Jessica had an opening for her art work this week at Rayko Gallery in San Francisco. I didn't want to be away for too long, but I also wanted to see the show and be with her, so I went out for three days. San Francisco was beautiful, and we had a great time eating burritos, shopping, and seeing my sister for her birthday. Most importantly, though, we did a lot of birding. There were several birds I wanted to try for while I was out there, so I posted to the San Francisco list and got a lot of great information on where and when to find my target birds. What that boiled down to was spending a day going from park to park--and San Francisco has a lot of parks.
We took a trip to Oakland to try for Tufted Duck at Merritt Lake...no Tufted, but we did have ridiculously close looks at Ring Necked Duck, Scaup, Glaucous-Wing Gull, California Gull, Eared Grebe, Western Grebe, and White Pelicans. We also had a couple of "Puget Sound" gulls, hybrids between Glaucous Wing and Western Gull, which are very common in the pacific northwest. From there we went to the Palace of Fine Arts, where we had a flock of Mew Gulls to study...I spent about an hour photographing these birds along with Ring Billed Gulls, their closest confusion species, and gained a little more confidence on being able to ID one on the east coast if one ever shows up (they do, occasionally). We walked nearby Crissy Field, and had Orange Crowned Sparrows, Western Grebe, Brewers Blackbird, as well as more gulls, a Common Yellowthroat, and lots of Killdeer. Nothing rare, but that's the fun of birding in a new place...even the common birds are new and interesting. The Presidio was next, and we had beautiful looks at the Golden Gate Bridge, and scanned the waters around it for alcids an such. I could swear I had a Pacific Loon, but it dove and I never relocated it. There were Ravens, Townsends Warbler and Chestnut Backed Chickadees, and more Pelicans.
The sun was getting low, so we raced down the coast to Lake Merced, where we had flocks of American Coots walking around us as we searched for Tri-Colored Blackbird (found three), and Clarks Grebe (found one). A Mew Gull was perched on a power line with some "rock doves", highlighting the artifice of rarity...that bird on the East Coast would bring dozens if not hundreds of chasers, and here it's just another pigeon. As the sun set we hit Ocean Beach and had several Snowy Plovers, including one with four colorful bands on its legs. Willet and marbled Godwits were probing the sand along the oceans edge, and several variety of gull soared overhead. We didn't see all the target birds that day--missed Western Bluebird, Says Phoebe, Tufted Duck, and several others--but it was nearly perfect nonetheless.