The Birds Next Door

Snow Goose, a bird rarely seen alone and rarely in this location
Group leader Oliver James, left, and some members of the Aquatic Park walk
A hummingbird nest, no larger than a golf ball

I joined a bird walk in Aquatic Park this morning.  Aquatic Park is a near neighbor of Cesar Chavez Park, located just south of University Avenue and east of the freeway.  Today’s walk was led by Oliver James, author of a newly published book, Birds of Berkeley, from our local Heyday Press.  About twenty people made up a congenial group of all ages.  A reporter and a photographer from the San Francisco Chronicle joined the walk and gathered material for a planned story in tomorrow’s East Bay local section. 

I’ve repeatedly been amazed by the expert birder’s ability to see and identify birds, and Oliver was no exception.  As we walked by a densely leafed tree, he suddenly stopped and announced a hummingbird nest.  We looked and looked and saw nothing but leaves and blossoms.  Oliver pointed his scope at the thick cluster of leaves and there, in a gap that could only be seen from a certain angle, sat the little nest, hardly bigger than a golf ball.  The hummingbird mother was sitting in the nest, but unfortunately bailed just before my camera found the nest and got focused.  I suspect that Oliver has x-ray vision.  

Also remarkable about Aquatic Park this morning was the presence of a Snow Goose.  This bird, unlike the hummingbird, was hard to miss.  Big and white as you’d expect from the name, she kept company with Mallards and other ducks, and seemed perfectly content.  The Audubon bird website says that Snow Geese have gregarious habits and are rarely seen alone.  According to Oliver, it’s highly unusual to see a Snow Goose in this location. 

Aquatic Park in today’s sunny weather was quite a lovely place.  It has more trees and a more protected shoreline than Cesar Chavez Park and the North Basin.  On the downside, it’s sandwiched in between the noisy freeway and the even noisier railroad tracks.  Nevertheless, many of the same birds we see in Cesar Chavez seem at home here, and appear to ignore the noise.  The more immediate danger comes from boys.  Little ones who love to run along the shore and try to scare the ducks.  


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