|Thousands of Shorebirds in Action on
San Francisco Bay Shore at Foster City
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We drove to San Francisco Bay Shore at Foster City in the afternoon of October 8, 2020 to enjoy bird
watching and saw thousands of shorebirds on the Shell Bar and its associated mudflats along the shore line at
At the bay shore of San Francisco Bay at Foster City, a large spit extends into the bay. This spit is composed
of clam and mussel shells and so it is locally known as the Shell Bar.
We parked our car on Beech Park Blvd near the junction with Gull Ave. It took only a few steps to walk up to
the Bay Trail on the levee to enjoy watching thousands of shorebirds in action on the Bay.
Zoom in even more for much closer view of the shorebirds on the mudflats and the Shell Bar. (My compact
super-zoom camera has 65X optical zoom.)
Zoom in for closer view of some of the shorebirds with long and short beaks.
I came to this area again on February 8, 2021 and was surprised to find a heavy 3-year 90-million dollar
construction project going on to raise the levee by 5 to 7 feet because of the flooding problem in Foster City
during heavy storm and the concern about rising sea level. With such heavy construction work, the bird
watching area along the levee (Beach Park Blvd) will not be accessible for the 3-year construction period.
Black Skimmers and shorebirds.
A movie scan of thousands of shorebirds on the mudflats adjacent to the Shell Bar that I took at:
Another movie of many shorebirds walking and moving on the Shell Bar at shore at Foster City:
Movie of shorebirds with long and short bills are poking into the mudflats to get food (worms, clams, and
crustaceans) to eat.
Terns, black skimmers and shorebirds.
Thousands of shorebirds migrate south from their breeding grounds in far north (arctic area) to spend their
winter along San Francisco Bay. The Shell Bar on the bay shore at Foster City provides place to rest at high
tide and the adjacent mudflats provide food (worms, clams, and crustaceans) at low tide. These mudflats are
like an all-you-can-eat buffet for birds and attract huge number shorebirds to San Francisco Bay shore.
In addition to the Shell Bar and mudflats, many shorebirds also rest on the big rocks along the levee. The San
Mateo Bridge is not too far away in the background in this picture.
Many shorebirds (Willetts) resting on the big rocks of the levee. When the wings of Willett are spread out, the
black and white patterns on the wings and the tail are quite impressive.
A movie of these shorebirds in action near the levee that I took is shown in the following:
Some Foster's terns.
Closer views of Foster's terns in action in the air.
The paved Bay Trail going south on the levee in parallel to the Beach Park Blvd on the right side in this picture
in Foster City. It takes only a few steps to walk from Beach Park Blvd up to the Bay Trail on the levee to
enjoy watching thousands of shorebirds in action on the Bay. Shell Bar is on the left side on this picture. This is
a very convenient and accessible area for bird watching in late fall and winter season.
The paved Bay Trail going north. The far end is the San Mateo Bridge. The Shell Bar is on the right side in this
This is part of the 500-mile San Francisco Bay Trail for walking and cycling path around the entire San
Francisco Bay running through all nine Bay Area counties, 47 cities, and across seven toll bridges.
From time to time, groups of brown pelicans also show up here either flying high in the sky or flying low just
above water surface.
I also took a movie of these pelicans in action on October 8, 2020 as shown in the following:
Some people are fishing from the Shell Bar.
A kiosk on the Bay Trail near the Shell Bar and Beach Park Blvd to show several kinds of shorebirds with their
names commonly seen in the areas near the Shell Bar.
The kiosk also reminds visitors and bird watchers to help to protect these shorebirds, give shorebirds a break,
do not disturb the resting shorebirds and keep dogs on leash.
Normally and most of the time, these shorebirds are either resting on the Shell Bar or on rocky shore of levee
or poking and eating food on the nearby mudflats. They took off into the air only if they are disturbed or
attacked by their predators such as eagle or hawk or falcon or merlin that attack, catch and eat shorebirds.
So, we stayed here for hours and were lucky to see these special events of amazing air shows of thousands
of shorebirds in action in the air.
After we finished bird watching at the bay shore of Foster Cit and was driving over San Mateo Bridge to go
home, we saw many cormorants perching on the tall steel towers of electric power line in parallel to the San
Mateo Bridge. Cormorants are excellent fishing birds. When they are hungry, they can catch many fish on San
Francisco Bay. After they eat enough fish, they perch on these steel towers to rest. Some of them are drying
their wings by extending the wings out.
Many black skimmers.
Black skimmer has a longer lower mandible and shorter upper mandiblel. The strange, uneven bill of the
skimmer has a purpose for their special way of fishing by flying low, skimming and plowing water surface
when it is fishing. The skimmer snaps the bill shut when the lower mandible contacts a fish. Such special
fishing method can be seen in the following Youtube movie:
Zoom in for closer view of the shorebirds on the mudflats and the Shell Bar.
One of the reasons for so many shorebirds at the Shell Bar at Foster City is that the opposite side (east side)
of San Francisco Bay has the huge sand bars of Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in Hayward as shown on
my panoramic website here plus Coyote Hills Regional Park, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National
Wildlife Refuge, Baylands Nature Preserve, Ravenwood Preserve, Redwood Shores State Marine Park, etc.
around the San Francisco Bay. All these are protected waterbird habitat and are very attractive to shorebirds
in late fall and winter season when huge number of shorebirds left the frozen arctic areas and migrated south
to San Francisco Bay area.
The Shell Bar at the shore of San Francisco Bay at Foster City. The San Mateo Bridge is not too far away.
Many seagulls on the water in addition to many shorebirds on the Shell Bar.
Many shorebirds at the water edge of the Shell Bar.
Spectacular Acrobatics Air Show of Thousands of Shorebirds in the Air:
It is spectacular sights to watch the acrobatic air show of high concentration of huge number of shorebirds
swoop, swirl and soar over San Francisco Bay in their own magnificent feathery waves and ballet in the air.
They rise into the air as if their precise mid-air acrobatics group flight had been choreographed.
As they bank, the light is absorbed by their dark backs, then reflected by their bright bellies...Shorebirds flow
and turn together with such uncanny precision as to make one think they are a single organism.
芭蕾， 非常壯觀，這是賞鳥者和攝影者夢寐以求的特殊生態奇觀， 心花怒放，好不激
Movies of Spectacular Air Shows:
When these thousands of birds took to the air, their air show is fantastic as shown in the following YouTube
movie that I took on October 8, 2020:
The air show of the black skimmers are also very impressive as shown in the following YouTube movie that I
The other place that I also enjoyed watching fantastic air show of huge number of black skimmers was on
Galveston Island, Texas as shown on my website here.
The willet is a large, grayish-brown sandpiper with a distinctive black and white wing pattern.
Tall steel towers of electric power line in parallel to the San Mateo Bridge on San Francisco Bay.
Zoom in on San Mateo Bridge from a paved hiking trail in Hayward Highland in Hayward, California.
Many cormorants perching on the base of the tall steel towers of electric power line in parallel to the San
Mateo Bridge as seen on February 8, 2021.