Mountain Lake American Redstart Reverie

Daniel Scali

Hello Birders,

With one week on the books the rambunctious immature male American Redstart continues to dance and sing its feathered heart out along the willow corridor extending north from Mountain Lake. A bevy of birders have stopped to look and listen; a few 1000 San Francisco humans and 100s of dogs have sidled by unaware. Thanks to Rajan Rao's keen observations, we learned that the true intended recipient of the young heroes aural affection is a female American Redstart (AMRE) of undetermined age (calling all molt experts).
Yesterday morning, Juan Garcia and I rounded the bend from the freeway underpass, heading south — he had yet to visit the birds. It was quiet as we passed the willowy red elderberry patch where the youngster first sang to me in the afternoon of June 22. Then came a burst of warbler notes from the golf course side of the pathway. As we proceeded to try to get Juan visuals, we instead saw the OG AG (Angie Geiger) coming our way, having had good looks already before an agitated Robin sent the vocal Redstart in our direction. Over the next couple of minutes we teamed up to watch the show with two obviously separate AMREs moving about — one singing and one silent. Angie and I then saw one of the birds dart south into the thicket, its yellow tail flashes a beacon as it settled upon its destination. Angie SAW THE NEST first, then we all watched in disbelief as our female hero disappeared and then reappeared with a thin thread of dry grass. We stayed a while longer to enjoy the spectacle.

This morning I went back for an update. The male continued to do his usual; the female continued work on the nest (At one point, Dave Assman happened on over).
This looks to be the first California breeding record for American Redstart outside of Humboldt County. Binford and Stallcup wrote about the 1972 Humboldt record in Western Birds (; the parents were adult birds and produced nestlings. Likewise there is an adult breeding record on eBird from Ferndale Bottoms in Humboldt County in 2013. There is no information on eBird as to their success or failure and I did not find other data elsewhere. The young Mountain Lake pair have the odds stacked against them. As I'm sure we are all rooting for them, let's be very mindful about how we approach, witness, and document this extraordinary occurrence.
Infinite kudos to the Presidio Trust (and birders like Josaiah) for their incredible habitat restoration efforts.
Good birding,
Dan Scali, SF