Skip to content

December in Stow Lake: Ducks and More

January 3, 2015
tags:

What better way to end the year than a walk round Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park? It remains one of my favorite places in San Francisco – user-friendly for people and waterbirds alike.
kid at water edge

Sbare areas with felled treeso I went down there on December 31st in the late afternoon with someone who wanted to try out a new Olympus camera. I carried my trusty Nikon Coolpix. (It’s a little less trusty now for having a strange gray line appear whenever I use the zoom; I’m going to have to fix or replace it).

Unfortunately, Strawberry Hill – the hill in the center of the lake, accessed by a bridge on either side – is a lot more bare than it used to be. They’ve been cutting down trees and removing vegetation. Before, you couldn’t even see the summit from the outside, and it always seemed green and lush.

gulls mallards coots at Stow Lake Dec 2014

We strolled around the lake,  enjoying the amazing birdlife and the clear evening light. On this trip, we saw not just the usual mallards and gulls, but a wealth of American coots…
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This shot reminded me of a hen overseeing a flock of chicks. “Are you our mother?
Are you my mother

This gull allowed a close-up. I tried to figure out its species from my bird books, but couldn’t really narrow it down. Maybe a Thayer’s or a Glaucus-winged? Or a young Western gull? [Edited to add: A friendly bird expert thought it was probably a glaucus-winged, but just possibly could be a Thayer’s.] Gulls are confusing, the more so because some of them hybridize quite happily.

A gull

There were some Northern Shovellers amid the mallards, and I got a picture of this couple.
northern shoveler

Perched on a rock, and preening continuously, we saw this duck – I think it’s a female ruddy duck.
PC310014 female ruddy duck and coot

And there was this smart black and white bufflehead. [Edited to add: The picture shows the green/ purple iridescence, but that wasn’t clearly visible from shore without binoculars – which I forgot to carry with me.] We first saw it near the boat-house, but then it reappeared on the side near the waterfall. I couldn’t tell if it was the same individual or not, it was diving and moving quickly. There were at least two; I have another photo of them which is too blurry to publish.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Double-crested cormorant swam around, low in the water. We saw a couple of others fly off.
double crested cormorantThey always remind me of a nonsense verse I read as a kid: ” The common cormorant or shag/ Lays eggs inside a paper bag/ The reason you will see no doubt/ It is to keep the lightning out/ But what these unobservant birds/ Have never noticed is that herds/ Of wandering bears may come with buns/ And steal the bags to hold the crumbs.” (It’s by Christopher Isherwood and of course it isn’t true – but as a child I had a strong mental image of the birds creeping into brown-paper bags to nest…)

The usual Muscovy ducks (which don’t actually come from Moscow) foraged around the edges of the lake.
muscovy duck at Stow Lake

There were a few of the Canada geese (formerly from Canada, but they live here now and particularly love the new Botanical Garden, which is goose heaven).
canada goose in a pine tree

Instead of a partridge in a pear tree, I offer you a wild goose in a pine tree.

It’s a couple of days late – but wishing everyone who reads this a wonderful year in 2015!

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: