By Richard Bradus
One of the (few) benefits of this crisis is the marked reduction of traffic and the attendant noise, allowing us to hear so much more of what is going on along our neighborhood streets.
I have been doing exercise walks around Western Addition, Pacific Heights, and Presidio Heights over the past week. Even without binoculars, I have been treated to some nice discoveries.
All I’ve had to do is listen and investigate.
The California Towhee are obviously common all over the city, but I was unaware that they were present (and active) outside of parks and natural areas. I have encountered several singing from street trees, including near Alamo Square. There’s one Towhee on Scott Street (a few blocks south of Alta Plaza Park) in tree that could be a potential nesting site as well.
South of Alta Plaza, I have seen Bushtits putting the finishing touches on their nests in a tree. In the same area, I saw a White-crowned Sparrow in and about a probable nest site in dense shrubbery in front of the adjacent house.
Foraging in the street trees in multiple places are a good assortment of warblers (including a Black-throated Gray Warbler!), Bushtits, Chickadees and the oft skirmishing hummers and increasing numbers (ugh!) of Crows.
It’s worthwhile to look up at the sky as we walk about, too.
Yesterday, I was treated to a spectacle as a diminutive Sharp-shinned Hawk made a couple of unsuccessful attacks on a small flock of pigeons, whereupon the pigeons (which looked to be a bit larger than the hawk) turned the tables and actually went after the hawk, apparently chasing it off! Today, over the same California/Fillmore area, there was a Peregrine Falcon intermittently soaring and flapping as it made its way west, having apparently cleared the skies of any other birds.
So, when you get outside to do your necessary exercise or needed grocery runs, take your time and listen. Glance at the sky every so often.
It is spring and, yes, we may be frustrated to be missing out on the hunt for migrants, but remember our local birds are setting up to breed. Those of you in the western half of San Francisco may find that White-crowned Sparrows, in particular, are nesting in a lot more front and backyards than we ever suspected.
Now is the time to check out what’s happening and see what we may have been missing close to home. Discovering and documenting what is around your neighborhood is a worthy endeavor. There’s more going on around you than you may think!
Richard Bradus has been an Audubon Society supporter and GGAS member for many years (and Point Blue, as well). He lives San Francisco and considers himself both a bird listener and watcher (distinction from a “birder” in that he’s not so concerned with lists and chasing rarities). While certainly not an expert, Richard has been observing birds in the Bay Area (mostly SF) since about 1999, with a particular interest in the natural history, local populations and breeding behaviors. Richard specifically enjoys how birds can be a window into the ecology of an area.
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