Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline
Bay, estuary, mudflats, salt marsh, grasslands, lawn, small groves of trees.
Flat with boardwalk and paved walkways connected to over 20 miles of shoreline walkways and public bayshore.
Resident: Cinnamon Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Clapper Rail, Sora, Virginia Rail, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Black-crowned Night-heron, Western Gull, Forster's Tern, Black Phoebe, Western Scrub-jay, Marsh Wren, Western Meadowlark. Harrier may hunt this marsh.
During breeding season: Caspian and Least Tern possible.
Wintering: Greater White-fronted Goose sporadic, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter possible, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Blue-winged Teal, Pintail, Canvasback, Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, both scaup species, Eurasian Widgeon possible, Eared Grebe, Horned Grebe, Clark's Grebe, Western Grebe and rarely Red-necked Grebe, occasional Common Loon, Long-billed Curlew, Willet, Short-billed Dowitcher, Red Knot possible, Black-bellied Plover, Marbled Godwit, Greater Yellowlegs, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Merlin, California Gull, Mew Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Say's Phoebe, American Pipit, Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
Once a breeding resident, the Burrowing Owl is now sporadic but there is hope it will return to this lowland habitat from nearby areas where it still breeds.
When to go
Fall and winter are best for a great day of duck-watching. High tide is best for seeing elusive resident rails who can be active and vociferous in the spring. June is great for seeing young stilt and avocet chicks. Least Tern are present only May through August.
Arrowhead Marsh is directly across the road from Oakland International Airport. The marsh is part of Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline and has picnic tables and toilets. Just north on Doolittle Drive is the town and island of Alameda with numerous fine restaurants, shops and more shoreline birding.
No admission, plenty of parking. Arrowhead Marsh is a three-mile drive or five minute taxi ride from the Oakland Airport terminal. It's about the same distance from I-880 which serves the nearby Oakland Coliseum and Arena complex. You can get within one mile for Arrowhead on A-C Transit bus routes # 50 & 805. North of Arrowhead on California Highway 61 you pass through Alameda and can find the endangered Least Terns which breed there on Alameda Wildlife Refuge.
Rainy season is November through March. The flat trails extend miles along the meandering estuaries and bay shoreline, often birded from bicycle by local residents. San Leandro Bay is more than a mile long so a scope can be useful.
For more information:
Audubon Field Trips: http://www.goldengateaudubon.org/html/fieldtrips/fieldtrips_main.htm
From I-880 take the Heggenberger exit west toward Oakland Airport. Turn right (north) on Doolittle Drive (California Highway 61). If you are coming from the Oakland Airport, you will turn left (north) on Doolittle. Proceed north past the Hilton and turn right on Swann Way where you will see the entrance to Arrowhead Marsh, part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline.
If you're coming into Oakland Airport, you can be birding within ten minutes of picking up a rental car. If you're staying elsewhere in the Bay Area, this is an easy place to find and rewarding spot to bird.
Arrowhead Marsh is over fifty acres of restored salt marsh. It's part of the 1220-acre Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline, much of it leased from the Port of Oakland. Arrowhead gets its name from its profile, as it points north into shallow San Leandro Bay with Oakland to the east and south, Alameda to the north and west. Two narrow channels connect this small bay with the broad waters of San Francisco Bay itself. Protected from high waves, but subject to strong tides, the mudflats and salt marsh are rich habitat. The county park service has embarked on a campaign to eradicate the spartina plants which are not native. As spartina disappears Arrowhead becomes even more attractive to birds.
Birding here can be surprising. Surrounded by airport and dense urban development, you face a quiet stretch of water and shoreline with hundreds if not thousands of birds within view.
High tides are likely to push the three rail species out where you can see them. Low tides open the rich mudflats to hordes of wintering shorebirds. A summer morning can offer over forty species including many newborn stilt and avocet. It's possible to top sixty species on a fall or winter day at Arrowhead Marsh. Because of its location sheltered birding can be good even on stormy days. During fall migration almost any Pacific shorebird or raptor is possible here.
Once regular, Burrowing Owl has been unpredictable at this location in recent years. The diurnal owl was seen in spring and winter of 2006 though it did not breed at Arrowhead that year.
From Arrowhead Marsh you can drive eight miles north on Highway 61 onto Alameda Island to see Least Terns, May to August. Drive until you see Encinal High School campus on your left (west). You'll be on Central Avenue (still Highway 61). As it turns right, you'll see dirt road running between the edge of enc5na3 campus and the high fence that still surround the former Alameda Wildlife Refuge. Turn left onto this road go to small dirt parking lot at the end. Walk out onto the path atop the breakwater. It affords a view to the north toward the old naval docks on Alameda Point. The Bay will be on your left. During their breeding season you should see Least Terns loafing or fishing in this area.
TOWHEE.NET: Harry Fuller, 820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, OR 97128