MonthMarch 2020

Field Journal Entry #6

Date: 03/05/20



309 Smith Ranch Rd, San Rafael US-CA 38.02562, -122.51764


Site Description:

We went out next to a water treatment plant in San Rafael. We followed a trail that had many small ponds and bodies of water- perfect places to find plenty of birds. There were even a couple of small islands in one of the ponds in which we observed many birds resting. The trail was mostly a dirt road with some streams lining alongside it. It resembled a rural countryside- lots of open fields of grass and shrubbery. The terrain was very open and the weather was very sunny. The key bird species here was the Red-winged Blackbird. We observed hundreds of them laid out over the telephone lines, the trees- everywhere.


Species Account:

The Black-crowned Night-Heron is quite an interesting bird. I first spotted it on the one of the little islands in the first “pond” that we came upon. The professor pointed them out and I took a look to find them just perching within some of the shrubbery on the island. They were simply perched- it appeared as though they were just watching for something- prey, predators, etc. After reading up on them, I realized this behavior was normal as the black-crowned night-herons are nocturnal predators, and that they tend to rest on branches in shady areas during the day. Their normal prey include fish and frogs. Night-herons have very stocky appearances due to their tucked-in necks along with red, beady eyes. The adults are generally grayish with black backs and a noticeable black “cap”.

Black-crowned Night-Heron - Jeff Timmons



It was quite interesting that there were so many birds of different species residing right next to a water treatment plant. The weather was once again very sunny out so that played well to our advantage. We saw an enormous plethora of birds- from small house finches to double-crested cormorants. The one bird I saw that really caught my eye though, was undoubtedly the mute Swan. Seeing a swan in real life for the first time and so up close was fascinating. Knowing what swans represent and about how they have monogamous mating for life made for a unique situation, as the swan we saw was actually alone. We stayed in the same area the entire time, which allowed us to fully experience the whole place.




Mute Swan - Jack Bushong

Field Journal Entry #5





201–291 Pacific Way, Muir Beach US-CA 37.86112, -122.57548


Site description:

The site we visited was more on the edge of a populated area, so there wasn’t a whole forest of trees. We saw a variety of environments, the most prevalent of which were a sort of open chaparral mixed with marshland and some trees scattered throughout. The key bird species I saw here were the American crows, Anna’s hummingbird, and some red-winged blackbirds. We also stopped by a horse trough and saw some horses (it was my first time). We traveled toward the coastline and arrived at a beach. There the key species were the Norther harrier, Brandt’s Cormorant, and the Western gull.


Species account:

The Northern Harrier was a really cool sighting. What made it even more interesting is that it actually fought with a Red-tailed hawk in the air and we got to witness it. It was really cool, and made the trip all the more exciting. We really got to observe the different way the Harrier took flight, but at the same time we never got close enough to actually observe its appearance. It never perched anywhere for us to get a good look at its body. We observed it flying above us right around the hillside, about 100 feet in the air. The Northern Harrier is a medium-sized hawk that has thin, wide wings  and a fairly long tail. They are generally foragers that hunt over low fields. They also have distinct white patches on their rump area with light brown plumage making up most of the body. They generally like to feed on rodents.



We left around 8:15am and arrived at the site at about 8:56am. This trip started off a little differently as we actually got to go birding with one of Professor Paul’s neighbors, who was actually a fairly experienced birder himself. He brought his own scope that let us get even more close up views of the animals. It was also cool to see the professor discuss the birds with his neighbor as it allowed us to get different perspectives and even more accurate sightings. I really enjoyed how we were able to stop by the beach and take in the view for a bit. It was a very sunny day and so the coastline looked amazing. It was just a refreshing time and a great day birding.


E-bird link:

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