In 1847 the place we now know as San Francisco was Yerba Buena, a remote Mexican village infested with fleas and threatened by sand dunes. Just three years later, by 1850, it was San Francisco, an internationally known city. It has inspired great story-tellers from Mark Twain to George Lucas. The first motion picture, the first cable car, the first silicon chip, the first internet billionaires all came from unique San Francisco. Today it has many of the world’s leading technology companies like Intel, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo, eBay and Google.
San Francisco also has an intense link to America’s past. Here was the western end of the first railroad to cross North America. Here the United Nations held its first meeting at the end of World War II. Here the first passenger plane took off to fly across the Pacific. Here University of California scientists discovered a dozen new chemical elements.
John Muir lived here and he helped create the world’s first conservation organization: the Sierra Club is still based in San Francisco. Muir’s work led to the creation of the US National Park service and nearby Yosemite became the world’s first national park. Later the Golden Gate National Recreation Area became the first urban national park in the US.
To find better food and wine you have to go to Paris. To find better scenery you’d need to combine the world’s largest ocean, steep rocky mountains, a broad and wind-swept bay laced with white caps, dark evergreen forests, grassy hillsides, bright sunshine and black storm clouds, a climate that produces blossoming plants twelve months of the year, ever-changing patterns of fog and light, colourful sail boats, herds of elk, dense flocks of seabirds, stately herons, suspended bridges draped across wide waters and quiet footpaths where you’re alone with the curious hummingbirds.
From the original gold rush through the internet boom in Silicon Valley, San Francisco has attracted adventuresome, bold, innovative, exciting people from across the world.
San Francisco and its environs might not immediately spring to mind as a destination for birders in November, but it's "where it's at"! Not only is it a fascinating city, but it is one of those places where humans haven't destroyed the environment. Within easy reach are many varied habitats in where birds collect to find a winter home. From eastern Siberia come the elegant Sandhill Cranes; from the northern prairies come Long-billed Curlew and Say’s Phoebe; from dark wet forests in Canada and Alaska come the bright little black and gold Townsend’s Warbler and the orange and black Varied Thrush with its haunting whistle. Migrants which arrive from remote northern lakes include Bufflehead and Ross’s Goose. Some birds like Brown Pelican even come north from Mexico for the rich fishing.
Europeans have been crucial in the history of American ornithology. Englishman Thomas Nuttall was the first scientist to cross North America on foot. Alexander Wilson, Thomas Bewick, William Swainson, William Bullock are all familiar British ornithologists who have had Californian birds named after them.
Visit seashores, marshes and estuaries where over twenty species of ducks and two dozen waders can be seen and heard. Take yourself from sea level to mountaintop, from beaches to almond orchards and rice fields. Take the chance to walk among ancient Redwoods at home in moist coastal valleys. In addition to the birds, you shall see tule elk, harbour seals, California sea lions, elephant seals and possibly humpback whales.
In the woods, chapparal and grassland, look for the birds that are found only along this stretch of the Pacific Coast like Anna’s Hummingbird and Acorn Woodpecker and watch California’s endemic Yellow-billed Magpie, never seen outside the state.