Monday, 12 August 2013

California - San Francisco Bay area - 20 to 23 July 2013 (part 1)

12.40pm flight to San Francisco with arrival due 3.00pmish. We'd not even worked out the entire flight time - neither of us like planes, not so much a fear of flying, just a dislike for being confined with lots of people. We will be connecting with James, our eldest son who shares our passion for the natural world and currently studys in Kansas. The trip properly begins tomorrow with a boat trip to the Falleron Islands. For the time being, the first birds seen at the airport terminal were Starlings.

Day One - Falleron Islands

We joined the 'Salty Lady' and her crew at Sausalito for 7am. More passengers got on board at San Francisco's pier 49, then we started the approximate 20 mile trip out. It was rather cold and the light quality poor leaving a grey cast over the sea and sky.

Approaching the Falleron Islands.

 A thriving colony 22 miles off shore.

Over the course of the day we saw lots of Common Murre, Sooty Shearwater, Pigeon Guillimot and Red-necked Phalarope.

Common Murres take their chicks to sea well before they reach
adult size and there's usually one chick to an adult. 

 Rhinoceros Auklet

Horned Puffin

Western Gulls

Sooty Shearwater

 There were also Brown Pelican, Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorant and Cassin's Auklet. These little birds were only viewable from the prow since they tend to dive early then emerge a distance off before taking flight). Conditions were choppy making viewing with binoculars and keeping three points of contact with the boat quite difficult.

However, we were pleased to identify a few Pink-footed Shearwater and a single Black-footed Albatross.

Pink-footed Shearwater

We got Sealion, Fur Seal, Harbour Seal, Harbour Porpoise and a Humpbacked Whale- with the bonus of extremely close views of the mist shrouded Golden Gate bridge.

The Golden Gate bridge. 

 Harbour Seal

Day Two - Presidio & Alcatraz

Capitalising on the fact that San Francisco is eight hours behind UK time, we got up very early and after breakfast at Mel's Diner ( where you could make juke box selections to accompany your choice of breakfast fayre) made a quick dash around Presideo to discover, among other passerines, Pygmy Nuthatch and Hooded Oriole on a busy main thoroughfare.

Hooded Oriole

We visited a small park, found some passerines to watch and tried to get to grips with the Hummingbirds, finding Anna's easy but Allen's harder to get onto due to the much smaller size and frenetic activity.

Juvenile Lesser Goldfinch

Crissy's field turned into a bit of a let down with very few waders.

Long-billed Curlew

We were booked on an afternoon trip to Alcatraz and took a tour of the penitentiary that was closed in 1963. The grounds that once confined the USA's most desperate criminals have now been taken over by nesting seabirds. We wandered between the Western Gulls and viewed both species of cormorant from a little further away.

Western Gull, juvs and adult

Snowy Egret
Brandt's Cormorants

A Wandering Tattler, some Snowy Egrets and a Mallard were unexpected  but we didn't manage to see Black Oyster Catcher.

Brewers Blackbird at SF Bay

That evening we drove south ready for Half Moon Bay next morning, after trying to catch one of these back to the motel to find everyone full and had to walk to the Munni stationand get the metro back.

Day Three - Half Moon Bay & Pescadero Marsh

Pillar Point Harbour 

We headed towards Pillar Point Harbour with excellent coffees in hand and hoped for the mist to lift. More of the harbour became visible as we watched and we got some nice views of Heermann's Gulls, Great Blue Heron, Brown Pelican and Snowy Egret.

 Great Blue Heron

Caspian Tern

Hermann's Gulls and Elegant Terns

We checked out the beach and just off shore before moving across the road to the marsh.

Viewing from the beach. 

Harlequin Duck

Spring Azure (Echo Azure sub-species)

On the Sequoia Audobon trail at Pescadero Marsh.

On the Sequoia Audobon trail at Pescadero Marsh.

The walk at Pescadero Marsh was very promising but some how failed to deliver. We saw lots of Sparrows but struggled with the Wrens. We came across some educational trips that spent little time showing the kids wildlife and plants, seeming to concentrate on tramping through the wilderness and reading poems about being amongst nature. One boy tried to snatch up a lizard and wasn't even asked not to bother the wildlife.