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October 29, 2023 [LINK / comment]

Birding out west, Part III: San Francisco Bay Area

(NOTE: This is the third installment in a series of blog pieces on my birding activities out west last June; the previous one was yesterday.)

June 18-19, Emeryville: My next stop in California was Oakland, or rather the suburb of Emeryville, which is the end of the line for most long-distance Amtrak trains, just a few miles north. In the late afternoon after seeing a baseball game in Oakland, I checked into my motel (the posh Four Points by Sheraton), where I saw several Lesser Goldfinches in the bushes outside. The next morning I noticed a group of small plain birds in the trees around the parking lot, and soon determined that they were Bushtits. I had seen that species in Colorado before, but had never taken photos of them.

June 19, San Francisco: Across the bay in San Francisco, my main birding destination on the afternoon of Monday the 19th was the Golden Gate Park. (This was after taking a mid-day tour of Oracle Park, home of the Giants.) By amazing coincidence, a fellow bird club member named Kristin Fuoco had just been there, and via the technological marvel of Facebook she suggested that I visit the Botanical Gardens in that park, so I did. Just as she said, there were lots of hummingbirds, including Allen's Hummingbirds (which I had already seen in Los Angeles) and some Anna's Hummingbirds (female), which constituted a life bird! I also had nice views of Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Lesser Goldfinches, and a Common Raven that landed on a bird bath less than ten feet from where I was sitting! (Ravens are indeed common in California.) I also had good views of two more species: my first-ever Pacific Wren (which I was just about to photograph when it was disturbed by a couple strolling by) and a Pygmy Nuthatch (which despite my best efforts I just could just not capture). Finally, I saw a California Towhee, Black Phoebes, and a Great Blue Heron or two.

Birds 2023 June 19

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Allen's Hummingbird (M), Anna's Hummingbird (F), Lesser Goldfinch (M), California Towhee, Common Raven, and Chestnut-backed Chickadee. (June 19, San Francisco)

June 20, Oakland: The Bay Area has a Rapid Transit system that is called BART, and I used it extensively during my three days there. On the final morning, I explored central Oakland on the south edge of downtown, and was absolutely stunned to see several wading birds perched in a big oak tree: Great Blue Herons, a Snowy Egret, and a Black-crowned Night Heron! The bizarre location for the apparent rookery must have reflected that neighborhood's proximity to Lake Merritt, which I learned is not really a lake but an ocean inlet. On and around the lake I saw several Brown Pelicans, a Brandt's Cormorant (life bird!), Black Phoebes, Violet-green Swallows, and an Anna's Hummingbird. Near the waterfront where a new baseball stadium has been proposed, I saw a White-crowned Sparrow (another "winter" bird living among the palm trees) and California Towhees.

Birds 2023 June 20A

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Brown Pelican, Anna's Hummingbird (F), Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, Brandt's Cormorant, California Towhee, Black Phoebe, and in center, White-crowned Sparrow. (June 20, Oakland)

June 20, Berkeley: In the afternoon I visited the campus of the University of California in Berkeley, and hiked for about a mile up Strawberry Canyon, where there is a botanical garden. This was dry, brushy habitat, similar to L.A.'s Griffith Park which I had hiked a few days earlier. Thanks to the Merlin app I was able to identify the song of a Wilson's Warbler, and soon got some good photos. I also saw a Pacific Slope Flycatcher (life bird!), Swainson's Thrush, Brown Creeper (winter bird!?), Steller's Jay, Red-shouldered Hawk, Spotted Towhee, Lesser Goldfinches, Black Phoebes, and even a Wild Turkey! I'm almost certain I saw a Hutton's Vireo (life bird), but the photo is inconclusive.

Birds 2023 June 20

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Wilson's Warbler, Swainson's Thrush, Steller's Jay, Brown Creeper, Red-shouldered Hawk, Spotted Towhee (M), Wild Turkey, and in right-center, Pacific Slope Flycatcher. (June 20, Berkeley)

And thus concluded the last real birding expedition of my "grand tour" out west. (Nevertheless, I did see some significant birds from the train in various northwestern states over the next couple days, as will be explained soon.) As usual, the above photo montages, including some closeup images and additional photos, can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological photo gallery page.

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 30 Oct 2023, 12: 55 AM

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