Thursday, 27 September 2012

Target Birding

We had targets and we went after them with near military grade precision.  Sure, I'd have loved a glance at a California Condor or had found, to my satisfaction, a Lawrence's Goldfinch,(probably did see one, but the glimpses were too fleeting to count).  However, the next day, on a lovely outing with my friends and master San Francisco bird guides, Eddie and Noreen, we targeted a handful of birds in the greater San Francisco area.

We started, at the Arastradaro Preserve where we had a lovely morning walk, and found in quick succession, a Nuttall's Woodpecker, Oak Titmouse and after a bit of searching, a lovely little Wrentit.  I guess the name comes from the fact that it is a Babbler that combines the the relative size of a Titmouse, with the tail of a Wren.  Or the guys that named it were just a little weird.

Our next stop, oddly enough,(though I am never surprised at these nice coincidences, or where I end up anymore), was at Mount Davidson, where I had inadvertently driven to a week early when I arrived in San Francisco.  Our targets for the mountaintop were very pacific, as in Pacific Wren and Pacific-Slope Flycatcher.  But as we were walking up the mountain trail we were rewarded with a lovely Warbler Show that included a Hermit Warbler, which I had been too early for during my first trip to California in January.  After that we had good looks at a Pacific Wren and finally, both at the top of the mountain,(where the fantastic views of San Francisco were obscured by a low fog), and on the way back down the trail, a Pacific-Slope Flycatcher.

We birded a couple of other locations looking for some tougher birds without success, including the wonderful Heron's Head, where they served a wonderful vegetarian lunch, but on our last stop were able to get amazing looks at Clark's Grebes,(I had seen them from the Boat in Half Moon Bay,but my photo was out of focus), including a couple of babies, being fed by mommy Grebe.

Eddie and Noreen, of, are wonderful birders, have great ears for bird calls and are fantastic at locating birds in tough places, and know the Bay area like few others.  If you're in San Francisco, please look them up for a great day.

Before we parted company Eddie gave me directions to the brickyards in San Rafael, where Vaux's Swifts were putting on shows, nightly, as they came back to roost in the chimneys.  I got there after surviving San Francisco rush hour traffic, just as the sun was going down.  It was an amazing show.  Thousands of them, estimated at times to be over 12,000 in fact.  At times it appeared as though bats were flying out of a cave at night, going out to hunt, or even a funnel cloud of a tornado.  Or a gigantic swarm of bees.  Either way it was impressive.  Lot of other birders had come out for the show as well, including three guys who were doing a nightly count.  One of them does banding at the Hawk Watch and another just started birding this January, just like me.

It was a cool way to end up the trip out west and left me with a Big Year total of 535, having added 37 new species the past week.  That leaves me 37 species short of Roger Tory Peterson's 1953 total of 574, which has become a real number to strive for.  Of course, 600 would be a Great Big Year and I am just 65 short of that total.  96 days left in the year.  I need to find just 0.68 birds a day the rest of the way.

Scroll down to the bottom for a video of the Vaux's Swifts.


  1. wooow thats great im following you from the first day goodluck robert

  2. Thank you very much. It's going to be exciting heading into the stretch run with lots of travel to get to the finish line with 600