Alameda in pictures: Bird migration

Alameda in pictures: Bird migration

Richard Bangert

Migrating birds spotted during late summer and fall 2014 along Alameda's South Shore. Photos by Richard Bangert.

The Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary on Alameda’s South Shore is a good place to view migrating birds right now. The number of birds you will see depends on where the tide is. The observation deck on Shore Line Drive near Broadway is the ideal viewing spot, but more opportunities await those who venture down the dirt pathway toward the Bay Farm Island Bridge, or along the beach at low tide.

Some of our current feathered visitors have arrived here from as far away as the Alaskan tundra where they breed, such as the Black-bellied Plover and the Semi-palmated Plover. Only a few of the Black-bellied Plovers have black bellies at this time of year, either because they are juveniles or because of normal adult plumage changes. While the Black-bellied Plovers are usually sitting still, the orange-beaked, ringed-neck Semi-palmated Plovers are usually hopping about looking for food.

Other migrating birds, like the Long-billed Curlew, arrived here from breeding grounds on the grasslands of Idaho and Montana. The Long-billed Curlews are often seen amongst similar-looking and more numerous Marbled Godwits, which have shorter, straight bills. The Marbled Godwits breed on the central plains from Saskatchewan to Minnesota. Short-billed Dowitchers have also stopped by to rest. They breed along the southern coast of Alaska.

On one visit I was lucky enough to make a chance encounter with an expert birder visiting from Kansas who made a rather unusual spotting of a Whimbrel, a photo of which is included. They look almost identical to the Long-billed Curlews except for their head stripes.

The gray birds with the distinctive white marking on the underside of their wings are Willets. Their breeding grounds can be anywhere from Nevada to Central Canada. Another distinctive bird is the American Avocet. By this time of year they have lost their rusty plumage color and are black and white. Their breeding grounds span the western states.

While you’re at the sanctuary, keep an eye out for songbirds landing on the tall fennel plants, such as the reddish House Finch and the American Goldfinch. Unlike the shorebirds in the marsh, the songbirds don’t linger at the sanctuary. They move quickly and may be gone in 60 seconds.

Coming soon to Alameda’s South Shore: The Western Snowy Plovers. They like to forage along the water’s edge and rest on the beach. In order to keep people from inadvertently scaring these threatened birds away, the East Bay Regional Park District recently erected a rope line around the plovers’ favored roosting area. It’s west of Grand Street. The complete story about the Snowy Plovers is on the Golden Gate Audubon Society’s blog, Golden Gate Birder.

Richard Bangert writes the Alameda Point Environmental Report.


Submitted by marilyn pomeroy (not verified) on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

Great Photos, Thanks for Sharing.

Submitted by Steve Lowens (not verified) on Sat, Oct 18, 2014

Can someone identify the black birds with red/orange bills in photo 14? My guess is Black Oystercatcher, but I only know them from the coast. Is this an unusual sighting?

Submitted by Nan Rideout (not verified) on Sat, Oct 18, 2014

Wonderful photos, descriptions & background info.. Very helpful to us neophytes. I hope birds in Alameda can be a regular column!