Recent Sightings around SF

Oscar Moss

Nothing rare to report, but several sightings through the past few days I thought worth sharing.

Large crow movements over my area (Dolores Park), always headed NE toward downtown. The largest group I witnessed was a loose flock of 800+ birds on 11/28 at around 445pm.

On several walks to school, I’ve noted California Gulls in large numbers around Balboa Park. On 11/29 I had over 500, and again on 12/5 there were several hundred. However, unlike my first visit, there was a surprising diversity of gulls this time, with many Mew, a few Glaucous-winged, Herring and Thayer’s. I had more time to do an extensive check of the flock this time, but there did not appear to be anything rare. It certainly seems like there is often a good buildup of gulls here in the early morning, and is definitely worth checking. On both visits, around ~845 all of the gulls headed directly west, I assume to the Lake Merced/Ocean Beach Area.

There were also 2 Greater White-fronted Geese grazing with the local flock of Canadas on the baseball field.

On 12/2, myself and Jonah saw the continuing (?) Palm Warbler in the dune grasses at Ocean Beach, as well as many Savannah Sparrows and 3 Western Meadowlarks.

Oscar Moss

Heron's Head Black-Throated Gray Warbler and other sightings

David Assmann

Heron's Head Park was really active this morning, with the most surprising sighting being a BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER just south of the main path, where the main path meets a footpath heading southwest, just before the concrete bench.  This was the most cooperative Black-Throated Gray I've ever seen - it foraged three feet in front of me.  A SPOTTED TOWHEE was in the same general area as the Black-Throated Gray. The PALM WARBLER continues at the very end of the park. There were 11 species of shorebirds and six duck species. A WHITE-TAILED KITE and an AMERICAN KESTREL were hunting, and I got a very brief glimpse of an accipiter that I wasn't able to identify. A WHITE-THROATED SPARROW was in India Basin Shoreline Park. Between Heron's Head and India Basin, I was able to identify 64 species.

Mt lake ducks

Josiah Clark

No luck with any kingbird for me but had a nice pass through the lake area in the evening. I was surprised to note 2 hooded mergansers on the lake. These are rare anywhere in the Presidio and this is the first time for this spot I know of. Also present was a pair of ring- necked ducks. Not a first for the lake but also uncommon, especially in recent years.
Several other waterfowl and a kingfisher as well indicating good forage and favorable conditions after the restoration. I suspect the reintroduced native stickleback fish are the main food for many of these birds. Marsh Wren and, yellowthroat there are also welcome sightings for the presidio list coming into the count season.

Black-and White Warbler @ SF Zoo + Battery Godfrey, 12/8/18

Paul Saraceni

This morning Hugh Cotter and I (with a brief visit from Josiah Clark) birded Battery Godfrey for the first few hours during cold, steady NE winds.

Not a big flight but we did observe some species of local interest:

BRANT 5 (in the GG Channel then flew W)

N. Pintail 34 (2 high-flying flocks of 11 & 23)

WHITE-WINGED SCOTER 2 (singles flying over the Channel w/Surf Scoters)

Surf Scoter 40+ (on the water and flying flocks; note that the flock below the bluff which has been present for over a week contains a couple of whitish-faced f./imms. that might be mistaken on quick view for another species)

Cooper's Hawk 1 ad.

Merlin 1

Peregrine Falcon 1

Com. Loon 3

Red-thr. Loon 6

Black Oystercatcher 2

Black Turnstone 2

Heermann's Gull 60+ (flying in the Channel)

Herring Gull 6 (fly-bys)

Iceland ("Thayer's") Gull 2 (fly-bys)

Com. Murre 2

Varied Thrush 4 (fly-overs heading N)

Later in the morning we birded a loop through the SF Zoo (note that there is an admission fee to enter the Zoo).  The highlight was a confiding BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, perhaps a 1st-winter male, working small trees near the "Insect Zoo" (NW quadrant of the Zoo). Other observations included a tan-striped White-throated Sparrow (near the Pelican/Bald Eagle pond), a mobile flock of 5 Western Bluebirds, and a high-flyover Great Egret.

Photos of the B-and-W Warbler can be seen in the following list:

Paul Saraceni 

San Francisco

Heron’s Head

Donna Hayes

My husband and I stopped at Herons Head this morning at around 11:00. Birds of interest:

1 White-tailed kite
Several male and female bufflehead, swimming singly or in pairs
A raft of ruddy ducks
2 great egrets
3 snowy egrets
A very large flock of sleeping gulls. I think they were mew gulls, based on beak shape, but I am not certain. There were 5 avocets sleeping near the gulls.

Same uncertainty for the id of the hunting and diving tern. It’s always fun to see them hurdle headfirst into the water.

2 Western grebes
4 Black-necked stilts
2 Black Oystercatchers
3 American wigeons
1 whimbrel
1 spotted sandpiper
3 red-tailed hawks
Many white-crowned sparrows, both juvenile and adult
2 harbor seals

Hey, it’s winter!

Good birding.
Donna Hayes

Gull Tennis & Further Gadwall

Brian Fitch

On Friday morning I was sea-watching at Sutro when a gull flashed through my scope view with something big and green wedged into its gape.  I turned the scope and followed the first year Western as it flew in off of the ocean and toward North Rock.  As it approached the rock, other gulls, all first years, flew up and began mobbing it until it dropped the object, and upon splashdown, I finally could confirm that it was a tennis ball.  Six youngsters all converged on the ball, and a different bird picked it up and flew off with the gang chasing until it also dropped the ball.  Over the next twenty minutes, I noted at least five different first year gulls with the ball in their mouths and in flight around the rock; four were Western types and one was a California.  At times it looked like play, as they never brought the ball to a spot where they could try to peck it open, and they never dropped it onto the rock where it could break, if they suspected there was food inside.  The chase also never seemed as intense as ones I've seen involving definite food items.  I lost sight of the ball when it was dropped on the ocean side of the rock, and wasn't retrieved before I left.

I also want to say a little more about last Thursday's surfing Gadwall.   I mentioned previous sightings; one was on October 15th, a single female type Gadwall with scoters in flight, and the same sight occurred again on either the 3rd or possibly back on 11/26, when Paul and I both saw the mixed flock.  When I spotted the bird on the water Thursday in my binos, my initial thought was female Black Scoter, but it wasn't quite right, so I trained the scope on the bird and quickly ruled out any scoter.  It seemed to be a female Gadwall, but then I thought I saw the bird dive like scoters into an oncoming breaker.  Gadwalls don't dive, as many of you know well, so I got excited about a possible rarity and kept watching for the bird to reappear.  When it did, it still looked like a Gadwall.  After a few more moments, a very large breaker hit the flock, and I watched the nearby scoters make their expert dives into and under the wave, but the dabbler got swamped and tumbled head over web toward the rocks, and I thought she had met her demise.  Yet I found her again after some searching, well north of where she had gone under, and swimming madly out to sea, where she sat alone for a while.  During that time, I could finally see her white secondaries, which had not been obvious before.  After scanning other areas, I checked for her again, and found she had rejoined the scoters south of my position, and some later, I again saw a scoter flock in flight out in the channel with a single Gadwall mixed in.
Brian Fitch

Orchard Oriole at Fort Mason

David Assmann

An ORCHARD ORIOLE continued in the Fort Mason Community Garden this morning.  Also observed a WHITE-THROATED and a LINCOLN'S SPARROW in the garden. Lots of activity, despite the fog and cold.

House First White-throated

Brian Fitch

I just heard a zonotrichia "seeep" that was slightly thinner sounding than the two species that hang out in my neighbor's yard, and looking out I spotted a White-throated Sparrow.

That's number 115 for my landlocked, yardless, upstairs flat.

Makes up a little for missing the Harris's last week...

Brian Fitch

Dec. 10: HHP, Pier 94

Eddie Bartley

Heron’s Head Park: the very clean looking BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER that David found earlier was very active just before the marsh overlook. According to Ebird this is a first-sighting of this species at the park. Interesting to see it flycatching below eye level from coyote brush. Also the continuing female American Kestrel and WHITE-TAILED KITE. A walk towards India Basin Park produced one male Common Yellowthroat in the grindelia (gumplant) just before the bridge and two Lincoln Sparrows in the willows near the power sub-station fence.


Pier 94: Perhaps more interesting is that there is a second WHITE-TAILED KITE at Pier 94. Connected up with the GGAS planting team after the HHP visit and their Kite had been at the site for all of three hours while I was simultaneously seeing the HHP Kite.


Eddie Bartley

Summer Tanager, Bullock's Oriole, Yellow Warbler, Greater White Fronted Geese

David Assmann

Started the morning at the concrete bridge at Lake Merced, where two GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE were swimming with CANADA GEESE.  At the Boathouse, a YELLOW WARBLER (previously reported as overwintering), was in the Eucalyptus trees north of the entrance way.  A fake (i.e. Domestic version) of a Greater White Fronted Goose was honking in the water.  Final brief stop (after lunch) was at Lafayette Park, where not only did I see the SUMMER TANAGER but I also spotted a female BULLOCK'S ORIOLE.

Correction on Oriole

David Assmann

The Oriole at Lafayette Park yesterday was not a Bullock's - it was most likely a female Hooded Oriole.

Pier 94 birding

Dan Harris

Ventured out to Pier 94 early yesterday afternoon and was rewarded with a couple of treats. 

First was watching a White-tailed Kite having a rodent lunch perched in a small bare-limbed tree. About a half hour later I saw the WTKI going back for seconds—kiting a bit, dropping into the vegetation, and then flying off and back to the same tree with a second rodent. Glad I had my trail snacks to curb my appetite.

The second was observing hundreds of Double-crested Cormorants flying south-to-north not too far offshore. I counted by tens and entered 200 into eBird when it appeared that was it. But then another 100 or so flew by, so I entered 300 and a flag went up. I didn’t feel like justifying my entry and thought 200 gave the information that there were many Cormorants, so I reentered 200. But then more and more flocks flew by. For about 20 minutes, a least one flock was always visible, and at one point, a line of cormorants stretched as far as I could see both north and south over the bay. It was quite a sight! My counting estimate was 600, but I’m sure that is on low side. I decided this number, which greatly exceeded 200, warranted a 600 entry into eBird. A few peeled off now and then to land at Pier 94 (total about 60), but the bulk continued on north closer to shore or a bit inland starting at the Islais Creek Channel before going out of sight. I wondered where all these Cormorants might eventually end up.

Along with the usual suspects, I also enjoyed Black Oystercatchers (2), Western Meadowlarks (6), Brown Pelicans (2), American Wigeons (90), Least Sandpipers (83), and Buffleheads (2).

—Dan Harris

Re: Dec. 10: HHP, Pier 94


Today, 12/12 both Kites were at Heron's Head. The female seemed willing to mate. 

Local Interest - Orchard Oriole, Summer Tanager, Eurasian Wigeon

David Assmann

The young male ORCHARD ORIOLE in the Fort Mason Community Garden is showing more transitional plumage, and was quite vocal this morning, just as the LINCOLN'S SPARROW posed in plain view. The SUMMER TANAGER continues in Lafayette Park, but no sign of the Oriole today. I forgot to mention that last Saturday, I also had a female EURASIAN WIGEON at Heron's Head Park (actually closer to India Basin Park, than Heron's Head).

Laysan Albatross carcass Funston

Peter Pyle

The carcass was found on the Ocean Beach bioblitz on December 8th, photographed by Amber Hasselbring, picked up by Bill Breck on the 10th, and confirmed by Rudy Wallen and I at CAS yesterday. Not sure if this is needed or countable for Hugh's SF City Cumulative list. It was in moderately fresh condition, though some of the head feathers were beginning to slough off.


Re: Laysan Albatross carcass Funston

H Cotter

Thanks for the report Peter..

I do count dead birds on the cumulative list - it is just ironic that the # 300 species for the City this year would happen to be a dead bird.
I guess that we will need to find more species for the year list over the next few weeks.

We still need some gettable birds for the list such as Harlequin Duck, Common Merganser, Northern Saw-whet Owl among others.


On Wed, Dec 12, 2018 at 5:19 PM Peter Pyle <ppyle@...> wrote:
The carcass was found on the Ocean Beach bioblitz on December 8th,
photographed by Amber Hasselbring, picked up by Bill Breck on the
10th, and confirmed by Rudy Wallen and I at CAS yesterday. Not sure
if this is needed or countable for Hugh's SF City Cumulative list. It
was in moderately fresh condition, though some of the head feathers
were beginning to slough off.


Street trees and cbc’s

Josiah Clark

Greetings Birder’s, with count season heating up a couple quick notes. I have been observing lots of insectivores on the street trees, including both neighborhoods and busy streets since the weather got cold. Just a friendly nudge to make sure you are seeing what’s in your local trees. I know there are some juicy chips in my neighborhood that have been eluding me.
In other news, I have been the lucky recipient of a new area for the point Reyes CBC. Point Reyes station, area 10 at the heart of the circle. Word is it’s been been run like a field trip for years-that is going to change.
This year it’ll be Divide and conquer, The
vagrant- hound shakedown, reminding me of my early Cbc roots with Rich Stallcup in Olema Marsh....
If by any chance any SF birders are free to pitch in in their keen birding effort’s we would love to have you.
There is a little bit of everything in this area except ocean, and we need independent birders able to cover very birdy neighborhoods, open country and marsh. There are certainly some folks signed up who could use a little company and help.
We are also especially looking for those able to bird independently starting first thing, owls even. I also got special permission to private property.
Please PM me ASAP with any interest.

Looking back on a great run at my old territory of Walker Creek, I feel lucky to leave it in the competent hands of an all SF Birds crew. Mike C, Brian T, Sam F. -so solid!
Good luck everybody and happy counting!

Point Reyes CBC is Sat Dec 15

Maureen Lahiff

just in case you don't know, or don't know the nature alley site that lists all the CA CBCs.

Northern Saw-whet Owl at Civic Center

Beverly Cronin

Saw A Northern Saw-whet Owl today at Civic Center at 4:15pm!
First saw a Northern Saw-whet Owl at the same location on October 24th at 5:50pm on my way to the opera, got some nice photos and videos with my cell phone.  
Now whenever I'm in the area I take some time to check the trees. It finally reappeared today. 
It's not very high up in the trees, it looked down at me when it saw me. I only stay for a minute then move on, want to make sure it stays hidden and safe.  You need to stand underneath the trees and look up to see it. Don't want to draw attention to it, as it is in a busy crowded area and can be easily disturbed. 
What a little gem!

Beverly Cronin

Orchard Oriole and other sightings at Fort Mason

David Assmann

The participants in the GGAS walk at Fort Mason this morning were able to get brief looks at the continuing ORCHARD ORIOLE in the Community Garden.  The LINCOLN'S SPARROW popped up three times, and the WHITE-THROATED SPARROW was visible several times.  The WANDERING TATTLER was on the abandoned pier in Aquatic Park, and a BONAPARTE'S GULL was out over the water. Yesterday had good looks at a pair of EURASIAN WIGEONS at Pier 94, after being told about their presence by Bob Gunderson and Rob Cullison. The most notable sighting at Heron's Head Park was 600+ DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS heading south, probably following a herring run (when first seen, they were on the water, then they moved south).