Dry Birds

I’ve been so absorbed in wet birds that I’ve completely ignored the ones that sing and perch in trees. There’s good news on that front. White-crowned Sparrows are back, House Finches are swarming, Anna’s Hummingbird is in its old spot, California Towhees were out in numbers, there was an out-of-season Red-winged Blackbird, and I saw a bird I didn’t recognize. I thought possibly it might be a Northern Mockingbird, but that didn’t fit. Merlin, the bird ID app from the Cornell Laboratories, consistently identified it as a Western Wood-Pewee, a fairly rare flycatcher. And just when I thought I had them all, a flock of Wild Turkeys wandered off the streets of Berkeley, their real home, into the park, maybe to seek sanctuary in advance of the coming holiday.

The House Finches have been especially visible. Flocks of easily 100 birds soar above the northern shore of the park and settle on slopes that have been recently mowed to pick through the frass for seeds. These look like first year birds; the males’ redness is still dawning, not yet risen to its full splendor. They must hatch here in the park but I’ve yet to see their nest sites. They prefer to nest in conifers, of which we have a supply in the Native Plant Area and along Spinnaker Way; they’ll also build nests on walls of buildings and other structures.

Western Wood-Pewee

With White-crowned Sparrows here, their Golden-crowned cousins can’t be far behind. They’ve arrived in other spots in the East Bay, according to reports, but I’ve not seen one yet here in the park. They come from the Arctic Circle. They’re amazing birds. I’ve written about their superpowers here before.

The Red-winged Blackbird male is one of a string that come check out the northwest corner of the park outside the breeding season. They’re here in fair numbers in March through July, when they’re actively breeding and nesting. The odd male or small bands of males come at any other time during the year, maybe reliving good memories or prospecting to see if females have got here yet (no way). Males and females migrate separately.

Anna’s Hummingbird almost certainly nests here, but their nests are so tiny that finding one in the wild would be cause for quiet celebration. I’ve seen Anna’s atop this tree in the Native Plant Area many times. I last saw it in early August.

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