Skimmers skimming, bittern bitterning

Eddie Bartley

Noreen and I took a spin around the waterfront on Friday with a Netherlander birder. He had happened upon Skimmer admirers Thursday and, upon seeing he was with binoculars, these birders pointed out the rare visitors – he was delighted not only with the birds but also how friendly and helpful these birders were . Thanks and yay for that!


On the way to Crissy we could see the Skimmers on the beach so we stopped and admired them as well as 4 Surfbirds and a Black Turnstone. There was an odd fourth cycle/adult hybrid Gull. Western mostly but a couple of shades lighter gray on the mantle, a smallish bright yellow-orange bill (compared to typical adult Westerns), bright yellow orbital, pale gray eyes with barely pinkish/nearly yellowish legs. Also some slight, blurry gray winter flecking in the head and neck.  I dunno, maybe the leg color was from age or diet but unusual for sure. Got a few photos to perplex over. Several Heermann’s Gulls and a couple of Iceland Gulls (on the platform to the east) rounded out the quick stop nicely.


Just as we walked up to Crissy Lagoon from the east two BLACK SKIMMERS swept in from the same direction and immediately began skimming. Was a bit surprised as the water had rather high ripples (1 – 2 inches) for that method of fishing but, when you are a skimmer, I guess you have few other choices for feeding and feed you must. We didn’t see them catch anything after about ten minutes and went snipe hunting (yes) but, on a return swing, ran into Rudy Wallen and Dan Harris on the lagoon bridge, Rudi had just seen one skimmer with a fish in its’ mouth being harassed by a gull so, the lagoon water was evidently not too disturbed.


The road down to Ft. Point was closed so we went next to Cliff House. From out of the gate came a fast moving squall replete with a loud thunder clap and bb sized hail lasting for 6 or 8 minutes as we neared Baker Beach – hail at the beach wow! At Cliff House it was a real hide and seek game on the water with high numbers of grebes and Red-throated Loons in the troughs, a few scoters around. The expected rocky shorebird species were on the rocks, in the water we found a single RED-NECKED GREBE just beyond the Seal Rocks and a likely White-winged Scoter that seemed to disappear before we could get a good enough look to document it.


North Lake: we circled starting with a heavy drizzle then sunshine. The AMERICAN BITTERN was stalking the eastern shore in reeds, two male Allen’s were displaying, one female ALLEN”S HUMMINGBIRD appeared to be gathering nesting material.


Ended the day in a blustery way with 30 mph wind, intermittent water drops and rainbows at Heron’s Head. Most of the action was at India Basin cove but after a walk to the head and back, well, there’ sonly so much exhilarating weather you can do in a day, we got on our way.


Happy Trails!


Eddie Bartley

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