Today after work I decided to try somewhere new, and so sought out the oft-mentioned Radio Road ponds in Redwood City. I’m glad I looked at a map, because it’s not somewhere you’d easily just stumble across!
For those who, like me, aren’t familiar with where this popular car-based birdwatching site is, you take Highway 101 to Redwood City and take the Redwood Shores Parkway exit, heading east (towards the bay), and continue for several miles through recently-built suburbs and turn right after what seems like an eternity at the sign for Radio Road.
Black Skimmer and Forster’s Terns
Unlike the places I typically bird-watch, Radio Road is pretty much car-based birding, as it is a series of water-treatment ponds next to the road with no trails. Although I generally much prefer to be under my own power and breathe in the fresh air, the air at these types of sites isn’t so fresh! Also, birding by car does allow one to get closer to the birds, as many birds tolerate the presence of an automobile where they would flush if a person was standing in the same place.
After determining the lay of the land (not too hard since it’s a small area, perhaps 1/2 mile of road), I crept along the roadside, making a couple of passes, to see what all was present.
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
I was a little surprised to see several dozen Northern Pintails, with their excellent posture and long, erect namesake tails, as this is a species I have seen only infrequently in the immediate Bay Area. An American Crow approached my open window, gurgling and caw’ing, presumably in the hopes that I would offer it some food.
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
A flock of Forster’s Terns fascinated me for quite some time. While a pretty common bird in most parts of the area at this time of year, I had never before seen them engaging in flock behavior; they soared and darted in all directions by the hundreds, all the while making a most unusual and pleasant racket, especially when the entire group dipped their wingtips and/or bills into the water, creating a soft watery roar before soaring again.
Forster’s Terns (Sterna forsteri)
A couple of Black Skimmers joined in the fun, obvious by their much-larger size, black wings, and funny asymmetrical bills. Alas, none of them got close enough for decent photographs – they’re quite striking birds!
Other birds seen included Marbled Godwits, some freshly alternate-plumaged Dowitchers, a few dozen American Avocets, and a couple of their cousins, the Black-necked Stilts.
American Avocets (Recurvirosta americana)
This was a nice place to stop by, and I’ll definitely return, especially if I don’t have the time for my usual longer walks at the Palo Alto Baylands or Charleston Slough.
Forster’s Tern (Sterna forsteri)
Birds seen (20 species):
– American Avocet
– American Crow
+ Black Skimmer
– Black-crowned Night Heron
– Black-necked Stilt
– Brewer’s Blackbird
– Canada Goose
– Cinnamon Teal
– Cliff Swallow
– Double-crested Cormorant
– Dowitcher sp.
– European Starling
– Forster’s Tern
– Marbled Godwit
– Northern Pintail
– Ruddy Duck
– Snowy Egret
+ = year bird