Birding at North Lake – Golden Gate Park

I went to North Lake in Golden Gate Park in search of Yellow Warblers that had been reported there.  Instead I found three of these guys sauntering around in daylight. Went out to North Lake to do some birding, but the first thing I found was a lone raccoon walked out of a trail near the water's edge and posed before sauntering back into the brush. This guy showed up as I was setting up my tripod. An un-cropped shot, but taken through my 500mm lens and a tele-converter. I was about 20 feet away, and I don’t recommend getting any closer than that. After standing up on two feet and sniffing at me, it turned and walked back into the brush on the shoreline. There are American Coots year-round at the lake. Here near the north shore, a floating nest in coot incubating eggs. She blends in nicely with the reeds. Another birder stopped me before I left and showed me the nesting Coot in the reeds.   The male coots were still feeling randy and kept chasing each other and displaying like this one. There were American Coots displaying on the water The Mallards, more than 20 spend their time at the south end of the lake. I counted over 30 mallards at the south end of the lake. Their eggs had hatched a while back … They showed alarm... Finally, Steller’s Jays were about, looking for seeds. Steller's Jay Another corvidae, The Common Ravens were present as well in a tree close to where I had parked. On the way back to the car, Common Ravens were overhead in a pine tree. Before heading home, I checked out a report of three Great Horned Owl fledglings at another location in the park, and found them napping in a tree. Great Horned Owl fledglings

The Berkeley Botanical Garden is also great for birdwatching

Wherever you have trees and flowers, you will find birds and the birds at the Berkeley Botanical Gardens are comfortable around people.  It was easy to photograph them with a moderate long lens without spooking them. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and I found some great bird life on a recent visit.

Flying overhead a Red-tailed Hawk was soaring low enough for a good view.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

I had trouble identifying this one, but got help from the SFBirds list members.  It’s a juvenile Oregon Junco.

a juvenile Oregon Junco

a juvenile Oregon Junco

We see lots of Anna’s Hummingbirds, but over in Berkeley, all we saw were the Allen’s

female Allen's Hummingbird

female Allen’s Hummingbird

And where you find flowers, you find insects and insects that hunt other insects, like this beautiful red dragonfly.




While you are there, don’t forget to enjoy the flowers too…





Thanks for viewing and please visit the Berkeley Botanical Gardens.

Glenn Nevill

The Common Blackbird – not so common song

Blackbird (Turdus merula)

On our first day in Edinburgh Scotland, we fought off jet lag by walking from our inn to Blackford Hill where the Royal Observatory was located.  My Scotland birding guide book mentioned the park there as a great place to experience several bird species. But on the way there, we kept hearing a beautiful songbird singing out of sight among the many homes.  Finally I found one on a roof gutter singing. It is known as the Common Blackbird, it’s Latin name is Turdus merula.

Solid black with a yellow beak and yellow ring around the eye. “It has a beautiful, mellow song that is a slow, clear warble, which ‘tails off’ at the end.”

Listen to it here at the British Library which has the Blackbird song with song print.

So what can I leave you with.

Appreciate all life – and don’t ignore the common.

Comments are always welcome. Thanks for looking and listening.



You say hawk, they say buzzard, a quiz…

Buteo’s are known as hawks here in North America, but over in Scotland and indeed all of Great Britain, they are called buzzards.  There are nine buteo species in North America, the most common of which is the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis).  There is only one species of buteo found in Scotland, and they simply call it the Buzzard (Buteo buteo).  The field guide Raptors of the World calls it Common Buzzard and says it is sometimes treated as conspecific (same species) with the Red-tailed Hawk.  This guide even shows one version, a Rufus adult with a red tail.  Plumage variation in the Common Buzzard varies a great deal, much as it does in the Red-tailed Hawk. However, this is the only place I can find reference to them being conspecific.  So here is a photo quiz. These are all shots I took on my travels here and in Scotland. Look at the following photos and decide, Red-tailed Hawk or Buzzard.  Post a comment as to which each one is. I’ll post the answers after you have had a chance to study the photos.


Hawk 1

Hawk 2

Hawk 2 with a corvid chasing it.

Hawk 3

Hawk 4

A continent away, comparing two herons – the Grey Heron and the Great Blue Heron

Recently Charlene and I spent 10 days vacationing in Scotland.  While there, I did some birding and wanted to share some of the birds I photographed on the trip.  In this post I would like to show a comparison with our Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) found in Scotland and other locations in Great Britain and Europe and Asia.

First are two photos of a Grey Heron taken on May 30th at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh Scotland

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh Scotland

a close-up of its head

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

And now here are two shots of Great Blue Herons taken here in the San Francisco Bay area. Note the brown area on the wing.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron at Caesar Chavez Park in Berkeley CA

Male Great Blue Heron

Male Great Blue Heron at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA

from Wikipedia summarizing the physical differences…

The Great Blue Heron

It is the largest North American heron and, among all extant herons, it is surpassed only by the Goliath heron (Ardea goliath) and the white-bellied heron (Ardea insignis). It has head-to-tail length of 91–137 cm (36–54 in), a wingspan of 167–201 cm (66–79 in), a height of 115–138 cm (45–54 in), and a weight of 1.82–3.6 kg (4.0–7.9 lb)

“The great blue heron is replaced in the Old World by the very similar grey heron (Ardea cinerea), which differs in being somewhat smaller (90–98 cm (35–39 in)), with a pale gray neck and legs, lacking the browner colors that great blue heron has there. The grey heron (which occupies the same ecological niche in Eurasia as the great blue heron) has very similar plumage but has a solidly soft-gray neck.”

The Grey Heron

It is a large bird, standing up to 100 cm (39 in) tall and measuring 84–102 cm (33–40 in) long with a 155–195 cm (61–77 in) wingspan.[2] The body weight can range from 1.02–2.08 kg (2.2–4.6 lb).[3] Its plumage is largely grey above, and off-white below. Adults have a white head with a broad black supercilium and slender crest, while immatures have a dull grey head. It has a powerful, pinkish-yellow bill, which is brighter in breeding adults. It has a slow flight, with its long neck retracted (S-shaped)


So there you have it.  The Grey Heron is a little smaller, solidly soft-gray neck, and lacks the brown areas on the wings and legs.

If you want to see the complete series of the Grey Heron and the rest of the birds photographed on the trip, you can check them out at this page


Motion Study – Great Egret at Heron’s Head Park

Went out to Heron’s Head on Feb. 22nd and photographed a Great Egret.  Nice lighting and beautiful bird.  Got to capture it feeding, wading, taking off and in-flight.  Here is a small sample from the page on

2015_02_22_GN48269A perfect profile...2015_02_22_GN48324Great Egret taking off...A slow passJust passing by...2015_02_22_GN48340Thanks for looking, Comments always welcome.