Help Count Our Birds in Alameda or Elsewhere – Alameda Sun

Last year, on the third Sunday in December, I walked with four other birders along the path from Otis Street at the Bay Farm Island bridge to Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary, along the beach to Washington Park and finally to the Willow and Grand Street bridges over the lagoon, counting all the birds we saw. We needed several sets of eyes to find birds on the water as well as in bushes, trees, and flying overhead. We identified 59 different species, including more than 200 Double-crested Cormorants, but only 24 Brown Pelicans; in December, most pelicans are breeding further south. We didn’t find any rare birds, but last year birders in other Alameda groups saw some birds not often seen here — small, quiet Rock Wrens on the ground, stunning Scaly-breasted Munia in tall grass and noisy Acorn Woodpeckers in palm trees. We were all volunteering for the Oakland Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This year I’ll again join Doug Henderson, the Alameda team leader, to bird wherever he assigns me.
Golden Gate Audubon Society is looking for volunteers to count birds in Alameda and the surrounding area, on Sunday, Dec. 18. With a 15-mile radius, the Oakland count circle extends from Treasure Island northeast to the San Pablo Reservoir in Contra Cost County and south to St. Mary’s College in Moraga and the Oakland International Airport. Birders can select where they want to look for birds or they can let the leaders assign them to a team, so an Alameda resident could join the Alameda or Bay Farm Island team or go to Moraga. My first year, I walked north and west around half of Bay Farm Island, with the specific assignment to count American Coots — and lots of coots hang out along that shoreline in December.
Because people work in groups, newer birders can learn counting and recording tricks from more experienced birders, and those who are not familiar with an individual location can get a sense of what birds are there. Another birder showed me how to get to the back of Alameda Hospital last year, and in that lagoon we saw a bird we’d not seen along the shoreline.
While I like to count in Alameda, a friend goes to San Leandro Bay; others join one of the two boats on the Bay waters. The leaders have not forgotten people staying home; they can count birds in their yard or at their feeder. While many groups spend all morning and into the afternoon covering their assigned area, people counting from home have much more flexibility, counting when and for as long as they want. And this year Golden Gate Audubon Society will again host the after-count dinner, where everyone can learn about any rare birds seen that day (always exciting) and any usually seen birds that didn’t appear this year (a sad moment).
There are approximately 2,600 active CBC circles across the US, Canada, and several Latin American and Caribbean countries. For many years, the Oakland Christmas Bird Count had the highest number of volunteers, perhaps because those of us in the Bay area appreciate “our birds” so much. We’d like to be at the top of that list again in 2022. Join us for some or all of the day, in Alameda or elsewhere, or counting from your kitchen window. Go to, then select “Conservation/Christmas Bird Count” to sign up.
Marjorie Powell is a member of the Golden Gate Audubon Society and its Alameda Conservation Committee, Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Reserve. She counted birds as part of the Alameda team for the 2021 Oakland Christmas Bird Count.
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