Birding spots


SF Birders,

I am a Massachusetts birder that will be visiting S.F. in early August.  I've looked up some hotspots and it seems that Rodeo Lagoon, Fort Mason Park, and the Presidio are the best spots.  Am I correct?  If anyone has advice on other good spots (or whether or not the above spots are good), I'd greatly appreciate it!  Also, if anyone has trail maps for those locations that'd help me a lot in finding my way around.  Thanks so much.

Re: Barn Owl Potrero Hill - AT&T Park

Daphne Hatch

A Barn Owl flew over Tuesday night's Giants game at AT&T Park against the Brewers.

Daphne Hatch

Barn Owl Potrero Hill

Eddie Bartley

July 28, 2015 10:07 PM: Barn Owl just called twice near our open window on Potrero Hill.


Eddie Bartley



Golden Gate: Sooty Shearwaters

Felix Rigau

Golden Gate, Marshall Beach, GGNRA: Sooty Shearwaters

Yesterday I got out for a late day walk along the Coastal Bluffs Trail and was treated to an "improbability" of Sooty Shearwaters actively feeding offshore in the channel. The number of birds was quite impressive in the high hundreds. I witnessed the frenzied feeding as the tops of waves were cut and sheared by the wings of these birds sending out white plumes into the air. A memiorable and dramatic sighting!

Good Birding,

Felix Rigau

Fort Mason: Yellow Warbler, Pacific Slope Flycatcher, Great Horned Owl

David Assmann

Arrived at the Fort Mason Community Garden this morning after visits to Crissy Field Lagoon and El Polin Spring (nothing of note at either place, although there were expected shorebirds at Crissy (LONG-BILLED CURLEWS, WILLETS, MARBLED GODWIT and LEAST SANDPIPER). Bob Gunderson was there, and he had found  a YELLOW WARBLER, which gave us great, although brief, views. A PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER was very obliging over a long period of time. In the Battery, a really nice male WESTERN TANAGER was in the top of the trees.  Finally, in the palm tree behind the General's House, a GREAT HORNED OWL was easily visible. A NUTTALL'S WOODPECKER has been easy to find on the last four visits.

Sea-watch + shore-birding, 7/26/15

Paul Saraceni

This morning, Hugh Cotter, Kevin McKereghan, and I did some sea-watching from the south end of the Great Highway, followed by a visit to the Bay-side of SF to check for early shorebirds, with a brief check of the concrete bridge @ s. Lake Merced in between.

Observations of local interest:

Sea-watch (7-8:30 AM):
Surf Scoter 2
Osprey 1 (flying S over beach then same or different bird flying N much higher up)
Com. Loon 6 (basic)
Pacific Loon 2 (basic)
Pelagic Cormorant 1
SOOTY SHEARWATER ~6-800 (steady stream flying N at the horizon for a period)
Whimbrel 13
Marbled Godwit 14
Elegant Tern 120+ (most flying S)
Com. Murre 6 (including 1 father/chick pair)
Pigeon Guillemot 9
MARBLED MURRELET 2 (alt. plumage flying N together; unusual for SF in summer)
Bank Swallow 4

Concrete Bridge:
Am. Coot 4 juvs. (in various stages of growth)
California Gull 1 fresh juv.
Mew Gull 1 (the summering bird with ratty primaries)
Great-tailed Grackle 4

SE SF (Yosemite Slough [YS], Heron's Head [HH], Pier 94 [P94]):
Osprey 1 (on apparent nest @ Hunter's Pt. -- scoped from long distance @ HH)
Cooper's Hawk 2 (HH)
13 species of shorebird, including:
Black Oystercatcher 1 YS/4 HH/2 P94
Am. Avocet 5 YS
Black-necked Stilt 2 HH
Black-bellied Plover 4 YS/6 HH
Semipalmated Plover 3 YS
Killdeer 10 YS
Long-billed Curlew 1 HH/1 P94
Whimbrel 4 YS/5 HH
Willet 1 YS/4 HH
Greater Yellowlegs 4 YS
Black Turnstone 1 YS
Least Sandpiper 2 YS/3 HH
Spotted Sandpiper 3 YS

[Noteworthy wildlife observation was first photographic record of Red Saddlebags for SF-- a mostly-southern species of dragonfly that is making a coastal incursion into NorCal counties this summer -- 1 m./1 f. @ India Basin Open Space.]

Paul Saraceni
San Francisco

Half Moon Bay pelagic report - jul 26

Alvaro Jaramillo

Hi all,

   We had a great day out from Half Moon Bay to San Mateo and San Francisco county waters today. The highlight for most was a Leatherback Sea Turtle just a few miles offshore from Half Moon Bay! Later on in the day another nice one was Laysan Albatross, seen in both counties. Good numbers of Black-footed Albatross throughout the day. Nice close Ashy Storm-Petrels, many Sabine’s Gulls, Pomarine Jaegers. Our first Buller’s Shearwaters of the season were out there today, several in with larger numbers of Sooty and Pink-footed shearwaters. In the alcid department a gleaming billed Tufted Puffin was a treat, and more frustrating was an unidentified murrelet Scripps’s/Craveri’s that dove and was never seen again, only a few folks on the boat saw this bird. A few Rhinos and Cassin’s auklets with lots of Common Murres; both pelagic species of phalarope were out there.

   It was a day with moderate winds, and good conditions although it got bumpy out beyond the continental shelf. The great part was that birds were moving throughout the day, there always seemed to be something to look at. We did not have real lulls in the activity while we were out there. Basking shark last week, and Leatherback Sea Turtle this week – not bad at all!

Good birding and naturalizing,


Alvaro Jaramillo



Fort Mason: Black Headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanagers

David Assmann

Two BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS were in the top of the trees in the Battery at Fort Mason this morning, along with a WESTERN TANAGER and a HOODED ORIOLE. I found another two WESTERN TANAGERS and a HOODED ORIOLE along MacArthur, where both a DOWNY and NUTTALL'S WOODPECKER were also hanging out. The WESTERN BLUEBIRD family was hanging around the headquarters. Found 46 species in 3 hours - a pretty good total for Fort Mason in July.

Baird's Sandpiper India Basin

Alan Hopkins

Today at 11:45 there was a Baird's Sandpiper in the small cove at India Basin Park. It was there when I got there but it flew off when something chased all the shorebirds off. Other shorebirds were:

Black-bellied Plover 1
Black-necked Stilt 2
Willet 5
Whimbrel 7
Long-billed Curlew 1

Alan Hopkins

Sloat and S Lake Merced

Brian Fitch

As with the rest of July for me, there's nothing unusual to report in the bird world.  South Lake Merced had many juvenile Clark's Grebes, a Green Heron, a kingfisher, and multiple juv grackles.  Despite the expanding beach, no shorebirds were present.

Sloat had Pacific and Common Loons, 20+ Whimbrel and five Marbled Godwits, at least five pairs of adult and chick Common Murres near shore, and a few Bank Swallows.  The interesting plumage highlight was a juvenile Elegant Tern that was bleached or otherwise so pale that the only black on the head consisted of an eye line that approximated a tropicbird's facial pattern.  The wings were also paler than any of its many nearby comrades.

As has been the case for many weeks, the Humpbacks were present and exciting to watch, with as many as seven whales spouting, showing humps, fluking, lobtailing, and one full-sized individual did a somersault breach such as I hadn't seen before. Last Friday, a huge columnar spout twice the height of any nearby Humpbacks made me suspect a Blue Whale was present well south of the Cliff House, but I never saw anything beyond the spout.

I'll really miss the Humps when they finally move on, but hopefully by then, bird variety will have risen enough to console me.
Brian Fitch

Southeast SF Local Interest

David Assmann

Started the day at Heron's Head Park, where I met up with Bob Gunderson.  Two OSPREY were on the nest at the Hunters' Point Shipyard - visible via scope. Seven BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS, as well as a number of BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, WHIMBREL, WILLET, LEAST SANDPIPERS, and a single AMERICAN AVOCET. At Yosemite Slough, we saw a very young KILLDEER, as well as the same species of shorebirds as Heron's Head.  The only addition was a sighting of two GREATER YELLOWLEGS. We finished up at the Potrero Hill Recreation Center, where we saw four HOODED ORIOLES, two male WESTERN TANAGERS, and the surprise of the morning - a VAUX'S SWIFT flying south.

Northern Flicker and blubber mania

Daniel Scali


Birded/hiked from Battery Godfrey down to Marshall Beach this a.m. with Susanna Kwan. From the bluffs we watched a couple TVs tearing chunks of meat from a beached seal while more and more aerialist Ravens gathered to attempt a coup. Aside from the usual suspects on the trail and down by the ocean, a beautiful Red-Shafted Northern Flicker caught Susanna's eye as it moved around feeding on the ground and in the scrub just South of the trail sign that says "Marshall Beach 324 ft." It gave us a couple of minutes of great looks before flying out of view. It continued to call periodically as we headed back up to Godfrey.

Geese Out,
Daniel Scali
Inner Sunset

Fort Mason Local Interest

David Assmann

There are at least seven HOODED ORIOLES at Fort Mason right now.  I saw six females and juveniles at one time from the stairs leading down to Aquatic Park, and later I saw the adult male near MacArthur. I kept seeing Orioles in different parts of Fort Mason, usually in groups of 3 to 5. Since Hooded Orioles can have up to seven eggs in a nest, virtually all must have survived.  Two continuing SURF SCOTERS were swimming close to shore in Aquatic Park. A family of WESTERN BLUEBIRDS (male, female and two young) were feeding on the lawn in front of the General's House. On MacArthur, as I was trying to determine how many Hooded Orioles were in the trees, two WESTERN TANAGERS popped up, and one - a bright male in alternate plumage - flew south and out of Fort Mason. A NUTTALL'S WOODPECKER gave its rattle call and flew across MacArthur.

Presidio Local Interest

David Assmann

Started the morning at Crissy Lagoon, where the best bird was a flyover AMERICAN KESTREL. A handful of shorebirds were present, including MARBLED GODWIT, WILLET, and LONG-BILLED CURLEW. A flock of about 15 brown, medium sized shorebirds flew westward over the Bay. A congregation of six GREAT EGRETS flew in as a group.

At Kobbe and Upton I found a juvenile WESTERN BLUEBIRD at Fort Scott. A male HOODED ORIOLE took great offense at a juvenile RED-SHOULDERED HAWK flying to land on a tree and harassed it noisily until it left. A young BARN SWALLOW (one of four swallow species present), sat on a window sill.

Final stop was El Polin, where the area around the spring was filled with LESSER and AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES.  Three female Orioles, including two HOODED ORIOLES, and a smaller one I didn't see very well, were moving up the hill. A PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER was just south of the spring, and I could hear an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER calling in the distance, as well as an ACORN WOODPECKER. Moving up towards Inspiration Point, there was another PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER in the same area that I've been seeing them for a few months, and a very vocal WESTERN-WOOD PEWEE was calling.

Ocean Beach Dead Birds - 07.21.15

h cotter

Walked a part of Ocean Beach last night, 7/21 and had the following dead birds;

Northern Fulmar - 1
Pacific Loon - 1
Brandt's Cormorant - 2
Common Murre - 1

Last week I had a number of Brandt's Cormorants and Murres in addition to 1 Sooty Shearwater.
Also a small Ray was on the back last week.

I did have some live birds also including 8 Snowy Plover and 3 Sanderling,


Pelagic trip report - Sunday July 19, 2015

Alvaro Jaramillo

Hi folks,

   Amazing and gorgeous warm weather on Sunday, with very little swell and wind. We birded partly in San Mateo County and San Francisco counties. The offshore water ranged from 61.5 F to nearly 64F, and was very blue and clear – tuna water. We did not find any tuna. Birds were dispersed, but we did find a fishing boat with approximately 80 Black-footed Albatross in SM county. We scoured them for something different, to no avail. There were a small number of Ashy Storm-Petrels in both counties, and a few southbound Sabine’s Gulls. Surely numbers will pick up later on in the season. Great views of Sooty and Pink-footed shearwaters, although no heavy or dense concentrations. Food out there appears to be dispersed. Northern Fulmars were scattered about, all first year birds in heavy molt, some of them not looking very healthy. The alcid numbers and distribution was a bit odd. There were precious few Cassin’s and Rhinoceros auklets out there, but many Common Murres. The murres, many males with their chicks, were widespread and maintained well out to a few miles beyond the continental shelf. Usually they tend to stay mainly on the shelf, and also unusual were a few Pigeon Guillemots way out there at 20 miles offshore! Good numbers of fly by Red-necked Phalaropes, although few feeding on the water. A single Pomarine Jaeger in SF, was heading south.

   The absolute best find was a huge BASKING SHARK, anywhere between 16 and 20 feet long. It came up right under the boat, a huge black shadow that was like being in the jaws movie, except for the fact that this gargantuan is a peaceful filter feeder. The pelagic shark research foundation was quite excited about our sighting, mentioning it was the first in these waters in many years. Lots of Humpback Whales were out there, a Northern Fur Seal, a surprise Sea Otter in Half Moon Bay, and great views of a large pod of Pacific White-sided Dolphin. Some folks also saw Northern Right Whale Dolphin. Many Mola mola, the ocean sunfish. It was a super day out, weather good enough to suggest a trip out in the Atlantic, wish we had brought the Margarita machine!

    Trips are filling up fast the July and most of the August trips are sold out or nearing so. If you are interested in the August San Mateo or San Francisco targeted trips, the details are here:


Good birding

Alvaro Jaramillo


Birder Brains talk - this Thursday

Alvaro Jaramillo

Hi folks

    I will be giving a talk Thursday night at the Presidio Officer’s Club titled “Birder Brains and why Birding is for you.” This talk is about how the brain of a birder works to identify birds, and also why everyone should be a birder, and how to do it. See you there I hope!


Alvaro Jaramillo



Grackle Invasion?

David Assmann

Finishing a morning walk around Crissy Lagoon, I was a little surprised to see a female GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE foraging in the parking lot. With the expanding numbers of Grackles at Lake Merced, I suppose it's just inevitable that they will start showing up in other parts of the City (one was reported on the Presidio golf course earlier this month). The Aleutian CACKLING GOOSE was still there as well - in with the CANADA GEESE on the field.

Fort Mason: GGAS Field Trip - Local Interest

David Assmann

Two GREAT HORNED OWLS in a palm tree and a family of HOODED ORIOLES were the highlight for the 18 participants in today's GGAS Field Trip at Fort Mason. It was hard to determine how many Orioles were actually at Fort Mason, but there were at least five.  Three female/immature Orioles were in the garden, with two young males seen later outside the garden, and potential a sixth male Oriole in the battery.  45 species were seen by one or more participants.  Bird list follows:

Surf Scoter,
Brandt's Cormorant,
Double-crested Cormorant,
Pelagic Cormorant,
Brown Pelican,
Great Blue Heron,
Snowy Egret,
Black-crowned Night-Heron,
Cooper's Hawk,
Pigeon Guillemot,
Heermann's Gull,
Western Gull,
California Gull,
Caspian Tern,
Elegant Tern,
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon),
Band-tailed Pigeon,
Eurasian Collared-Dove,
Mourning Dove,
Great Horned Owl,
Anna's Hummingbird,
Nuttall's Woodpecker,
Downy Woodpecker,
Red-masked Parakeet,
Black Phoebe,
Western Scrub-Jay,
American Crow,
Tree Swallow,
Barn Swallow,
Chestnut-backed Chickadee,
Pygmy Nuthatch,
American Robin,
Northern Mockingbird,
European Starling,
California Towhee,
Song Sparrow,
White-crowned Sparrow,
Dark-eyed Junco,
Brown-headed Cowbird,
Hooded Oriole,
House Finch,
Lesser Goldfinch,
American Goldfinch,
House Sparrow

Re: Hawks Up Close

Amanda Starbuck <starbuck.amanda@...>

I was in Lafayette park at 6pm today and the Red-Shouldered Hawk (first one I've seen there) was still hanging out in a pine on the Washington St side, getting mobbed intermittently by several Anna's Hummingbirds, a Hooded Oriole and a pair of Robins. The Red Tailed Hawk was in the middle of the park close to the tennis court, amongst the cacophonous red-masked parakeets, seemingly ignoring the RSHA.

Good birding.

Amanda Starbuck

On 19 July 2015 at 18:45, Richard Bradus grizzledjay@... [SFBirds] <SFBirds-noreply@...> wrote:

Well, the (ahem) unusual weather we've been having seems to have had an effect on our local raptors.

Mid morning as I was making my usual walk about Alta Plaza Park I was surprised to see a small hawk fly across my path, disappearing into the row of Boxwood trees along the west end. It turned out to be an adult Sharp-shinned, and as it moved about I was able to get to within just a few meters and it eyeballed me with those piercing red eyes for a few minutes before deciding to flee the scene. Nice!

Late morning I made my way to Lafayette Park to check on the Hooded Orioles but was soon diverted by persistent Robin alarm calls. They were piping off at what I'm pretty certain was an immature Red-shouldered Hawk that wowed not only me but multiple neighborhood walkers and tourists as it perched  for some time just off the northwest corner of the upper circle. All got quite a show as the adult male Oriole, hummingbirds and a Junco (and I think a Finch or two) took turns diving at the rather stoic hawk, At one point it flew across the lawn and perched in a pine, where it was spotted by the resident female Red-tailed Hawk but, to my immense surprise, the Red-tail didn't drive it away but actually perched nearby for a few moments before deciding to leave well enough alone and fly off to the east. Can't explain that - unless these birds have already sorted out their affairs in previous encounters, or maybe it was just too warm to bother (?). That left the 'shoulder' to briefly scout out the lawn before spending the rest of the morning in various perches along the north side of the park, followed and persistently bombarded by the much smaller local breeders.

Richard Bradus
San Francisco

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