By Ilana DeBare
The day began clear and cold, so cold that the grass sparkled with frost until mid-morning in some areas.
Over 130 enthusiastic birders fanned out across San Francisco and northern San Mateo County on Tuesday in the 33rd annual San Francisco Christmas Bird Count. The morning chill soon gave way to a crisp, sunny day — perfect for birding.
The preliminary total announced at the CBC Compilation dinner was 182 species, although by Wednesday the count compilers had raised that total to 186 — which would beat last year’s record of 184 species. (The total may still change slightly as additional reports come in and rare sightings are verified.)
Among the highlights reported at the dinner:
- Two species that had never been found in the S.F. count before — Swainson’s Thrush in western Golden Gate Park, and Eastern Phoebe at the San Francisco Zoo.
- Other unusual sightings: Sooty Shearwater, Brown Booby, Orchard Oriole, Bullock’s Oriole, Burrowing Owl and Ferruginous Hawk.
- Over 40 Western Snowy Plovers on Ocean Beach near Golden Gate Park, and probably about 80 on all of Ocean Beach. That is an encouraging number of this threatened species on this very busy beach!
- Large numbers of Double-crested Cormorants along the southeastern waterfront, including Pier 94, where GGAS volunteers do habitat restoration each month. Plus lots of birds, people, and pinnipeds competing for fish at Mission Rock Resort. It’s herring run season!
- 957 Red-throated Loons at Lake Merced, along with four pairs of Marbled Murrelets flying offshore. The Lake Merced team also spotted two Ancient Murrelets and some White-throated Swifts.
- Six woodpecker species in eastern Golden Gate Park.
- American Bittern in western Golden Gate Park.
- Some impressive young birders (including a 10-year-old expert birder) on the San Bruno Mountain team.
- At Mussel Rock in Pacifica, Joe Morlan noted that, “in the place where the feral cat colony used to be, there was a nice fat coyote.”
- The team covering downtown San Francisco, aka the “pigeon corridor,” counted 1,046 Rock Pigeons. And one Peregrine Falcon on the Hilton, who clearly has some hunting to do.
The Crystal Springs team almost had a Bald Eagle in its tally. Eddie Bartley reported that, “We were setting up our scopes at Lake San Andreas when 150 ducks came shooting up the lake. We wondered what was going on and looked down and saw a Bald Eagle… unfortunately not in our count circle.”
The count got wide media coverage, with TV crews from three stations, several radio segments, and a reporter from the San Francisco Examiner. Click here to read the excellent report on KGO 7, or view it at the bottom of this blog post.
One team ended up fielding all the TV reporters – Alan Hopkins’s Western Golden Gate Park team.
“In addition to observing and documenting, we were also observed and documented – at least the Alan species was,” reported team member Maureen Lahiff.
Thank you to count organizers Siobhan Ruck, Alan Hopkins, and Dan Murphy, and to our co-sponsors, the Presidio Trust, which hosted the Compilation Dinner at the Presidio’s cozy Log Cabin.
And thank you to all the team leaders, the volunteers from GGAS and from Salesforce who organized a warm and festive compilation dinner, and of course to all the participants.
We look forward to seeing you again in 2016!
Click here to view a Facebook album of photos from the count. (You do NOT need to have a Facebook account to view the album.)
Click here to view photos from the compilation dinner. (No Facebook account needed for these either.)
Here’s the KGO 7 report on the CBC: