OK, so it's technically not my backyard, but a five-minute walk there ain't bad. Long considered one of North Berkeley's premier urban sanctuaries, Live Oak Park contains within a few modest acres magnificent oaks, tall redwoods, elegant pine and sweeping bay trees. Add in the kicker of a year-round flowing creek - miraculous! - and you've got a place deserving of a resounding WOW, a place where wild creatures, unfazed by urban distractions, carry on in their natural rhythms.
Live Oak Park is a place to easily gravitate to, whether your thing is lounging on sunny lawns, picnicking in shady groves, playing with your dog, or wandering aimlessly watching for birds in the park's varied avian habitat. On routine outings, I've spottted more varieties of birds here than in wilder, natural areas of the Berkeley Hills. A sampling of over 30 different birds in the past couple of years:
Brown Creepers - Pacific-slope Flycatchers - Willow Flycatchers - Chestnut and Black-capped Chickadees - Adult Pink-sided, Slate, and Dark-eyed Juncos - Steller's Jays - Black Phoebes - Hermit Thrushes - Wilson's Warblers - Yellow-rumped Warblers - Townsend's Warblers - California Towhees - Spotted Towhees - House Finches - Anna's Hummingbirds - Sharp-shinned Hawks - Red-tailed Hawks - Turkey Vultures - Lesser Goldfinches - Oak Titmouses - Ruby-crowned Kinglets - American Crows - American Robins - Bushtits - Bewick's Wrens - Cedar Waxwings - Sparrows (?) - Downy Woodpeckers / and, a gorgeous Scarlet Macaw, whose proud owner let me photograph to my heart's content.
Over the past few months, these many birds show up in the park's venerable Interior and Canyon Live Oak trees, to delight, enchant and offer up one cool sighting after another in our bird friendly urban park. One day it's a frisky Pacific-sloped Flycatcher, dripping wet and shaking off from a dip in the creek; another day, a Hermit Thrush frozen on a branch for a perfect viewing; and last week, an Anna's Hummingbird pausing (and posing) just long enough for a couple of my best snapshots of the hard to photograph bird. Last year, I watched as the diminutive, elusive creature flew in to her carefully concealed nest, constructed in a wedge of supportive branches over Codornices Creek adjacent to Live Oak Park on a daylighted stretch of property belonging to the Jewish Community Center. For many days, I watched her zip invisibly in for a smooth landing on the tiny nest, but never saw any young 'uns, and eventually, she disappeared completely. But, they know and love the place, so they always return. Just like me, to Live Oak Park to see and appreciate our feathered friends again and again.