Great migrant day at Fort Mason

David Assmann

I knew the day would be exceptional when I flushed a WILSON'S SNIPE as soon as I entered the Community Garden (the last time a Snipe was seen at Fort Mason was in 2012). Migrants kept appearing throughout the three hours I spent at Fort Mason, including seven species of warblers - COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (garden), ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (garden and Battery), NASHVILLE WARBLER (Battery), YELLOW WARBLER (Battery), BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Battery), TOWNSEND'S WARBLER (garden), and YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (everywhere). A BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK was in the garden, a WESTERN KINGBIRD landed in the Eucalyptus trees north of the garden, and a WARBLING VIREO was in the Battery. A very drab looking WESTERN TANAGER was in the hedge across from the garden, two SAVANNAH SPARROWS showed up on the western fence of the garden. A VAUX'S SWIFT flew over the garden. Meanwhile the ORCHARD ORIOLE continues to sing and rattle in the garden. A feeding frenzy was going on in the Bay, with over 1,000 gulls and Cormorants, and the side of Alcatraz is now covered with BRANT'S CORMORANTS (well over a 1,000).  The east winds are not expected to continue, so tomorrow will undoubtedly be quieter. The only other highlight to report from earlier this week was an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER at the top of a Cypress tree in the East Wash on Tuesday.

Flight Day and SWHA

Jonah Benningfield

SF birders,
Fun morning at the Battery today; someone else might post a detailed report but highlights included (3) Great-tailed Grackles (Presidio bird for me!), Black-headed Grosbeak, Acorn Woodpecker, and good numbers of Lazuli Bunting, Western Kingbird, Collared Dove, Bullock's Oriole, and Band-tailed Pigeon. Live warbler migration was cool as well.

I did go to class, and while walking back out the front doors I was treated to nice views of a light morph SWAINSON'S HAWK, which circled overhead a few times before flying off towards Crissy Field. Ten minutes later, I rolled down to Crissy and had what was likely the same SWHA bombing southeast over the lagoon, headed toward the financial district. 

all the best,
Jonah B.

Spring Migrants

Joachim Gonzalez

A quick trip in Fuschia Dell/McLaren Lodge yielded some good old spring migrants. Nothing rare but 3 Wilson’s Warbler, my FOS Cassin’s Vireo, and my FOS Western Tanager. None of the migrant empids coming in though. 

Good Birding
Joachim Gonzalez

Black & white warbler @ Middle Lake

Ken Moy

On a quiet day otherwise filled with nesting behavior, I had a good 2 minute look at a Black & white warbler in the tree tagged 3704 @ Middle Lake @ 11:10am. Very contrasty individual with throat and cheeks that appeared white but the underparts were also pretty cleanly white. Couldn't decide between first year male and mature female.

Good birding to all,

Ken Moy

Possible return of the Lazuli @ McLaren Park

Daniel Scali

Hello all,

I got out there early this morning, mainly roving around the wooded and weedy patches from the Jerry G amphitheater west to upper pond. A highlight was a nice singing Pacific-slope Flycatcher. As I wandered, I heard a couple of faint song bits that to me could have only come from 3 birds. The Beert/Dzeet (from Nathan Pieplow’s naming work) I heard was, I think, a Lazuli Bunting, House Wren, or Lesser Goldfinch. LEGOs are trickster so you never know and between the other candidates, the LAZB has been a lot more common at the park from mid-spring to summer than HOWR (counting the irruption-like occurrence of the Lazulis last year starting around this date). If this does mark the return of the Lazuli Buntings, I worry that they may not stick around to breed in the park. The weedy fields that last year they seemed to favor, made up primarily of wild radish, seem to be more managed this year or suppressed by poison hemlock, possibly by natural succession. (?) A lot of construction is happening this spring as well; primarily path repaving. McLaren is a great park — I hope to see you out there.

Good birdling,
Dan Scali SF

Fort Mason Local Interest

David Assmann

There were a few unexpected birds at Fort Mason this morning, and a handful of migrants.  Two GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE were flying in front of Alcatraz, and two CACKLING GEESE flew over Fort Mason. A BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER was in the avocado tree in the garden, and a WHITE-THROATED SWIFT flew over. A bright adult male HOODED ORIOLE was making the rounds, and hopefully will stay. The ORCHARD ORIOLE marked its 145th day at Fort Mason by singing and chattering. A WILSON'S WARBLER was in the garden. Birds seen on the weekend, but not today, were the WANDERING TATTLER on the pier, a BULLOCK'S ORIOLE south of the garden, and a BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK in the garden.

Seawatch -- Ancient Murrelet, 4/13/19

Paul Saraceni

Yesterday (Saturday, 4/13) morning I conducted a short seawatch from the south-end of the Great Highway (7:45-9:15 AM), joined by Hugh Cotter towards the end.

Winds were variable, waves were high, and decent visibility at the beginning was reduced by the encroaching offshore marine layer by the time we finished.

The highlight was a single ANCIENT MURRELET flying S by itself.

There were still 2 BLACK SCOTERS (1 m. & 1 f.) out in the surf, and 40+ Surf Scoters flying and on the water.

There was a small flight of loons heading N in pulses, with 80+ Red-throateds (about 50/50 basic/alternate plumaged) and 30+ Pacifics (most in alternate plumage), and 2 Commons on the water.

Evidence of shorebird migration featured good numbers of Whimbrel, Willets (in breeding plumage), Marbled Godwits, and Sanderlings on the beach, and 3 Least Sandpipers flying N over the ocean.

Late Saturday afternoon during a beach walk there was an OSPREY flying N over the surf near the Noriega entrance to Ocean Beach.

Paul Saraceni

San Francisco

Local Interest

Ken Moy

Sightings of moderate interest from earlier this week:

Friday, April 12 - orange crowned warbler and Wilson's warbler, female black-headed grosbeak (thanks Clifford Y) and a skulky unidentified warbler, all at Middle Lake in GGP around 11:15 - 12:30

Saturday, April 13 - green heron initially spotted around 9:15 in the reeds on the west shore of Mountain Lake between the two green light poles, it then flew towards the observation area (with log benches) and disappeared. The female black & white warbler made its annual (for me) appearance in the dog run area at Mountain Lake Park above the green gardener's tool box. Also had 2 pairs of blue birds and a Say's phoebe at Presidio Hills.

Good birding to all!

Ken Moy

Wandering Tattler continues


This morning I parked at the foot of the Municipal Pier--the bottom of Van Ness.  Looking over the edge toward Aquatic Park, the Wandering Tattler was picking at the rocks at low tide.  I did not stay long, as right next to where the bird was over the wall, a couple of men were smoking pot in a car and had loud boom-box type music playing.  It was not even 8:30, guess it is different for everyone.

Hugh B. Harvey
Walnut Creek

Nashville Warbler and Blue Gray Gnatcatcher at Fort Mason

David Assmann

Migrants continue to trickle through - this morning I had a BLUE GRAY GNATCATCHER on the east side of the garden, and a NASHVILLE WARBLER on the bush on the south west corner of the garden. GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW numbers continue to increase, with most in full alternate plumage.  No Fox Sparrows today. Crissy Lagoon had 14 SNOWY EGRETS.  The only unexpected bird at El Polin Spring was a late SAY'S PHOEBE, sitting on top of a telephone pole.

Local Interest

Brian Fitch

Despite spending five hours at nine different sites around town this morning, my only highlights were a Green Heron at S Lake Merced, a pair of Red Crossbills along the canal west of the lake, and a female Western Tanager at Kobbe & Upton in the Presidio.  While it's a relief to not have to give long descriptions of cryptic species as earlier this week, I wish migration would kick into full gear.

Brian Fitch

Nesting Hummingbirds at Fort Mason

David Assmann

There are now four active Hummingbird nests next to the stairs leading up from Aquatic Park.  Three are ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD nests, and one is an ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD nest.  One nest (the Allen's) is still under construction.  One has a hummingbird sitting on eggs, and the other two have two chicks each. Also observed BUSHTITS working on a nest in the garden (the third Bushtit nest that I've observed at Fort Mason this month). I'm also hearing a call that I've associated in the past with newly fledged AMERICAN CROWS - not sure if it is early for one to have left the nest. Otherwise the ORCHARD ORIOLE was quite vocal as it moved around the garden, and two of us heard, but did not see, a VARIED THRUSH. GOLDEN CROWNED SPARROW and FOX SPARROWS, which were nearly absent yesterday, have shown up again (perhaps migrants from further south).

Sutro Sabine's Again & UFG

Brian Fitch

This morning's watch was between 6:45 and 8:15, with the following highlights:
Brant - 2 northbound quite close in
Common Loon - 4 singles in alternate heading north
Red-necked Grebe - 1 flying into the Gate, and 1 fishing around Arch Rock
Whimbrel - 5 north
Long-billed Curlew - 1 north
Sabine's Gull - flying around well beyond the rocks around 7 AM
Common Murre - 80+

There was also a gull I could not identify.  My first impression as I noticed it flying north not far beyond the rocks was of a Black-legged Kittiwake, with small size, buoyant flight, and a two-toned outer wing.  But upon getting it in the scope, the finer details were unlike anything I know of.  It had the "cute" look of a Mew Gull, with a dark eye on a small white head, and a small yellow bill; neither head nor bill had any visible markings.  And yet the build of its body was compact for a Mew.  The mantle was relatively dark, like darker Mews or Californias, not quite as dark as nearby wymani Westerns.  The underwings were gray in the primaries and the tips of the secondaries, but otherwise white.  The upper wingtip was outright bizarre, pure white in the outer primaries with the exception of P9, which was roughly half black, and the inner primaries, probably P5-7, had short black tips; none of the black had any mirrors.  The effect was of a short black bar well out on the trailing edge and a single black stripe near the wing tip, both on a white field.  The size, shape, underwing, and head pattern looked most like a Red-legged Kittiwake (from photos and renderings, as it's one of two N American gull species I have not seen), but the dorsal wing tip was like a mashup of Franklin's and Bonaparte's.  Again, I have no clue as to what it was.

Brian Fitch

[EBB-Sightings] Royal Tern Alameda

Peter Pyle


Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2019 23:37:45 +0000 (UTC)
From: "John Luther" <aplomado-falcon@...>
To: East Bay Birds <>,
Countybirders Countybirders <countybirders@...>,
Countybirders <>
Subject: [EBB-Sightings] Royal Tern Alameda

Hi All,
While doing a bird survey at the Alameda Reserve, Alameda Point, Alameda I observed a single Royal Tern. Â It was calling while flying over and by me at about 9:30 AM today April 11. Â This area has no public access, but the bird could go north, south or west over or along the bay. Â It was flying NW towards SF when last seen. Â It had very white underwings with no large black area as seen on Caspian Terns also in the area. Â The bill was orange red not the deep red of the Caspian Terns and the bill was thinner (but not as thin and long as an Elegant Tern) than the Caspian Terns. Â The overall bird seemed less bulky "slimmer" than a Caspian.
Also seen in the area by the breakwater was a single Brant and 8 Brown Pelicans. Â There are now over 200 Caspian Terns at their colony in the SF county portion of the Alameda Reserve. I looked for the Royal Tern in the colony area, but did not find it there. Â
John LutherOakland

Warblers at Fort Mason

David Assmann

Warblers were on the move last night - this morning I had my fos HERMIT and YELLOW WARBLER in the garden. There's also a very bright ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER that could be mistaken for a Yellow without close examination. There appeared to be more YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS than earlier in the week. Oriole identification is likely to be a little trickier the next few days - a young male HOODED ORIOLE was on the east side of the garden this morning, while the ORCHARD ORIOLE was on the west side. Fox Sparrows seem to have left, and I could find only two GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS. A bright male AMERICAN GOLDFINCH was also in the garden.

Sutro: Sabine's Etc.

Brian Fitch

I did a sea watch from 7-9 this morning at the Sutro Baths.  Common Murre numbers were very high, with a probable minimum of 20,000, most heading north, but many on the water or swirling around in other directions.  One group of three Red-necked Phalaropes flew by northbound, and around 8:55, a/the Sabine's Gull flew out of the Golden Gate and out to sea, trending southwest.  If it was the bird that Peter discovered last week, then it's flight strength suggests a return to some health, though the strong winds could have moved a different individual inshore.  Two Humpbacks were much earlier than I recall seeing them in SF, and they spent the first hour feeding halfway to the horizon.

Around 8:30, a small shorebird flew by quite close, in full light, and just above eye level.  It was roughly Sanderling sized, with a weak wing stripe, a perfectly straight black bill, no clear supercilium, a greyish-tan wash over the head and upper breast, gray-brown mantle with no rufous or other notable marks, and a dark central tail stripe like many Calidris have.  It appeared to be a basic plumaged Baird's.  After spending some time with multiple references, and ignoring the apparent size, the straight bill rules out most of the similar Calidris, the tail pattern excludes others, and the lack of a notable supercilium removes Semipalmated Sandpiper from the running.  I'm aware that such an occurrence would be quite rare in spring on the West Coast, and while also being early, it doesn't seem to be unprecedented. 

Brian Fitch

Fort Mason and other local interest

David Assmann

Yesterday morning the WANDERING TATTLER was walking along the edge of the shore in Aquatic Park, less than 10 feet away from me. The RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER was on the hillside above the path leading up from Aquatic Park.  The ORCHARD ORIOLE was singing non-stop again. A MERLIN was sitting on top of the headquarters building.  Today I found the ORCHARD ORIOLE again, but not the other species. Hundreds and hundreds of COMMON MURRES were flying just offshore at the Cliff House this morning. WILSON'S WARBLERS were on the Battery to Bluffs Trail. At Fort Scott, a CHIPPING SPARROW was near the ballfield.

Sora @ Elk Glen in gg park

Daniel Scali


Sora was giving nice looks on the water’s edge in a clump just to the right of the pipes that feed the lake if facing the water — farthest east end.  Tons of Twinberry covering the pipes (with a hungry Ocwa) if that helps with location. That is, until a gardener came 1 minute into my first SF Sora and drove it deep into hiding. It’ll probably hightail it after the crazy noise goes away but you never know. If you strike out consolations could be fos Hermit warbler, and the usual warblers looking mighty dapper. A female Rwbl might even nearly walk over your shoe if you stand still enough.

Happy bird trails,
Dan Scali sf 

94 species by bike w/Jonah Benningfield

Josiah Clark

Over the course of about seven hours and 20 miles Jonah and I got a good eyefull and earful of spring birding by bicycle in southwestern SF.
We had 71 species in the first hour as we resurrected my old Presidio “big hour” routes. Jamming all around like in decades passed, it felt like nothing had changed...
Presidio highlights included:
-restored tidal action and exposed mud at Crissy! And -2 short-billed dowitchers there
Elsewhere 5 swallow species, 4 species woodpecker, 5+ Wilson’s Warblers, 4 hooded orioles, 1 singing OC Warbler, 4 Bewick’s Wrens, 7 getting late Ruby-cr Kinglets , 6+ pine siskins, purple finch, California Red-winged Blackbirds on territory at Mt. Lake, 16 BC nightherons was the high count there 2 days ago there
- courtship flights of Cooper’s and migrating Sharp-shinned hawks, lots of other raptor movement over the ridges
In GGP we Met up w Brian Turner and Oscar Moss
-stow lake- no sign of wintering goldeneye, shovelers, wigeon or mew gulls but 7 GB heron nests
-Lots of singing Townsend’s Warblers all around
- 1 Lincoln’s sparrow-Ggp windmill
-the GH owl with 3 chicks by the buffalo paddock!
-5 Red Cross bills battery caulfield rd presidio – Jonah only, 95 species for the day for him, he wins!
Looking forward to more epic rides with the next generation of SF birders. They are quite the clutch.

Fort Mason Local Interest

David Assmann

Had my fos VAUX’S SWIFT flying over the Community Garden this morning and my first CASSIN’S VIREO in the Battery. Yesterday there was a BLUE GRAY GNATCATCHER in the garden and had WILSON’S WARBLERS both days. The ORCHARD ORIOLE was singing in the garden this morning.