Toad in the Hole

November 17, 2005

We Interrupt this Diatribe

Got a call from the Planet yesterday about a couple of loose ends, and Anne mentioned that she'd fielded a call from a guy who had a bird question. Joe and I both write for the Planet, and I think it's kinda neat that people would call there about birds, for whatever reason.

This caller had been walking "up on Euclid just past the Rose Garden" -- a residential neighborhood in the Berkeley Hills, fairly pricey, not new -- that morning and had encountered three birds, at least three feet tall and with gray feathers, walking down the middle of the street. Then they flew to a rooftop, where two more similar birds were awaiting them.

No, they weren't turkeys, which was Anne's first suggestion. (Wild-type turkeys have been spotted in Live Oak Park, not far from there.) he knew what wild turkeys looked like; these were bigger, long-necked and long-legged. They looked "awkward walking but beautiful flying."

Now, my first thought was great blue heron, which would be odd but they do breed in seeral places along the Bay and coast here. Though the thought od them walking around on a street was odd, they do hunt in fields sometimes.

But they don't flock. The only place I've seen great blues gathered was at the rookery. Even when they're fishing near their nests, they scatter -- great egrets are much more likely to hang out together, and they don't especially flock, but just scatter across the same field sometimes. However, there were strong winds from the east and north over the few days before that, as Chris mentioned. And there are big flocks of sandhill cranes in the Delta northeast of here now -- we went out and visited them, and wild swans and geese in their thousands on Sunday. They have been known to stray as far west as Point Reyes, in small groups. They certainly do flock, and very often within a flock (or in places like Point Reyes) what you see is pairs and trios together, and sometimes a pair of pairs or trios, as if they were hanging out with friends. Who knows, maybe they are.

There are a couple of grassy fields in Codornices Park, across the street from the Rose Garden, that might have looked like reasonable places to kick up mice and such.( We went up there, of course, but the birds were long gone.)

So, given the description and the habits and all, I'd say there was about a 70% chance that a group of sandhill cranes visited Berkeley yesterday.

Posted at November 17, 2005 11:24 PM


ooh. i'm not a bird person, but [a] very cool reasoning, and [b] there are weird winds, and [c] gosh, we're almost neighbors -- the sighting was maybe 4 miles from my house....

Posted by: kathy a at November 18, 2005 12:54 AM

Hi, neighbor! Actually, second-hand birding involves a lot of that kind of reasoning, and I've found myself doing lots of second-hand birding over the years. It hones one's logic and interviewing skills, which can be useful.

Posted by: Ron at November 21, 2005 02:12 AM