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Counting Raptors on Hawk Hill in San Francisco, Calif. (1 Viewer)

ayasuda

Well-known member
It was a lovely day on top of Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands near the Golden Gate Bridge. Visibility was phenomenal, no fog to speak of and a clear view of at least 50 miles in any direction. The slight haze across the bay did not hinder any sightings of migrating hawks across the water. A slight offshore breeze from an incoming weather system created enough thermals to make the day exciting.

The first hour on the hill produced about 74 individual sightings. I was with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory group and we ticked off about six species in that hour: Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red Tail Hawks, Sharp Shinned Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, and a Northern Harrier. Most of the raptors were just passing through, and we were not treated to any aerial combat displays that day.

The next couple of hours were spent listening to all the quadrants debating and calling in different species to the recorder. Visitors to the hill were caught up in excitement and would help us spot birds that might have been missed. A White Tailed Kite eventually replaced the excitement over an American Kestrel sighting, and the constant steady supply of Sharp-Shins, and Cooper’s Hawks flying by. What makes the Hill interesting is that the raptors gain lift using the hill slopes, and this produces lovely top, bottom, and eye level views of the passing birds. What really made the day was a shout from a birder letting us know that a Golden Eagle was coming into view. The day could not have been better until a Ferruginous Hawk flashed us its’ beautiful underbelly. Overall, the day ended with 13 different species recorded, and a total of 730 raptors counted within a 6-hour period. This doesn’t even include the passerines that were sighted that day as well.

This is my first year participating as a hawk watch volunteer and it has been a blast. There is much to learn but I can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend watching the hawks fly by the Marin Headlands, near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. :t:
 

Dr Manjeet Singh

Dr.Manjeet Singh
ayasuda..reading your narrative..made wish if i could be there..wow 730 raptors..as for the passerines..would like to know a few i could..any ?pictures my friend.Thanks for the lovely report.:t:
 

joannec

Well-known member
A White Tailed Kite eventually replaced the excitement over an American Kestrel sighting, and the constant steady supply of Sharp-Shins, and Cooper’s Hawks flying by. What makes the Hill interesting is that the raptors gain lift using the hill slopes, and this produces lovely top, bottom, and eye level views of the passing birds. What really made the day was a shout from a birder letting us know that a Golden Eagle was coming into view. The day could not have been better until a Ferruginous Hawk flashed us its’ beautiful underbelly. :

Sounds like an absolutely amazing day!!! WTK, they are absolutely beautiful, aren't they? As well as all the others of course. You're making me jealous again.;)

Joanne
 

ayasuda

Well-known member
Here are some pictures to go with the day:

First picture West: Rodeo Lagoon and Fort Cronkite

The lagoon has been attracting lots of attention recently because a family of river otters has learned to brazenly hunt Brown Pelicans during the daylight hours. There was one day I regret returning to the bungalow first, because all the team members that returned later were talking excitedly about seeing the actual hunt occur as they drove by the lagoon. The benefactor from all the otter hunts has been a bobcat that has been seen often, but not by me. :C
The lagoon is a stopover for a wide range birds. Sunday I saw a Western Grebe, Blue heron, Red Neck Phalarope (1), Bonapart's gull, ducks,..etc.

As you can see from the photo, raptors use the ocean breeze to lift up over the hill toward the bay, and/or glide over the water around the bend.

Picture 2 & 3 North: Mt Tamalpais (pic. 3 distant)

When the wind is just right the raptors will still right near you, or soar overhead. Interestingly, I find the patches of dark green growth especial difficult to track hawks. This is the golden vantage point, the hawks, eagles, and buteo love to fly in from this direction. (birding hint)

Picture 4 East: Golden Gate Bridge (north end), Alcatraz Island

Another sweet spot for buteos and accipters to "kettle" (swarm together). If I were able to extend the left side of the picture, it would include Angel Island. The is a location worth looking up in the sky and looking at the hillside below. The waters beneath the GG can yield some nice pelagics and seals, but you might want to scope those. Keep your eyes open for Osprey (during migration).

Picture 5 South: Out of the bay

Probably the most non-appreciated spot, but I love it because you can see all the seabirds come and go. By that I mean scoters, murres, cormorants, gulls, pelicans and shorebirds. You know when there are fish near the surface because the birds are everywhere, and when the fish disappear the birds are gone. This spot is my first Hawk Hill sighting of an Osprey, but to my shame I thought it was a strange looking gull until a more experienced volunteer called it out. |8.| It was exhibiting all the classic characteristics for Osprey, and my mind was still processesing the fact that the gull had a raptor look to it. Oh well, more practice.
 

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halftwo

Wird Batcher
Thanks again Ayasuda.
Otters hunting pelicans?! Wow - that's a mouthful. Would love to see the Bobcat too.
Actually Ospreys do have a gull-like look to them: something about proprtion & wing attitude, so don't feel bad.
H
 

ayasuda

Well-known member
Thanks halftwo you made me feel a little less like a rookie.

The otters have been seen working cooperatively. I've heard that some of the otters distract a group of pelicans while one breaks off and dives beneath the water and attacks the victim from below.
 

ayasuda

Well-known member
For Dr. Manjeet.

I would love to recall all the passerines noted that day, but we had to keep our eyes on the raptors. With so many raptors flying by and didn't pay much attention to the passerine this time. But every once in a while I did hear. "10 GOLDFINCH!" or " Recorder! 15 Band tailed pigeons" "It's a Rough Wing Swallow" "Is that a swift?" "What is that" "Excuse me!, you are walking on an enviromentally sensitive area." I'll put up a list when I post again. :t:
 

Dr Manjeet Singh

Dr.Manjeet Singh
For Dr. Manjeet.

I would love to recall all the passerines noted that day, but we had to keep our eyes on the raptors. With so many raptors flying by and didn't pay much attention to the passerine this time. But every once in a while I did hear. "10 GOLDFINCH!" or " Recorder! 15 Band tailed pigeons" "It's a Rough Wing Swallow" "Is that a swift?" "What is that" "Excuse me!, you are walking on an enviromentally sensitive area." I'll put up a list when I post again. :t:

Thanks my friend..the place is beautiful..watching the raptors must have been fun and enjoyble..hope to see more pictures my friend..and thanks for the info about the pesserines.Regards.:t:
 

JeffMoh

Well-known member
You've made me homesick for the Bay Area! Hawk Hill and Rodeo Lagoon are great birding sites in the fall. Even if you hit a day that's quiet for birds, there's plenty else to look at, including the great views of the bay and the coast. Southeast Texas is great for birds but the land is flat, flat, flat and the sea is dull and murky.

Jeff
 

ayasuda

Well-known member
Hi Jeff,

I didn't mention that it was Fleet Week, and the Blue Angels gave Hawk Hill visitors a stunning aerial display.
 

ayasuda

Well-known member
Sunday Oct 21, 2007 Hawk Hill and Rodeo Lagoon

As I drove past the Golden Gate bridge, I could see that it was going to be a glorious day on Hawk Hill. No fog and a good steady breeze, and an accipter already zooming past my car. The excitment builds as I make my way toward Rodeo Lagoon and the Turkey Vultures are gliding overhead.

Rodeo Lagoon is unusually quiet this morning, I think the otters have made most of the resident water birds fearful of becoming lunch. Oh well, pelicans are no longer on the dinner menu (I think most if not all the resident pelicans have been eaten or made wary of the lagoon). Migrating ducks are probably the new featured menu item, although chatter regarding the otters' exploits have been quiet in the last few weeks. I think the only species to note on the lagoon was a group of Surf Scoters in non-breeding plumage. Honestly, there was nothing to photograph. |=(| On Saturday, there was a report of 32 + American Wigeon, Bonaparte's gull, Greater Yellowlegs, Eared Grebe, Black Turnstone, Wilson snipe, a Lark Sparrow, and six otters.

The view from Hawk Hill Sunday morning was awesome. Although there was a slight haze in some quadrants, clarity was about 50 miles. The past week had on again off again periods of rain and fog grounding most hawks.
When I arrived at the top of the hill, a fellow hawk watcher said she had already seen a merlin or kestral (sorry, memory is already fading) ...a good omen. o:)

Sunday started off gradually with a few Cooper's Hawk and Sharpies, but the activity picked up and the list rapidly grew with the addition of merlins, red-tails, peregrin, and harriers. Later that morning, I spotted an strange looking gull :eek!:...ah, the first Osprey of the day. :t: Our resident "falcon eyes" ticked of several peregrins , merlins, and kestral for us. The merlins were especially amusing this morning as they were hunting and catching prey in midair, or so I was told because I apparently forgot to put on my falcon detector that morning.

There were periods throughout the day when the winds would die down and the activity would cease long enough for snacks, sunscreen lotion, and a longing for a decent restroom. During one of these episodes late in the day, our falcon savvy friend calls out that Clark's Nutcracker is in the trees infront of us. Great I thought, another lifer to my list...yahoo. I look through my binoculars to see a dark silloutte of a bird with no details. |:S| At that point, this incident reminded me of the recent thread discussing ticking off dead birds. How could I say that I've seen a Clark's Nutcracker. I can't, so I've decided this is not a countable bird for me. |:||

Near the end of the day a Broad-Winged Hawk makes an appearance, and the team also can add a couple of dark morph red tails to the list. We had several beautiful Red Shoulders soar past the hill. We counted 11 different species and had 656 sightings. On average 119 sightings per hour, not bad for a day's work.
 

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ayasuda

Well-known member
Pic 1 = East view
Pic 2 = North view with hawk enthusiasts (best view for hawk watching)
Pic 3 = South view on top of the hill. See the pines to the left, a Clark's Nutcracker was there late in the day.
Pic 4 = South view
Pic 5 = Rodeo Lagoon (the lagoon and Marin Headland trails are an excellent way to spend a day hiking and looking for birds.)

I left the pictures as is for the most part to show the varing conditions in each quadrant in which you view the hawks and falcons. Next week (the birds), I can go to the hill and photograph the hawks.
 
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joannec

Well-known member
Later that morning, I spotted an strange looking gull :eek!:...ah, the first Osprey of the day. :t:

. We counted 11 different species and had 656 sightings. On average 119 sightings per hour, not bad for a day's work.


LOL, you're not the first to mistake an osprey for a gull;)

So many raptors.....sounds like another fantastic day!!!

Pictures look very familiar.

Joanne
 

ayasuda

Well-known member
Pictures look very familiar.
Yes, I think it's time to focus on the hawks. Since I'm there as a raptor counter, photos have to take a back seat.

This weekend is not a count day for me, so I'm free to take pictures. Hopefully, I can come away with a few decent photos of wildlife, instead of landscape. Still looking for the Bobcat, and Crested CaraCara.
 

ayasuda

Well-known member
I did see this thread, and all I can say it that he's LATE! :-O What an absolutely beautiful bird.
 

joannec

Well-known member
I did see this thread, and all I can say it that he's LATE! :-O What an absolutely beautiful bird.


Late???? for what???

They are nice birds and one of my favourite common ones in England....got a resident pair near where I live....just love watching them. What is common to you is rare or vagrant or not at all here and vice versa.

Joanne
 

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