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

Carmel Valley – nice place to vacation…

A trip to Pacific Grove to see the Monarch Butterflies

Charlene and I took our first vacation in 2 years by driving down from San Francisco to Carmel Valley which is about 8 miles east of Carmel.  Using Airbnb, we found a cabin designed in 1929 by Charles Greene.  It sits beneath a pre-colombian coastal oak that must have had a 6 ft diameter trunk. Located ten miles from Carmel Valley Village on Cachagua Rd, we stayed for 6 nights.

Here are interior views… (click on any image for full size view)Pt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailPt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailPt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailPt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailPt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailPt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailPt. Lobos - Bird Island Trail

Pt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailWe had a great relaxing time and highly recommend the cabin for anyone looking for a get-away spot.

Now on to what we saw on the trip…


Just outside of the cabin we had Black Phoebe’s and Hermit Thrushes…

Birthday trip to Monterey Bay AquariumBirthday trip to Monterey Bay AquariumWe spent the first day of vacation at the Monterey Bay Aquarium to see the special exhibit  Tentacles (squid, octopi, cuttlefish) and stayed to see the all the exhibits at the aquarium.

Here are the highlights of that trip…

Tentacles  starts with their influence in art and literature; shown here is a copy of a drawing done by H.P. Lovecraft of his statue of Chthulu…

Birthday trip to Monterey Bay Aquarium

And here is a modern octopus bronze sculpture.

Birthday trip to Monterey Bay Aquariuman oil on board painting called “Contessa with Squid” by Omar Rayyan 2011

Birthday trip to Monterey Bay AquariumBigfin reef squid, one of my favorite tanks…

Birthday trip to Monterey Bay AquariumOne of the few times I have seen a active octopus, this one went for a walk around its tank before sliding back into its jar.Birthday trip to Monterey Bay AquariumThe jelly exhibit is still a popular attraction, these purple-striped jellies are huge

Birthday trip to Monterey Bay Aquarium

This one is called a blubber jelly

“Also known as the blue jelly, the blubber jelly comes in colors ranging from very light blue to dark purple and burgundy, and its bell pulses in a distinctive, staccatolike rhythm. Eight club-like oral arms that each contain several mouths transport food to the jelly’s stomach.” Birthday trip to Monterey Bay AquariumOctober and November are great times to view the migrating Monarch butterflies that come to Pacific Grove. So the next day we drove into Pacific Grove to 250 Ridge Road. There were docents there with a spotting scope to help the uninitiated, but we had our binoculars which gave us a better view. They were not there in great numbers quite yet, but we found several trees that were starting to collect them in small numbers and I got some good shots of them feeding on bottle brush tree blossoms and butterfly bush flowers.  I was traveling light that day and only had my 24-105mm lens on my Canon 5D, so most of my shots are cropped quite a bit.  I would recommend a zoom that goes to at least 200mm but a 300mm lens or greater would have gotten some great un-cropped shots.

A trip to Pacific Grove to see the Monarch ButterfliesA trip to Pacific Grove to see the Monarch ButterfliesA trip to Pacific Grove to see the Monarch ButterfliesA trip to Pacific Grove to see the Monarch ButterfliesThe next day we spent at Pt. Lobos Ecological Preserve which is just a few miles south of Carmel right off of Highway 1.  We stopped just before the reserve to sit on the beach at Monastery Beach to enjoy the wave action.

A trip to Monastery Beach and Pt. Lobos Whaler's Cove and BluefiAnd then we drove a half mile further.  It was afternoon and parking in the reserve was full, so we parked on the shoulder of Hwy 1 and walked in.  Carrying my 500mm lens and tripod, we elected to go to Whaler’s Cove on the north shoreA trip to Monastery Beach and Pt. Lobos Whaler's Cove and Bluefi (shortest walk and found about a hundred Heermann’s Gulls resting on the rocks…

(a close-up of three of them)

A trip to Monastery Beach and Pt. Lobos Whaler's Cove and BluefiA trip to Monastery Beach and Pt. Lobos Whaler's Cove and Bluefi
We also found Black Oystercatchers both days we wentA trip to Monastery Beach and Pt. Lobos Whaler's Cove and BluefiThe highlight of the day for me was the spotting of a female Belted Kingfisher fishing off the cliff just north of Whaler’s Cove.

Here is the small inlet,

A trip to Monastery Beach and Pt. Lobos Whaler's Cove and Bluefi

the Kingfisher was on the right hand side here…

A trip to Monastery Beach and Pt. Lobos Whaler's Cove and BluefiA trip to Monastery Beach and Pt. Lobos Whaler's Cove and BluefiI got to see her dive twice.
After that we hiked a bit further to view Bluefish Cove…

A trip to Monastery Beach and Pt. Lobos Whaler's Cove and BluefiThe white rock in the center had lots of Brandt’s Cormorants on it…

A trip to Monastery Beach and Pt. Lobos Whaler's Cove and Bluefi A trip to Monastery Beach and Pt. Lobos Whaler's Cove and BluefiAnd that was it for our first visit to Pt. Lobos.


The next day we decided to return to see the south shore of the reserve.  We got another late start but were able to get parking inside the reserve.  We arrived just as a light rain squall was coming in off the ocean.  This iPhone panoramic shot shows the rain wiping out the horizon and roll clouds stretching across the sky showing that there was turbulence up there. (click on any image to see it full size)

Pt. Lobos - Bird Island Trail

The rain was light and did not last long. We picnicked sitting in our car till it let up.

Once it was clear we hiked along the Bird Island Trail that loops around China Cove. We spotted one decent flock of Brown Pelicans, but none were close by.

Pt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailThe kelp floating on the ocean create living rafts that the birds use to hunt and rest on.  We saw Heerman’s Gulls in great numbers along with Great Egrets and even a lone Great Blue HeronPt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailPt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailOne of the Great Egrets landed on the rocks at eye level.  I was able to get a nice sequence of it taking off…

Pt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailPt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailAnd then it landed just below us.

Pt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailA Snowy Egret posed across the way…Pt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailAnd it too tried fishing from the kelp raftPt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailA Western Gull found a crab for lunch.Pt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailOn the way back we found Harbor Seals directly below us. It looks like we are standing right there, but really we were on top of the cliff and the water was 150 feet below us.Pt. Lobos - Bird Island TrailThese shots are the highlights of the vacation, but if you want to see the complete series, check out my This Year’s Photo Diary link at  The pages are dated October 17 through October 20 2014.

By the way, we just saw the opening premier of Judy Irving’s Pelican Dreams documentary and thoroughly enjoyed the film.  Check it out if you can. Watch the trailer for it here.


Thanks for looking and of course, comments are always welcome.

Best Regards,

Glenn Nevill

Talons Event is next Sunday!

Coastal Falcons almost ready to fledgeClick on the photo for the description of the event and buy tickets, or read the text below that I lovingly copied to promote the event. Then click on the photo to buy tickets.  It is going to be fun and kids under 5 get in free.
Charlene and I will be there selling prints, in fact the only photographer vendor there.  But there will also be three wildlife artists and two author/naturalists along with food and drink and live birds, guest speakers and more.
And it is all for a good cause.


Please come.


A Festival Celebrating Birds of Prey

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 – Noon to 3pm
At: Marin Art & Garden Center
30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Ross, CA 94957

Many Species of Live Owls & Hawks
Educational Talks
Kids Corner
Food, Wine & More

The Hungry Owl Project is proud to present a unique and exciting festival celebrating birds of prey. It will be a fun and affordable, educational outdoor event for all the family in the beautiful grounds of the Marin Art & Garden Center.

There will be presentations on raptors by well known guest speakers, ongoing demonstrations with many species of live Owls and Hawks (including flight demonstrations), a Kids Corner with a full program throughout the event tailored just for kids, artists, photographers, other wildlife organizations, food and wine for sale by local vendors, and additional surprises..

Taste local wine, enjoy delicious food and have an amazing time at TALONS. Our events always sell out so be sure to get your tickets now.

Adults: $45
Kids: $10
(15 and under, with adult)
Under 5: FREE
(with adult)

$30 of the adult ticket price is tax deductible!

Keynote Speakers

Jules Evens

Jules Evens
Topic: “Bald Eagles & Osprey”

Jules Evens is a naturalist, field biologist and author who has specialized in California birds for over 25 years. He is the founder of Avocet Research Associates and the author of The Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula and An Introduction to California Birdlife (UC Press).


David Press
Topic: “The Northern Spotted Owls of Marin”

David Press is the Wildlife Ecologist at Point Reyes National Seashore where he ensures that activities within the park, including public recreation, park projects, and actions taken under park-issued permits, have minimal impacts to the Seashore’s wildlife communities. In addition, he leads the park’s management and monitoring of Tule Elk, Western Snowy Plovers, and Northern Spotted Owls.

Kid’s Corner

Drop your kids off (or join them!) at the Kids Corner for a fun and educational program tailored just for kids. The Kids Corner will have three hour long sessions, each a little different than the last. Kids are welcome to participate in one or enjoy all three. Among the activities available in the kids corner are: An exciting and educational visit with a live owl or hawk (each session will feature a different species), owl pellet dissection, face painting, a puppet show, puppet making, games, owl bookmaking, a kid-friendly presentation on some of our local owls, a short and very popular video presentation detailing the life cycle of Barn Owls in nesting boxes and more! Kids can choose what interests them. Additionally a special area will be provided for very young kids (toddlers) & parents to engage in fun activities together. The Kids Corner will be supervised and will require a sign-in sign-out for dropping off and picking up.

This momma owl thinks the event will be very educational and fun.  Hope to see you there.

Great Horned Owls nest in Golden Gate Park

14 days to go before Talons event, plus something even more important

Banding Day at PG&E 2014Yes the big raptor event sponsored by Hungry Owl Project is only 2 weeks away.  So much has happened since my last post on this subject.  Last week I learned that one of the shots (which I have printed for the Talons fund raiser) …

was chosen by our local Audubon Chapter to be on the cover of their annual fund raising calendar shown here…

Cover_2015-border-1024x767 I took this shot on banding day at the PG&E eyrie 34 stories over San Francisco. It shows the adult peregrine falcon “Cher” with one of the Bay Bridge towers in the background. I now have my copy of the calendar and was really amazed at the quality of the printing and the selection of images this year.  It was an honor for my peregrine shot to be included with the other photographer’s works. Buy one and see for yourself. Purchase this calendar by clicking on the image of above or this link.

I hope you can make it to the Talons Event that will help raise awareness and funds for raptors here in the the bay area on September 28th.  But if you can’t make it to the event, please read on.

I’ve something more serious to discuss.

The day after I received my copy of the Audubon calendar, I read the National Audubon Society’s  report on birds and climate change. Audubon’s findings classify 314 species—nearly half of all North American birds—as severely threatened by global warming. You may have heard or read headlines regarding this report in national media. Check out this page to get an idea of how important this subject is and what you can do to help right now. And if you are a Youtube video fan, then watch this video Audubon put up and pass the link on to those you know…

It’s Time To Act

Nearly half of our birds are at risk of extinction this century. That doesn’t have to happen.

But Glenn, What can I do to help on such a massively huge problem?” I hear you say.

Well there are several things you can do and they are summarized nicely here. And for those who just don’t want to click on the link above they are:

Take the Pledge: Receive the latest findings, explore climate-related volunteer opportunities in your state or local area, and get information on how to enlist in Audubon’s forthcoming citizen science project to help monitor birds and document how they respond to a changing climate by signing up at right.

Create a Bird-Friendly Yard: Healthy birds will be better equipped to face the challenges of a warming world. Commit to creating safe spaces for birds in your home and community by using fewer pesticides, letting dead trees stand, installing bird baths, and converting lawns and gardens to native plants. School grounds, parks, vacant lots, and common areas can all be “bird-scaped,” too. Learn more here.

Get Involved With Your Local Important Bird Area: Protect the places birds need most today and in the future by pitching in with Audubon’s IBA program, which identifies and conserves areas that are vital to birds and biodiversity. You can help with IBA restoration, cleanup, citizen science, and field trips. Find Audubon near you to get started.

Put Birds on Your Community’s Agenda: Begin a conversation with your neighbors, colleagues, and local leaders about why it’s important to you to protect your community’s birds, and share what you’re doing on behalf of birds. Reach more people by writing a letter to your newspaper, speaking at a community event, or visiting a local school.

Meet With Local Decision Makers: Share this science with state wildlife agencies, city parks departments, extension services, and other groups that manage our natural resources to illustrate how global warming imperils birds, and ask decision makers how they are planning to address global warming. For more information on how to help decision makers use and integrate Audubon’s science, email

Support Policies That Lower Emissions: Urge leaders at the local, state, and national levels to enact policies that lower greenhouse gas emissions and support clean energy. Renewable portfolio standards, energy efficiency targets, and other proactive measures reduce emissions and will limit the effects of global warming on birds. Put these policies on your leaders’ agendas, and publicly support efforts to make them stick.

So dear blog reader, if you have gotten this far, thanks for your time. Don’t get depressed and give up.  Do what you can, go out there and do as much as you have the energy and will to do.  It can get better with effort and there is still some time to act.  But do it with joy and don’t forget to recharge along the way.  Grab your binoculars and go birding and share it with anyone that you can.  The birds will thank you, and I thank you.Stow Lake and Lloyd Lake a dark and misty day of birding



Glenn Nevill