Week of 11/29

Field Journal – Bolinas Lagoon

Date and Location:

11/29/23 – Bolinas Lagoon/Pine Gulch, Marin County, CA

Site Description and Conditions:

Mostly cloudy and cool, high 50s; variable breeze. Tidal estuary habitats directly on the San Andreas Fault (!!!) with a designation on the list of wetlands of international importance (Ramsar Convention). The relatively large lagoon is adjacent to small forested areas and a small creek. Shallow waters, rising with the tide. Not for the faint of heart/West Coasters afraid of getting their feet wet. Habitats allow for a diversity of species; numerous ducks/shorebirds.

Narrative: As in the previous visits to marsh habitats, this trip yielded a tremendous diversity of species with incredibly large groups of individuals. Some were repeats, like the Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, and American Avocet (only a few here). The largest groups seen at this location included hundreds of the American Widgeon, Long-billed Curlew with its distinctive bill and color, numerous Willets, along with many Buffleheads and Great Egrets. A large group of Crow flew above as well. A tremendous diversity of shorebirds as seen on our last couple of trips, exhibiting similar behavior. A beautiful Belted Kingfisher made an appearance as well.

Species Account: Long-billed Curlew – Numenius americanus

The largest sandpiper in North America at 50-65 cm long, with a disproportionate bill up to 22 cm, exhibiting reverse sexual dimorphism (females are larger with longer bills). Exhibits behavior similar to other sandpipers, feeding on invertebrates. Known as the “candlestick bird”, this bird was the namesake for the former Candlestick Park. Light cinnamon color, very distinct, with a unique call using two notes, the last note being slightly higher.


{{See previous weeks for home birding; some weeks have multiple trips attached}}

Week of 11/15

Field Journal – Shorebird Marsh/Marta’s Marsh

Date and Location:

11/15/23 – Shorebird Marsh overlook/Marta’s Marsh, Marin County, CA

Site Description and Conditions:

Cloudy and cool; variable breeze. We stopped at two locations along this trip, starting with the Shorebird Marsh overlook…Flat, shallow waters with some tiny and sandy “beach-like” areas mixed in with some small shrubs in the vicinity. Sweeping views of the water and ample views beyond Corte Madera Marsh. The second location was quite similar, with a trail leading deeper into the water near Corte Madera Marsh (Marta’s Marsh); these waters were more expansive with less beachy areas around.


At our first location, we observed a variety of shorebird species with numerous individuals each; hundreds of Dunlin, American Avocet, Least Sandpiper were seen along with large populations (in the dozens each) of the Northern Shoveler, American Widgeon, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, Black-bellied Plover, and Black-necked Stilt. Many of these were seen for the first time, but many exhibited similar feeding and group behavior. At our second location, we came across significant numbers of the Green-winged Teal, Long-billed Dowitcher, European Starling, and a huge group of the House Finch. We saw some new rails and stilts as well, including the Black-necked Stilt, Ridgway’s Rail, along with some egrets and herons. Notably, we also witnessed a few Starlings under attack by a Peregrine Falcon and a Sharp-shinned Hawk attempting to prey upon a meadowlark. Quite an active trip with a tremendous number of species, many of which were new.

Species Account: American Avocet – Recurvirostra americana

A beautiful shorebird with an upturned bill (twice as long as its head) and distinctive feeding pattern, 16-20 inches in length, digging its bill into the water in a sweeping back-and-forth motion, found in groups as we saw on our route, into the hundreds in some cases along shallow waterfronts and wetlands. Pictured is the non-breeding adult; breeding adults have an orange wash from the neck up. Notably, Avocets exhibit anti-predatory behavior, building nests in usually inaccessible areas…when predators do approach, several individuals work to distract the predator.

Home Time – Thanksgiving, Chain of Lakes to SF Botanical Garden

For this week’s extended birding session I spent time in GGP, starting with the Chain of Lakes and North Lake, a location I frequented before. This time there were quite a few racoons along North Lake, completely comfortable with human presence; assuming they were preparing for the winter season. Many of the same ducks and species seen on the first occasion were seen again…other birders were also here as in the first trip. Very friendly Mallards and American Coots were found here, along with some Cormorants perched on some wood. Once again, a beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk flew overhead (quite a few this month when out birding) along with multiple Sharpies and a pair of Cooper’s Hawks. Along the trail south, Merlin picked up a Barn Owl, but I was unable to make it out with my binos or my nearsighted eyes. The walk yielded many common species already seen, including multiple warblers including the Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped and Townsend’s. Upon entering the Botanical Garden I was greeted with MY FAVORITE Canada Geese (about a dozen) before seeing other common perching birds, including the Pacific Wren, a Red-winged Blackbird, and another Red-shouldered flying overhead, loud as ever.


Merlin Meditation – Chain of Lakes, SF Botanical Garden

During this trip I made sure to stay as quiet as possible around North Lake; cars on the other side made it difficult to use Merlin to identify birds but it was able to pick up a Barn Owl. I stayed in the area and along the trail to see what I could pick up; the app did a very good job with birds at lower heights, but was unable to pick up calls from the taller trees due to ambient noise. Nonetheless, I picked up most of the birds that I was able to visualize, including the warblers listed. The Red-shouldered Hawk, identified with Merlin, has a very distinct and loud resonant call.

Week of 11/1

Field Journal – Mill Valley/Mt. Tam

Date and Location:

11/1/23 – Mill Valley/Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County, CA

Site Description and Conditions:

Warming to the mid 60s; Early fog yielding to full sun; slight breeze. We stopped at two main locations along this trip: the Mill Valley Air Force Station and Mt. Tamalpais State Park with a side excursion to “The Pole” nearby giving us beautiful views. Upon arrival temperatures were much cooler, with somewhat damp conditions, but quickly warmed with sunny skies. Lower elevations were covered in moderate fog early. Mill Valley AFS gave us good views of some open coniferous forest edge habitats with some classic scrub and expansive looks of the Valley below us, allowing for excellent observation of birds in flight from a high elevation. At the second site we were able to see more panoramic views of Stinson Beach below us from a high elevation, with more forest edge habitats including various trees that were being utilized by woodpeckers, many with bored holes present; one open grassy area as well.


Upon arrival we were able to view many perching birds, including high numbers of the Pine Siskin and Dark-eyed Junco, before observing many Scrub-Jays and Stellar’s Jays, easily seen under full sun with their striking blue, many flying with food across the valley below. A few Red-tailed Hawks flew overhead; this area and Mt. Tam seem to be popular with woodpeckers…Acorn Woodpeckers were seen at both locations along with one Hairy Woodpecker. It was very interesting to view the ways in which these species bore into trees up close. At Mill Valley AFS we saw two Merlin, striking falcons making a rare appearance for the class. Our second stop yielded some raptors flying overhead including the Northern Harrier and Red-tailed Hawk, along with a large group of Band-tailed Pigeons flying overhead.

Species Account: Merlin – Falco columbarius

A falcon in the family Falconidae, one of the smaller falcons measuring roughly 9-13 inches in length with a wingspan from 20-30 inches. Can be found in the types of habitats on this trip, particularly open forests and areas near the coast where shorebirds are found. Dark on the back with a paler chest, some yellow around the eyes and on the bill. Females are slightly larger than males, and many in North America have adjusted to urban life to the point where many are forgoing migration.

Home Time – Sutro Baths, Lover’s Ln.

On Nov. 12 and Nov. 13 I spent time birding at two separate locations; Sutro Baths on the 12th and Lover’s Lane in the Presidio the following day. Instead of returning to the Lands End trail I decided to take a look at the adjacent Sutro Baths expecting to see some gulls, shorebirds, and/or waterfowl. Upon arriving I was greeted by multiple gulls: Bonaparte’s and the Ring-billed, along with numerous Brandt’s and Double-crested Cormorants, a Great Egret, and a Great Blue Heron. Notably, the ruins were covered in guano…Additional common species seen included multiple Dark-eyed Juncos and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, presumably making their way down the hills from Lands End, along with some swifts overhead.


The next day I checked out Lover’s Lane in the southwest corner of the Presidio; notable for very high Eucalyptus globulus along the route. Here, I was expecting to see some common species we had already seen along with some less common ones; I walked along the route both in the curving forested area and along the edge of the trees, adjacent to some old military housing with a better view of flying birds above. During my personal birding in November I was able to get multiple Red-shouldered Hawks in the area, including at this location. Common species observed included the Dark-eyed Junco, Black Phoebe, and House Finch, among others; this was a slightly underwhelming trip.



Merlin Meditations – Lover’s Ln.

On the 13th I spent time walking around this area and turned on Merlin for the duration of a hike through the Presidio, without observing the entire time. I paid attention to the very loud call of the Red-shouldered Hawk and the American Crow, taking time to differentiate between the Crow and Raven. Vocalizations were more pronounced with elevation from east to west; the higher up I got into forested areas the more species Merlin was able to pick up.


Week of 10/18

Field Journal – Redwood Creek/Frank Valley

Date and Location:

10/18/23 – Redwood Creek/Frank Valley

Site Description and Conditions:

60s; cool, warming to full sun after a foggy start. This trip was split into two adjacent sites; the first site along Banducci Rd included a trail with multiple habitats, along forested areas with some smaller shrubs and scrub, along with some species like the Stinging Nettle. Trails were mostly flat along this stretch. The Western side on the trail exhibited more forest-type habitats, while the Eastern side was more expansive with better views of birds in flight.

The second part of this trip took us to Frank Valley, where we started at a meadow and made our way ENE along a trail adjacent to some hills through heavy forested areas along Redwood Creek with some good open views along the way. Tree canopies were high enough to shield a lot of the sun; this made for damp conditions with cooler temperatures.

Narrative: The first part of this trip yielded good looks at a variety of birds, both perching and in flight. Overhead, large groups of Band-tailed Pigeon and Pine Siskin were seen; at ground level, there were some notable observations, including the Red-breasted Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, multiple Northern Flickers, a (supposed) Great Horned Owl, along with multiple Scrub-Jays and many Chestnut-backed Chickadees. As temperatures climbed and the sun broke through the clouds/fog, observations became much easier.

After a short drive, we were taken to a beautiful, newly-built trail through the woods, with expansive views within this forested area allowing for many observations and resonant calls to be picked up. Here, we saw finches, jays, and many wrens like the Pacific Wren, Bewick’s Wren, along with more chickadees and a few raptors flying overhead (notably, three Red-tailed Hawks).

Species Account: Red-breasted Sapsucker — Sphyrapicus ruber

A woodpecker in the family Picidae, measuring roughly 8 inches in length with a wingspan from 14-16 inches…”medium-sized” for a woodpecker. Striking plumage with red on the head and breast, a white slash on the shoulder, and white mottling on the back. Usually found in the types of habitats we saw on this trip; found in coniferous/mixed forests, with distinctive drumming noises (like Morse code) as it methodically drills into bark.

Home Time – Lands End

For this week’s Home Time I returned to Lands End to examine the same trail I visited earlier in the semester; as I expected, there were some differences in the environment, some species were no longer able to be seen up close (fewer individuals observable by sight, many of the same species were picked up by Merlin, however). Regardless, this was still a great trip as it provided both sweeping views of the ocean, birds in flight like the Brown Pelican, numerous cormorants, as well as the species I observed last time; an apparent hotspot for the Anna’s Hummingbird along the trail as well as multiple Black Phoebes, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Pygmy Nuthatches.


Merlin Meditation – Lands End

During this trip I remained stationary at one end of the trail near the Presidio Golf Course, where I was able to pick up numerous species; of note was the Dark-eyed Junco, with its very repetitive, almost perfect vocalization of the same note in succession for about 2 seconds with breaks in between. This species in particular was lighting up Merlin constantly during this entire trip, particularly near the golf course.

Week of 10/11

Field Journal – Rodeo Lagoon

Date and Location:

10/11/23 – Pt. Reyes Bird Observatory–Palomarin, Marin County, CA

Site Description and Conditions:

60s; cool under sunny skies; breezy. This site included multiple habitats, mostly along forested areas, connected by trails with many shrubs and trees of various sizes; heavy Douglas Fir in some locations, for example. Trails are up+downhill, connecting various small interconnected habitats. Some areas are more conducive for viewing overhead birds than others.


This location was different than others we have seen; more forested with very tall trees along the trails we walked through; tree canopies kept many habitats relatively cool and shielded from wind. We has the opportunity to view a netting of a Hermit Thrush, along with how netting works along field lines…was very interesting to see how birds are tagged, weighed, examined, and logged at the field station. Once again, the dedication of the birding community never ceases to amaze. Among the species observed, a common variety of perching birds such as the Purple Finch, Spotted Towhee, and Chestnut-backed Chickadee, among other species like the California Scrub-Jay and some raptors/accipiters overhead as temperatures warmed gradually.

Species Account: Hermit Thrush – Catharus guttatus

A small passerine in the family Turdidae, measuring roughly 7 inches in length with a wingspan just under a foot. Medium brown with some dark spots on the breast; found in wooded areas, foraging and hopping around on the ground or through shrubbery looking for insects and berries. Beautiful songs with notable distinct introductory notes followed by flute-like descending phrases. When the bird was examined at the field station, it was remarkably small and very cooperative.

Home Time – Oakhurst, Willow Creek Trail

As this week was Fall Break, I decided to some extra birding on a trip to Madera County adjacent to the Sierra National Forest/Yosemite National Park in the town of Oakhurst. I went on two birding trips, one near the place I was staying in the hills of Oakhurst, and another on the Willow Creek Trail just north of Bass Lake. The Willow Creek trail trip was very peaceful and relaxing; was able to hear many different birds vocalize without any interference, everything was crystal clear and every note could be heard. I was able to observe many common species like the Hose Finch and Lesser Goldfinch, along with the Acorn Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker. In this area, the Mountain Chickadee appeared, much different than the Chestnut-backed seen out west in SF/Marin; these were seen with the Ruby-crowned Kinglet and White-breasted Nuthatch.


On a second trip I walked around near the place I was staying for a few days, with expansive views of various mountainsides. I heard distinct, loud calls of the Killdeer, saw a couple of Red-shouldered Hawks flying above, along with many of the other finches, woodpeckers, and other species like the House Wren and Steller’s Jay that were seen on the other trip. I was able to see better views of the unique Mountain Chickadee, along with up-close views of the Oak Titmouse. A beautiful location to bird with the opportunity to hear every single call without interference.


Merlin Meditation – Oakhurst/Bass Lake/Willow Creek Trail

Throughout this trip I used Merlin at various locations to see if I could pick up any unique birds since this was a much different location; higher altitudes with large, coniferous forests and mountains surrounding the area. I was taken aback by how many killdeer there were; they were very loud when vocalizing, louder than many other birds I was able to listen to through Merlin.

Week of 10/4

Field Journal – Rodeo Lagoon

Date and Location:

10/4/23 – Rodeo Lagoon, Marin County, CA

Site Description and Conditions:

(roughly) Mid 60s warming to 70 (deg. F) under sunny skies; breezy. The site included multiple habitats, including a coastal lagoon, beach/shorelines, adjacent scrub + brush, and adjacent trails with bordering forested areas, with many shrubs and trees of various sizes. Panoramic views of the lagoon, and the oceanside, including “Bird Rock”. Various trails connect these habitats and allow for sweeping views; some trails are uphill allowing for a top-down view of the lagoon; Rodeo Lagoon is surrounded by hillsides except for the beach-facing quadrant.


This location provided a variety of habitats where a huge number of species are found; waterfowl/ducks/shorebirds as well as perching birds in more forested areas and shrubs (e.g. Orange-crowned Warbler, Pine Siskin, Violet-green Swallow); overhead, some raptors/accipiters were found (Turkey Vulture, one unknown accipiter), and a variety of birds on the shoreline with expansive views of Bird Rock where many Brandt’s Cormorants and Brown Pelicans were seen. Notable numbers of the Greater White-fronted Goose were observed flying overhead along with Canada Geese in V formation, as well as a large group of Vaux’s Swifts. A couple of otters greeted us from the lagoon as well…quite a diversity of species here.

Species Account: Canada Goose – Branta canadensis

MY FAVORITE BIRD, the Canada Goose, a true master of its domain. Found to be intelligent, exhibiting remarkable group behavior. Known to use crosswalks better than humans, defecate wherever and whenever in defiance of humans, with an unmistakable honk and broad distribution. Found from sea to shining sea. Usually unintimidated by humans, these are roughly 30-40 in. in length with a wingspan of 4-6 ft.

Canada Goose. Fenway, Boston, MA

Home Time – Stinson Beach

For this week’s Home Time I decided to turn a beach trip into an impromptu birding experience. While enjoying some time on Stinson Beach I noticed a variety of gull species congregating, so I checked them out. Huge flocks of the Heermann’s Gull, many of them small/juvenile, were moving together across the beach, all in sync. Other gulls seen on this excursion included the Western Gull, also seen in groups but much smaller, and the Ring-billed Gull. Some Brandt’s Cormorants were seen in the distance on some rocks relaxing, as some crows/ravens/Turkey Vultures flew overhead. An underwhelming trip, but notable for the number of Heermann’s Gulls seen.


Merlin Meditation – Stinson Beach

On Stinson Beach I used Merlin to identify the sounds of different gulls, and was able to differentiate between the calls of the Heermann’s, Western, and Ring-billed. The Western exhibits the “traditional” gull sound, while the Heermann’s is very different and unique; the Ring-billed sometimes sounded like a door opening/distinct squeaking in the call.

Week of 9/27

Field Journal – Hawk Hill

Date and Location:

09/27/23 – Hawk Hill, Marin County, CA

Site Description and Conditions:

Mid 60s warming to 70 (deg. F) under sunny and hazy skies; winds light and variable. The site included multiple habitats, including coastal bluffs, adjacent scrub + brush, and panoramic views of adjacent hills, the Golden Gate, and the oceanside. Various trails connect these habitats and allow for sweeping views; elevation also contributed to the ease of viewing various species over the ocean. The trails used loop around Hawk Hill; at lower elevations mostly viewing coastal scrub habitats.


The focus of this trip was to observe raptors and multiple accipiters while associating with the GGRO hawk watchers. It was quite insightful to see how the team worked to observe, count, and identify various raptors…their dedication was quite impressive. We received a presentation from a GGRO rep who gave us a quick education on identifying sharpies vs Cooper’s which was very helpful. On our way up the trail we identified numerous scrub species, like the California Scrub-Jay, before we perched atop the hill to observe raptors/accipiters. Numerous Turkey Vultures, swifts, Crows, Ravens, and some Cooper’s Hawks/Sharp-shinned Hawks were observed, many riding thermals and circling above at high elevations.

Species Account: Sharp-shinned Hawk – Accipiter striatus

An accipiter in the family Accipitridae, this is one of the smaller hawks in North America with a wingspan around 20 in. Gray with pale orange barring; similar plumage to the Cooper’s Hawk, with a smaller body, more squared-off tail, and quicker wingbeats. Usually feeds on smaller birds captured in flight, stalking feeders in search of prey. 15 were observed on this trip along with its lookalike, the Cooper’s, very high up in elevation…many were very small and somewhat difficult to identify.

Home Time – Crissy Field Lagoon

For this week’s Home Time I chose to explore Crissy Field to identify some shorebirds/ducks/waterfowl. I frequent this area once in a while to walk around; I figured I might as well do some birding here since I’ve previously seen many bird species in the area. On this trip I was able to observe a decent amount of species including the Great Blue Heron, Least Sandpiper, American Avocet, and American Widgeon, among others. This location was notable for its shallow waters, similar to other locations visited this semester. Was nice to see the protected/conserved nature of the lagoon and adjacent areas.


Great Blue Heron. Crissy Field Lagoon

Merlin Meditation – Crissy Field Lagoon

Within the area I was able to stop for a bit and focus on the vocalizations of the Vaux’s Swift; there were a few flying overhead that were able to be observed and were relatively loud, even though they fly very quickly and are very small…they had a very distinct vocalization with repetitive, quick, almost tapping noises (somewhat like Morse code)…everything about them was fast and swift.

Week 3

Field Journal – Las Gallinas

Date and Location:

09/13/23 – Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District, Marin County, CA

Site Description and Conditions:

65-75 deg. F, steady warming under sunny skies; winds light and variable. The site at Las Gallinas included several habitats, including multiple adjacent shallow bodies of water/swamp flats bordering meadows. Trails connect these bodies of water and allow for sweeping views with flat land and visibility well over five miles in all directions.


This site was notable for its sweeping views of multiple bodies of shallow water, allowing for unobstructed sightings of numerous species. The weather was very seasonable and warm, with full sun for the majority of the trip. Perching birds, shorebirds, and waterfowl were observed at this location. Without moving more than a quarter mile, one could observe finches like the House Finch, large flocks of Canada Goose, multiple raptors like the Northern Harrier, Turkey Vulture, and Red-tailed Hawk, and large numbers of swifts flying above. After walking through trails to view the multiple shallow bodies of water that followed, a large number of shorebirds and waterfowl were observed in groups. Notably, these included common species like the Mallard, White Pelican (great views), Snowy Egret, and Great Egret. The elusive Sora was spotted as well; the phrase “quail on the trail” was introduced on this trip.

Species Account: Great Egret – Ardea alba

A white heron in the family Ardeidae, this is a striking, beautiful, long-necked bird, standing in some cases up to 1 m tall, commonly found in shallow waters where it slowly stalks prey. Bright white, with dark black legs, distinctive yellow bill (in the Americas). This bird is usually mixed in with other egrets and herons in similar habitats.

Home Time – Lands End, GGP (North Lake)

On September 18, I made my first of multiple birding voyages at Lands End. Absolutely breathtaking views of the coast with multiple trails looping through the cliffs with many different plant species, including a striking amount of monk’s cress (Tropaeolum majus). Many species seemed to congregate around these areas making for close-up views of Anna’s Hummingbird, multiple finches and sparrows with numerous, constant vocalizations. The variation in species led me to come back to this trail on future occasions. Views of the ocean below yielded good looks at cormorants and pelicans, many perched on large rocks.


On September 25, I explored North Lake, part of the GGP Chain of Lakes. The ducks and waterfowl here were very friendly, very photogenic, and approached me as if they wanted a snack or just a good Instagram photo. I was able to get some good looks at Mallards, the American Coot, cormorants, as well as numerous perching birds along the trail. Multiple other birders were seen on the trail. These two trips (Lands End, North Lake) encouraged me to return due to the diversity of species found and ease of identification.


Merlin Meditation – Lands End

Due to the numerous vocalizations heard at this location, I decided to take some time to stop and listen for different birds at a trail looping through Lands End; the song of the Brown Creeper was notable along with the Anna’s; I paid extra attention to the Brown Creepers’ very distinctive loud, high pitched calls and longer songs.


Week 2

Field Journal – Muir Beach Overlook & Slide Ranch


Date and Location:

09/06/23 – Muir Beach Overlook/Slide Ranch, Marin County, CA

Site Description and Conditions:

Mid 60s (deg. F) under cloudy skies; winds light and variable. Notably, the site at Muir Beach Overlook included various possible habitats, including coastal bluffs, seacliffs, forested areas with bordering large monterey cypress trees, and adjacent scrub + brush. Various trails connect these habitats and allow for sweeping views; elevation also contributed to the ease of viewing various species over the ocean. Slide Ranch, at a lower elevation, was comprised of more coastal bluff/some scattered forested areas; prime interest in eucalyptus trees that may be a habitat for the Great Horned Owl.


The Muir Beach Overlook was notable for the variety of habitats in the small area that was covered, allowing for a variety of species to be seen. A bobcat was also spotted eating a morning snack on arrival (very exciting). This was not the warmest day to be out birding, which may have contributed to the lack of accipiters/less raptors seen than expected (lack of thermals, etc.), but 3 Turkey Vultures and 2 Red-tailed Hawks were observed. Marine-focused species like the Brandt’s Cormorant, Brown Pelican, and Western Gull were seen with unobstructed views of many perched on large rocks at the water’s edge. A variety of smaller species were seen in scrub habitats, like the Bushtit and Wrentit, along with other common species like the House Finch, Yellow Warbler and Western Tanager. Slide Ranch was a unique location due to the eucalyptuses that were directly adjacent to less forested/scrub habitats; after scouting out a Great Horned Owl, we finally observed one…very beautiful and stoically perched in a eucalyptus tree, looking down on us.

Species Account: Bushtit – Psaltriparus minimus

A passerine in the family Aegthalidae (comprising the long-tailed tits), this is one of the smallest birds in North America with a length around 3.5 inches. Very dull, usually gray with a slightly brighter underside, stubby bill and plump, ball-like overall shape. This bird has a scratchy, quick, high-pitched call; usually found in brush habitats in Western North America. Five were seen on this trip in the brush/scrub, identifiable first by sound.

Bushtit - Paul Fenwick


Home Time – Panhandle

For this week’s Home Time I chose to explore the Panhandle east of Golden Gate Park. I usually try to walk the Panhandle back and forth every day, and I’m always hearing birds along my route so I decided to spend some time identifying common species that make there way here. Many crows, ravens, and feral pigeons were observed along the route, along with Dark-eyed Juncos; these species were not shy at all and crossed my path on multiple occasions. Other common species observed included the House Finch, Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Anna’s Hummingbird. Since many of these birds were previously observed/seen again many times, it was a slightly underwhelming trip.


Merlin Meditation – Panhandle

Within the Panhandle I focused on the Anna’s Hummingbird for this Merlin Meditation. I was taken aback by the Anna’s very loud, very scratchy, and resonant calls relative to its size; while there were only a handful here they were one of the most recognizable species due to their unique call. In my opinion, one of the most unique and beautiful birds I’ve been able to see so far in the area.


Field Journal 1- GGP

Date: August 30, 2023

Location: 37°46’23.7″N 122°27’18.6″W {{{Horseshoe Pits/Northeast Entrance to McLaren Lodge}}}

Site Description+Conditions: 70 deg. F under mostly sunny skies, light westerly wind… This excursion took us to Golden Gate Park, through various trails at differing heights, beginning at the northeast entrance, then mostly south towards the Conservatory of Flowers/McLaren Lodge before looping back. While some areas in full sun were considerably warmer than those shaded by larger trees, eucalyptus etc., conditions remained stable throughout the duration of this inaugural voyage. Many different species of trees, flowering shrubs/plants, etc. provided various resources for the birds on site.

Narrative: While the birds were a little shy at first in some areas, we eventually spotted smaller common species near the northeast entrance (under some shade from the large trees in the vicinity), including the Chestnut-backed Chickadee, numerous Pygmy Nuthatches, Dark-eyed Juncos, House Finches, and a couple of Common Ravens found higher up in the larger trees. In summary, we found an abundant diversity of duller-colored species in these shaded areas. Upon moving to warmer areas in full sun, more colored species were found, some feeding on berries/fruit such as the Townsend’s Warbler, Western Tanager, Anna’s Hummingbird, along with multiple woodpeckers and jays. Some of these latter species are on their way south in their fall/winter migrations.

Species Account: Townsend’s Warbler — Setophaga townsendi

These birds stand out with their bright yellow chests; more mature individuals will be more brightly colored and males will exhibit a black throat. All exhibit a dark crown and dark cheeks surrounded by a yellow crown. These birds breed in the Northwest U.S. before migrating south to Costa Rica, Mexico and Guatemala for the winter. They travel in groups, often with other warblers. Closely associated with the Hermit Warbler; these two species are known to interbreed.

Pictured: female/immature Townsend’s Warbler

For more:


Sibley, David Allen (2000). The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Knopf. p. 438