Spring Bird Walk: this morning in Claremont Canyon, by Dave Quady

We began at 5 a.m. at the foot of Gelston Street with the temperature hovering in the mid-40s and the marine layer's ceiling only a few hundred feet overhead.  No great horned owls were audible, so American robins were first to break the silence.  They sang in numbers until the light level increased and they relinquished the soundscape to their sound-similar replacements, black-headed grosbeak.  At least one olive-sided flycatcher (a California Bird Species of Special Concern, and always nice to find) sang repeatedly from not far uphill.  As sunrise approached, a single song phrase suggested a western tanager's presence, but not persuasively enough to earn a spot on the day's list (scroll to bottom).

Warmed by a short breakfast break at Peet’s on Domingo Avenue, we met again at 7 a.m. at the Claremont Avenue/Fish Ranch Road/Grizzly Peak Boulevard intersection.  Western bluebirds and a flock of cedar waxwings awing highlighted our half-hour there, after which we drove down the canyon, and parked at the fire road on the south side of Claremont Ave (click here for pictures taken by Marilyn Goldhaber).  There we spent until 10 a.m. birding up the fire road, and along the recently-constructed trail that splits off to cross the creek and lead uphill, past a huge oak, to Grizzly Peak Blvd.

The sun barely broke through and the temperature stubbornly refused to pass through 50 degrees -- which probably suppressed bird activity, but at least it wasn't windy, so we were able to enjoy a fairly nice selection of the breeding birds expected in the canyon.  These included a flashy male Allen's hummingbird patrolling its territory, and a male lazuli bunting that decorated the top of a deciduous tree long enough for all of us to enjoy it from several angles.  Our best bird, however was a male MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER that first appeared in response to exploratory pishing, then sang for several minutes from a variety of perches.  We found it a hundred yards or so up the trail; its location was not far above the spot where Bob Power found a male MacGillivray's in early May 2008 -- one of two males he found in the canyon that year.

Wonder if today's bird will remain and attempt to breed.

Our Bird List

Wild Turkey
Red-tailed Hawk
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
woodpecker sp. heard drumming
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Warbling Vireo
Steller's Jay
Western Scrub-Jay
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Western Bluebird
Swainson's Thrush
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
MacGillivray's Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Black-headed Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting
Lesser Goldfinch