Seawatch -- Solitary Sandpiper et al. + Bank Swallows, 5/1/20

Paul Saraceni

This morning I did a seawatch (7:30-10:30 AM) from the south end of the Great Highway.  There were light SW winds. The fog bank moved in from and out to the horizon several times during my watch, but never covered the beach and surf. Skies were overcast.

There was a nice movement of migrants including loons and various shorebirds, plus Brant and some other interesting species.
Best was a SOLITARY SANDPIPER.  During a period when the fog bank was encroaching, I picked up on this bird while scoping as it flew low over the ocean heading S over the surf. I am guessing that it was disoriented a bit by the fog -- it was flying on the clear (near) side of the fog bank. A mid-sized Tringa with uniformly dark upperparts and wings, dark rump through center of tail, dark underwings, white belly. Slightly buoyant flight. This is the second time that I have observed this rare species from this sea-watch. 
BRANT were on the move -- I observed 102 including flocks of 32 and 28 flying offshore, plus a close flock of 41 and a single bird flying over the surf in from the fog bank, all flying N.

A flock of 5 female RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS flew N over the surf near shore, in from the fog bank -- perhaps moved closer to shore by the fog. 

A sharp-looking RED-NECKED GREBE in alternate plumage flew N over the ocean. 

RHINOCEROS AUKLETS flew N together low over the ocean several hundred yards out. 

Other observations of local interest:

Surf Scoter 34
W. Grebe 11
Semipalmated Plover 1 (flying N high over the surf)
Killdeer 1 (flying and calling across the Great Highway)
Whimbrel 56
Long-billed Curlew 10 (1 calling flock flying N high over the bluff)
Marbled Godwit 1
Black Turnstone 7 (1 tight flock flying N over the surf -- uncommon at this location)
Sanderling 66
Least Sandpiper 2 (flying N over the surf)
Western Sandpiper 22 (groups of 18 & 4 flying N over the surf)
Willet 1
Pigeon Guillemot 2
Caspian Tern 1
Red-thr. Loon 16 
Pacific Loon 55 (most flying N)
Com. Loon 8
Brandt's Cormorant 60
Pelagic Cormorant 1 (alt. plumage)
Double-cr. Cormorant 30
Brown Pelican 82
Bewick's Wren 1 (singing from across the Great Highway)

On the walk back to my car parked near Sloat, I heard the distinctive calls of BANK SWALLOWS and looked up to see 4 flying N together over the Great Highway. I was looking and listening for this species during my seawatch but did not observe any near the traditional bluff location at the N end of Ft. Funston. Not sure whether these were migrants or from the nesting colony -- assuming that the colony still exists.

Paul Saraceni 
San Francisco

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