adventures in nature

Posts tagged “golden gate bridge

2015 Oct 07 – hawk hill merlin, ravens and red-tails

beautiful day up on hawk hill, filled with friends, hazy blue skies, and a good number of migrating birds and butterflies.

IMG_1278 v1RED-TAILED HAWK / hawk hill, marin county ca

as i arrived there we had a great look at a merlin that flew not too far overhead (a merlin is a type of small falcon, larger than a kestrel but smaller than a peregrine falcon) – it appeared to be a juvenile. they are fairly uncommon here in the bay area, but they pass through during migration time from their breeding grounds to the north – and in the time of short days we get a boost in the population as some choose to spend the winter here.

IMG_1185 v1MERLIN / hawk hill, marin county ca

the humans congregated on top of the hill with their scopes and binos, calling out every moving bird within a couple of miles. it’s a rather bizarre experience, to see all these people perched on the high hill for hours at a time every day for three months of the year, but wonderful that so many committed volunteers take their time to do this. as everyone was focused afar, two resident ravens, a male and female pair, landed very close by to watch the watchers.

IMG_1226 v1RAVENS with golden gate in background / hawk hill, marin county ca

RAVENS with golden gate in background / hawk hill, marin county ca

we chuckled as we realized that i was watching the birds, who were watching the other people, who were watching the other birds! these two hung around for quite a while, intrigued by the activity of the people (and likely looking for some dropped food as well). occasionally they would come very close to each other, making quiet croaking noises as one of them would groom the other’s face area. it was so endearing. and at such close quarters, in the bright sun, i could really see the intelligence in their eyes. amazing, beautiful animals.

IMG_1241 v1RAVENS grooming – or perhaps a literal “peck on the cheek?”

IMG_1244 v1-2RAVENS / hawk hill, marin county ca

IMG_1233 v1RAVEN / hawk hill, marin county ca

we saw a lot of accipiters today, as expected, but were also treated to a number of ferruginous hawks, several merlins, and some late-in-the-day peregrines. after most people had packed up for the day and i was leaving the hill, a red-tail floated overhead to hunt the area and allowed for some really fun pictures …

IMG_1267 v1RED-TAILED HAWK / hawk hill, marin county ca

IMG_1270 v1-2RED-TAILED HAWK / hawk hill, marin county ca

IMG_1276 v1RED-TAILED HAWK / hawk hill, marin county ca

the colors on this bird are amazing, and for an adult it has a very light eye (iris). so beautiful. thank you, my good friend!

as always happens when one packs up to leave, birds start showing themselves and tempting you to stay. as i started down the trail, one last juvenile northern harrier tried to keep me on the hill.

IMG_1286 v1juvenile NORTHERN HARRIER (aka MARSH HAWK) / hawk hill, marin county ca




2014 Dec 28 owls

great-horned owl with golden gate bridge in background at sunset

great-horned owl with golden gate bridge in background at sunset

It’s been amazing to hear all of the vocalizations that the great-horned owls make, especially now during courting time. One of the pair seems to greet the other after they leave their roosts with a croaking screech sound from a nearby tree, then when the pair comes together one of them makes a repeated chirping sound, something that you’d expect to come from a plush toy or something similar. It’s a fast series of soft, muffled cooing-chirp-toots. Even the common “hoot” changes in frequency, cadence, and number of hoots in a grouping when they are addressing each other. It’s very endearing.

Tonight this pair was hanging out together as usual lately Рand talking to one another Рon their favorite  tree, a big live oak. I felt lucky to watch and listen.

great-horned owl pair / Contra Costa County CA

great-horned owl pair / Contra Costa County CA


It certainly wasn’t difficult trying to pass the time in hopes of getting a glimpse of the comet PANSTARRS from a vantage high above the San Francisco Bay …

sunset over the Golden Gate bridge and Marin Headlands

sunset over the Golden Gate bridge and Marin Headlands

sunset over the Golden Gate bridge and bay

sunset over the Golden Gate bridge and bay

Luckily the moon was just waxing past its new phase and therefore not too bright as to diminish the view of this dim comet, as the only chance to see it was right after sunset in the western sky for a week or so in the middle of March. Too soon after sunset and the light was too bright to see it – too late, and it would sink below the horizon, or at least into the foggy pillow that had already claimed most of the bridge.

waxing moon

waxing moon

Finally, a few minutes to view this celestial visitor to our solar system.




golden gate sunset


sunday hawk hill sunset

I’m not even sure what’s going on here, despite having seen it with my own eyes. It appears that the sun is diving directly into the Pacific, with a ring of trees or other beings dancing in celebration around it on the surface of the water as the sky and clouds erupt with a glorious fire in its wake.¬†In the middle of the water.

Fire into water.

So that’s what happens behind the fog! What a rare and beautiful treat to witness the Pacific horizon naked, its robe of fog cast aside, as it welcomes the sun into its evening embrace.

night owl

barn owl and golden gate bridge

Sometimes you don’t have to go far to see amazing things. Actually, you never do. It’s just a matter of LOOKING. As it has been here in the East Bay, just minutes from where I stay. I feel very fortunate to witness it.

barn owl by berkeley east bay

I love to wander at sunset. I watch the jays and crows and ravens post up high on tree branches to watch the sun go down – as they seem to do any night that the sun is out – and I do the same as often as I can. I bask in that last light of day, that light that seems to bath the body and spirit in a rejuvenating and relaxing wash. It makes everything seem ok. My eyes feel strained as the light and color drain away from the landscape, but my hearing and skin sensitivity grow tenfold as they expand into the night to replace it. It’s electric. It’s the time of sound and feeling. Trees that I didn’t particularly notice before suddenly glow with a light that seems to come from within. The night air quickly turns cold.

It’s the time of the owls.

barn owl east bay berkeley

As I understand it, barn owls don’t typically wake up and fly out until well after dark. Lately though, this particular barn owl has been coming out in this warm Bay area weather just after sunset, allowing me to get some photographs and share a few moments of the hunt. It’s something you never forget. The owl soundlessly brushes over the landscape like a gently held paint brush – sometimes fluttering, sometimes gliding – then dropping down onto its unsuspecting prey.

barn owl on the hunt barn owl on the hunt 2 barn owl on the hunt 3