Well, maybe not so much a blog as a collection of San Francisco birders' accounts of particular occasions. They appear in reverse date order.
Sunday, August 27
Around noon today (Sunday) I did about 45 mins of
birding at Ft Mason.
action is really concentrated around the
Himalayan blackberry brambles. Of
course the fruit is a major draw and there are more berries cascading
off the bushes than Ive ever seen! The foliage of this plant (like the
native California blackberry) harbors tiny insects eaten by
insectivorous songbirds. If Eucs are historic, by golly why not Himalayan
blackberry too. Brambles have been hacked away in most of the
places it used to dominate
Spiny yes, invasive yes, but good for wildlife
and birds, especially
and Brush Rabbits, you bet! Aldo Leopold referred to a 6x6 ft patch of
Himalayan blackberry bramble as the "acme of Quail cover". And this
stuff used to be everywhere in SF and the Presidio, and so did Quail and
brush rabbits... hmmm... So far we dont have native
cover sources that can
the protection afforded by brambles.
As birders we should make sure the NPS, Presidio Trust and Rec and Parks
department realize its importance to local and migratory wildlife and
maintain stands of this exotic plant at least
until native cover is as
Highlights around the brambles:
Yesterday eve between 550 and 650pm did a big hr with Andy
Kleinhesselink on the normal Presidio route. It
was late, windy and cold.
ended up with 43 sps. and lots of misses.
WE Sandpiper-1 Crissy
Eur collared Dove- 1 Tenn Hollow (the potential
coming invasion is not a
highlight in my book... but noteworthy)
--Josiah Clark , Consulting Ecologist
Sunday, August 27
Fred Chambers and I had a good morning of
Jumping to the end of the report, the best bird of the morning was a 1st
year, female Northern Parula in the very tops of the eucs at the
southwest end of
Lake in Golden Gate Park.
Kobbe and Upton: Warbling Vireo and Western
among other birds that are regular there.
Crissy Field: usual suspects with the best bird
a Great Yellowlegs.
Golden Gate Park
North Lake: Near the redflowering euc at the NW corner of the lake
there was a small flock that
included Pacific-slope Flycathcer, Yellow
Wilson's Warbler, Warbling Vireo and Western Tanager. A Common
Yellowthroat was in the bulrush by the
island north of there.
Middle Lake: Loaded with migrants! The south end of the lake was where
it was happening. Birds were apparent from the down eucalyptus around
the entire end of the lake on the both sides. Yellow, Wilsons and
Hermit(1) Warbler, Pacific- slope Flycatcher, Bullock's Oriole (2),
Steller's Jay (2) and of
the Norther Parula. American and Lesser
were there too.
We talked with Jason Yakich
who reported seeing an American Redstart, a Lazuli Bunting and several
Townsend's Warblers at the south end of Middle Lake too. It was very
active and I'd think there is an excellent chance there are more
birds to be found there.
San Francisco, Saturday August 26
The migrants definitely congregated at West Wash.
I took my Audubon Field Trip there around 8:20am and we spent two hours
viewing from north end of the Ft. Miley parking lot which provides
grteat viewing over the slope down to the West Wash along El Camino Del
>30 Western Tanager
usual local resident birds
many Elegant Tern
usual birds in a feeding frenzy around a school of fish which also drew
dolphins and small
fishing boats near Seal Rocks
San Francisco, Friday August 25
West Wash, viewed from north end of Fort Miley
hospital parking lot, 7:30am:
W.Tanager chasing and calling >8
P/S Flyc 3
WW pewee 2
Townsend's Warb 2 inc 1 adult male
all local birds as expected inc. many juv. Robins and small flock of WC
East Wash, 8:30am
P/S FLy >7
Wilson's Warbler 2
W. Tanager 3
Nor. Flicker juv.
Golden Gate Park--
Middle Lake, 10am:
Mid-afternoon, a brief stop at Schollenberger Marsh east of Petaluma in
One mudflat had a Black-bellied Plover, several Semipalmated and a trio
of Pacific Golden Plover that have been drawing birders to this spot for
a couplel weeks. Gorgeous birds. We get a few every winter while
hundreds run around the hotel lawns and golf courses of the Hawaiian
Islands after the migrate across the open ocean from the Arctic.
Wednesday, August 23
It was rather quiet when I arrived in Lafayette Park this morning - not
only did I not hear any young hawks, the parrots
were also initially
absent, which lowers the decibel level
considerably! I contented myself
with watching the antics of the many hummingbirds jousting amongst the
flowering shrubs on the slope between the upper circle and the meadow to
the east. Contrary to Pat's experience, I have found Allen's
Hummingbirds to be quite common at times in the park. At present (and
for the past few weeks) there are at least three territorial Allen's
occupying rather small domains on this slope. They not only chase each
other, but also the many Anna's Hummingbirds (many of which are
juveniles) which constantly dodge the more
aggressive Allen's to try to
catch a quick bit of nectar before being
discovered and (temporarily)
A sprinkler was in action, apparently causing any insects, caterpillars
and grubs to move about, thus attracting other birds. The action was
greatest around 11am. The first to catch my
attention was a female (or
immature) Wilson's Warbler. It was soon
accompanied by two moderately
colorful Yellow Warblers. Also joining the mini feeding frenzy was a
large group of Pygmy Nuthatches, doing their best interpretation of a
bushtit troop as they roiled and animatedly grazed from bush to bush. It
was interesting to watch the Yellows in particular alternately feeding
and bathing (catching quick baths from the sprinkler or in the little
bits of water collected in a leaf, then
flitting to grab a
nearby grub or other morsel).
At this point I heard the food begging type call of a Red Tailed Hawk
coming from the eucalyptus canopy at the top of the circle, followed by
a truncated more typical "keeer" red tail call. I dashed off to try to
locate it, but was unsuccessful. As I returned to the meadow a group of
about ten parrots decided to drop in, perching as usual at the top of
the eucs at the east edge of the circle. A few minutes later they, and
other surrounding birds, sounded alarm calls as a "kek-kek-kek" announced the arrival of an adult Cooper's Hawk, assuming its perch at
the top of the tall Monterey cypress to the north. This is presumably
the same bird as I saw yesterday, and I think it may be the female that
nested here (it looks rather large to be a male
but is in full adult
While scanning for any other hawk activity I caught sight of another
small, yellowish bird rapidly moving among the cypress and pines - yup,
another warbler, a female Townsend's. So there you have it - three kinds
of warblers in 30 minutes in an urban park. While these were common
varieties, I think it bodes well for migration season, and we'll have to
see if any more exotic species make an
Tuesday, August 22
As August progresses there has been a marked decrease in Cooper's Hawk
activity at Lafayette Park (and for that matter at Alta Plaza Park,
where the Red Tailed Hawk "Patch" has made only sporadic appearances
the past two weeks - I haven't seen her since the week of Aug 7).
Throughout the first week of August the young Cooper's Hawks were quite
easy to spot (and hear) and were very active, flying short distances
from tree to tree in Lafayette Park and even perching on the fences
surrounding the tennis courts, to the surprise and delight of the dog
walkers and other passers-by. They then turned to more aggressive
maneuvers, with play chases and seemingly more serious skirmishes
amongst themselves as well as attempts at attacks on the always watchful
parrots. I also saw a CH somewhat
earlier on the morning of
Aug. 4 circling about Alta Plaza Park and
eventually flying off to the
west. This appeared to be a molting adult, missing flight and tail
feathers, and I was unable to make out any telltale features to
identify it as either of the Lafayette brood "parents".
However, by last Monday (Aug. 14) I no longer heard any "whistles' or
other hawk vocalizations on my approach to Lafayette Park, and only one
juvenile CH was in evidence. It perched silently in the eucalyptus at
the east edge of the upper circle but soon disappeared. There was no
discernible CH activity last Friday or yesterday, at least during the
10am to noon hours when I visited. There was somewhat more activity
today. From approximately 10 to 10:45am there was considerable
commotion among the parrots (which were also more numerous than in
recent weeks, numbering up to 16 at any one time), with lots of
squawking and multiple short circling flights. Perhaps they were
agitated by the presence of a single adult CH which perched nonchalantly
the whole time at the top of the
tall Monterrey cypress to
There was no sign of any of the juveniles, however. I suspect that the
parents ceased bringing food to the young some time ago, and the young
may already have dispersed. As others have reported juvenile CH about
the streets of SF it seems likely that the young from this brood are now
on their own and making their way around town.
There are still pleasures to be had in Lafayette Park; besides the
numerous Anna's and territorial Allen's hummers, the park also seems to
be a magnet for small birds. Twice in the past 10 days I have been
delighted by very bright, showy male Wilson's Warblers. With the fall
migration apparently off to an early start it may be worthwhile to keep
tabs on this little urban oasis as well as the
more usual coastal
Sunday, August 20
Gray sky, gray Pacific, cold breeze off the water, moisture in
the air but none on
the ground. Typical late summer day in San Franicsco where the only
precipitaton from May to October is fog condensation. Today there isn't
even low fog, just gray sky that meets the ocean at some indistinct
horizon. To the many seabirds this weather must seem usual. For the
first groups of migrating landbirds heading south, this can be a shock.
It's still sunny and hot in the inland California. A Yellow Warbler
that bred along some willow-lined stream near Healdsburg takes off on a
warm night after insect-eating during ninety-degree days. Lands in San
Francisco overnight and awakens to sunless day of fifty-eight degrees.
Just another overnight flight and this warbler will encounter the warmth
of a milder sections of the California coast.
My first stop: Sutro Heights, overlooking Ocean beach from 200
feet up. Few landbirds but
there's a couple Whie-crowned Sparrows feeding on the lawn. Molting,
looking scruffy. From the edge of a steep slope I look south along the
beach. Fine, brown sand here thanks to the gentle slope beneath the
waves. Steeper beaches generate coarser sand. Gray ocean with low foamy
wavelets. A few slick, black forms ride in the low surf. In this water
surfers wear wet-suits year round. This water's never warm, kept cold
by currents and upwelling. Gulls have gathered in an oval shaped crowd
on the beach. Large dark-gray backed, white-headed Wrestern Gulls.
Slender, dark gray Heermann's with their reddish beaks. One pale Ring-billed Gull stands off to the edge of the gaggle. On another side of
the gathering: a lone Caspian Tern, as large as the Heermann's Gulls,
snowy white with a smooth black skullcap behind a bold orange beak.
Through my binoculars I check the edge of the waves, and the one
smallpool of water surrounded by the beach. A few Sanderlings chase the
waves in and out, gobbling up the crustaceans and cepapods left on the
sand surface each time the water recedes. At the small there are gulls,
then two Ravens wade into the water to see what the other birds are
about. All along the beach are single and small gangs of Ravens, this is
their territory and they consider any morsels, any picnic left
unguarded, any backpack to be their property. Raven sentinels perch on
light poles watching the action, alert to any possible food source from
surf to garbage can. Then I notice a small white spot moving around the
distant pond. Through my scope I determine it's a Red- necked
Phalarope, his needle-pointed beak thrusting rapidly at prey on the pond
Before I leave my overlook a flock of Bushtit twitter through
the brush below me and move along
the lip of the bluff. From the blossoming pittisporum next to me a
couple Chestnut-backed Chickadees are scolding. Further downhill a pair
of California Towhees streak across the opening and into some dense
brush. They give the usual sharp chip notes as they hide Overhead a
Red-tailed Hawk circles, making a breathy down-slurring "peeeer" calls.
I walk down the path to cross the street and check out Land's
End and Sutro Baths. Song
Sparrows in the dense growth where the small spring flows to the
surface. A female Common Yellowthroat pops into view, then vanishes.
Barn Swallows arc and dip over the baths, once in a while hitting the
quiet water, leaving a low circle of rings to spread slowly over the
surface. Beyond the low seawall small groups of Brandt's Cormorant fly
back and forth, occasionally a line or a V of Brown Pelican soars past.
A lone Caspian Tern powers by, staring down at the water. The quickest
way to tell the tern from a gull: the tern flies with his eyes on the
water. A gull generally looks forward not downward.
Off the parapet I see a handful of Pigeon Guillemots. They're
done with their nest burrows
in the ocean-facing cliffs. They will be heading out to the open
Pacific soon, where they'll stay until they return next April. Far
offshore I see a male Common Murre with his full-grown chick. They're in
a circle of fishing cormorant, sitting on the rising and falling swells.
Further out, perhaps a full mile from shore: numerous Elegant Terns
swirl, dive and hit the water.
Later I move inland and walk along El Camino del Mar trail.
Beneath a sheer, dry cliff
there's a cluster of dense willows. Here I encounter a busy flock,
mostly House Finches. But a sudden flash of yel,low catches my eye--
it's my first male Western Tanager of the season. They're beginning
their migration south to the tropics. An inland forest-nester, the
tanager is always a bit of a surprise here in the coastal scrub in the
back corner of San francisco. There's a rich mix of plants here:
nsative ceanothus, exotic broom and albizia, blooming fennel. A noisy
flock of juvenile American Robins move in to feed. A California Towhee
pair hop across the dusty trail. Two Scrub-jays scold and fuss, giving
me the evil eye. The sun has begun to warm the fog and thin the gray.
Sunday, August 13:
There was a Pacific-slope Flycatcher at Sutro Heights in the morning. Evening there was one on west side of North Lake in golden gate park. Also, a female Mallard there with five ducklings about two weeks old. Apparently mating continues long after the male Mallards lose their "breeding plumage" as none of the local mallards now sport the bright green head and white neck ring.
Land's End: Every morning now long lines of Elegant Terns can be seen flying offshore, heading south from their overnight roosts inside the Bay.
Hall of Flowers: trapped Black Phoebe died of exhaustion, stress, hunger and dehydration by 3pm Sunday. The Hall needs a net to catch these regularly trapped birds.
Saturday, August 12:
Happy quail news...about 9.30am I had
time for a short walk through the arboretum in Golden Gate Park. Near
the north edge of the California section, where a large Bocconia arborea
bush is next to a paved walkway, I found a female California Quail with
a gaggle of little chicks... these guys were thumb-sized, couldn't be
more than a couple days old... there were at least eight I counted, and I
suspect several had previously scooted under the nearest bush before I
could see them.
A Starker Leopold (Aldo's son) writes in his classic CALIFORNIA QUAIL: "A pair of Cal. Quail normally establishes a single nest and produces
one clutch of eggs. If these are brought successfully to hatching, the
two parents devote their energies to rearing the brood. If, on the
other hand, the nest is destroyed before hatching, the pair may re-nest
and make a second or even a third attempt to bring off a brood. In this
event, young chicks may be produced late in the season, when the early
hatched birds of other pairs are well
There was a Black Phoebe who'd entered the main hall of the Hall of
Flowers, and couldn't relocate the open doors. I was assured the
maintenance man who capture and free the
bird... hmmm. Will check on Sunday.
Usual birds at Land's End though I saw a Pigeon Guillemot fly up from
the water on perch on Seal Rock #1 where they rarely go.
Alcatraz Island Seabird Update for July 2006
Hi Alcatraz fans --
Thought you would be interested in this update by our PRBO Conservation Science researchers Sara Acosta, assisted by Sandy Rhoades.
7/19- chicks are fully feathered & beginning to head out to the water .
Most cormorants are fully feathered and many have fledged. Fledged chicks can be seen in the waters and intertidal areas around the island.
Again, rough counts of the Brandt's Cormorant population indicate an increase from last year's total of 820 nesting pairs, but numbers have not yet been finalized.
Most Pelagic Cormorant chicks are fully feathered and have begun to leave their nests. A total of 7 nests were active this year. One nest hatched chicks, but they did not survive. Five nests have large chicks now, including some that have left their nest site. One pair that built late in the season is now caring for young downy feathered chicks.
Total number of nests is one up from last year, but still very low compared to recent past years.
7/19 Banded chick in nest box
7/26 chick last seen in nest box
There were at least, roughly 40 Pigeon Guillemot nesting sites being attended this year. Of these sites, at least 16 (total numbers are not yet finalized) are confirmed to have had chicks (including the pair using the nest box). Sites are confirmed to have chicks once parents begin to deliver fish to their young. This number is up from last years total confirmed nesting sites of only 7.
The Pigeon Guillemot chick that hatched in our newly installed nest boxes was banded on the 19th of July. It was given a metal band with a unique ID number on it along with a yellow color band that will let us know if re-sighted in the future what year it was born in. The chick was hatched by June 21st and left its nest box the week of July 26th. So, it was fed and cared for by its parents for just over 5 weeks until it left the box to be on its own. He left the box very healthy and plump (see photo).
7/12- chicks began catching air and ready to tackle their first flight to the water.
Most Western Gulls are now fully feathered and have left their nest sites. Many can now be seen in the water and wandering around the island, still learning how to master this thing called flight.
A handful of gulls that have re-laid (most due to failed first attempts)are now caring for downy feathered chicks or even still incubating eggs.
Most California Gull chicks are fully feathered and have been disappearing from their nest sites. At least one site has young chicks in the partly-feathered stage.
7/2 & 7/5- Chicks last seen fully feathered.
This year seems to have been successful for our Black Oystercatchers. Two chicks were last seen at their nest sites fully feathered in early July. Confirmation of fledging is still yet to be determined.
-- Sara Acosta
Sea Bird Biologist, Marine Ecology Division
PRBO Conservation Science
Saturday, August 5 - As Seasons Tern
A densely packed flock of loafing gulls and terns are on Ocean Beach. I spot them from the south edge of Sutro Heights which is at the north end of the beach, but over 200 feet above sea level, giving a commanding view. At 9 a.m. there aren't enough people and activity to scare off these birds even though they are at the west end of Cabrillo. Five hours later the beach is getting crowded but this knot of birds remain in a spot where there's no stairway down to the beach from the nearby parking area.
Thinking they might be scared off, I hurry down with my scope for a closer look. Adult and juvenile Elegant Terns are the most numerous, over 120 of them. Occasionally a handful will rise up shrieking and fly about a quarter mile offshore where a few circle and dive among a swimming flock of Brandt's Cormorant. I hope they've found a school of fish near the surface. Normally these avian feeding frenzies are regular in this season and not remarkable. This year when I see such a swirl of birds over the sea I wish them the best. For fish and bird alike this is not the happiest summer. Nobody knows if the change in currents and diminished up-welling are a fluke or signs of long-term change. Though seabirds are long-lived, a permanent shift would be disastrous for regional seabird populations. They can survive a bad year as happens naturally when there's an El Nino. Gulls, cormorant, pelicans, terns, alcids all have ten or more years in which an adult can expect to raise young. One missed season is only worrisome not catastrophic. But this year even the Black Oystercatchers did not appear to be breeding. The number of Western Gull and Brandt's Cormorant nests visible on the rocks around Land's End is far below normal.
Four Lawrence's Goldfinches showed up at Quail commons near the swing set where they've been seen numerous times numerous times in the past three weeks. This was my first lucky visit. They were not there at 8am, 9am or 1pm, but showed up around 1.30pm. Four juveniles, quite unafraid so I got great looks as they fed low in the scrub. The yellow smears on upper and lower ends of the wing sandwich a white and black wing bar. They had dark lines of spots on their chests. And they remained in a tight little group, pulling seeds from the plants. A larger flock of Bushtits passed in their usual nervous, flittering manner. Altogether a looser, faster-moving crowd. I watched the Lawrence's Godfinches and they didn't move more than five feet in ten minutes. They kept silent. Only noise came from two loquacious Ravens who may have been discussing my inability to fly or which particular dumpster held the best breakfast garbage.
How did these birds come to be in San Francisco? Their range is largely limited to dry hillsides with scrub growth on serpentine soils. This small patch in the Presidio is far from where they usually breed.
The working theory from local bird experts, Joe Morlan and Alan Hopkins: a fire on Mount Hamilton drove them out of their usual habitat. That's an area roughly forty miles away as the bird flies. Once in San Francisco they found the habitast most like where they usually live. The little Lawrence's Goldfinch has the smallest range of any North American finch: California, Arizona and Baja California and limited patches in each of those states.
These finches were named by John Cassin for his friend George Lawrence, one of the leading Amer. ornithologists of the mid-19th Century. Lawrence was born in 1806 and lived in New York City. His early memories include large flocks of Passenger Pigeons in the woods along the Hudson in Westchester County, and a local merchant selling Labrador Ducks for eating. Both birds are now extinct.
Inspired by Spencer Baird of the Smithsonian, Lawrence along with John Cassin of Philadelphia and Thomas Brewer of Boston became one of the great scientific ornithologists of his generation. Lawrence didn't do field work, but painstaking examination and taxonomic description of specimens from the western US and West Indies. Among birds he first described for science: McCown's Longspur, Clark's and Western Grebe, Ash-throated Flycatcher, California Gull, LeConte's Thrasher, Pacific Loon among nearly six dozen new species he described.
I also stopped at the old helicopter landing pad west of the abandoned hospital on 15th Avenue in the Presidio. Now that derelict building is slated to become luxury apartments and condos there's a guard patrolling the perimeter. One-third of the windows have already been broken out during the two decades it has stood empty.
But the voracious economics of San Francisco housing has decreed that this ugly 1950s architectural excrescence will become expensive and profitable housing nestled on the edge of a national park in an already expensive city. Today only the lone guard and a pair of Mockingbirds inhabit the property. One of the Mockers stops for song, the other seems to be a juvenile begging for food.
The helo pad overlooks the eastern end of the restored dunes along Lobos Creek. Lobos Dunesis where San Francisco's only known nesting Western Bluebirds live. It's also become home to a large population of White-crowned Sparrow, a local bird that's disappearing from most other parts of San Francisco. But there are the native scrub plants like lupine this sparrow thrives on.
Other birds in the area: California Towhee, House Finch, Mourning Dove, Raven, Anna's Hummingbird, Western Scrub-jay.
Often I see almost no birds from here so I focus on the green plateau of Lincoln Park with the blue Pacific beyond it and along its right shoulder where the cliffs drop down to the water. Amidst the rolling dunes now covered by the streets and buildings of the Richmond District, there sit the four golden onion domes of the Russian Orthodox cathedral on Geary Boulevard. Somewhere much closer a set of church bells chime at exactly one o'clock, perhaps that is Saint Monica's Catholic Church.
Friday, August 4
There were two Red-necked Phalarope feeding energetically in Sutro Baths at Land's End. Re-building their energy for the next leg of a southward migration that will take them from here to wintering areas at sea off the Peruvian coast. Most of the birds along the Pacific flyway breed in Alaska or the Yukon so they've already come a couple thousand miles. This smallest of the phalarope east small aquatic animals as well as vegetation. Sutro Baths are full of both.
Also at Land's End were a Wandering Tattler, Black Turnstone, Common Murre (one adult with chick), Pigeon Guillemot and the abundant Brown Pelicans, Western & Heermann's Gulls, Brant's Cormorant. This has been a hard year for pelagic birds along the California coast. Climate change seems to have stopped the ocean water up-swelling that normally brings cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface. That in turn feeds plankton which is the base of the pelagic food chain. That chain's broken this year. Gulls, Brandt's cormorants, alcids have been less prolific breeders than usual.
I find two Brandt's Cormorant corpses and one Western Gull along the edge of Sutro Baths. Another adult Western Gull in the weeds looking exhausted.
Thursday, August 3
Yesterday Cullen Hanks and I got flyby looks of four Lawrence's Goldfinches and they disappeared into the conifers to the south above the hospital. They had been in the scrub on the knoll by the gate at Presidio hills where there are several cobweb thistles and other seeding plants. I thought I might have also heard them the previous day at the National Park service field office bird bath just behind the large sand piles.
Today I did a big hour with the following highlights. The total was low as expected, with 45 species. Very few waterbirds on the bay and few migrants was expected due to the season. The route starts at Insp Pt, through Tennesee Hollow to Crissy Field along the shore and up to Batt. Crosby E to Ft Scott, Kobbe Upton and down to Mnt Lake Park. One needs to keep moving in order to finish the route in time.
1 RN Phalorope
4 Red Crossbill
Pb Grebe and coot chicks
1 BC Night-heron
1 Swainson's Thrush
2 LB Curlew
4 Great Egret and 5 Snowy Egret, with one flying in from Thompson Hollow at eye level (no doubt Alcatraz and other nearby rookery post breeding dispersers)
20+ Elegant Terns
30+ Barn Swallows (many young) seemed higher than past years. No other swallow sps noted anywhere in the hour hundreds of dragon flies over the wilder side of the big field.
Recent sightings of note:
Belated field trip report from 2 Sundays ago at Lands End included:
2 Wandering Tattlers
10 Pigeon Guillemots
2 Cooper's Hawks
4 Bottle nosed Dolphins
5 Harbor Porpoise
Wandering Glider, Blue Darner, Variegated Meadowhawk
Hairy Woodpeckers at El Polin, Presidio Hills, Stow Lake and with young at the Fuchsia Dell (that's a lot more than past years). SB Dowitcher and Herring Gull at Crissy Field BH Grosbeak in the Presidio. Juvenile Nutall's WC Sparrow and Dark-eyed Juncos seem especially common in the Presidio at the moment. At last count the California Quail population in the Presidio was 6 birds, 4 males and 2 females plus five chicks. Last place I saw them there was a Cooper's Hawk perched yesterday looking right into their favorite brush.
Looking at the story of how Heath Hens went extinct on Martha's Vineyard Island now shows a similar pattern to the Presidio. A major population decline followed by an invasion of accipters. Its great to have breeding Cooper's Hawks around. They are all through the neighborhoods in the inner Richmond avenues. Then again they might be the final straw for the Presidio quail which did not used to have this predator during the breeding season.
Good luck and good birding
Josiah Clark , Consulting Ecologist
Here are three links to Lawrence Goldfinch pictures taken in the Presidio by ace San Francisco ornithologist, Joe Morlan:
Monday, July 30
Warm, windless evening at Sutro Heights, an unusual occurrence. The lawns were patrolled by dozens of three-inch wingspan golden dragonflies. They gave a brassy flash when their bodies reflected the sunlight.
Saturday, July 28
Hi, I tried to do a cormorant and heron nesting survey this morning, but was only half successful. All 4 North Lake Merced heron nests are at stage 5 and some birds have left the nests. Most of the cormorants have left the nests in that colony too. Every floating device possible was covered with DCCOs on that lake. On the South Lake I couldn't see the cormorants because of dense fog. The single Great Blue heron nest next to the police gun range was active with 3 stage 4 chicks. This was the lake's latest nest, so those chicks won't fledge for several weeks yet. Most cormorants seem to have fledged, but I couldn't even make a nest count because of fog. Down at the concrete bridge there were a few things to report. My first Tri-colored Blackbird for the year was with the mixed Brewers/Red-wing flock. There was a single Western Grebe with a single western type chick well north of the bridge. Still north, but near the bridge was a Western Grebe with 3 Clark's type chicks. There was a Clark's Grebe nearby, but the chicks were definitely not imprinted on them -- the western was mom. A Common Yellowthroat was singing from the willows at the west end of the bridge. Down at the south end of the impound there was a Belted Kingfisher. The Great Blue Herons have fledged from the nest there. Best of all was a killer immature Green Heron. It was hunting from an island of smartweed and I saw him take 4 fish out of 4 tries. Adult Green Herons have been spotted on that lake segment through the spring and summer, so it is entirely possible this individual was reared at the lake. Too bad I could never find a nest or flightless young. This one could have flown in.
June 24 - Dolores Park
At the tallest tree in the center of Dolores Park, a Canary Island palm, the Mission district displayed at its best and most typical as I watched, a flurry of Starling and Yellow-chevroned Parakeets disputing the cavities left by trimmed or sagging fronds, noisy squawks and screechy chattering like a plume in the sky.
Nearby, to the north, by a line of five small palms along side a green container box housing equipment for the withered soccer field at its foot, the resident Hooded Oriole (male) comes and goes from the westernmost of the palms, silent now after springtime voicings, an apparently successful nest in progress.
A tattered, rather large red cloth doll has been tossed into the tree, tucked now where the lowest fronds branch from the trunk; it is nearby this point the orioles have chosen to nest this season. As I watched the male come and go from the tree, a human couple spread two inflatable pools at the tree's base, carrying a large bucket apparently to draw upon the water source by the clubhouse nearby. Robins, more Starlings, Ravens, Pigeons and mourning Doves all flew, hopped, fluttered among the little line of palms, a weekend Mission morning.
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