Wednesday, September 2, 2015

ALBANY BULB Redux . . . and Geese and Pelicans and Tons of Other Birds

Long-neglected and abused, lately rehabbed, the tiny parcel of land dubbed the Albany Bulb is an endless source of amusement and adventure, offering up nooks and crannies of natural beauty and million dollar views every which way you look across the shimmering bay to San Francisco, Angel Island, and the Marin Headlands. Iconic Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Tamalpais punctuate the world-famous drop-dead gorgeous panorama.
For nature lovers, dog owners, casual strollers, and everyday out 'n abouters, the reclaimed peninsula is a haven for exploring and sight-seeing, a regular old slice of heaven and refuge on the edge of urban sprawl bordering factories, warehouses and a roaring ten-lane freeway of non-stop traffic, but mostly you'd never know it!

Fortunately, the Bulb sticks out into San Francisco Bay far enough where the noise and eyesores are not noticeable, but along the marsh and mudflats, where three East Bay creeks drain, the presence of so much negative energy is hard to ignore.

But, hey, the birds don't seem to mind one bit, so busy are they occupied by their industrious searches for food afforded when the tide recedes and exposes geometric patterns of textured raised mud beds - a veritable smorgasbord for thousands of individual birds, perhaps over 30 different species converging in the area to take advantage of the rich pickings.

Once a dumping ground for industrial detritus left over from the Bay Area's post-WW II construction boom, the Bulb has since been rehabbed and nurtured into a green splotch of elevated scrub land studded with trees and surrounded by rock strewn shoreline. The Bulb is also an outdoor art museum, littered with quirky sculptures and bizarre rock paintings, resembling a mini sandbox for creative Burning Man expressions.

More importantly, germane to this blog, the Bulb is a phenomenal place to observe birds. Here, shorebirds, perching birds, soaring birds, all manner of birds, congregate at the Bulb, in vast numbers along the shoreline, in dizzying murmurations over the mudflats, in frenzied flocks of finches in bushes and small trees, everywhere you turn, there are birds to see!

What follows are some of my favorite shots of the various birds I've been fortunate to encounter and photograph at the Bulb.

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron, just sitting on a cement embankment not a stone's throw from I-80, but looking every bit as content and at home in "the wild" as though spotted at Point Reyes National Seashore.

White-tailed Kite, a beautiful raptor I came upon perched in a treetop with some dead bit of provender. He later flew off with it clutched in his talons, perhaps headed to a high nest somewhere to nourish a young hungry brood.

Marbled Godwits and Whimbrels in flight lifting off from the mudflats where they'd been feeding on microbiota dredged up from tidal action.

Snowy Egrets wondering what to think about the Mallard encroaching upon their territory.

Great Egret stalking shallow waters of mudflats, exposing raised geometric patterns rich with worms, invertebrates, snakes and frogs.

Anna's Hummingbird in abstract motion with fan tail and wings in motion to create a special kind of uplift unique to hummingbirds.

Red-winged Blackbird waiting for mate to return. Usually they flock in droves creating spectacular murmurations turning and twisting in the sky flashing their red markings.

House Finch reaching for some tasty tidbit. The Finches love to flock in large bunches, flying about from tree to tree, bush to bush, seeking seeds and berries that abound at the Bulb.

Song Sparrows are fairly common residents at the Bulb, livening up things with their vocalizations - sweet whistling!

A funny looking bird with a scimitar like beak, a specialized curved "utensil" for foraging in tiny holes and cracks in the mudflats and beneath rocks.

A tiny Anna's Hummingbird against the dramatic backdrop of Mount Tamalpais.

Anna's Hummingbird with flaming purple gorget that extended to envelop his whole head - an amazing spectacle of polychromatic wizardry.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron stalking, or learning the trade.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - oddly, this tiny bird is not often seen at the Bulb, but today he was out 'n about, frisky as heck.

Once on the brink of extinction, a Brown Pelican in flight above water looking for a meal. They dive bomb, capable of descending 20 feet to scoop up fishy edibles in their big gullets.

Golden-crowned Sparrow, seen flocking in large numbers ground feeding for seeds and worms in rich habitat at the Bulb.

Finch mates perching atop brushy foliage. When the light strikes them, the males' red breast plates and heads reveal tropical like colors to an otherwise non-exotic but always pretty bird.

White-crowned Sparrow (Black-lored Adult) - flocking, ground-feeding pretty little guys, always a joy to spot them.

Mallard takin' it easy.

Canada Goose, posing in front of a tri-colored (natural) background.

American Avocets feeding on rich picking in mudflats, with (possibly) a Northern Shoveler in upper left.

Northern Mockingbirds love the Bulb. I have not seen more anywhere else in the East Bay Wild. These lively, mocking birds are often seen engaging crows and bullying smaller birds for rights to the best berry bushes. They sit atop their domain and tweet out to the world, don't mess with me.

Sandpipers (unidentified) gathering on rock in bay. Fantastic flocks of them - murmurations - can often be seen over the mudflats.

Black Phoebe perched on piece of rusting art installation along small inlet of bay.

Western Grebe plying the bay waters, later seen engaged in elaborate synchronized courtship display.

Couple of old coots.

Snowy Egret, familiar denizen of wetlands and marshes.

Anna's perched on a thin branch tip - like some extension of a colorful wand.

Gray Pelicans + Gull chillin
Great Blue Heron stalking in the golden light of pre-dusk.

Note: I think they're Sanderlings.