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 Harry Fuller Birding Tours


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. The 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 in SF. Spiny yes, invasive yes, but good for wildlife and birds, especially Quail 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 match 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 dense.

Highlights around the brambles:

Willow Fly-1
PS Fly-5
WW pewee-1
W Tanager-2
Bullocks Oriole-1
Selas. hummer-3
Yellow Warbler-3
Cassins Vireo-1
BC Nightheron-1

Yesterday eve between 550 and 650pm did a big hr with Andy Kleinhesselink on the normal Presidio route. It was late, windy and cold. We ended up with 43 sps. and lots of misses.


PS Flycatcher-1
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 birding. 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 Middle Lake in Golden Gate Park.


Kobbe and Upton: Warbling Vireo and Western Tanager among other birds that are regular there.

Crissy Field: usual suspects with the best bird being 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 Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Warbling Vireo and Western Tanager. A Common Yellowthroat was in the bulrush by the first 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 course the Norther Parula. American and Lesser Goldfinches 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.

--Dan Murphy

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 Mar Trail.

>30 Western Tanager
P/S Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Wilson's Warbler
Cooper's Hawk
R/S Hawk
Selasphorus aplenty
Swainson's Thrush
usual local resident birds

Land's End:
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
BN Dolphin
H. Seal
C. Sealion

--Harry Fuller

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
Warb Vireo
Wilson's Warbler
Townsend's Warb 2 inc 1 adult male
all local birds as expected inc. many juv. Robins and small flock of WC Sparrows

East Wash, 8:30am
P/S FLy >7
Wilson's Warbler 2
W. Tanager 3
Nor. Flicker juv.

Golden Gate Park-- Middle Lake, 10am:
many Tanager
Great Egret


Mid-afternoon, a brief stop at Schollenberger Marsh east of Petaluma in Sonoma County.

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.

--Harry Fuller

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) driven off.

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 plumage).

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 appearance.

--Richard Bradus

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 the northeast.

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 vagrant "traps".

--Richard Bradus

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 surface.

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.

--Harry Fuller

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.

--Harry Fuller

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 grown."

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.

--Harry Fuller

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.

Brandt's Cormorants-

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.

Pelagic Cormorants-

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.

Pigeon Guillemot-

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).

Western Gull-

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.

California Gull-

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.

Black Oystercatcher-

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.

--Harry Fuller

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.

--Harry Fuller

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.


Mtn. Lake

1 RN Phalorope
4 Red Crossbill
Pb Grebe and coot chicks
1 BC Night-heron
1 Swainson's Thrush

Crissy Field

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)
1-Ring-Billed Gull

Battery Crosby

20+ Elegant Terns

Ft Scott

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
1 Osprey
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

[Editor's Note]

Here are three links to Lawrence Goldfinch pictures taken in the Presidio by ace San Francisco ornithologist, Joe Morlan:




Harry Fuller

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.

Harry Fuller

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.

Good birding,

Dan Murphy

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.

Lew Ellingham

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