Alameda Abounds with Ways to Learn about Birds

Rick Lewis -- On a field trip, birders study ducks on the water.
Rick Lewis -- On a field trip, birders study ducks on the water.

Alameda Abounds with Ways to Learn about Birds

How can adults and high school students learn about birds? Wood Middle School students learn about birds in school. Third graders in some schools learn about our California Least Tern colony through a class offered by Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Reserve (FAWR), the Alameda Conservation Committee of Golden Gate Bird Alliance (formerly Golden Gate Audubon Society).

Alamedans have options: walks along the shoreline, organized classes, or both. And many are taught by Alameda residents or people who come onto the island for work.

Bird Walks
Turning first to bird walks, called field trips by birders, East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) hosts many in Alameda. Susan Ramos, an Alameda resident and Naturalist with the Park District, “loves leading bird walks, especially for beginners.” She led one on Sept. 9 and another in early November at Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary to look at wintering shorebirds. You can just show up: no pre-registration necessary. As a bonus, Susan always has some loaner binoculars for those who don’t have a pair (a clever way to try out binoculars before you buy).

Kevin Dixon, a Naturalist stationed at Crab Cove, leads field trips looking at ducks. He’ll help you separate a Mallard from a Green-winged Teal, at Elsie Roemer or at the nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, where ducks winter in the sheltered waters. Check the EBRPD calendar to learn about Susan’s and Kevin’s field trips, and many other Park District activities for all ages.

Golden Gate Bird Alliance (GGBA) field trips provide another informal option, but require planning, since preregistration is required. Register here. Registration opens at 1 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month for field trips scheduled for the following month.

Volunteers lead field trips throughout the East Bay and San Francisco; they can provide loaner binoculars. The once-a-month field trip to Corica Golf Course finds interesting birds. A second trip will be scheduled each month when the Bald Eagles return (I believe they will again nest on the course this winter). Other regional birding groups, such as Ohlone and Mt. Diablo Audubon Societies, also lead field trips in Alameda and throughout the East Bay. Check their websites.

For a more formal approach, GGBA and other East Bay birding groups offer a variety of classes. GGBA fall classes, with fee, registration requirements, and enrollment limits, can be found here. Three classes are designed for new birders, all with weeknight presentations and weekend field trips. The field trips provide a chance to find, identify, and watch birds, as well as meet other new birders and learn about where birds hang out.

“Beginning Birding” begins in early September with four classes and field trips. Next up, starting in early October, “Fall into Birding” has five classes and field trips, and with an Alameda resident, Jeff Manker, as one of its instructors. The longest class for new birders, “Birding for Fledglings,” starts at the end of October with six classes. Another Alameda resident, Dawn Lemoine, is one of its instructors. It’s the last to start, so sign up quickly.

For people with some birding experience, GGBA offers classes about specific birds, such as waterbirds and shorebirds or raptors. Classes fill fast but winter 2024 classes will be listed later this year.

GGBA also sometimes provides instructors for programs hosted by other organizations. For example, two Alameda residents, Karen Kenney and Jeff Manker, are teaching a series of classes this year for a group of home-schooled students.
With the shorebirds returning for the winter, now is the time to find a field trip or class and start to learn about “our birds.”

Marjorie Powell is a member of the Golden Gate Bird Alliance and its Alameda Conservation Committee, Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Reserve.

This article is part of a series on local birds organized by the Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Reserve, the Alameda Conservation Committee of Golden Gate Bird Alliance.