Our Bad Year was Good for Alameda Birds

Rick Lewis &nbsp&nbsp A Caspian tern feeds its young at a beach in Alameda. Caspian tern families with fledglings showed up at Crab Cove, the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary and the San Francisco Bay side of Bay Farm Island this year before leaving for their winter locations in South America.

Our Bad Year was Good for Alameda Birds

While we were sheltering in place earlier this year, birds that raise their young in Alameda were doing just that, laying eggs and raising chicks. How did some of “our birds” do this year? Let’s start at the west end of the Island, Alameda Point.

Alameda Point’s most famous avian visitors, the least terns, returned again this year to their summer work space at the Alameda Wildlife Reserve, but this year did their breeding and raising of chicks with limited assistance from humans. The volunteer work parties to prepare their breeding space were cut short this year and the volunteers who normally monitor the breeding site throughout the spring and summer could not go on the reserve to monitor the colony, leaving the terns more at risk from predators, such as peregrine falcons.

In spite of that, many birds born this year, still in their juvenile plumage, could be seen through August at Crab Cove and Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary, fishing on their own but also still begging for food. In addition, the United State Fish and Wildlife Service staff has let us know the colony managed well even with the expected predators. Volunteers missed their duties, however.

Ospreys again nested at the platform on the east jetty bordering the Seaplane Lagoon. This year, the female created some drama by getting her foot tangled in a large (king-sized pillowcase) piece of construction fabric just after beginning to incubate eggs. We were fortunate to have her mate bring her meals as she was unable to fish.

With other worries looming, Bay Area Raptor Rescue did trap and remove the tarp on their second attempt before her eggs hatched. All three eggs hatched. The pair successfully fledged the entire brood. It displayed stunning devotion to the nest by both parents under dire stress!

The great blue herons that nest in the trees at the Alameda Wildlife Reserve had at least 13 young. Since there were still great blue herons at or near the Reserve and DePave Park late in the summer, it appears that the adults were successful, and that many of the youngsters fledged to start life on their own. Distance and daily monitoring would be needed to accurately assess success.

Caspian terns also nest at the Alameda Wildlife Reserve. While news of their progress this season wasn’t available, they appear to have had success. Like the least terns, many of Caspian tern families with fledglings showed up at Crab Cove, Elsie Roemer and the bay side of Bay Farm Island before they left for their winter locations in South America.

Along Otis Drive, across from South Shore Center, the double-crested cormorants again raised chicks in nests on trees at the edge of the lagoon. Almost all of the chicks could fly and fish when the draining of the lagoon began, but a few of the birds, both young and adults, have been watching the dredging of the east end of the lagoon.

Across the Island City, at the Fruitvale train bridge, a pair of peregrine falcons fledged four young, three of which were banded by the staff and volunteers from the Predatory Bird Research Group at U.C. Santa Cruz. People who watch the peregrines on the bridge report that the adults usually fly south of the bridge to look for food. Peregrine falcons have been laying their eggs, incubating them, and eventually teaching the young chicks to fly and hunt from the bridge for several years.

Now some of our summer residents, like the least terns, have gone south, but other birds have arrived or are expected soon to join our year-round resident birds for some or all of the fall and winter.

Marjorie Powell is a member of the Golden Gate Audubon Society.