Saturday was the second-to-last field trip w/my Field Ornithology class before the semester ends in December, and it was a good one. I’d never birded Coyote Point before, despite driving by it hundreds of times on the way home from the office, and I was looking forward to exploring a new area along the bay. After a very confusing drive in (road construction near Coyote Point has made it nearly impossible to find if you don’t know where you’re going!), our group met up and headed out at 9am under threatening skies.
Unfortunately, on Nov 7, a cargo ship struck one of the pillars of the SF Bay Bridge, spilling 56,000 gallons of oil into the bay (see story here). We would see a some evidence of the contamination it is causing, but most of the spill seems to have gone north to the Marin county shores rather than south, where we were.
An odd solar-powered “garden” and fountain
Many Turkey Vultures were roosting in the trees next to the Visitor’s Center, some adult, many juveniles (distinguishable by their dark head skin vs. an adult’s bright red head). We didn’t see any passerines to speak of – several well-fed-looking feral cats lurking around the center probably didn’t help matters.
We walked around to a clearing and scoped the near waters by the harbor. Sure enough, a badly-oiled Western Grebe floated nearby, preening furiously in a vain attempt to rid itself of the sticky oil coating its chest.
An oiled Western Grebe
A great many Surf Scoter floated near-in, some also preening quite a lot. Some soiled Scaup were also visible through a scope. Happier was a cry of “Harlequin Duck!” I scurried over to the scope that had it, but couldn’t see anything I would identify as a Harlequin Duck, and reluctantly decided not to count this would-be life bird.
We walked down toward the golf course searching for a sapsucker that had been reported a week prior, but had no luck, so we caravaned to the harbor parking lot to bird the shoreline.
It was high tide, so we walked out on a spit in the hopes of seeing some rails and again were foiled, although we did see other shorebirds: Willet, Marbled Godwit, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, along with Ring-billed Gulls – nothing unusual. A White-tailed Kite did a fly-by, then perched on a distant treetop. We made a try for a reported Lucy’s Warbler in the fennel patch by the parking lot, but again came up empty – oddly, there were no birds at all in the patch, save for one Western Meadowlark, who high-tailed it once it saw us looking at it.
Next up we checked out a marshy area just to the south of the parking area, and after some initial slowness, a sharp-eyed classmate picked out a Wilson’s Snipe, which everyone got a very good look at, unlike the one we saw a couple of months ago at Rodeo Lagoon. One alternate-plumaged male Green-winged Teal led 2 females, and one eclipse male across the marsh to a sandbar, and some sparrows surely had fun watching us try to catch a good enough look to identify them as they flitted to and fro. We did confirm one as a Lincoln’s Sparrow, one of my favorites of the handful of sparrows I’ve seen thus far.
From here we went north by the marina, seeing Eared, Clark’s and Pied-billed Grebes, along with large numbers of Surf Scoters.
Near the mouth of the harbor, a Spotted Sandpiper hung around for a good while, giving me good views, and some OK photographs, given the poor light quality. It was starting to smell quite like rain at this point, but we were near the cars and so not too concerned by the weather.
Dunlin, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover, oh my!
The harbor’s exit proved pretty productive, with Black-bellied Plovers, Willets, Dunlin, Sanderlings, the ubiquitous Surf Scoters, Double-crested Cormorants, a lone Brown Pelican, a Common Goldeneye, more Scaup, Ruddy Ducks, Bufflehead, and surprisingly, a Common Murre. As we were getting ready to leave, Joe rued that we hadn’t gotten a better look at the Harlequin Duck, and no sooner had the said that than Elisabeth had it in her scope, and I got a good look at it (LIFER!).
It was nearly noon by this time, so we headed back to our vehicles. Our timing proved very good, as it started to rain right as we wrapped it up!
Despite the oiled birds, and noise from near by SF International Airport, this was a great trip, and I’ll be sure to add Coyote Point to my SF Peninsula birding rotation.
Number of species: 55
Mallard – Anas platyrhynchos X
Green-winged Teal – Anas crecca X
Canvasback – Aythya valisineria X
Greater Scaup – Aythya marila X
* Harlequin Duck – Histrionicus histrionicus X
Surf Scoter – Melanitta perspicillata X
Bufflehead – Bucephala albeola X
Common Goldeneye – Bucephala clangula X
Ruddy Duck – Oxyura jamaicensis X
Pied-billed Grebe – Podilymbus podiceps X
Horned Grebe – Podiceps auritus X
Eared Grebe – Podiceps nigricollis X
Western Grebe – Aechmophorus occidentalis X
Clark’s Grebe – Aechmophorus clarkii X
Brown Pelican – Pelecanus occidentalis X
Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus X
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias X
Great Egret – Ardea alba X
Snowy Egret – Egretta thula X
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura X
White-tailed Kite – Elanus leucurus X
Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis X
American Coot – Fulica americana X
Black-bellied Plover – Pluvialis squatarola X
Killdeer – Charadrius vociferus X
American Avocet – Recurvirostra americana X
Spotted Sandpiper – Actitis macularius X
Willet – Tringa semipalmata X
Long-billed Curlew – Numenius americanus X
Marbled Godwit – Limosa fedoa X
Black Turnstone – Arenaria melanocephala X
Sanderling – Calidris alba X
Least Sandpiper – Calidris minutilla X
+ Dunlin – Calidris alpina X
Wilson’s Snipe – Gallinago delicata X
Mew Gull – Larus canus X
Ring-billed Gull – Larus delawarensis X
California Gull – Larus californicus X
Western Gull – Larus occidentalis X
Glaucous-winged Gull – Larus glaucescens X
Forster’s Tern – Sterna forsteri X
Common Murre – Uria aalge X
Rock Pigeon – Columba livia X
Anna’s Hummingbird – Calypte anna X
Black Phoebe – Sayornis nigricans X
Western Scrub-Jay – Aphelocoma californica X
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos X
Common Raven – Corvus corax X
European Starling – Sturnus vulgaris X
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Dendroica coronata X
Song Sparrow – Melospiza melodia X
Lincoln’s Sparrow – Melospiza lincolnii X
White-crowned Sparrow – Zonotrichia leucophrys X
Golden-crowned Sparrow – Zonotrichia atricapilla X
Western Meadowlark – Sturnella neglecta X
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)
(+ = year bird, * = life bird)