Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rachid, Laura & Jann's Excellent Adventure

For all you Twitter folks, this title refers to @rachidH, @DrMarm and @BirdGalAlcatraz getting together yesterday for a fantastic TweetUp to explore some of the flora and fauna of the San Francisco Bay Area and Marin County, CA.

Laura & Jann have met for photo outings before, but this is the first time we've had the pleasure of meeting our long-time friend, Rachid, face to face as he traveled to San Francisco to visit family here. Many of you know Rachid from Twitter and joined us in fretting for his safety and whereabouts during the Egyptian Revolution since he had arrived in Cairo the day before all hell broke loose. We were all gratified when we finally got a tweet from him some days later that he was safe in Dubai.

We had a wonderful adventure yesterday visiting Muir Woods, Stinson Beach, Olema and some favorite birding haunts in Marin County. Here are some of the birding photos of this most Excellent Adventure, which included more than one life bird along the way.

First up, a pair of House Sparrows who decided that a shallow dirt bowl outside the restaurant where we had lunch was the perfect place to hunker down for a nice dust bath.

We then headed over to the wastewater treatment plant in San Rafael where we thought it likely we'd see some waterfowl and maybe a wild bird or two. We weren't disappointed. First, a Great Egret flew in and landed at the water's edge and began looking for food immediately. We also got some good looks at Red-winged Blackbirds which were abundant.

Walking around the main ponds on the site, we were buzzed by Barn Swallows whirling everywhere overhead and across the water. Rachid spotted this pair that actually perched long enough for us to catch a few shots before they took to the air again.

Then there was one little Song Sparrow all by its lonesome, singing its heart out.

And although this Steller's Jay wasn't in the same location, we did manage to grab of few pics of this guy on the grounds at Cavallo Point, part of the former Fort Baker right near the base of the Golden Gate Bridge on the north side.

As we headed out toward the large fishing pier near Cavallo Point, we noticed perhaps a dozen black & white somethings floating in the water, their heads tucked down, sleeping. Laura asked, "What are those?" as I slowed the car down, wondering myself. At first I thought they might be Greater Scaups because I couldn't see them quite close enough. Here are two of them:

Then one of them raised its head and that long, distinctive neck and bill emerged, announcing that we'd come upon a whole flock of sleeping Western Grebes. I'm so used to seeing them at a distance, diving and disappearing in a flash, that I could scarcely believe that a whole flock of them was just lolling about nearby in the harbor. Here are a few more looks:

We then walked out onto the fishing pier where we saw many Western and Ring-billed Gulls, along with a few Double-crested Cormorants in the water, diving and searching for dinner. Rachid and I both did a double take when we spied another fish chaser much lighter in color, popping up and diving repeatedly. At first we thought it was a juvenile cormorant, but after consulting some field guides, it was clear we had the prize of the day: a juvenile Red-throated Loon, and a lifer for all of us. We got some very good looks as you'll see from these shots:

It truly was a most excellent adventure made even more special by having the opportunity for Twitter friends to meet IRL - in real life, for those of you who don't know the shortened language of Twitter. We had an absolute blast and look forward to doing it again in the future. Rachid will be posting some of his photos on Twitter in the days ahead and you also won't want to miss Laura's next blog post (probably Saturday) where she'll share some of her great shots as well, including Muir Woods. Check out her blog at http://www.drmarm.wordpress.com.


  1. Great post, Jann.
    I love the juvenile Red-throated Loon series.
    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Wow
    Great snaps.
    You guys make it look so easy.

  3. Wonderful post! I'm so envious that I didn't have the opportunity to come along. Your photos of the Red-throated Loon are outstanding!

  4. What a wonderful tweet-up you had. So glad to be viewing your pretty pics :)

  5. Looks like lots of good birding in Northern California. I'm sure that this was a fun outing. Great pics.

  6. Excellent photos! So Cool you all got together!

  7. Nicely put together blog sounds like a good time great pictures...thanks for sharing

  8. How wonderful to all get together! I love how new friendships start with common interests. I too have met a few twitter, blog and FB friends and am very thankful to have made these new friends. A most excellent adventure shared with friends here! I love the western grebes ... have never seen, and hope to someday!

  9. Wonderful post! Great shots and I'm so glad you all got to meet up and shoot together! What a fun time!!!

  10. Jann, what a wonderful adventure you had with your fabulous Twitter friends ... and what fantastic birds your saw. Terrific images of the Red-throated Loon! Congratulations on the lifer. The Western Grebes are elegant and lovely. You have captured the Red-winged Blackbird with it's awesome wing color beautifully. A pleasure to see so many striking photographs of stunning birds.

  11. Wow, what a great day of birding with friends. Love the pictures and neat variety. Hey, those little sparrows at the top are on to something ... a bit of dust can do wonders! :-) Great post and thanks for sharing Jann! John

  12. Great post and how neat to meet up with a fellow tweeter!!

  13. Great post - love that Steller's Jay!

  14. Beautiful shots. We loved the red winged blackbird and the loon bird shots:)