Finding Beauty Series – Birds in San Francisco

Lesser scaup, Stow Lake

In these strange times across the globe, it’s been easy to feel unsettled around the clock whether checking the news or waking up suddenly from a disturbing dream. As I found myself feeling off-kilter for days on end confined in my house, I realized I had shut out so many of the gifts in the world that come with being an earthling.

Now I’m spending time outdoors where no distancing is required from flowers, from fresh air, from views of the landscape. Beauty in the natural world hasn’t disappeared and in fact, I need to connect with it more than ever. Perhaps you are feeling the same, so I have started this series—to celebrate beauty as a necessary elixir.

In the Bay Area, waterfowl find places to feed, roost, and nest adjacent to and sometimes in the middle of urban areas. Here are some of the local birds whose beauty consistently inspires awe and gratitude for their company. This post features those that frequent the lakes of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in the winter and spring.

As always, I welcome your feedback in the comments section.

Ring-necked duck, Stow Lake

If it were up to me, this bird would be called ring-billed instead of ring-necked

Female ring-necked duck, less colorful than the drake

Northern shoveler, Stow Lake

Northern shoveler with a ring-necked duck in the foreground, Stow Lake

Hooded merganser, Lloyd Lake

Pied-billed grebe, Stow Lake

Bufflehead couple, Stow Lake

Female bufflehead, Stow Lake


  1. Just the cure for cabin fever, especially in the CV 19 era. It’s wonderful that you can find such diversity of life near an urban environment. This should serve as a message to all of us that we can still get out there, enjoy nature, take a deep breath and smile. Thank you for your beautiful post!

  2. These pictures and words are so beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing with us. You are helping me, inspiring me, to spend more time outside. Thank you!

  3. I was seeing many of these lesser scaups out at the Berkeley Marina yesterday. I love your new series. Miss you.

    • Thanks, it will be good to see you when we can. I’m guessing the birds you’re seeing on the bay are the related greater scaups, which prefer open water. If you go to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website, you can see the difference.

  4. Wonderful. These help me in my journey in bird identification as well as your words being inspiring.

  5. Such a welcoming post, and beautiful photos from an observant and loving eye (yes, that’s you Beverly).

  6. Beverly, thank you so much for the invitation to view these simple yet reassuring photos of ducks just busy being themselves!

  7. Wonderful water patterns in the first photo. You have a lot in common with comments on gifts and gifting with the author of Braiding Sweetgrass.

    • I learned at a birding gathering that this is a thing. The presenter was part of the group that declares official names. When he said this exact proposal was considered and voted down, people all over the room groaned in disappointment.

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