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San Francisco Bay area

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Old Thursday 6th September 2007, 00:59   #1
Katy Penland
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San Francisco Bay area

Since moving back to Los Angeles from Arizona and then up to the Bay area, I still don't have a yard where I can observe or attract wild birds so decided to stake out a local patch for myself close to home, which is in Pacifica, about 6 miles south of San Francisco and about 1 1/2 blocks from the beach.

The patch itself encompasses the walk I take from the local pier, which is 1/3 mile long, along the beach atop a seawall that separates the golf course and small freshwater lagoons from the beach, and up the first row of hills that form the "T" at the end of the seawall and drop off seaward into the water at Mori Point, the southernmost end of our cove's beach.

So it's a nice combo of shore, marsh, evergreen (cypress), and coastal sage scrub habitats. And fog! The local weather forecasters say the Bay area has 19 micro-climates, and "Where in the fog is Pacifica?" is the city's motto. Which makes me feel very akin to those of you across the pond, and also makes me take the sun far less for granted! :-)

So here's the patch list so far, beginning the first week of July 2007:

1. Common Loon
2. Red-throated Loon (2)
3. Western Grebe
4. Clark's Grebe
5. Pied-billed Grebe (4 ads; 3-6 juvs)
6. Shearwater (sp)
7. Brown Pelican
8. Double-crested Cormorant
9. Brandt's Cormorant
10. Great Blue Heron (1 ad)
11. Green Heron (1 ad)
12. Black-crowned Night Heron (1 ad; 1 juv)
13. Mallard (2 pair; 1 with 5 ducklings)
14. Surf Scoter
15. Ruddy Duck (5 males; 2 females, 1 with 8 ducklings)
16. Turkey Vulture
17. Bald Eagle (flying juv being mobbed by 8 Caspian Terns)
18. White-tailed Kite (1)
19. Cooper's Hawk (juv)
20. Sharp-shinned Hawk (juv)
21. Red-tailed Hawk (1 ad and 1 juv)
22. Red-shouldered Hawk (juv)
23. American Kestrel
24. Peregrine Falcon
25. American Coot (several juvs)
26. Killdeer
27. Black Oystercatcher
28. Whimbrel
29. Marbled Godwit
30. Black Turnstone
31. Sanderling
32. Wilson's Phalarope (2)
33. Red-necked Phalarope (35-40)
34. Ring-billed Gull (1)
35. Herring Gull (1)
36. Western Gull
37. Heermann's Gull
38. Caspian Tern (30+ mostly gone now)
39. Elegant Tern (20+ gone now)
40. Arctic Tern (1 among Caspians and Elegants; gone now)
41. Common Murre
42. Murrelet (sp; possible Ancient)
43. Rock Dove
44. Band-tailed Pigeon
45. Mourning Dove
46. Eurasian Collared-Dove (1 on 8/30)
47. Great Horned Owl (heard only)
48. Anna's Hummingbird
49. Black Phoebe
50. Western Scrub-Jay
51. American Crow
52. Common Raven
53. Violet-green Swallow
54. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
55. Barn Swallow
56. Cliff Swallow
57. Bewick's Wren
58. Winter Wren
59. European Starling
60. Common Yellowthroat
61. California Towhee
62. Song Sparrow
63. White-crowned Sparrow
64. House Sparrow
65. Red-winged Blackbird (1 in flock of Brewer's)
66. Brewer's Blackbird
67. House Finch
68. Lesser Goldfinch
69. American Goldfinch

Marine mammals I've seen so far have been 3 Harbor Porpoise, 1 Blue and 3 Humpback Whales, and 12 Harbor Seals. Land mammals include Rock Squirrel, Gopher (sp) and Red Fox.
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Old Thursday 6th September 2007, 12:53   #2
JeffMoh
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Nice area

That's a nice area for birding, Katy. And, of course, you're not far from Golden Gate Park and the Sutro Baths. I used to find the latter particularly productive.

It's a pity about the fog. Quite a difference from Arizona! But it's not usually so much of a problem outside of the summer.

Jeff
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Old Monday 10th September 2007, 04:32   #3
Mark Bruce
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A really decent list, Katy....and I wouldn't mind the cetaceans !
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Old Monday 10th September 2007, 07:32   #4
Katy Penland
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Thanks, Mark! I need to hit some other local spots where migrating ducks and passerines are starting to show up but I'm having too much fun keeping one eye on the ocean and another on land here on my patch.

70. Chestnut-backed Chickadee
71. Sooty Shearwater (1000s!)
72. Savannah Sparrow

And holy moly, a Humpback cow-calf pair today! I've never seen so many great whales so close to shore as I have this past week. We were able to watch this pair today for over 2 hours, with mom consistently diving and bursting up through the surface (lunge-feeding) while her calf logged at the surface nearby. A very cool show right up until sundown -- which was rendered blood red due to all the smoke in the air from a wildfire in the Sierra Nevada about 100 miles from here.
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Old Monday 10th September 2007, 07:36   #5
Katy Penland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffMoh View Post
That's a nice area for birding, Katy. And, of course, you're not far from Golden Gate Park and the Sutro Baths. I used to find the latter particularly productive.
Thanks for that, Jeff. Will definitely check them both out. I have a lot of spots to find and visit, especially now that migration is starting -- and the weather so gorgeous.

Quote:
It's a pity about the fog. Quite a difference from Arizona! But it's not usually so much of a problem outside of the summer.

Jeff
Well, I think the Pacificans like to tell people it's foggier than it actually is so everybody doesn't want to move here. I'm finding it fabulous!
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Old Monday 10th September 2007, 10:52   #6
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Hi Katy

I think you are going to love living in Pacifica for the bird and cetacean life. I grew up in the SF bay area, wasn't a birder then though. I remember being taken to Point Rayes to watch the grey whale migrations and of course the sea lions and seals were a regular feature.

Last month I returned to California for a visit to Monterey County, not that far from where you are and for the first time birded there. It was absolutely marvelous; I couldn't get enough of it. I don't know if you saw my reports but they are here in posts 18, 27 and 36:

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=94046

I'll look forward to reading your thread, I hope you keep it going!

Joanne

Edit: I like your avatar.
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Old Tuesday 11th September 2007, 07:27   #7
Mark Bruce
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katy Penland View Post
And holy moly, a Humpback cow-calf pair today! I've never seen so many great whales so close to shore as I have this past week. We were able to watch this pair today for over 2 hours, with mom consistently diving and bursting up through the surface (lunge-feeding) while her calf logged at the surface nearby. A very cool show right up until sundown -- which was rendered blood red due to all the smoke in the air from a wildfire in the Sierra Nevada about 100 miles from here.
Really great, Katy ! We don't get any large cetaceans so something I have to travel abroad to see. Japanese and later Chinese whalers exterminated our humpback whale population. No large cetaceans have been recorded in our waters for three decades. Looking at whaling records is very sad because there were really quite a few species in these waters.

On a happier note we still have healthy small cetacean populations on the east coast, with 18 species of small cetaceans still being recorded in our waters around the island.
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Old Tuesday 11th September 2007, 13:01   #8
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Two more thoughts

If you are interested in marine life, you should consider taking a boat trip to the Farallones islands. It's a full day trip and costs about $100 but it's well worth it. When we did it a few years ago, we saw a ton of interesting species (humpbacks, sharks, dolphins, sunfish, etc.) plus puffins.

For birding, there is no better spot in northern California than Arrowhead Marsh, which is right next to Oakland Airport. It is good all year but particularly good in the winter.

Jeff
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Old Tuesday 11th September 2007, 17:12   #9
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Hey Katy,

The hawk migration is picking up at Hawk Hill. Sunday was great. We spotted 10 species flying through the Marin Headlands near the Golden Gate bridge. Here's a teaser: merlin, kestral, cooper's hawk, sharp shinned, osprey, vultures, broadwing, northern harrier, red tail, peregrine. I think we had about 200 sightings, but it should get better by the end of the month. Love to here more about your birding day.
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Old Wednesday 12th September 2007, 04:09   #10
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Another outstanding Bay Area bird watching and wildlife viewing area is Elkhorn Slough in Moss landing (about 25 minute south of Santa Cruz).

My family went sea kayaking there last weekend and it was fabulous. We saw a large raft of California Sea Otters, thousands of birds and although we didn't see them, there were reports of Humpback Whales and Orca's just outside the harbor.

I also understand that the slough is incredible during migration which is coming up soon.
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Old Thursday 13th September 2007, 18:18   #11
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Sunday was great. We spotted 10 species flying through the Marin Headlands near the Golden Gate bridge. Here's a teaser: merlin, kestral, cooper's hawk, sharp shinned, osprey, vultures, broadwing, northern harrier, red tail, peregrine. I think we had about 200 sightings, but it should get better by the end of the month. .
Are you trying to make me jealous enough to come back?!

Joanne
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Old Thursday 13th September 2007, 20:30   #12
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You Bet! I think we can add another 30+ lifers to your list.

Katy - SF Flyway festival is in Jan/Feb. lot's of small field trips to the local wetlands.
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Old Thursday 13th September 2007, 21:54   #13
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You Bet! I think we can add another 30+ lifers to your list.

.

LOL........at the very least!
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Old Monday 1st October 2007, 05:26   #14
Katy Penland
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Sorry about the long absence, folks, I've just been crazed with prep for the next huge step my life's taking -- off to Australia on the 7th of October for about 6 weeks on a writing gig. (I'll have to stake out a "local patch" there, too!)

Thanks for the tips about all the local SF birding areas. I'm sorry I missed the "hawk watch", Ayasuda! I've never been on one and didn't know there was one so close to home.

SteveC, isn't Elkhorn Slough fabulous? I visited there a few years ago and took their pontoon trip up into the waterways. Kayaking would be even better!

Jeff, thanks for that about Arrowhead Marsh. I'll definitely have to make the trip over there when I get back stateside. I'm afraid I've gotten so spoiled using BART that it'll be a novel idea taking my car across any of the Bay's bridges. I've been to the Farallons before a couple of times and you're right, it's unbelievable.

Thanks, Joanne! I haven't been to Pt. Reyes in years and the last time we were nearly blown off the cliffs it was so windy. I'll check out your reports!

Since my last post, I've added:

73. Semipalmated Plover
74. Northern Harrier
75. Golden-crowned Sparrow
76. Osprey
77. Eared Grebe
78. Rufous-crowned Sparrow
79. Canada Goose (60 of 'em flying NORTH!)

Even more cetacean sightings but they've tapered off now. A guest column I wrote for the local paper is over in the Mammals forum (URL below). Figured it was better there than here in what's ostensibly local patch birding.

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread....77#post1015577

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Old Tuesday 2nd October 2007, 00:23   #15
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The migration continues until around the end of November. If you have a chance to get away before the end of the week, take a chair and sit with the hawk watchers. They are averaging 13 different species right now.
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Old Tuesday 2nd October 2007, 13:36   #16
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The migration continues until around the end of November. If you have a chance to get away before the end of the week, take a chair and sit with the hawk watchers. They are averaging 13 different species right now.

I can't think of a better way of spending an afternoon......on the Marin headlands, overlooking the Pacific, watching raptors and counting raptor species in a deckchair with a picnic! Add a glass or two of California wine.....you've got me planning my next trip!
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Old Tuesday 2nd October 2007, 19:11   #17
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No sitting for you Joan! You have places to go and birds to add on your list. But since we are near wine country, a little wine and birding does go along way.
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Old Tuesday 2nd October 2007, 19:23   #18
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No sitting for you Joan! You have places to go and birds to add on your list. But since we are near wine country, a little wine and birding does go along way.
Y'know since I became a birder I am much more enthusiastic about returning to my roots....soooo much that I missed. Five or ten years ago, I wasn't that keen to go back, returned more out of a sense of duty than anything else but that's all changed now. It gives me more of a focus, more of a reason to do it; just wish it wasn't so far. And so expensive! And adding to my carbon footprint in such a big way!

Joanne
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Old Tuesday 2nd October 2007, 22:12   #19
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Arrowhead Marsh List

Hi, Katy.

To encourage you to visit Arrowhead Marsh when you get back, here's a typical morning list from the site in early January:

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)
Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)
Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)
Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis)
Clark's Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii)
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)
Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus)
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)
Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
American Wigeon (Anas americana)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors)
Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Canvasback (Aythya valisineria)
Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)
Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
Barrow's Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica)
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Great Egret (Ardea alba)
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris)
American Coot (Fulica americana)
Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa)
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus)
Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus)
Black Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala)
Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus)
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)
Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)
American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana)
Heermann's Gull (Larus heermanni)
Mew Gull (Larus canus)
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
California Gull (Larus californicus)
Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens)
Western Gull (Larus occidentalis)
Thayer's Gull (Larus thayeri)
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
Common Loon (Gavia immer)
Rock Dove (Columba livia)
Band-tailed Pigeon (Columba fasciata)
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)
Nuttall's Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii)
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)
Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Common Raven (Corvus corax)
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)
Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)
Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)
California Towhee (Pipilo crissalis)
Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

Jeff
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