Tag Archives: Golden Gate Audubon Society

Berkeley teams help make Oakland Christmas Bird Count the biggest in the world

A Brown Pelican spotted during Golden Gate Audubon's annual Christmas Bird Count. Photo: Alan Krakauer
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Emilie Strauss peered across Lake Anza and divided up the watery territory by species. “David is counting coots, Mark is doing mallards, who wants to do Pied-billed Grebes?” she called out.

It was just after dawn on Sunday, Dec. 20, and the rosy sky over the lake heralded a welcome break in the rain for the 75th annual Oakland Christmas Bird Count.

Sponsored by Golden Gate Audubon Society, the Oakland CBC covers a 15-square-mile circle that includes Berkeley and the Tilden Park area where Strauss and her team were counting. … Continue reading »

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Students think outside the box to build better birdhouses

Doris Chang drills holes in her nesting box. Photo: Tracy Bugni
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By Kathleen Maclay

Sawdust, the smell of success.

As this year’s month long embARC Summer Design Academy at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design neared its end, the fabrication lab filled with the buzzing of band saws and drill presses, the tap-tapping of nail guns and the rhythmic scratch of sandpaper.

Some 40 high school students, 21 girls and 19 boys ages 15 to 19, from the United States and 11 other countries worked their way from the design studio into a room full of tools many may never had heard of before. And they swooped enthusiastically into the worlds of landscape architecture, architecture, retail planning and design on behalf of an unusual client.

“They’ve been designing for a client,” acknowledged fabrication shop lead Elizabeth Thorp, “and that client happens to be a bird.” Well, two birds, actually.  … Continue reading »

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At 2014 Christmas Bird Count — no rain, much fun

Varied Thrush at Albany Hill / Photo by Alan Krakauer
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The Bay Area’s welcome rainstorms let up for 24 hours on Sunday Dec. 14… just long enough for more than 200 birders to have a fabulous Oakland Christmas Bird Count.

Both novice and experienced birders fanned out over a 15-mile-wide circle including Oakland, Berkeley, Albany and neighboring cities, as part of Audubon’s 115th annual Christmas Bird Count.

Advance registration came to 287 people, a new record for the Oakland count, which was organized by the Golden Gate Audubon Society. Last year the Oakland count was the fourth largest in North America, and this year’s count is likely to be in the top five again. … Continue reading »

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Why Acorn Woodpeckers are appearing in Berkeley

Acorn Woodpecker / Photo by Larry and Dena Hollowood, www.flickr.com/photos/larry_dena/
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By Bruce Mast

They are the clowns of the oak savannah — Acorn Woodpeckers — with their harlequin faces, gregarious habits, and off-kilter laughing calls that inspired Woody Woodpecker.

Here in the Bay Area, Acorn Woodpecker colonies are fairly common in the East Bay hills and the western slopes of Mount Diablo, particularly where there are concentrations of valley oaks. South of Livermore, they can be locally abundant in the Diablo range. They are rare in Tilden and Redwood Regional Parks, however, and practically unheard of west of the Hayward Fault.

So what’s up with the recent spate of Acorn Woodpecker sightings in urban San Francisco and the East Bay lowlands? … Continue reading »

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Climate change spells trouble for Berkeley birds

Burrowing owl.
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Some of Berkeley’s most common and beloved birds could face extinction within the next 70 years due to climate change, according to an authoritative new study by National Audubon Society.

The study – released on Tuesday after seven years of research – predicts the effects of climate change on 588 species of North American birds.

It concludes that nationally, 314 species are at risk – nearly half of the continent’s bird species. Of those, 126 species could see severe population declines by 2050, and another 188 species face the same fate by 2080 if climate change continues on its current path.

For Berkeley and the Bay Area, the list of birds in climate trouble includes some species like Snowy Plovers and Least Terns that are already on state or federal lists of endangered/threatened species. … Continue reading »

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Cardinals trounce Bears in first ever birding Big Game

Maureen Lahiff and Jack Gedney search for birds on the UC Berkeley campus. Photo: Peter Maiden
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Ten birding Bears! Four song-filled hours! Sixty-four species! But alas, no victory.

The Berkeley birding team organized by Golden Gate Audubon Society fell eleven species short of their cross-bay rivals on Sunday morning, in the first ever Cal-versus-Stanford Big Game birding competition.

The Stanford team spotted 75 species to Berkeley’s 64. Berkeley may have been undone in part by the humble sparrow.

“We had a lot of sparrows,” said Rob Furrow, a Santa Clara Valley Audubon member who led the Stanford team. “White-throated Sparrows, Grasshopper Sparrows, Lark Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows.” … Continue reading »

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Counting crows: Why are there so many in Berkeley?

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“Why are there so many darn crows in Berkeley these days?”

We get that question a lot at Berkeleyside, and Golden Gate Audubon gets it too.

It’s not just Berkeley. Crows are on the increase throughout the Bay Area, as are their larger and deeper-voiced cousins, ravens.

Back in the 1980s, Golden Gate Audubon members typically found between 30 and 90 American Crows each year in our Oakland Christmas Bird Count, which includes Berkeley. We typically found fewer than ten Common Ravens.

Since 2010, however, the count has turned up over 1,100 crows and 170 to 300 ravens each year. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley squirrels are safe from extermination — for now

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By April Rose Sommer

Much to the relief of wildlife lovers, the Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to delay its pilot program to exterminate ground squirrels at César Chávez Park.

The city had generated broad outcry earlier this year when it announced plans to trap and kill park squirrels as a means to address Regional Water Quality Control Board concerns that squirrel burrows might cause toxics underneath the park to leach into the bay.

But on Tuesday, the Council put the extermination plan on hold and directed the City Manager to report back in two months with a plan and a response to the many questions raised by citizens, councilmembers, and environmental and animal rights organizations, including Golden Gate Audubon.

Councilman Kriss Worthington led the efforts for a reconsideration of the extermination pilot program and Councilwoman Linda Maio was careful to stress that the pilot program would not go forward until the council had revisited the issue. Councilman Max Anderson waxed poetic about how the park used to be filled with raptors, the squirrels’ natural predators, and recommended that there be an effort to draw these birds back to the park, while Councilman Gordon Wozniak complained that there are too many squirrels. … Continue reading »

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It’s Cal versus Stanford in first ever birding Big Game

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“Go Bears! Spot that warbler!”

That’s a chant you’re unlikely to hear from the packed bleachers of Memorial Stadium during a Cal-Stanford football game.

But it’s a chant a certain group of enthusiasts will be mouthing silently to themselves on April 13, when Golden Gate Audubon Society faces off against Santa Clara Valley Audubon in Birding’s Big Game — the first-ever Cal vs Stanford birding competition.

As part of Golden Gate Audubon’s annual Birdathon fundraising month, a team of Cal faculty, staff, students, and community members will spend four hours combing the UC Berkeley campus to find as many bird species as possible. Their rivals in Santa Clara Valley Audubon will be doing the same thing on the Stanford campus. … Continue reading »

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‘Catios’ protect birds, give cats taste of outdoors

Phil Price and Juliet Lamont call to their cat Chester in the elaborate catwalk they have built at their north Berkeley home. The "catio" lets indoor cats have a taste of the outdoors. Photo: Ilana DeBare
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The black cat named Totoro trained his bright yellow eyes on a Chestnut-backed Chickadee singing on a branch. The chickadee was only a few feet away. There was no windowpane between them. The cat could practically reach out and grab the bird.

The bird was safe.

Totoro was in his “catio” – an outdoor enclosure or patio designed to let house cats experience the sights and smells of the outdoor world, while keeping both birds and the cats themselves from harm.

“We have some of the happiest cats,” said Phil Price, a Golden Gate Audubon board member who built the North Berkeley catio where Totoro was sitting. “They love to come out, sniff the air, sleep in the sun, and watch people walking their dogs down the street.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Painted Redstart helps set local count record

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By Ilana DeBare

The Oakland Christmas Bird Count set a new record on Sunday for number of species – thanks in part to a much-ballyhooed rare bird in a Berkeley backyard.

Over 230 birders fanned out across Oakland, Berkeley and other nearby towns in Golden Gate Audubon’s 73rd annual Christmas Bird Count , or CBC as it’s known.

Some started as early as 2 a.m. looking for owls. By sundown, they had counted a preliminary total of 184 species, breaking last year’s record of 183.  … Continue reading »

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Local birders to flock to annual Christmas count

Photo: Ilana DeBare
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If you live near Claremont Canyon and hear unusual activity at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, rest assured that it’s a group of birders out owling.

The early-morning owl spotting will kick off a busy day for local birders, engaged in the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas bird count, run by the Golden Gate Audubon Society. Berkeley is included in the 74th Oakland bird count, which encompasses a 15-mile diameter circle from Treasure Island, to the San Pablo Reservoir, to St. Mary’s College to the Oakland airport. All of Berkeley is included in the count circle. The count typically records more than 170 species.  … Continue reading »

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In a Berkeley park, a bluebird displays unusual behavior

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Last year, Rusty Scalf, teacher and trip leader for the Audubon Society, introduced me to a family of western bluebirds living and nesting in Berkeley’s San Pablo Park. This year, Scalf called me back. Apparently, a “mad man” had flown onto the bluebird scene.

“He’s like a Rambo,” Scalf said. “A worm bandit… a total behavioral outlier.”  “He,” the bluebird shown above, was a fledgling, a few weeks old, which undertook intensive hunting forays across the park. He even “mugged” a house sparrow and competed with his parents, beak-to-beak, for insects and worms — food he delivered to his younger brother and two sisters in the nest.

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