to think they are Thayer's but they seem awfully common for such a reputedly rare bird.

ID problem #2. A third-year gull, judging from the remnant black on the beak and tail. Size and shape suggest Western Gull to me. Mantle looks lighter than Western but darker than Glaucous-winged. Primaries darker than mantle. Most strikingly, the bill and legs are bright orange.

I would much appreciate it if a more-experienced gull watcher could take a look and give me a professional opinion.

Behavior question: I've been observing Ring-billed Gulls feeding on the lawn at various places around the lake. They tread rapidly in place and occasionally snap up some morsel from the tops of the grass blades. At one point, I examined the spot where a gull had just been feeding and found a couple flies. Could this be what they are dining on or is there something else? Anyone else noticed this type of behavior?

Didn't find the Tufted Duck.

Bruce Mast
Oakland, CA

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White-throated Sparrow at Albany Hill
Thu, 06 Dec 2001 12:11:07 -0800
From: Larry Tunstall

This morning in the fog and mist on Alan Kaplan's East Bay Regional Park District birdwalk at Albany Hill (at the north edge of Albany and of Alameda County), we saw at least one tan-striped White-throated Sparrow.

From the north end of Madison St, walk on the narrow dirt trail heading north. After you go down a steep bank and over a tiny "stream," you will emerge in an extensive grassy area bordered with shrubs and trees. From here to the path along Cerrito Creek and west along the creek, there are numbers of Golden-crowned Sparrows. A White-throated Sparrow was seen with Golden-crowned Sparrows in two fairly widely separated locations.

There were several Fox Sparrows in this area also, great up-close looks at Anna's Hummingbirds, a Townsend's Warbler, Hermit Thrushes, a Black Phoebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, White-crowned Sparrows, and more. In the eucalyptus near the top of the hill, we saw a Brown Creeper, and Alan said he had seen a Red-shouldered Hawk on Monday.

Good birding, Larry

Larry Tunstall
El Cerrito CA

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Common Lake Anza birds
Fri, 7 Dec 2001 09:38:17 PST
From: Collin Murphy

Dear EBBer's,

This note is not about rare birds! I just wanted to share this pleasure with you. For newer birders who want an easy look at many common species (or "old" birders who just like to look!) I recommend Lake Anza in Tilden Regional Park in Contra Costa County.

After the winter storms began, Lake Anza and environs has featured many easily observed species. Best and most comfortable viewing area is from the benches on the north side of the lake (when they aren't too wet). In the past few weeks, water birds have included dozens of Mallards, a couple of pairs of Buffleheads, at least 2 pairs of Ring-necked Ducks, a pair of Pied-billed Grebes, one Double-crested Cormorant, and American Coots. Belted Kingfishers hang around the shoreline trees. I haven't seen the usual Great Blue Heron for a while, though. The trees overhanging the lake by the benches often have Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, California Towhee, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and 5 kinds of woodpeckers use them as well (Nuttall's, Hairy, Downy, Red-breasted Sapsucker, and Northern Flicker). A large flock of American Robins frequents the area, and both Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks are often over the lake. Black Phoebes perch on the buoys, and a few Red-winged Blackbirds sometimes are heard in the marshy areas. The habitat is also good for Varied Thrush and Hermit Thrush, but I haven't seen any there as yet this fall. Of course, both species of jays [Steller's Jay and Western Scrub-Jay] are around. (Let me know if I have forgotten to mention any others!)

Happy birding, Collin Murphy

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Bald Eagles at San Pablo Reservoir
Fri, 7 Dec 2001 12:39:23 -0800
From: Pat Matthews

I spotted two adult Bald Eagles this morning around 10:00 in the pines on the east shore, mid-reservoir. [San Pablo Reservoir, east of Tilden Regional Park, between El Sobrante and Orinda.] The pair is probably the female and her son who have been our winter visitors the past couple years. She came alone at first and then showed up with an immature male, and now we have two adults, so your guess is as good as mine. They were apart from each other, so I couldn't get a size comparison. Lots of Great Blue Herons, Pied-billed Grebes and some Western Grebes, too.

Keep in mind that San Pablo Reservoir is closed to the public until mid-February except for the hiking trail, which is accessible by a permit that is good for the entire East Bay Municipal Utility District trail system. [Permits can be purchased at EBMUD offices or East Bay Regional Park visitor centers.] Eagle watching is good from the trail.

Ranger Pat
San Pablo Reservoir
El Sobrante, CA

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Eastern end of Bay Bridge
Fri, 7 Dec 2001 13:57:35 -0800
From: Jerrie Arko

I haven't been to Lake Anza this fall but will head up there next week. Thanks to Collin for reminding us!

My daughter, Jane, and I went down the road that goes under the Bay Bridge a few days ago. Not much there as it was high tide. The high light of the walk was seeing a Belted Kingfisher dive into the water after something good to eat! He was sitting on the wires just where the old radio station used to be. There was also a Red-shouldered Hawk, a few Canvasbacks, scaup of both flavors [Greater and Lesser], Ruddy Ducks, Western Grebes, Double-crested Cormorants, American Coots, Buffleheads and a few Northern Shovelers close to shore.

If you don't know how to get there ... it is the last exit before you get on the Bay Bridge from the Oakland end. Just as you get off the freeway there is a right turn that takes you down a narrow road where the radio towers are. Low tide is best.

Jerrie Arko, El Cerrito, CA

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