Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Big News: Lake Merritt, Storm-Petrels and Seagull Steve



Oakland's most popular vagrant has come a long way since his arrival at the lake last fall, when he was heavily molting. He is now crisply colored and has a big, shiny tuft. Last year he stayed well in to March, so we should have him for a little while longer. All photos today from Lake Merritt.

Well Bay Area folks, until recently I was completely unaware of the tremendous amount of effort being put in to restoring the connectivity of Lake Merritt with the Oakland Estuary/San Francisco Bay. This should provide both a healthier tidal ecosystem (including some new salt marsh) and more access points, which should result in better birding and photo opportunities. I guess I should go check out this newly restored area while the Perpetual Weekend is still rolling along...winter is almost over but I have a feeling the channel will be good for diving ducks like Barrow's Goldeneye. Much more work seems to be planned as well...the Chronicle has a good article about current and future restoration work right here. It's nice to share good news once in a while, you know?



This attractive but terrible creature has been lurking at the lake for the past several weeks. I think it's one of those mysteriously pale and faded Thayer's Gulls that some people would be tempted to call a Kumlien's.

If you haven't caught the recent storm-petrel news (inexplicably, also good), a new species was just officially described off the coast of Chile...Alvaro Jamarillo has a summary of the discovery right here. What is particularly exciting about this bird is that its just something birders and ornithologists have simply missed over the years; it is not a result of genetic work done in a lab. Also, the until-recently-thought-extinct New Zealand Storm-Petrel just had it's first breeding site discovered. Birdlife International has the details.

And since we are on a seabird kick, I think its worth mentioning my new field job for this spring and summer...monitoring breeding and foraging seabirds on Santa Cruz Island for PRBO (Point Reyes Bird Observatory). Santa Cruz is one of the Channel Islands that lie off the coast of Santa Barbara County in California...it is famous for the endemic Island Scrub-Jay and adorable Island Foxes, but it is a major seabird nesting site as well. Totally stoked for that, although my blog output will undoubtedly suffer.

Last but not least, The Great Ornithologist Felonious Jive (truly, the Caligula of ornithologists) wonders how certain individuals can put their money to work for birds over at 10,000 Birds. Check it out, and please comment if you know anything we don't.




Clark's Grebes are common at Lake Merritt; it's a great place to compare them with Western Grebes at close range.

12 comments:

  1. Good LORD, that's one daringly dapper drake! Phew!

    And thanks for the good news. Always refreshing in the cons. bio. world, and greatly appreciated.

    Congrats on the sweet assignment! Should be amazing. Pretty sure SC Island is also the only Channel Island with fresh water on it, so might have some trippy habitat. If memory serves, there's also bats there (and if that's an NPS secret, I apologize). Hooray!

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    1. I do remember fresh water there, looking at where I'll be living, I'll be pretty close to a streambed...should be interesting for wildlife for sure.

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  2. Wow. that Tufted Duck is so handsome it makes me wish I were a female duck!

    Your assignment made me drool, I really should get a drool-proof keyboard for reading your posts. A face-melting shield might be nice too.

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    1. Hehe...facemelting shield...will have to get one of those before spring migration starts.

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    2. I'm going to have to come up with a marketable design for a face-melting shield and get rich on the sales!

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  3. The Tufted Duck could do a Flock of Seagulls impression.


    Yes...I went there.

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    1. Ive been trying to get the best possible shots of the tuft lately. Its hard work. It does occasionally flare out into a FOS type thing.

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  4. Glad to hear they put a reasonable name on that Storm-petrel. Puerto Montt Storm-petrel just sounds awful (and Puerto Montt is perhaps not the best city to name it after); whereas Pincoya is a bit less ugly.

    Once we run out of new birds to name, renaming all the dumbly named ones should be next (a proposition I am sure you would get behind/spearhead?).

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    1. Its amazing, the resistance in the birding community to changing the names of birds. People are so obsessed with tradition...I always ask, why keep a tradition if it sucks in the first place?

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    2. Let's begin with all birds with a place name in their name.

      It is usually uninformative (A South Polar Skua in Massachusetts, for instance) and very rarely exclusive (while California Gulls are pretty damn common in California, they are also in a whole bunch of other states).

      That would take a few years to do and lots of amusing argument. Then we could move onto all the uninformative color names (Purple Sandpiper).

      Eventually, perhaps, you wouldn't have to explain that Red-shouldered Hawks actually are REALLY red over most of their body, not just their shoulders...

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  5. One of my buddies literally almost tripped over that glorious mullet sporting duck while jogging the other day. This was after we spent 90 minutes trying to pick it out of the flock in the middle of the lake a month and a half earlier. Guess you just have to let him come to you.

    Congrats on the new job. If you get any shore leave in early May hop on over to the Mojave and join us for some misadventures.

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    1. In late winter the mulleted one usually splits its time between the nature center and the fountain in the northeast corner. Absurdly tame bird.

      Thanks man. I do miss the desert...

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