So I actually managed to get out twice this weekend – yay! Yesterday, I decided to revisit Lake Merced, which I’ve only birded once before, back in April.
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
I first stopped off at the parking lot at the end of Sunset Blvd. and moseyed around there. Like before, there were dragon boat races going on, which limited the waterfowl opportunities. In the shrubs were Song Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, many Brewer’s Blackbirds. Atop a telephone pole were a few dozen European Starlings, clucking and whirring as they are wont to do.
Walking to the bridge by the golf course, I saw a flash of yellow in the shoreside reeds. Warbler? It was small and distant, but enlarging the photo I took of it showed it to be a Common Yellowthroat, my first of the year. There wasn’t much else in the water save for an American Coot and a couple of Western(?) Grebes.
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens)
A Western Scrub Jay foraged in the hillside below the parking lot, and a Black Phoebe flycaught nearby. Many Double-crested Cormorants were clustered in one end of the lake, disturbed by the rowboat racing.
Western (L) & Clark’s (R) Grebes (Aechomophorus occidentalis & A. clarkii)
I next walked down to the little fishing pier, taking a few minutes to find the trail, which is rather overgrown. Not much to see other than a few dozen Double-crested Cormorants roosting in a nearby tree, a Western and Clark’s Grebe swimming together, and a Great Blue Heron atop an overturned fishing dinghy, peering intently into the waters.
Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus)
Having birded my fill here, I drove to the southeast shore to see what was by the concrete bridge. More Coots, many Rock Pigeons, Mallards, and Western Gulls feeding on the handouts people were leaving, more Brewer’s Blackbirds and a few Red-winged Blackbirds.
Can you find the birds in this photo? 🙂
Dozens of Double-crested Cormorants floated and perched in a twiggy area, and two juvenile Red-necked Phalaropes swam quickly into the reeds when they caught me looking at them. Another Western Scrub Jay was chasing American Robins around, and a Marsh Wren called from the reeds.
Still, nothing too unusual here, so I packed it up and decided, since the day was yet young, and I had no other plans, to pay the Chain of Lakes in Golden Gate Park a visit.
Chain of Lakes consists of the 3 lakes along 43rd Ave. in the park. Starting at South Lake, which other than a few Mallards being fed by an elderly Indian woman, was bird-free, I headed north towards Middle Lake.
Middle Lake proved quite productive indeed, with a flurry of Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Pygmy Nuthatches, and Brown Creepers in the trees, chattering noisily. A Winter Wren made a mad dash for cover, sensing that I was about to get a photo of it, and a Townsend’s Warbler foraged with the Chickadees in the foliage.
Light conditions here were pretty awful, as it was overcast and in the shade, requiring the use of ISO1600 to get anything like an acceptable shutter speed, but I was able to capture some useable images of most of the little tree birds I saw.
Belted Kingfisher, female (Ceryle alcyon)
Heading around the lake (really more of a bog for most of it) I heard a rattling call. Kingfisher? A hundred feet later, a distinct blue and white form confirmed it – a Belted Kingfisher was hanging out. It opened its mouth, wide, then wider. I expectantly waited for another of its distinctive calls when gack, gack, out came a pellet! Although Owls are well-known for their pellets, virtually all birds eject them. Most, being from much smaller birds, are not noticeable.
Continuing to North Lake, on a whim I decided to check out the lawn by the restrooms, as I usually bypass it, and it proved quite birdy indeed! Several dozen American Robins foraged in the grass and a flock of Dark-eyed Juncoes flitted about.
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
Zip! Chiik! A Hairy Woodpecker zoomed by, landing in a nearby tree and hanging around for a few pictures.
Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia)
A flash of yellow in the bushes caught my eye – a warbler? No, a female Western Tanager. But different flash of yellow was – a Yellow Warbler (LIFER!). It didn’t hang around very long, however, and I had to content myself with watching a couple of Anna’s Hummingbirds go into territorial snits with each other as they fed from a blooming tree.
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)
Walking around North Lake made me glad I’d seen a lot on the green, as it was surprisingly empty of birds. A few Mallards and Coots, a Great Egret (in contrast to the more usual Great Blue Heron that’s often there), a Black-crowned Night Heron, a California Towhee, a Song Sparrow, and that’s about it. Even the gang of Common Ravens that is nearly always heard, if not seen, was absent.
I returned to the lawn, but didn’t see anything I hadn’t seen half an hour earlier. A woman with an off-leash dog running around probably didn’t help matters.
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
Birded out, I walked back to the car. Quite a satisfying birdy Labor Day, I must say, even if the weather was less-than-ideal for photography.
– American Coot
– American Robin
– Anna’s Hummingbird
– Belted Kingfisher
– Black Phoebe
– Black-crowned Night Heron
– Brewer’s Blackbird
– Brown Creeper
– California Towhee
– Chestnut-backed Chickadee
+ Common Yellowthroat
– Dark-eyed Junco
– Double-crested Cormorant
– European Starling
– Great Blue Heron
– Great Egret
– Hairy Woodpecker
– Marsh Wren
– Pygmy Nuthatch
– Red-necked Phalarope
– Red-winged Blackbird
– Rock Pigeon
– Song Sparrow
– Townsend’s Warbler
– Western Grebe
– Western Gull
– Western Scrub Jay
– Western Tanager
– White-crowned Sparrow
– Winter Wren
* Yellow Warbler
+ = year bird, * = life bird