View Full Version : San Francisco hotspots?

Aidan Briggs
03-14-2009, 12:24 PM
I am hoping to go to San Francisco next December. I was mainly inspired when I found a pond with ring-necked ducks as tame as mallards, without my camera. Anyone know some particularly good spots for bird photography?
Target species include: waterfowl, allen's/rufous hummingbirds, grebes, warblers, and shorebirds(particularly turnstones, plovers, and whimbrels) I will probably only have around 3 days of shooting. I was thinking about Golden Gate Park?

Thanks in advance.

Chris Hansen
03-16-2009, 12:44 AM
My favorite spot for shorebirds and waterfowl is the hiking and biking trail that borders the west side of San Francisco Bay directly south of the airport. Whenever I used to go to conferences down there I would stay at one of the Airport hotels that are right across the street from the trail. I could then easily shoot photos in the wetlands there early in the am and then in the afternoon after the conference.

You might also want to check out this website for some leads.


Have fun and God bless,


Aidan Briggs
03-18-2009, 08:30 PM
Thanks, Chris

A couple questions:

Do you have more specific directions? What species are there in December? How close can you get to them? Is the morning or evening best?

Thanks for the info.

Chris Hansen
03-19-2009, 08:18 PM

Evening is usually best if the fog doesn't roll in. The best time of all is just before high tide when they are pushed into feeding close to the trail. Approachability really varies but I feel that a 500 mm lens would be needed.San Francisco Bay has a multitude of species to photograph in December. Clapper rail, Common and Snowy Egret, GBH, Night Heron, Mallards and Pintails.
Direction wise you take Highway 101 south of SF and go just past SFO Airport. Get off at Millbrae Ave. go east to the Bayshore Highway and go south to Airport Blvd. Go South on Airport just a little ways. You will see Bayside park on your right. Just past the park there is a parking lot on the left right next to the trail.

You might also look into Baylands further south near Redwood City. It has a following of a number of photographers that shoot there. I haven't shot there but from what i have heard it is probably better than here.

Good luck on your quest and God bless,


Dan Brown
03-19-2009, 08:36 PM
Aidan, Ring-necked Ducks and other ducks species can be found a Merrit Lake in downtown Oakland plus a lot of very approachable BCNH's Egrets, gulls etc. All the birds can give very close photo ops! This is a good spot but it is right in the middle of the city! Morning would be best but ofcourse evening is good to.

Another spot is Arrowhead Marsh in the morning. This is in Oakland also. Sorry, but I do not have directions for you to either of these spots. You should be able to google them though.

PS. try to get up to Bodega Bay while you are up in SF, it's my favorite birding/photo spot. about 1 hour north of SF.

Joerg Rockenberger
03-21-2009, 06:02 AM
For Plovers and Whimbrels I'd go to Ocean Beach in SF, New Brighton State Beach in Aptos or Carmel River State Beach. Note, they are all early morning sites.

Personally, I can't recommend Palo Alto Baylands as it is difficult to get a low angle.

It's better at Radio Ponds in Redwood City/Shores - there should be plenty of ducks, marbled godwits, dowitchers, willets etc. Better have a 500 though.

Shoreline Lake in Mountain View should be a sure thing for Grebes and various ducks.

The only other place in teh City for bird photography besides Ocean beach I know of is Lake Merced. Don't have any personal experience but know that some folks are succesful there.


Aidan Briggs
03-21-2009, 11:12 AM
Thanks everyone,

Ocean beach and Merrit lake sound particularly good. Dan, what other species of ducks do they have at Merrit Lake. Can you get a low angle there? Thanks.

Does anyone know anything about hummers/warblers?

Dan Brown
03-21-2009, 12:42 PM
In winter, there are many species at Merrit Lake, there is a nice male Tufted Duck there as of last week, plus, Goldeneye (both), Bufflehead, Canvasback, Mallard, some times Mergansers, several sp. of gulls, grebes. As for getting low, not so good, the lake is ringed by a walking path and the edge is concrete (I think) you could lay on your belly and depending on how full the lake is, be about 2 feet above the water.

Cal Walters
06-17-2009, 12:10 PM
Allen's Hummers by the score at Presidio - El Polin Springs. Not sure about December, but in early May there were plenty. I don't know if they migrate out. We have Anna's year round.