Lake Merritt Winter Bird Walk

George and I often spend Christmas afternoon strolling through the wonderful gardens at the Lake Merritt Garden Center in Oakland. We were very disappointed this year to find the fences locked, but consoled ourselves by walking over to the Lake Merritt Bird Sanctuary instead.

Great Egret at Lake Merritt

In 1870 the Sanctuary was designated as the country’s first official wildlife refuge, and in 1963 it became a National Historic Landmark. It’s really exciting to see so many different kinds of birds in one location. The birds that hang out at a fenced-in man-made pond near the walkway are used to people, so you can get much closer than in the wild. An adult Black-crowned Night Heron let me get a closeup of his beautiful profile:

Black-crowned night heron

Other herons perched in the trees.

Black-crowned night heron

Excitement was seeing White Pelicans at the Lake for the first time!


This pair swam and fished together in the small pond.

Pelicans in Lake Merritt

Western Gulls feasted on clams.

Western Gull

Man-made Duck Islands provide shelter and plenty of tree branches for birds’ nests.

Lake Merritt

A string of Canada geese skidded into the Lake.

Lake Merritt Canada Geese

How about you – any exciting winter bird sightings to report?

Photo of the week

I haven’t posted a favorite photo for a while – but I finally made time to work with a few of the photos that have been piling up, and here’s my current:

Hummingbird at lemon flower

This hummingbird zooms between our back garden and the deck feeders. I sit out back, hen on lap and reading a book, with my camera turned on. Hummingbirds dart around so quickly that you need every advantage you can take. I was so happy to grab this photo of him getting nectar from a flower on our lemon tree. The light was low, and although I loved his pose the photo was a bit grainy. Instead of getting rid of the noise, I used paint and other image tools to emphasize it.

Did you take a special photo this week, or make a drawing or other piece of art?

Not a Hummingbird

I freely admit that I’m hummingbird-crazy. For a photographer, what better subject than an exquisite feisty bird whose feathers gleam and flash as they dart and hover in the air? And then there are the challenges of getting a great shot – those flashy feathers only show up momentarily as they catch the light, and they rarely rest for more than a moment. But once in a while I catch a not-too-bad photo of another bird. Lately our dogwood tree has been filled with these guys.Golden crowned sparrow

George, my go-to guy for bird identification, wasn’t home, but our very smart friend Jessica saved the day with a quick i.d.: it’s a Golden crowned Sparrow. This one was quiet, posing as I took the photo, but Jessie described their “lovely, melancholy song of three falling notes: tweee twee twee.” Thanks Jess!