Golden Gate Park (10/3/2022)

Today I finally made it to North Lake!

Okokok, so there have been MANY Fall Migrant sightings at North Lake lately on the SFBirds list. And most recently, something I’ve never heard of before, the Prothonotary Warbler. I can’t tell you how unable I am to say that first word. I am not making that word up. But what got me to come here were sightings of the Black-and-white Warbler. I’ve been wanting to see one ever since I first knew about it and saw its photo somewhere. Likely the SFBirds list. So, even though I pretty much never see The Bird To See, I went!

Did I see it? OF COURSE, NOT. There were many birders there looking for the Prothonotary Warbler, and from what I could tell they hadn’t seen it before I left. But I saw some birds I rarely see! So I was tickled pink.

First things first. It’s definitely looking like Fall over at North Lake. Not a lot blooming, but fruit is there. Still plenty of blackberries, for which the birds are very thankful. Cracked-open Australian Cheesewood fruit was a little disturbing to catch sight of. Then again, it’s October. So that bloody visual fit in just perfectly!

I started out from the North side. This is something I don’t do. I headed out onto the loop counter-clockwise. This is also something I don’t do. See? I’m already doing things not normal for me. All in the hopes of seeing a bird I didn’t end up seeing. That’s what I get!

The last iNat sighting of the Black-and-white Warbler was in the same area lots of the other rare/ish birds have been, in the North. So I wanted to start there first. NEVER AGAIN. It felt SO WEIRD. I don’t know why, but there really is just one perfect way to loop in my opinion. Gotta trust what works for me and just do my thing.

Not that I think this is the reason I didn’t see the bird I was after. I’m now CONVINCED these rare birds are only out in the morning for all the real birders to see. I’ve decided that I’ll stay on the SFBirds list, just to know what fun things folks are seeing, but I’m no longer going to try seeing anything sighted there. It doesn’t work for me. Not a Morning Naturalist, nope!

Ok, I jumped ahead. I need to mention that before I completed my first literal step onto the North Lake loop there was a tiny fungi. It was under a Redwood tree, so perhaps a Redwood Rooter? It was so small and starting to shrivel, so I can’t be sure. But that was a lovely welcome.

Alright, so I got to the area where I thought I might find that Black-and-white Warbler. While watching for movement, I heard but didn’t see two birds. One was a Belted Kingfisher! It was on the other side of the island, but how terribly exciting that they’re back! The other was a Swainson’s Thrush, according to Merlin. I’ve seen one once before but never got great looks or photos, so it’s kind of like I’ve never seen it before. I waited for it to pop out. At all. No.

After not really seeing anything identifiable, I continued on the loop in the entirely wrong direction. A juvenile Pied-billed Grebe swam by quietly then disappeared underwater, where I saw it zoom-swim below the surface! The water was just clear enough for me to delight in watching it. Further on, the parent appeared and made fun noises to its child. They both continuously dove or swam crazyfast. Delightful to watch!

Further South, I looked away from the lake and saw a Hermit Thrush trying its best (and sometimes succeeding!) in eating Ngaio berries. Ok, so I THOUGHT it was a Hermit Thrush. After getting home and going through my photos, turns out it was a Swainson’s Thrush! It came out after all! Or, this was another one! So happy I got great looks at it and some nice photos. Definitely deserves to be on my Life Bird list now.

I rounded the South end, and gorgeous magenta Sage were blooming in the newly planted area. And now there’s a newer planted area on the other side of the trail, which is fantastic. Can’t wait to see what’ll bloom there.

After passing by some Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf smack dab in a euc trunk, I arrived to a spot where a lot was happening. First, there was a Townsend’s Warbler. Then there was a Yellow Warbler, which I’ve very rarely seen. Then a Black Phoebe came up to dry off after presumably taking a bath. Then a Downy Woodpecker flew in. Then a bunch of Bushtits came through and threw everyone off. It felt like a magical spot where so many birds were doing their thing near each other. Someone on the SFBirds list mentioned a “magic tree” up near the North end, where many of the rare birds had been. But, perhaps this was the Afternoon Magic Tree?

Got back up to where I started in the North, after a handful of brief exchanges with birders asking, “Any luck yet?” or something akin to that. Didn’t seem like it’d be helpful to say I wasn’t looking for the Prothonotary Warbler, so I just replied, “Nope!” Mallards and one turtle and an American Coot were all that were enjoying the lake surface. I did spot a Fox Sparrow near the picnic benches, so that was nice.

I decided I’d try one more time for the Black-and-white Warbler. While back over there, I realized I hadn’t visited that little garden opposite the loop in some time. It was quiet, HOWEVER. There was one incredibly large golden-yellow Rose. And, I must say, it smelled divine. Like maybe the most fantastic Rose I’ve ever smelled before? Just heavenly.

I stopped to have a snack and got to watch a Hummingbird do that hover thing in about a million different locations. So I got some free entertainment with my snack!

Got to the same spot to look one more time, and I got to see an Orange-crowned Warbler enjoying the blackberries. That was it.

HOWEVER, I heard that Belted Kingfisher again! This was like the fourth time? When all previous times I was in the exact opposite place to see it? I wanted to see it so badly that I reversed direction and went all the way back around to the Mallard Beach. This spot faces the island where all the action was happening. And, I FOUND THAT BELTED KINGFISHER! It was dark where it was, so my photos aren’t great. But I got to watch it. It made its hysterical noises. It flew off then soon came back. And made more noises. It was awesome.

I just sat there, enjoying the scenery. The female Mallards preening next to me. The effortless ripple on the lake. The Belted Kingfisher so happy to be back? I don’t know. It was just perfect and serene. And my hopes of seeing that Warbler receded. And I was just so dang happy just to be there. Good day.

P.S. With this post, I ran up against my storage limit for my WordPress plan. I upgraded to the next level up (since there was a sweet deal on it), so I now have twice as much storage. But, I’ll run into that limit at some point, too. Not sure about what to do then. Perhaps I’ll have a job by then and can afford the next upgrade? Perhaps The Book will be done by then and any profits I take can help pay for another upgrade? If anyone has experience or advice with such a thing, lemme know. At some point, should I delete the oldest posts? Remove the photos? I’ll hear out any thoughts on it, thanks!

3 thoughts on “Golden Gate Park (10/3/2022)

  1. Love that you feature your sightings of the Swainsons Thrush. There are many near our cabin in Inverness. ( which you and Bri must visit)They have a haunting sound that echoes over the bay in the evenings. A favorite sound. Mwah! Molly

    Ps : I’m streaming Michelle’s « Man Of God « since I missed it live! It’s been a busy beginning of the school year . It’s fall at last And the ducks will be here soon for you to watch and marvel over.

    Sent from my magical tele



    1. Molly, of course! I’ve only ever seen a Swainson’s Thrush once before, so it was so exciting to know that’s what I was looking at! Would love to visit you in Inverness with Brian sometime 🙂

      And, Man of God was just fantastic. So lucky to have caught it while I was doing my show at Live Oak!


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