After birding hardly at all in August, I finally made it out this morning to see what was a-wing in northwestern San Francisco.
It was a typical early September day, warm and sunny, without a cloud in sight. For those of you who don’t know SF’s somewhat unique weather patterns, the coast is socked in with fog for most of the summer, blanketing roughly the western half of the city, and keeping temperatures mild (mid-60s) in the rest of it. September is typically our most summery month, with a good two solid weeks of warm’ish weather, almost, but not quite warm enough to get the shorts out of the back of the closet, where they live for 11 months of the year.
Brown Pelicans, Heermann’s Gulls, Brandt’s Cormorants and Western Gulls on Seal Rocks
I parked at the lot at Sutro Heights Park, and made my way down to the terraces at the Cliff House to see what was on the offshore rocks, collectively called “Seal Rocks,” although a more apt name would be “Brandt’s Cormorant Rocks.” There were very few birds on the water, but numerous Brandt’s Cormorants, Western Gulls, and Brown Pelicans, and a half-dozen Heermann’s Gulls perched atop the rocks.
Brown Pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis)
The terraces at the Cliff House feature nice views south along 4-mile-long Ocean Beach, which today had a few hardy souls swimming in the surf, along with the usual cadre of surfers and kayackers.
Camera Obscura at the Cliff House
The Camera Obscura on the lower terrace was closed and appears to be in disrepair – a shame since I’ve never been in it, and it’s an interesting-looking building.
Western Gulls (Larus occidentalis)
A pair of obliging alternate-plumaged Western Gulls posed for me on a ledge, but even they weren’t enough to make me stay, so up the hill, past Louie’s, and down to the ruins of Sutro Baths I went.
Sutro Baths ruins
Sutro Baths, once the largest indoor pool in the world, burned down in the 1960s, and is now a nice set of ruins, with very good birdwatching sometimes, and lovely views anytime it’s not socked in with fog.
Western Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens)
On the path down, I saw little other than Brewer’s Blackbirds and a single Western Scrub Jay – the area was recently completely cleared of invasive brush, and much bird habitat was lost, although it will be much better once the newly-planted native species grow up.
The Cliff House’s 5th incarnation, this one a touch modern for my liking.
In what’s left of the former main pool was a single juvenile Red-necked Phalarope, being mercilessly harassed by a nearby flock of Brewer’s Blackbirds, and some Western Gulls came and splashed, and went.
Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
Walking along the edge of the pool, where I’ve often found Black Turnstones and Surfbirds turned up nothing at all, so I turned around and hoofed it up to the observation deck at the northwest end of the ruins.
Heermann’s Gull (Larus heermanni)
Here again I saw little, mostly more of the same save for a single Common Murre far off in the water. Although I didn’t have my scope, a scan with my bins showed a very empty ocean by and large.
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)
I walked up the newly-refurbished stairs leading from the terrace up to the Coastal Trail. Hummingbirds peeped and popped, but remained out of sight, but a curious Black Phoebe came close to check me out.
One of the pair of lions guarding the entrance to Sutro Heights Park
I crossed the Great Highway and entered Sutro Heights Park, one of my favorite parks in the city, once home to Adolph Sutro’s mansion and statue garden. He built a train from downtown to his mansion so the public could enjoy the art in the garden, but sadly little of it remains, and that which does isn’t in great condition.
Parapet ruin of Sutro’s mansion
Much like the baths, I saw little at the park other than a Cooper’s(?) Hawk that did a brief fly-by, a few Anna’s Hummingbirds, and Common Ravens overhead. I enjoyed the lovely view south for a few, then walked back, seeing few birds indeed.
View south from Sutro Heights Park
Although not a very birdy excursion, it was still great to be outside enjoying the San Francisco summer – hopefully I’ll have better luck tomorrow at Lake Merced.
– Anna’s Hummingbird
– Black Oystercatcher (heard)
– Black Phoebe
– Brandt’s Cormorant
– Brewer’s Blackbird
– Brown Pelican
– California Towhee
– Common Murre
– Common Raven
– Cooper’s(?) Hawk
– Great Egret
– Heermann’s Gull
– Red-necked Phalarope
– Rock Pigeon
– Swallow sp.
– Turkey Vulture
– Western Gull
– Western Scrub Jay
– White-crowned Sparrow