Monday, October 11, 2010

Tourist In My Own Backyard: San Francisco

When you live in a location that's a major tourist destination, your eyes can become accustomed to iconic images that others travel thousands of miles to see. I never take it for granted, but when you cross the Golden Gate Bridge every day or sit at a traffic signal next to a cable car, your mind is on your everyday concerns and not the "wow" the tourists headed to Fisherman's Wharf are experiencing. But I do believe it is the greatest city in the world, so every once in a while, I stop to smell the roses. And rather than limit myself to posting photos of birds that live here as I usually do, I thought I'd treat you to some images of the gorgeous San Francisco Bay Area with just a few of our local birds.

If you haven't had the pleasure of visiting San Francisco, let me encourage you to come see its beauty. And I'll also share with you this sure-fire tip that will make your visit one you'll never forget -- come between mid-September and mid-October! That's when we have warm, sunny and clear weather, nothing but blue skies (it's 82 degrees in downtown SF right now in mid-October). All the photos you see here were taken during September and October and the weather couldn't be better.

When you cross the Golden Gate Bridge, there's a Vista Point on the other side. This is what you see.

Once you drive or bike across the bridge to what we who live here call the "golden side" of the Golden Gate Bridge, you can make your way down to some gorgeous views from Fort Baker.

On the opposite side from San Francisco's Crissy Field, here's what it looks like.

And here's a friendly gull to welcome you.

And Alcatraz? Did somebody say BirdGalAlcatraz? I think I heard that. Here's my namesake, once a prison, now part of the National Park Service.

Tourist buses don't navigate winding roads well, so you probably don't know that there's a lighthouse at Point Bonita, right at the entrance of San Francisco Bay before the Golden Gate Bridge.

But where are the birds, you ask? Everywhere. Here's an American Pelican looking for lunch from above. They cruise San Francisco Bay and entertain the tourists daily.

And here's another, a Great Blue Heron, concealed beneath a redwood in Golden Gate Park.

These European Starlings are everywhere in Golden Gate Park, as plentiful as pigeons.

We also have lots of gorgeous Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets working the shallows in the nearby inlets and estuaries of San Francisco Bay.

Other waterfowl we have here that you'll likely see when you visit are grebes, cormorants, terns, dabbling ducks, and hawks that love to ride the thermals. Here is a pair of Clark's Grebes.

And a gorgeous Red-tailed Hawk soars above just west of the Golden Gate Bridge. If it hadn't been directly overhead and I were a better photographer, I would have captured this image with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

So are you ready to pack your bags yet? You can never go wrong with a visit to San Francisco. Here are a few more images including a sweet view of Stinson Beach, a short drive from the "golden" side of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, where I make my home. And if you do come visit, drop me a line here and let me know. I'd love to meet you!

San Francisco Bay from Tiburon, Marin County

Great Blue Heron up close and personal

Black-crowned Night Heron

Stinson Beach from Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County

This one doesn't need any explanation