Monday, October 19, 2015

... San Francisco treats

During most of last week I was in San Francisco to attend a conference.  I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and the conference didn't start until Friday evening and all day Saturday.  A colleague was with me and it was later in the afternoon on Wednesday when we arrived and checked into our hotel in Union Square.  So the first evening was spent in Chinatown and eating at a North Beach neighborhood Italian restaurant.  We met up with a friend of mine from all the way back to graduate school who has lived in S.F. for over twenty years and we had a great evening together eating and catching up.

On Thursday morning Mary returned to pick us up for a day outdoors at Crissy Park and the Golden Gate Bridge.  Amongst looking at a many other things, I was able to get a little birding in.

Immediately upon stepping out of the car the first bird I saw was this little cutie - the very photogenic Black Phoebe.

I love this photo for the composition of it.  Western Gull in the foreground, casting fisherman and shack in the background and steamer and Alcatraz Island in the far background.

I'm terrible at gulls.  I finally decided that this is a Western Gull and they were plentiful and rather tame in this very touristy area.  Also in the water were Pelagic Cormorants.  While looking at the gulls,  a small tern was flying around that I finally decided was a Forster's tern, which surprised me.

The iconic Golden Gate bridge was beautiful this morning.  I took dozens of photos.

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) in coastal California is so much darker with bolder, very dark breast streaking.  Their song, too, is different but still unmistakable.

Bridge sentries, two Ravens were perched on one of the bridge's cement pillars.

As we were leaving the bridge (we had walked to the first main support) I saw a bird fly into a nearby cluster of conifers.  Red-shouldered Hawk! 

Later in the afternoon, after a lunch of dim sum at a traditional Chinese dining room, we drove by Land's End for a quick look.

A Brewer's Blackbird perched in the parking lot is all eye.

The above photo shows the difference in the Pacific coastal White-crowned Sparrow from our larger, interior bird.  Note the yellow bill and the overall smaller appearance of the bird although, without a comparison bird in the photo, this is subjective.  If you have seen a lot of White-crowned Sparrows, you can just sort of see the size difference in this bird.

On Friday morning and afternoon I went to Golden Gate Park.  Hermit Thrushes were plentiful here.

Oregon-style Dark-eyed Juncos were also quite common.

I cannot resist a bathing Robin.  This one at the main entrance of the Botanical Garden.

I saw several Townsend's Warblers and thought I would never get a photo until this one cooperated.

Altogether I saw three California Towhees.  This one was in the Asian Garden.

Finally, a semi-sensible Fox Sparrow photo.

The best birding spot in the Botanical Gardens overall seemed to be the California native garden.  Here I found six sparrow species including Fox Sparrow and Lincoln's Sparrow. 

This was the bird I wanted a photo of most.  Every time I heard one I chased it down always to find it high up in a tree.  Finally, when I left the Botanical Garden and walked to the lake, I saw movement in a thicket.  A Stellar's Jay was eating seed that someone has placed on a large tree stump.

I love the two blue forehead stripes on this very beautiful bird.

Golden-crowned Sparrow found in the same thicket.

Another example of the dark Song Sparrow.  Both it and the Golden-crowned seemed to be trying for the seed on the stump but would only approach when the Stellar's Jay flew off.

On the lake, an out-of-focus Eared Grebe.  Initially I called this dull-plumaged bird a horned grebe but my friend Matt offered a correction. I have since seen a couple of photos of horned g. with a much different bill shape.   

A pretty nice photo of a female Ruddy Duck.

At first I didn't recognize this preening, and odd-looking, Hooded Merganser.

Pied Grebe

After circling the lake, I returned to the Botanical Garden to meet my colleague who also decided to visit the park.  We took another spin around the garden which is beautiful and well worth the $8 fee for non-San Francisco residents.  With my colleague we focused more on the plants and flowers.  By the early afternoon the sun had come out and it was warm.  For the first time all day a few butterflies were also seen - alas, none of which landed for photos.

Around 1:30 pm I reluctantly left Golden Gate Park (had my colleague not shown up I would have stayed until it was time to shower for the conference) and we had lunch at the Indian restaurant Marsala Dosa on 9th Avenue.


Jerry said...

Nice list, Cathy! Yes, those gulls are a pain to ID. Love the RSHA image!

Matt said...

The Townsend's pics are sweet!
I think the bill looks pretty thin and the head fairly dark on the grebe, I don't know which is more likely where you were, but I would lean towards Eared...