San Francisco – ABA Bird #678 – Pacific Wren, #679 – Rustic Bunting, #680 – Ridgway’s Rail

I again started my trip with doubts, leaving Sacramento at 5:00am in a heavy fog, hoping that Golden Gate Park would be covered in the same thick fog.

I had been told to get there early because parking could be tough to find.  As I pulled on to Nancy Pelosi Drive, the streets were already getting crowded and it was only 7:30 am on a sunday morning.

I had to be at the airport by 3:30pm, so time was at a premium.  This search for a bunting could go either way, the bird would be easy or I’d have to spend all my time waiting for it to appear.

From 8 am until noon, over a dozen people hoped for a glimpse of the bunting, and for a while any bird.  We all exchanged phone numbers and if anyone saw the bird we’d all contact each other.   I spent about an hour near an area I where the locals fed the birds.  Seeds were littered in a small island of foliage and trees, bird were constantly coming and going.  While they weren’t life birds,  I’d wanted to see and photograph these subspecies for a while.

Song Sparrow heermani


Fox Sparrow fuliginosa


Townsend’s Warbler – best photo ever


Western Scrub-jay – greatly improved image


With time dwindling, I decided to go across the street to the Botanic Gardens.  I was told by a local birder, that people had been seeing and hearing,  a Pacific Wren in the Redwood Garden area.  I quickly walked (ran) over there, with instructions that if the bunting showed up text me.

As soon as I entered the area I could hear the wren calling his heart out.  Didn’t take me long to find him ABA Bird #678 – Pacific Wren  in the books.


No phone calls or texts but I got back to the area as soon as possible.  All the postings had the bunting, associating with junco’s.  We had seen many small groups of junco’s but the bunting still had not made an appearance by 1:45 pm, and my flight to Texas was at 3:12 pm.

Birder’s had thinned out as the morning progressed and we were down to 6 people.  Anyone will tell I may not be able to hear the birds but my eyesight rocks….

At 1:56 pm, I saw a small flock of junco’s coming in to our location from the right, almost instantly there he was ABA Bird #679 Rustic Bunting.  I called out to the group “there he is”, and they all got on the bird.  Light was tough and the bird was feeding in the grass so getting a photo was tough.  I think I took over 50 photos but only two were in focus.



You would think with two lifers in a few hours I’d be happy but I left quickly hoping traffic wouldn’t be bad and headed to Bayfront Park which was within 5 minutes of the airport.  I had checked the ebird report from the day before and found that a Ridgway’s Rail had been frequenting the area.  Arriving at 2:50 pm, 22 minutes before I had to be at the airport to return the car, I parked and walked over a rise and there it was, my luck had changed.  ABA Life Bird #680 – Ridgway’s Rail (recent ABA split from Clapper Rail).




Speeding off to the airport, with only moments to spare, brought the car back, checked my bag and then looked at my ticket and got my next bit of luck.  TSA pre-approval was stamped on my ticket, which meant no line up, not removal of shoes or belt.   I arrived at the gate with enough time to buy a coffee.

On to Lubbock, Texas.

Ciao for now

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