Park Week 10/13/23

Sparrows in Saltwater

Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis)

I’ve seen sparrows bathing in rain puddles, see “Puddle Joy” Mar 5 2022. I’ve never seen one bathing in saltwater. I was totally surprised to see this foursome of Savannah Sparrows frolicking in the rip-rap on the south side of the Open Circle Viewpoint Tuesday morning, and dipping belly-deep into the North Basin waters. Were they a family, or just friends who did the migration together? They seemed to have lots of fun playfully pecking and chasing one another, and splashing water high like kids in a pool. I suppose saltwater is as good as rainwater when it comes to rinsing out dust and bugs from the feathers. I’ve just never seen it before. The park is amazing. There’s always something new to learn.

Turkeys Being Birds

Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo)

In most of my encounters with Wild Turkeys in Berkeley, the birds are being urban nuisances. They dawdle in the middle of streets and stop traffic, they take over sidewalks and make people cross the street, they terrify little children and defy the biggest dogs. Last Monday was the first time I’ve seen the turkeys act like birds. You know, foraging for seeds in a meadow. This happened right around sunrise on an overcast morning. It looked like they hit hard on the seeds of Wild Mustard. More power to them, we have enough mustard.

I have to say I don’t understand these birds’ anatomy. The bare head and the hooked beak resemble the Turkey Vulture. That bird’s bare head and hooked beak work well for puncturing carrion and feeding on the innards. See e.g. “Talented Nose,” Jan 11 2023. Our ground-foraging Wild Turkeys live on a diet of seeds, nuts, roots, and the odd grasshopper. Lots of birds share that same diet but get along with simple pointed beaks, and with pretty feathers covering their necks and heads. Has this puzzled any bird biologists?

Seal Seekers

Four swimmers crossed the bay from Albany Beach on Saturday morning to view the baby Harbor Seal sculpture that an anonymous artist installed on the north side rip-rap in January last year (“Silent Seal,” Jan 30 2022). One of the swimmers told me that they usually swam in a northerly direction but came this way just to see this artwork. They brought cell phones stored in plastic bags. Three of them swam without supports; the fourth used a small kickboard for flotation. To my surprise, none of them wore wetsuits. The water temperature that day stood at 61 degrees F officially. After taking pictures and selfies, the four women headed back north to Albany. According to Google Earth, the distance between Albany Beach and the north side of Chavez Park is .93 of a mile.

Birds of the Week

It was an unusually quiet week for birds. We’re in the middle of the fall migration, but there was little sign of it here. I seriously considered canceling the bird walk I’m scheduled to lead at 8 am on Sunday Oct. 15 as part of Berkeley’s third annual Bird Festival. But Clayton Anderson, festival coordinator, convinced me to be there and take the heat from disappointed birders. At least we’ll get some exercise, and you never know what will show up. Here’s what my lens gathered after walking the park every weekday morning. If we could see all of these in one walk I would be happy, but I saw these basically one or two a day.

Not Owl of the Week

The grassy meadow on the north side of the park, officially the Protected Natural Area, served as seasonal habitat for Burrowing Owls in some years past. See “The Meadow Owl Movie,,” Apr 20 2020. It was insanely difficult to spot the owl in that setting even when the vegetation was lower than it is now. If an owl or owls adopts this habitat now, we’re going to have to get lucky and see the bird standing tall and taking in the morning sun, the way this Ground Squirrel is doing at the moment. If you spot a Burrowing Owl anywhere in the park, and it hasn’t already been published here, please text or phone me at 510-717-2414. I’ll post a photo as soon as I have one.

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One thought on “Park Week 10/13/23

  • Hi Marty, Always a pleasure I look forward to for your weekly emails. Do the brown pelicans we see these days migrate south now? How far do they go?

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