Amblin' Alameda: R&R For avians

Amblin' Alameda: R&R For avians

Morton Chalfy

This time of year I never tire of the walk along Shore Line eastward into the bird sanctuary. The shorebirds are migrating and our little part of the bay is a smorgasbord for the dowitchers and their smaller brethren. Especially when the tide is out and the mud flats are exposed, the birds and their beaks are poking into the homes of the worms and mollusks just below the surface. The birds are light enough not to sink into the mud and their beaks are just long enough to reach the favorite food for each species.

There's a tiny bird (whose name I don't know) visiting us right now. It has the usual shorebird configuration with a little spot of red under its chin and the white stripe on its wings that's only visible when it flies. The visiting flock numbers in the thousands and every once in a while, apparently on a whim, several hundred will rise into the air, not too far above the water, and put on a show of coordinated aerial acrobatics. The flock wheels and darts and draws patterns on the canvas of the clouds before settling down to feeding once more. They are following the spring thaw to nesting grounds in the Arctic and fattening up on the way. It takes a lot of energy to fly 5,000 miles, and it takes a lot of invertebrates to supply that energy.

The muddy path through the sanctuary is used by dog walkers, runners, residents and nature lovers so the usual greetings are friendly, even among the dogs. One lady with a camera has been at the observation deck the last several times we've stopped there, taking pictures of the birds. It's a good spot for it, built over an outlet pipe it attracts the flocks, which congregate within shooting distance. This time through I asked whether she was posting any of her photos online so we could all share them.

“I will when I get the perfect shot,” she replied.

“But that never happens,” I said unhappily. “We'll never get to see them.”

“Probably true,” she said a little ruefully.

While we spoke the little shorebirds rose in a cloud of wings and rushed over the bay in a graceful loop, taking our breath away with the beauty of the action.

“Like that,” she said, “that would have been perfect.”

She didn't get a photo and neither did I. But my eye captured the sight and added it to my enormous memory file of The Beauty of Spring.

A walk anywhere around the city of Alameda right now will fill your nostrils with attar of rose and your eyes with the roses' regal beauty as they are blossoming in profusion.


Submitted by Marty Beene on Wed, Apr 16, 2014

Yes, love watching the huge flocks of whatever they are, doing their seemingly random aerobatics!