Caspian and Elegant Terns join Least Terns to nest at Alameda Point

Naval Air Station-Alameda gained notoriety as a refuge for the endangered California Least Tern when the base closed in 1997.  Over 500 acres were dedicated to protecting the terns’ adopted nesting site next to a runway formerly used by jet aircraft. 

This unlikely bird habitat for the Least Terns some 400 miles north of their historic breeding grounds along the southern California coast offered the birds something they had lost, which drove them to the brink of extinction – nesting sites free of human disturbance near a source of small fish to feed their chicks. 

Surprisingly, two other tern species have recently begun nesting in the vicinity.  Elegant and Caspian Terns seem to be thriving there, while the endangered Least Terns are struggling.

Continue reading “Caspian and Elegant Terns join Least Terns to nest at Alameda Point”

Guns and Traps Used to Protect Least Terns at Alameda Point

The endangered California least terns that nest on the old airfield at Alameda Point are well protected during their April to August nesting season.  Fencing keeps people away from the 10-acre sandy nesting site, but it won’t stop other birds and mammals from getting to the eggs and the helpless chicks.  Only a well-armed and outfitted predator management officer can effectively deter other animals.

Every year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hires a wildlife biologist from Wildlife Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Typically used for protecting crops and livestock, the agency is also hired to protect dozens of endangered species every year.  The most recent field report available for Alameda Point is for 2019, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The report describes a variety of methods used to deter or eliminate threats to the nesting terns.  First, loud noises and bright flashes of light are fired from a gun to frighten away an avian predator, called hazing.  Second, the wildlife biologist drives a vehicle toward an avian predator, another form of hazing.  Third, predators are trapped.  And fourth, as a last resort, the biologist is left with no other choice than shooting the predator with a shotgun or rifle or euthanizing. 

Continue reading “Guns and Traps Used to Protect Least Terns at Alameda Point”

New generation of Great Blue Herons born in cypress rookery

The cypress trees in the wetland near the proposed DePave Park at Alameda Point have served as a safe and secure nesting site for Great Blue Herons for many years.  This year is no exception, despite the trees having died and barely standing.  On May 7, Audubon Society bird observer Dawn Lemoine counted 13 juveniles in the nests.

The wetland around the cypress trees provides the ideal landing spot for the young herons’ first flight and subsequent adaptation to life outside the nest.  They can be seen for the first week or so after leaving the nest hanging out in the wetland preening and sunning themselves. Continue reading “New generation of Great Blue Herons born in cypress rookery”

Western Bluebird chicks raised on smorgasbord of bugs

The brightly colored male and its grayer colored mate were spotted briefly landing on top of an old light pole, as if to show off their insect catch.  More likely it was a precautionary stop to ensure that no predators were lurking nearby before springing into air and entering the nest cavity in the pole just below the top.

This was the only clue in early May 2020 that a pair of Western Bluebirds had a nest at the old campground at Alameda Point.  The chicks were silent and unseen for weeks until they began peering out of the hole a few days before flying away.

Continue reading “Western Bluebird chicks raised on smorgasbord of bugs”

Bay pipefish indicates eelgrass in Alameda Point harbor

A Snowy Egret caught two Bay pipefish in quick succession along the shoreline next to the Hornet Soccer Field on Sunday, November 24.  This sighting of the Snowy Egret catching a pipefish is evidence that eelgrass, a special status marine vegetation, is present in the harbor east of the ferry maintenance facility.  Pipefish “do not wander far from the eelgrass bed where they were born,” according to Bay Nature magazine.  Eelgrass is pipefish habitat, in part, because pipefish are able to avoid predators as their slender bodies blend in with the narrow blades of eelgrass. Continue reading “Bay pipefish indicates eelgrass in Alameda Point harbor”

Red-breasted Nuthatch in fall feeding mode

This Red-breasted Nuthatch was part of a small flock busily feeding in an evergreen tree in the old campground next to the Bay Trail on October 15th.  Notice the bird’s legs in the first two photos.  It looks like it is standing on  long stick-like legs, which is an illusion.

Continue reading “Red-breasted Nuthatch in fall feeding mode”