Alameda Wildlife & Grand Marina

You never know what you’ll find on the docks in Alameda — maybe even a nest of house finches in the main sail of a boat docked at Grand Marina.

The nest was spotted a few weeks ago by an Alameda-based sailor, and this photo of the finch eggs was taken by local birder Cindy Margulis about 10 days ago.

And over the past couple of days, the eggs have hatched, and the baby birds are hungry. Once they get well nourished and are able to fly on their own, during the next week or two, they should move off the boat and onto dry land.  

Many thanks to Bay Farm Nature Connection (BFNC) for helping out with the birds — and for suggesting that the boat not head out for a summer sail until the young finches have abandoned ship.

Hopefully, the Alameda group will be scheduling a bird walk later this summer.


Alameda Bird Group Takes Break from Walks

The bird-walking group Bay Farm Nature Connection won’t be staging its monthly birdwalks in April and May.

The next walk should take place in June.

BFNC member Ralf Stinson, who took the pelican photo shown above, needs to tend to other activities.

He, along with fellow BFNC partners  Tim Molter and Harv Wilson, will be traveling to Arizona to bird the area.

Meanwhile, members of the group will be keeping an eye on the local egrets, now building their nests on the lagoon near Bay Farm Christian Fellowship Church.
Happy birding.


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.


More Oiled Birds Rescued in Harbor Bay

Birds affected by the oil spill are still being rescued by members of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, who on Saturday, November 7, successfully captured an American Coot on Bay Farm Island at about 10 a.m.

On Friday, November 6, 2009, the East Bay Regional Park District opened Encinal Beach near Ballena Bay. Crown Memorial State Beach remains closed, and work crews were out on Saturday cleaning and monitoring the area.

The California Department of Fish and Game continues to ban fishing from Alameda Point at the northwest end of Alameda Island to the southern point of Bay Farm Isle.

The U.S. Coast Guard and others involved in the cleanup says it is likely that the oil that had accumulated at the south end of the beach, near the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary, was remobilized by wind and high tide cycles that occurred late last week. As a result, access to the beach and mudflats is prohibited.

Oiled wildlife should be reported to 877-823-6926. Rescued birds that are caught will be cared for at a temporary care facility set up near Crab Cove and then moved to the permanent care center in Cordelia.


Opinion: Shouldn’t We Be Part of the Cleanup?

The past week has been a heart-breaker for all of those Alameda and East Bay residents who love their beaches, their birds and their environment.

For those of us who may have casually wondered before what an oil spill would look like, we unfortunately got our answer.

The U.S. Coast Guard in cooperation with state and county agencies was in charge.

The “guilty party,” meaning the owner of the Dubai Star, outsourced the cleanup. And these outsourced cleaners outsourced much of the hands-on cleanup work on Alameda’s beaches and shoreline.

While it’s true that many local bird-watchers got indirectly involved by staying in touch with wildlife officials and volunteer organizations, there was no real direct work for those Alamedans who care deeply about the local environment and who want to act when they see the environment being devastated.

Certainly, the oil spill was considered hazardous, and the mess that showed up on the Alameda shoreline was toxic.

Still, residents are asking, “Why couldn’t we help?”

Over the next few weeks, that question will be put to local, state and other officials.

It seems that those who most care about their own environment and its impact should be able to have an important role in how it is cared for, especially after a trajedy such as the Dubai Star oil spill.

Such a role needs to be carefully crafted in advance, so that damage to Alameda can be further minimized in the future. It’s worth exploring — not just for the nearly 40 birds that were rescued and lived, or for the 24 birds that have died, but for all the wildlife that’s been affected and the thousands of us who want the environment — our environment — to be protected from such preventable destruction.


Rain May Bring Oil Sheens to Beaches

Changes in the weather today and tomorrow may lead to oil sheens on the Bay, the Coast Guard is announcing.

Alameda residents and visitors who see sheens can call: The National Response Center at 800-424-8802 or the California Emergency Management Agency at 800-852-7550.

While crews are still cleaning the shoreline on Alameda and Bay Farm islands, more birds are being rescued. The total number of birds rescued alive is 45, though 8 have died in captivity and 16 have been recovered dead.

Several hundred workers remain on the scene cleaning hazardous waste from the October 30 oil spill, and the shoreline of both Alameda and Bay Farm islands – including Crab Cove (see photo above) – is closed to swimmers and fisherman. Paths along, but not on the beach, are open to pedestrians and others.


Beaches Still Closed, More Birds Rescued

Some 40 birds have been rescued alive after the October 30 oil spill in the bay, 14 picked up dead and 5 died while in captivity, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Two were picked up early today, treated at a Crab Cove temporary unit (see top photo) and taken to the Bay Area’s Oiled Wildlife Care Center near Fairfield.

No dead fish have been found.

Crown Memorial State Beach, Encinal Beach north of Ballena Bay and Bay Farm Island are still being cleaned and reviewed for impact. And wildlife rescue crews (see bottom photo) remain on patrol.

And on Wednesday the California Department of Fish and Game lifted fishing and shellfish harvesting restrictions on areas around Alameda, including Oakland Middle Harbor north to the Bay Bridge, Oakland Inner Harbor, San Leandro Bay and shoreline areas south of the southern boundary of Oakland Airport to the San Mateo Bridge.

The Alameda shoreline on the Bay remains closed for public-health reasons.


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.