Blue-gray Gnatcatcher @ Presidio - Picture

Ken Moy

This morning Nancy Palmer and I refound the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher along the driveway into the pre-school on Battery Caufield Road. Courtesy of Nancy, a picture is attached.

Best of birds for 2020!

Ken Moy

Re: Last day of SF Count Week. Eurasian wigeon pier 94

Pat Greene

Roosting—rufous head with yellower ‘bald pate’ than adjacent Americans. Sides shadowed so hard to get grey

Pat Greene

All thumbs from my iPhone.

On Dec 30, 2019, at 6:52 AM, Siobhan Ruck <ms.siobhan.ruck@...> wrote:

A reminder that today, Monday 12/30, is the last day of Count Week for San Francisco. Please report any unusual species seen. We can add them to our total, even if they weren’t seen on count day itself.

Thank you,
Siobhan Ruck SF

Free admission to SF Zoo today for first to reply

Beverly Cronin <beverly.cronin@...>

I'm going to the San Francisco Zoo today to look for the Scarlet Tanager and Orchard Oriole. My membership is for myself + one guest. I should be there by noon. Send a private message if interested and can make it by noon (it's not a paper ticket, so it can't be left at will call)

Orchard Oriole Too!

Joachim Gonzalez

A Orchard Oriole just appeared in the Euks behind the white animal posters near the Eagle Island. 

Good Birding,
Joachim Gonzalez

Scarlet Tanager continues

Joachim Gonzalez

Last seen at 9:13am in the berry bushes between Pecaries and Eagle Island. With a robin flock

Good Birding,
Joachim Gonzalez

Last day of SF Count Week

Siobhan Ruck

A reminder that today, Monday 12/30, is the last day of Count Week for San Francisco. Please report any unusual species seen. We can add them to our total, even if they weren’t seen on count day itself.

Thank you,
Siobhan Ruck SF

Re: Clark's? Western? Or both? (Some elaboration)

Richard Bradus


Just a smattering of responses. The consensus is that this bird is OK for Western, as the facial pattern in winter is nearly identical between the two species, with the differences coming down to bill color (most important) and the amount of white (thinner black neck stripe and more white on the body/flanks of Clark's).

Perhaps the initial photo was unclear. I still think this bird is a true intergrade or hybrid, as hopefully shown better on a second photo [below] (not quite as sharp as the first, but cropped a bit more tightly). 

(You will need to expand the photo to full size to see these features more clearly)

Even if we accept that the facial patterns are indistinguishable in winter (which, for the record, I do not concede, both by my admittedly somewhat limited experience and as that "fact" is not supported by multiple references, rather most state that they can be "difficult to distinguish"), this second photo more clearly shows the extent of white along the flanks and mottling of the back (as well as showing what I would submit is a facial pattern much more consistent with Clark's, as the black clearly does not extend down to the eye and there is a definite black stripe from the eye to the base of the beak, a typical feature of Clark's), but with the greenish yellow beak of a Western.

So, that's my take anyway. Thanks to those who responded. Maybe a bit of an arcane - and perhaps pointless - effort, but I think it is worthwhile to fully observe and occasionally really look closely at some of our more common species. 

There is a tremendous amount of variation in nature, both in appearances and behavior, and close observation (if it doesn't drive one crazy) can be very rewarding and sometimes reveal aspects that even the "experts" have not noted. Remember that we are all citizen scientists to greater or lesser degrees, and with so many more birders than expert ornithologists out in the field, one is quite likely to observe "new" findings. So, please take the time to observe and add comments and notes to your reports and eBird checklists - more data, more better!

To more discoveries,
Richard Bradus
San Francisco

On Wednesday, December 25, 2019, 10:34:05 AM PST, Richard Bradus <grizzledjay@...> wrote:

Hi all

I've been seeing a lot of "Western type" Grebes lately that have me confused, mostly the typical wintertime variants with black that goes down to the eye (or gray that covers the eyes and upper cheek), in between what we consider true Clark's or Westerns. But this one (seen Dec. 17 in the waters off the eastern end of the Golden Gate Yacht Club Lagoon) is a bit more interesting:

(Photo can be enlarged if it does not display fully on your device)

It has the facial pattern of a Clark's (mostly) and a fair amount of white mottling on the back, yet the bill is that greenish yellow color characteristic of a Western. I've been told (and have also read in a couple of sources) that bill color (and shape to some extent) is the best determinant as to species, but this one looks like a true "intergrade" to me. I think it is a hybrid. So a call out to experts or other interested parties: any thoughts?


And to all a wonderful holiday.

Richard Bradus
San Francisco

Backyard Scaly-breasted Munias

Elliot Janca

I just had three Scaly-breasted Munias land in my backyard. It seems that they're getting to be more common in SF.

-Elliot Janca
San Francisco

Backyard yellow warbler

Bob Hall

A yellow warbler landed in my neighbor's acacia for about 20 seconds then flew north toward USF.
1946 Grove St.
Bob Hall
San Francisco, CA
"There is no better high than discovery." - E.O. Wilson

Marbled Murrelets in near-shore waters

Juan García <jfgarcia@...>

A South Marin finding of relevance to SF birders.
The Pacific-side boat transect that we ran for yesterday's South Marin count yielded, among other things, an astounding number of Marbled Murrelets, 81 in all; of these, 22 (all in pairs) flew into the South Marin count circle from SF county waters. And a good lot of these 22 seemed to fly in from relatively near-shore; so a murrelet or two could possibly be spotted from shore in calmer conditions. At least three of the pairs came over from within the mouth of the Gate (SF side), quite near the bridge.
Juan García

Scarlet Tanager at SF Zoo

Megan Jankowski

After an hour of waiting the Scarlet tanager reappeared in the same bush as yesterday at the SF Zoo at about 11:20. I’m attempting to attach a phone photo here, not sure if the listserv allows it. I have a few better photos taken with my camera that show the bird in better light which I will upload when I get home. 

Megan Jankowski

On Fri, Dec 27, 2019 at 9:16 PM Megan Jankowski via Groups.Io <> wrote:

Sorry for the late post, we were in the field all day for the SF bird count. At about 11 a.m. this morning our group saw a tanager in a small berry bush right next to the Bald Eagle pond and peccary enclosure. It was overall green yellow with black wings and no wing bars. Not sure what it could have been other than a Scarlet Tanager. We saw it posing well in good light for about 15 seconds, then it flew over our heads toward the peccaries and vanished. I may go back tomorrow to see if I can refind it as we didn't get any photos.

Dan Murphy says this spot in the zoo always produces the rarest birds on count day for area 7, so it lived up to its reputation!

Megan Jankowski

Blue-grey gnatcatcher @ Presidio

Ken Moy

Observed for over 15 minutes foraging in bushes and vegetation behind fenced area along the driveway entrance to the pre-school on Battery Caufield  today # 11:30. Very active and occasionally vocalizing. Blue grey head, back and wings with black tail actively bobbing with white from throat to rump, complete eye ring and wingtips projecting below the belly.

Sorry, no pics.

Ken Moy

San Francisco Christmas Bird Count - highlights and misses

Siobhan Ruck

Thanks to all participants in this year’s San Francisco Christmas Bird Count - we had a great turnout and a clear (but chilly) day for counting.

Count Week is still going through Monday 12/27. Hoping we can still pick up a few more species!

First the high points:

Black was the them for uncommon warblers: Black-throated Grey, Black and White, and Blackburnian were all seen. Some uncommon species that seem to be becoming annuals were Tropical Kingbird, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Western Tanager and Orchard Oriole. Among the less-frequently reported species, we had a Redhead and Rhinoceros Auklet (Sloat seawatch), and Northern Fulmar (Funston afternoon seawatch). The continuing Rock Sandpiper at Heron’s Head showed up on count day (a first on SF Count) but the Red-Footed Booby did not. We do have the Booby for Count Week, but if anyone saw it yesterday, please get in touch.

Two other species were reported by people not on count teams: Tree Swallow, and Palm Warbler at Concrete Bridge in Lake Merced.

In addition to the Rock Sandpiper, we had four other additions to the list:
- San Bruno Mountain had a Pacific-slope Flycatcher. Erica Rutherford found it while scouting on 12/26; they looked for it throughout count day - and it finally showed up at 4:08 pm, the exact time it had been seen the day before.
- Crystal Springs had a Chateura-type swift, most likely Vaux’s Swift, flying with a flock of White-throated Swifts.
- Sunset had a Scarlet Tanager at the Zoo, as reported to SF Birds last night. See Megan Jankowski’s post for details
- Pacifica had a Long-eared Owl. Because this is a species of special concern, the location has not/will not be shared, but the bird was well seen and photographed by the counters.

I’m still waiting for paperwork from a few areas, but the current numbers show 177 species seen on count day. (179 pending documentation from the non-count observers)

A few common/annual species were missed - if you see any of these through Monday anywhere in the count circle, please let me know:

Wood Duck
Eurasian Wigeon
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Pintail
Long-tailed Duck
Green Heron
Ridgeway’s Rail
Red Knot
Burrowing Owl
Hermit Warbler

Thanks everyone for a great effort!

Siobhan Ruck, SF

Northern Waterfront CBC - Fort Mason

David Assmann

A female WESTERN TANAGER, a male ORCHARD ORIOLE, a Yellow-Shafted NORTHERN FLICKER and a NASHVILLE WARBLER were in the Fort Mason Community Garden today. The WANDERING TATTLER was on the pier. A GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE was near the Palace of Fine Arts.

Scarlet Tanager at SF Zoo

Megan Jankowski

Sorry for the late post, we were in the field all day for the SF bird count. At about 11 a.m. this morning our group saw a tanager in a small berry bush right next to the Bald Eagle pond and peccary enclosure. It was overall green yellow with black wings and no wing bars. Not sure what it could have been other than a Scarlet Tanager. We saw it posing well in good light for about 15 seconds, then it flew over our heads toward the peccaries and vanished. I may go back tomorrow to see if I can refind it as we didn't get any photos.

Dan Murphy says this spot in the zoo always produces the rarest birds on count day for area 7, so it lived up to its reputation!

Megan Jankowski

San Francisco Christmas Count - TODAY!

Siobhan Ruck

In about ten minutes, I’m heading out to search for rails and owls.

If you aren’t counting today, please post any uncommon birds you may see so we can try to get them on count day.

If you are counting today, THANK YOU! This couldn’t happen without our 100+ volunteer counter and 20 Area Leaders!

Looking forward to having some fun stuff to report to all when the day is done.

Siobhan Ruck, SF


Scott Bowers

Walked around all over candlestick.  Highlights were Spotted Towhee near Jackrabbit Picnic area.
There was also a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher just south of the Ibis Pond.

- Scott Bowers

Hooded Oriole; W. Tanager @ Ft. Mason

Mark Rauzon

This morning at Fort Mason Community Garden I found a beautiful male Hooded Oriole; Western Tanager female, Orchard Oriole male, Nashville Warbler, and later at Duboce Park with Calvin Lou we eventually found the Blackburnian Warbler. Photo documentation of all but the Nashville Warrbler is here.
Good luck with The SF CBC and Happy New Year too!

Mark Rauzon 

Re: Black...

C Lou

Thanks. Brian. We finally saw the bird working Pierre Street as we were bullshitting. It moved on planting down the street towards Waller. It headed west this time.


Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

-------- Original message --------
From: Brian Fitch <fogeggs@...>
Date: 12/26/19 9:58 AM (GMT-08:00)
Cc: SF Birds <>
Subject: Re: [SFBirds] Black...

I spent 45 minutes this morning watching the Blackburnian Warbler.  The black and white stripes on the gray back were easily observable at times, as was the triangular facial mark. 

The bright orangey-yellow color in yesterday's photos was rarely visible; the face and breast mostly looked plain yellow except when the bird sat face-on in full sun.  The bird's mantle plumage often appeared olive as it fed among leaves, and the white striping also faded toward leaf color.  But completely damning against my original ID was the bird's behavior, as it followed the exact route through the same bushes, trees, and on the street surface along Pierce that I had seen on previous days.  No other similar warbler was present during this period, though a male Black-throated Gray showed up briefly to add to the interesting mix of warbler species.  On Xeno-Canto, Blackburnian and Blackpoll sound very similar to my western ears.

So I have to drop the 2-bird theory and accept that between my initial observation while walking with a friend on the 23rd without binoculars, and checking references many hours later, I mis-remembered the marks I had seen, while on the 25th I never had decent looks, as the bird fed frenetically in poor light, and I was trying photograph it instead of observe it.  Despite those mitigating circumstances, it's still disturbing to think that I screwed up the amount of yellow on the body, and the face pattern.  And of course if I had known that Blackpolls are nearly unprecedented in December, I would have treated this find much more carefully.

I make quick errors all the time, shooting from the hip while out in the field, but I usually catch them during research before reporting.  I offer my mea culpa, and an inadvertent Christmas present to the several personal critics who have been trying for years to catch me in a public error. 
Brian Fitch

On Wed, Dec 25, 2019 at 11:44 PM Brian Fitch <fogeggs@...> wrote:
I've just returned home from holiday events and viewed the photos that Rudy or Oscar obtained.  Their bird is a classic Blackburnian, and not the bird I saw on the 23rd and this morning.  I'll make another attempt tomorrow, as photo documentation is clearly needed.  And I really want to see what color the feet are! 

The Patagonia Effect between the Log Cabin and the Arboretum this fall topped out at 10 rare species, so having 2 at Duboce Park is not out of the question.  The question is, are there more than 2?

Brian Fitch

On Wed, Dec 25, 2019 at 12:33 PM Oscar Moss <oscartmoss@...> wrote:
Hey All, Rudy Wallen and I just found/refound a beautiful blackburnian warbler at Duboce Park. I am not sure if this is the same warbler Brian had, but it gave great looks and the ID was unquestionable. Photos later.

Merry Christmas,

On Dec 25, 2019, at 12:17 PM, Brian Fitch <fogeggs@...> wrote:

Pines are supposed to have unstreaked backs.  They appear big and somewhat lethargic compared to their close cousins, and they really like pines.

If I'm right, I'm right, if I'm wrong and it's a Pine, I'll be really happy.

On Wed, Dec 25, 2019 at 11:00 AM Oscar Moss <oscartmoss@...> wrote:
Hey Brian, nothing you described eliminates pine warbler. I think the fact it was feeding on the ground is actually suggestive it might be a piwa. I’m gonna go take a look.


On Dec 25, 2019, at 9:47 AM, Brian Fitch <fogeggs@...> wrote:

The bird is still present this morning on the same block of Pierce.  I heard it chipping during a brief try around 8:30, and found it in a tree with white flowers where Pierce ends in Duboce Park.  The bird was actively feeding and allowed no good views (while doggers looked at me as if I was scarier than any of our local meth addicts).  I tried to obtain photos with no luck, and despite having binos this time, I was unable to study the flanks well or note the foot color.  It was briefly with Yellow-rumpeds and a single Orange-crowned, so this site seems to be supplying the warblers with a feast.

The bird still looks like a Blackpoll, with a dark eyeline and weak yellow supercilium, front 2/3rds yellowish ventrally, white vent, olive back with fine dark streaks and no pale lines, ruling out Blackburnian and Pine, and some streaks along the flanks with no hint of any bay colored wash.  I think it's a 1st year, but won't wager my life on it yet.

The bird spent time on the ground among curb plantings, was briefly on the street under a car, in several street trees, and then turned onto Waller and flew east out of sight into the densest street trees I know of in town.  I'll try again in a while before heading to the East Bay for holiday events.

On Tue, Dec 24, 2019 at 11:46 AM Brian Fitch <fogeggs@...> wrote:
I've received notice from Southern California that Blackpoll Warblers are exceedingly rare anywhere on the continent at this season.  I'm deep into Christmas hosting duties, and won't be able to look for the bird again until the 26th.  So if anyone with a camera has time and inclination to search for the bird and document it, it would help the record keepers with their concerns.

Brian Fitch

On Tue, Dec 24, 2019 at 8:09 AM Brian Fitch via Groups.Io <> wrote:
Yesterday(12/23), while walking the neighborhood with a visiting friend, a Blackpoll Warbler popped out of some curb side plants and up into a leafless tree.  I had no binos, but didn't need them as the bird sat and posed for good viewing.  This was along Pierce St., the first tree north of Duboce Park, on the east side of the street.  My first year bird since the booby in early November...

Brian Fitch

Intro to Xmas count trip tomorrow Crissy Field and Geary st tree search

Josiah Clark

For anyone who is not signed up but curious about Christmas Bird Counts, there will be a short introductory field trip from 8:30 to 10:30 tomorrow at Crissy Field with a special effort to look for the red-footed booby and snowy plovers.  
We will meet at the east most side of the airfield where it meets the lagoon across from the sports basement at 830am.
   In other news I put in a thorough look for a reported black-throated grey Warbler in the street trees on Geary by the House of bagels. 
No luck with the target but did encounter three species of warbler, Hutton’s Vireo and Lincoln’s sparrow while birding park presidio Boulevard around Geary st.
Along with Brian’s Blackburnian, a good reminder that Street trees and neighborhoods are definitely worth checking tomorrow on the counter if you have the people for it.
   Happy holidays and happy counting tomorrow!

Josiah Clark | Habitat Potential | Consulting Ecologist | 415.317.3978

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