Date: 1/4/21 10:48 pm
From: Adam Burnett <adamburnett33...>
Subject: [southbaybirds] 910 Bonaparte's Gulls at Palo Alto Baylands on January 1
One of the highlights of my New Year’s birding was a flock of at least 910 Bonaparte’s Gulls, seen from about 2:45-3:00 PM on January 1. I was standing by the edge of the Palo Alto Duck Pond, and I saw the flock in flight above the water treatment plant to the south. When I first saw this swirling flock in the distance, I expected them to be starlings! Binocular views revealed them to be Bonaparte’s Gulls, and for the next 15 minutes or so, groups peeled off and flew northeast across the bay. I assume they were headed to a roosting spot, as Bill Bousman mentioned in his posts on 11/5/14 and 12/2/19.

Apologies for the late post, but zooming in and meticulously counting the birds in my photo took quite a while! The attached photo shows 820 birds, with more of the flock cut off at the right side of the frame. An additional group of 90 birds had already departed across the bay, for a total of at least 910. As they streamed overhead, I biked to the T-intersection of Embarcadero Road and had much closer views of the flock, but I didn’t see any other species mixed in, neither any common larger gulls nor any rarities like Black-headed or Little. Regardless, it was an amazing spectacle! I regularly see flocks of around 100 Bonaparte’s Gulls above the water treatment plant, best viewed from the west edge of Byxbee Park, but I had never seen numbers like these.

Other highlights from a full day of bike-birding on January 1 included a male EURASIAN X AMERICAN WIGEON HYBRID with American Wigeon on Pond A1, and the continuing ROCK WREN at Byxbee Park, hanging out around the small fenced area at the west edge of the park, opposite the south corner of the water treatment plant. Yesterday, January 3, I visited the 3 wintering CHIPPING SPARROWS at Terman Park in Palo Alto, after one individual was reported there by Alex Tey and Ann Hepenstal on the Palo Alto CBC.

Happy birding in 2021!

Adam Burnett

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