Local Egret Colony Thriving on Bay Farm

In the spring of 2011, Bay Farm residents enjoyed the return of an egret colony, with both snowy and great egrets nesting in a pine tree on the main lagoon, according to resident Reyla Grager. This has been the pattern over the past four years, she says, adding that the snowy egret is the official bird of Alameda.

The great egret is considered a federally threatened species, according to Grager, while the smaller snowy egret is listed as endangered – though it’s thriving in Alameda. (She explained issues affecting egrets in the area in the most recent issue of “The Gull’s Call,” a Harbor Bay publication.)

A count in the Bay Area recently found 29 egret nests, including the Bay Farm colony.

Residents who find injured baby or other birds, should contact members of the Bay Farm Nature Connection, including Graber, who can be reached at 510-865-6645.

The Bay Farm birding group is hosting its first bird-watching walk on October 15. Participants will meet at 9 a.m. at Coffee & Tea Traders in the Harbor Bay Landing shopping area.


Alameda Bird Group to Host Post-Thanksgiving Walk

For those looking to get out for a good stretch after this week’s big Thanksgiving feast and appreciate local wildlife, Bay Farm Nature Connection has scheduled a bird walk for 9 a.m. Saturday, November 27.

The bird walk will be led by Tim Molter, the group’s resident field guide.

Walkers should meet at 9 a.m. at Coffee & Tea Traders, 883 Island Drive, in the Harbor Bay Landing shopping center.

Bring binoculars! There are lots of migratory and other birds in the San Leandro Channel and other areas in and around Bay Farm Island these days.

Also, holiday decorations are popping up around town, including lights in the park near the Harbor Bay Ferry terminal for night-time walkers to enjoy.


Alameda’s Got a Springtime Egret Colony

Many thanks to Ralf Stinson and members of the Bay Farm Nature Connection for news about Alameda’s Egret colony.

As the photo above shows, spring has sprung in one tree, for sure, with 24 inhabitants.

“I made over a dozen counts, and the best number I could come up with is 24 birds — about half Great Egrets and half Snowy Egrets,” explains Stinson. 

“The significant changes from last week is the addition of Snowy Egrets and the increase number of Great Egrets,” Stinson says. ” The most common behavior for both was breeding posture with raised feathers, and breeding colors.”

The second-most common behavior was nest building, according to Stinson, who saw some birds with twigs in their bills.  “There was some nest laying. However, I did not see any sign of tending eggs,” he explains. 

The bird lover captured a beautiful image of a Snowy Egret in breeding posture:


So, it looks like we can expect some more “action” a few months from now when some baby egrets are born and tended to.
And there could be more news this spring on a Cooper’s Hawk nest in town, though Stinson didn’t see any signs of habitation this week.

Happy birding!


Alameda’s Birdwatchers Share Crab Cove Tally

At last weekend’s birdwalk around Crab Cove, members of the Bay Farm Nature Connection saw a great array of bird species and sub-species. And they were kind enough to pass on some photos and notes.

Ralf Stinson, who captured the nice images with his camera, says the poor duck shown above is suffering from “angel wing,” also known as “slipped wing,” “crooked wing” or “drooped wing.”

“This is a disease that affects waterfowl (geese & ducks) in which the last joint of the wing is twisted with the wing feathers point out,” Stinson explains.  “It is an incurable anatomical condition which is acquired in young birds due to a high-calorie diet and low in vitamin D/E and manganese.”

The best evidence for the cause of the disease points to human feeding waterfowl white bread, according to Stinson. “It is very rare in birds that are away from humans,” he adds.

Also last weekend, members of the birdwatching group saw many birds in “breeding plumage,” aka sporting special layers and/or arrangements of feathers for spring mating time — like this Eared Grebe.


And for those arm-chair birdwatchers eager to know about the wildlife at Crab Cove, the group did put together a tally of what they saw:  Bird List_3-06-10[1]

Many thanks to Ralf and all the other birders!


Alameda Birders Walk the Walk

The members of the Bay Farm Nature Connection, including Ralf Stinson, are eager to share their knowledge.

They host a bird walk around Bay Farm, other parts of Alameda or nearby areas, every month or two. Their most recent walk was held January 9, and an earlier walk took place November 7.

On November 7, Stinson put together a list of the birds observed by some group members, and a brief description:

American Wigeon – duck w/blond strip on top of head
Mallard – green head (the white ducks are fallow domestic ducks)
Greater Scaup – black head w/yellow eye
Surf Scoter – big bill w/ some orange color
Bufflehead – large white patch on head
Ruddy Duck – tail sticks up
Clark’s Grebe – grebe w/long bill
Brown Pelican – you know
Double-crested Cormorant – our common inland cormorant
Great Blue Heron – big & blue gray
Snowy Egret – black bill & black legs w/yellow feet
Turkey Vulture – black but two tone under wings
American Coot – common & black w/white bill
Ring-billed Gull – look at the name
Forster’s Tern – black on head & swallow tail (forked)
Anna’s Hummingbird – unless you see a ruffus color, it is probably an Anna’s – the most common BF hummer
Black Phoebe – black flycatcher w/white on the lower breast & belly
American Crow – square tail, the larger raven has a pointed tail
Golden-crowned Kinglet – check the name
European Starling – black w/stars & stubby tail
Yellow-rumped Warbler – yellow on top head, throat, sides and rump
White-crowned Sparrow – black and white strips on head (female brown)
Dark-eyed Junco – black head, ivory bill, brown back, white belly, pink legs
Brewer’s Blackbird – black w/yellow eyes

The group also has a list from the Mount Diablo Audobon Society that it uses to tally what birders see and hear on the walks around the Island.

 In other words, BFNC provides residents with great opportunities to learn more about our local wildlife.

The first bird, in the above photo, is a …. (Pick from the above list of 24 birds)… a Clarke’s Grebe.

 The second one is a  …. Golden-crowned Kinglet.

Bird identification is tough, as is deciding whether or not a bird is female or male.

Can you tell if the first White-Crowned Sparrow, is a male or …

… female?

If not, I’ll share the news: the male’s photo is the first one… (Note the difference in the coloring of the feathers on their heads; the male’s are black and white.) 

Here’s to hoping that both ladies and gentlemen alike will join the group on its next bird walk.

And for those interested in learning more about birding and bird-rescue activities, the group invites everyone to an event at the Oakland Zoo: “Saving Seabirds – Stories from the Frontlines” at 7 p.m., January 28. The cost is $10-$20.

Jay Holcomb of the International Bird Rescue Research Center will make a presentation.  Holcomb pioneered the search and rescue program at the Exxon Valdez oil spill, managing the entire rehabilitation program that cared for over 1,600 birds. He also played a key role in managing the rescue and rehabilitation of 20,000 oiled African Penguins.


Time to Join the Bird Watchers!

There’s plenty of excitement on the Main Island and Bay Farm Island these days — within the community of bird watchers.

That’s right, bird watchers.

While many of us stroll around Crown Beach or Shoreline Park to appreciate the sunsets and walk the dog, there are groups of residents paying careful attention to the winged inhabitants of our special community.

Some of them are members of the Bay Farm Nature Connection. The group was formed about three years ago, when several Bay Farm Island residents noticed a large number of egret nestlings in the lagoon, including one infant that had fallen out of a nest.

“They needed monitoring,” said Reyla Graber, one of the group’s organizers.

“This is a big deal,” explained Graber. “We’ve been told by the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory that we’ve got the third-largest colony of egrets in the Bay Area.”

In addition to tending to the egrets, the Bay Farm Nature Connection organizes bird walks, so that area residents can better appreciate local wildlife. Past walk include parts of Bay Farm, Crown Beach and the nearby Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland.

“We try and do a walk every month or two,” Graber said. “There are all kinds of birds here.”

Members of the group recently organized a successful effort to rescue and treat an exhausted, young red-tailed hawk. Raptor-expert Harvey Wilson, shown above in a photo taken by Ralf Stinson, then released the hawk after a couple days of rest and rehydration. 

Tim Molter, a member of the group who’s been birding for two decades, says that we mainly see residential birds in Alameda who live in the Bay Area and may choose to winter in and around the shoreline, mudflats or lagoons. “This is a great habitat for them,” Molter said, and it’s also a popular breeding ground.

Some birds do go through Alameda between November and March from Alaska and the Artic. “There are a few migratory birds to be seen, but they are just moving through Alameda,” explained Molter.

“We have a large number of species, which makes for an interesting experience for bird watchers,” he said. “The best way to learn about birds in Alameda is to go on one of our field trips.” 

The group’s next outing is set for 9 a.m. on Saturday, November 7. Meet at the Coffee & Tea Traders, 883 Island Drive, Bay Farm Island.

To get on the Bay Farm Nature Connection’s mailing list, send e-mail to dmolter@sbcglobal.net.