Next stop was San Pablo Dam and Bear Creek Rds. As we pulled into our first parking spot, a Northern Saw-whet Owl was wailing. Two Great Horned Owls were calling back and forth. In the next 30 minutes, 4 Western Screech-owls, 4 Great Horned Owls and 2 Saw-whet owls were keeping us company. Just a bit east on Bear Creek, a Barn owl greeted us as we got out of our vehicle.
Dawn brought a major downpour for 3 minutes that disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. Most of the morning was gray and threatening, but we managed to dodge whatever bad weather was poking around the bay. Inspiration Pt. provided 25 species or so, but unfortunately nothing juicy like a tanager or a warbler flock. Albany Crescent had an excellent shorebird roost with hundreds of Black-bellied Plovers, but we were too late to see the birds spread out on the mudflats and missed anything rarer than the two Whimbrel we identified. Pt. Isabel seemed like a bit of a waste until we decided to go the extra 100 yards and spooked a Spotted Sandpiper and a Wandering Tattler. The highlight of the bayside part of our day was an unplanned detour out to the end of Canal Street.
We'd hoped to skip this extra leg, but the Harlequin Duck made no appearance while we were at Vincent Park, so we felt compelled to get a better look at Brooks Island. From the end of Canal, we found the Harlequin Duck, excellent views of the three Brant, a well-hidden Osprey, a flock of Sanderlings, and our lone Elegant Tern of the day.
We got our Great-tailed Grackles in Martinez at Waterbird Park. It's almost like a pilgrimage for Contra Costa Co. birders. And then headed out to Black Diamond Mines Reg. Park. A beautiful park tucked into the hills south of Antioch. Up one particularly scenic swale was a grove of buckeyes and nothing else; all were silver and were stunning against the golden hillside. Not being familiar with the park, we stopped in appropriate habitat for Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Rock Wren and both species obligingly welcomed us to the park.
We scooted around to Contra Loma Reservoir, and it looked like it would be a bust, and then the Prairie Falcon came in and scared the bird pellets out of the Meadowlark and Rock Pigeon flock and landed on a hillside for us to admire. On to Oakley and the sanitation ponds where we quickly picked up both dowitcher species, a handful of Red-necked Phalaropes, added several duck species to our day list, and while trying to turn the terns into Common and/or Arctic and/or anything but Forster's, bumped into a Bonaparte's Gull. Plus the previously mentioned Black Tern.
We had at least 6 Swainson's Hawks on the day, and a couple of them flew by us at Iron House. We only got lost once and I will wash my mouth out with soap after I finish my next glass of wine. or I'll swish the wine extra hard. We had 4 Burrowing Owls on the entrance road to Clifton Ct. Forebay, and 2 along Byron Hot Springs Rd. In the "not over 'til it's over" category, we drove out Byron Hot Springs Rd. after sunset as there was still good light. That's when the juvenile Ferruginous Hawk zipped by us trying to pick up that last morsel before dark. And a few minutes later the Horned Larks were singing; our 129th species of the day.
127 id'dby all.
128 id'd by 2.
129 id'd by 1.
I cannot thank Steve Glover enough for advice beyond anything we could hope for regarding species and routes. Denise Wight was very, very helpful in describing the big day route she's taken and very patient and thoughtful in answering my questions.
There's always time to do a big day yourself. And there's always an opportunity to support big days vicariously through sfbbo.org.