A few rarities and oddities today

Richard Bradus
 

Our "winter" continued today, rainless but sunny (a bit windy), with a few nice birds showing up. First up for me, the Alta Plaza Black & White Warbler popped out as I was casually walking through the park late this morning on my way back from an errand, now back on the west side gleaning in its usual willow and the small nearby trees. This has to be the longest tenure of a representative of this species in SF I would think - but, given the generally gorgeous weather, why not?

After 3pm this afternoon I made my way out to GGP (now with binos and camera) and walked mostly along the north shore of Stow Lake, where some of the Great Blue Herons are already on nests - and a pair of Pied-billed Grebes are nesting as well. As Dan Scali has already posted, the continuing Cinnamon Teal is holding out at the east side. It was more cooperative for me today than what others have described, as it swam about for a time and also hauled out onto a small log to preen a bit. After I ushered it across the lake to where Dan was standing we were additionally treated to a bright male Yellowthroat and a mostly hidden Sora, the latter eventually moving about under the thicket for the best views I have had of this species.

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Thinking I was headed home, I found Augie Kramer closer to the boathouse, intently using his iPhone on his binoculars, as he had spotted an odd looking warbler. It sounded like a Yellow and responded to Yellow calls, but was weird, showing an abnormally long, thick beak (almost certainly an affliction of some sort) as well as an unusually patterned wings/upperparts and non-uniform yellow underparts (Augie thought it looked like a hatchling). I grudgingly agreed that it was a Yellow Warbler, but definitely an odd one (see lousy photos - it was nearly impossible to photograph, almost never staying still for more than a couple of seconds and generally staying behind and amid numerous branches and leaves).



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Finally leaving, I looked up and saw another oddity, a hawk flying out from behind Strawberry Hill, looking for all the world like a dark Golden Eagle, soaring with primary feathers spread and wings flat (not in a dihedral) - but it was clearly too small to be an eagle and wobbled a bit in the wind. We debated its features as it quickly flew off to the northwest: dark overall (really dark bronze-black), with size and overall attitude of a Red-tail with a large beak (despite its flat soar) but with a mostly dark but somewhat variegated tail. My conclusion was that it had to be a dark morph Red-tail, probably the so called "Harlan's" Hawk (sorry, I had already packed away my camera and it flew by too quickly for me to get photos - drat!). 

That was the topper to an intriguing afternoon. Now, if I could get to see one of those real eagles the rest of you have been spotting recently....

Have fun out there!

Richard Bradus
San Francisco

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