We met at the UCSF Woods Lot at 8:15 AM on Saturday, February 18--planning to be out of the way by the time volunteers started arriving for trail and habitat work. The weather was forecast to be rainy through ~10 AM, but the rain had stopped before daybreak, and I was surprised and happy as birders started arriving. A total of 15 participants signed up. We started under mostly cloudy skies with partial clearing through the morning. The temperature was about 55°F, and a breeze of 8-10 mph sent us up Northridge Trail instead of the more exposed Historic Trail where the wind with cool temps can be uncomfortable. The summit meadow was surprisingly calm, but not very birdy--the usual sound track of the woods, predominantly Song Sparrow and Pacific Wren song was muted on this cloudy, breezy day. SF had been experiencing extreme winds and a lot of rain during the previous 48 hours, so we avoided the narrow South Ridge and Quarry Trails, and descended Nike Road past the Sutro Nursery to Fairy Gates trail for the return to the start. (See Trail Map here.)
We saw a total of 22 bird species, with birdiest spot of the day being the parking lot; the best bird of the day for many of us was a Red-breasted Sapsucker. A large eucalyptus with Sapsucker tracks had been noticed by Liza Kachko last year on the west side of the lot, but spotting the bird has not been a sure thing. On this morning it was working a tree on the east side of the lot. Views were filtered through foliage, but with patience, I believe all were able to see the bird. We also heard and saw many American Robins, Song Sparrow, Townsend's Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Dark-eyed Juncos before setting off on the trails, where we added interesting sightings; noisy Red-Masked Parakeets flew over, two Red-tailed Hawks were soaring together, interacting with outstretched talons, and later a single Red-tail was harassed mercilessly by a number of Common Ravens. On the summit, a male Anna's Hummingbird posed and flashed his magenta gorget, and performed his flight display, ascent to a high point and a U shaped dive with an audible squeak of a tail snap at the bottom.
The group was fairly large for birding on the sometimes narrow trails. But it was in interesting group, fewer than half were members of Golden Gate Audubon, at three were from the immediate neighborhood, and several others were from just a few blocks further afield. Maryann Rainey, known on this website as 'the Mount Sutro Bird Watcher' provided welcome commentary on the Sutro Stewards plantings in openings created by trail building and hazardous tree removal. Ben Polacco found a beautiful small salamander with orange legs and tail. Mushrooms were also up after all the rain. I'm not sure who spotted them, but Ben named the Shaggy Parasols. Alan Hopkins, well known in the SF birding community, also joined us and was a big help spotting birds, and helping share birds with the group.
See species, numbers observed, and notes here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34467056
1. Flickr CC: http://tinyurl.com/htdvo7u
2. Ensatina eschscholtzii, photo from Tess Napili's iPhone
3. Shaggy Parasols, photo by Ben Pollaco