July Oddities

Brian Fitch

After spending some days in saner parts of the state, I hit the city today, with a multi-hour seawatch and a check on North Lake.

The diffuse fog haze made distant viewing tough, and all of the interesting birds were distant.  The highlight was a splotchy tubenose that glided by just over the waves heading north, nearly leading me to make a report for the sake of anyone watching from Marin and beyond.  But luckily I held back, and the bird reappeared for a second, closer pass 15 minutes later, revealing that it was a very mottled Northern Fulmar, splatter-plumaged like a Pollock painting, white and brownish gray in equal amounts.  Just as on the first pass, it flew with a stiff-winged glide and vanished among the waves heading north.  I can't recall ever seeing a fulmar here in July, but I'm pretty certain it's not unprecedented.  Several Elegant Terns were out, and also an ambitious Pigeon Guillemot carrying a fish nearly as big as its white wing patch.

At North Lake, there was an apparent Warbling Vireo on the west side across from the northernmost island.  WAVI's aren't regular in SF in July, though I know there's been one singing in the arboretum for a while.  It was feeding frenetically enough to not allow me a good view, and after 10 minutes it vanished.  It caught my attention because even though it looked mostly like a Warbling, with olive back and no wing bars, the facial marks were strange, with the feathers puffed out such that it appeared to lack any marks around the eye, but which also made it look as if it could have had an eyering.  But what got me excited for the second time in the morning was that it pumped its tail a couple of times.  It was completely silent, not even scolding when a pair of Hutton's came near.  It may only be a Warbling that had just taken a bath, but it was intriguing.

There was no sign of the Hooded Warbler when I passed by the golf course edge.

Brian Fitch