Monday, February 8, 2021

Post #193 - San Francisco Bike-birding

Last time I recapped a super productive ride through Santa Clara County, and this time I'm going to describe some San Francisco exploits. The described ride is another holdover from the first half of January, it undertaken on January 7th and targeting three birds in different parts of the city. The first of those was the continuing Swamp Sparrow (SWSP) at Lake Merced. Reliably present for the previous nine days, the bird was favoring the scrubby hillside separating the Vista Grande Canal and the adjacent golf course. Ditching my bike in some bushes after covering the ~14 miles from my San Mateo apartment in 53 mins, I glanced skyward just in time to view a White-tailed Kite (WTKI) float buoyantly over my head. That bird was long-overdue for SF bike bird #236, and my subsequent passes of the favored hillside produced the sought SWSP for SF bike bird #237. Two-for-one, no complaints.

Digi-binoc'd Swamp Sparrow - sweet perch, right?

My first target acquired, I turned my attention towards the Hammond's Flycatcher (HAFL) which had been frequenting Moscone Park in the city's northern reaches since December 29 (10 days prior). Beyond a SF bike bird, it also be new for my cumulative Bay Area bike list, that consideration motivating me through the cityscape post-sparrow. The sun broke through while I was en route, and I hoped the flycatcher would be active given warming temperatures and associated insect activity.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not a huge fan of birding in urban parks, particularly on really nice days. Why? Well, with a group of little kids playing on one side of the flycatcher's favored area and a dozen twenty-something women doing yoga on the other, I looked like hella shady as I repeatedly scanned chain link fence which separated the two groups. I've watched enough Law and Order: Special Victims Unit to know I - as a forty-two-year-old, ugly-ass white dude - fit the pedo-perv stereotype, particularly with binoculars dangling from my neck, so I just wanted to find the bird and get the hell out of there.

"What were you doing George, birdwatching?"

Swirling hoards of White-crowned Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers monopolized the fence for 75 minutes, but a small flycatcher eventually found the gumption to join their ranks. Approaching for a better view, I noted the blocky head, small bill, eye ring, and long primaries, that final field mark rendering the tail short in appearance. The bird also drooped its left wing as other observers had noted of this individual Hammond's (SF bike bird #238). I snapped a few quick shots, jumped on the bike, and cleared out.

Digi-binoc'd Hammond's Flycatcher, thankfully without downward dog behind.....

With ample daylight on my way home, I made a one-hour stop at Heron's Head to see what I could find. That yielding nothing unusual beyond Rocky, the incredibly-approachable Rock Sandpiper which has spent the last two winters at the park's distal terminus, I continued to Yosemite Slough with hopes of Loggerhead Shrike. More common inland, the crafty predator makes only hella rare appearances in San Francisco; the individual found by Rachel Lawrence on December 23 as part of her record-breaking SF total (275 species, I think) represented the first SF sighting since 2008 and one of only a handful since 2000 (according to eBird). I missed the bird on my previous December 28 swing, and, sadly, the result was the same this time around. Can't win 'em all, and 2 outta 3 (plus the kite) ain't bad!

Digiscoped Rocky as bayshore consolation

Until next time.........

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