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Bay Area Bird Blog » 2008» May

Archive for May, 2008

30th 2008
Salmon Festival in Oakland this weekend

Posted under entertainment & local wildlife

I’d never before heard of “The Oakbook”, an online newspaper, but I think I’ll check it out regularly now that I’ve discovered it.  Today they have an article about salmon in the Bay Area, including a plug for this weekend’s salmon festival at Jack London Square (starts at noon both days).  Their article includes this dismal paragraph. 

As recently as the mid-1990’s, 4,000 salmon trawlers from Bay Area ports would slip under the Golden Gate to chase Chinook or King Salmon. Now only 400 boats claim to be viable commercial fishing boats — and this season, none of them will be able to earn money from salmon. On May 1, the Pacific Fishery Management Councilclosed the West Coast salmon fishing season because the fishery is near collapse. Ninety percent of the salmon that are found off the coast of California and Oregon came from the Sacramento River system.  The river, which used to support a run of nearly a million fish, only supported 68,000 fish this year. 

Turn out, listen to the music, have some food, and show that you care about salmon.  It does matter: one of the huge problems is water diversions for both agriculture and personal use, and much of that water is wasted because EBMUD and others won’t take even small steps to conserve or to make people conserve — they think their customers won’t support it.  If they see that we want conservation measures, they’ll be more willing to implement them. 

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29th 2008
Hawk Hill?

Posted under day trips & local birds

I never knew the name “Hawk Hill,” but I certainly agree that the area just north of the Golden Gate Bridge is a great, scenic spot to visit.   The “Novato Advance” (which I’ve never heard of, why not check it out?) gives a description; note that their directions assume you are coming towards San Francisco from the north.  The article says: “Hawk Hill is one of the best places in the Bay Area to see a large amount of bird life as thermal wind currents naturally funnel through the local geology, enabling hawks to cross the Golden Gate during their migration. Although September and October are the optimal months for birding, this is still a spectacular location for hiking and birding year-round.”  

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28th 2008
Identify a bird from its description: why is this hard?

Posted under birds (general)

I was talking to my mom the other day, and she suggested that I write a computer program that lets people describe a bird, and it identifies it from the description.  You would have a bunch of checkboxes, so you could identify size (tiny/small/medium/large), color characteristics (drab, bright, mostly drab with colored areas), habits (feeding on ground/feeding in trees/…), and so on, leaving anything blank that you can’t answer. Hit a button, get a list of possibilities, with photos or sketches.  A great idea, surely it exists already?  Well, kinda: tries to provide this service, but it’s really a pain to use, and I wasn’t able to identify Bewick’s wren that way when I tried a test (it apparently has the bird listed as having a “fan-like tail”, which is not how I would describe it at all!  Anyway, by gosh I am tempted to try to do this, at least as a proof of concept.     

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26th 2008
New backyard species for us: Bewick’s Wren

Posted under local birds

Bewick\'s wren, a small brown bird common in the west[Wikipedia photo by JP Thomas] We’re always happy when a new bird shows up in our yard.  Today, outside the bedroom window we heard a loud, clear, cheep-cheep-whir-whir-whir that we’d never heard here before, so we knew we had something new.  Anyone who knows their bird songs would have recognized it instantly, but that sure ain’t me (or my wife), but fortunately we got a good, clear look at the little fella, who turned out to be a Bewick’s wren.  A pretty common bird in the area…but heretofore never seen in our yard, so we’re pleased.  Tear out your ivy, cut down your eucalyptus, plant drought-tolerant native plants, and watch the birds come!

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24th 2008
Plant a willow, save a beaver: Martinez willow-planting

Posted under day trips & local wildlife & volunteer

Saturday, June 7, 2008, the Martinez “Worth A Dam” group is doing a willow-planting party.  Even if there were no beavers there, this would be a great thing: willows are great riparian vegetation, they shade the water so it’s good for fish, they provide perches for little birdies, etc.  In this case the planting is even better because (1) the beavers need willows! and (2) good turnouts at events like this will help convince the Martinez mayor and others that they should allow the beavers to stay. If you haven’t been out to Martinez, this would be a great time to go.  Show up super early and you might get a chance to see the beavers before they go into their lodge for the day; then go to the good local breakfast joint a few blocks away to fortify yourself, and then go out and stick some willow stakes into the ground (that’s pretty much all it takes).  For info, go to

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22nd 2008
Where are the Berkeley Cooper’s Hawks? Help find them.

Posted under local birds & volunteer

Cooper\'s Hawk photo[Photo fby William Kendall, from Cornell’s Project Feederwatch].
A group called CHIN — dunno what it stands for, but I’m sure CH stands for Cooper’s Hawks — tries to keep track of all of the Cooper’s hawks in Berkeley. They’ve been doing this for the past six years, and by now they pretty much know every year where they will find nests. But: “After years of getting comfortable with having a range of nest numbers in our study area from 9 to 14, we’re finding a lot of holes this year. Of course, “holes” may have two meanings: (1) that we have no Cooper’s Hawks nesting in certain areas that have been long or occasionally active; or (2) we haven’t found them yet. Weirdly, our holes are showing in some of our most stable nest areas, Hinkel Park, Remillard-Cragmont, Live Oak Park, etc.” So they’re organizing a late-nesting-season “blitz” to look for nests that they may be missing.  For instance, the tree they where they used to nest in Live Oak Park was cut down; maybe this pair just moved somewhere else nearby and hasn’t yet been found by CHIN.   CHIN will do their blitz from June 7 to 22.  If you can help out, contact Allen Fish at (afish at parksconservancy dot org) or leave a comment here. 


19th 2008
Orange-crowned versus Yellow-rumped warblers

Posted under birds (general)

In my recent interview with Arnel Guanlao, I asked a question about the orange-crowned versus the yellow-rumped warbler. I figured other hopeless birders like me would have to see photos to see what Arnel talked about there, so here they are. First, the orange-crown warbler, photo by Jim Mcculloch (I stole it from his blog):

And next the Yellow-rumped warbler, photo by Garrett Lau from his yellow-rumped warbler page:



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18th 2008
Interview with Arnel Guanlao, local birder extraordinaire

Posted under day trips & interview & local birds

Our interview subject this time is Arnel Guanlao, the founder and moderator of a “yahoo group” called sfbayarea-birds (easily confused with sfbayareabirding, which is not the same!) Before Arnel did this interview, I knew he was a far more knowledgeable birder than me, and probably more observant and a quicker learner, too. Now, I know for sure that all of these are true. Read on for some information about Arnel, and especially about how he got to be so damn good…and where to go to see some birds!
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