DEAR JOAN: About a month ago I saw a flock of large birds flying very high over the north side of Morgan Hill. It seemed like there were about 30 to 40 birds flying and turning in unison. It was a beautiful sight.
The birds looked white with black at the wing and tail tips.
Just last week I saw two of the same birds doing the same thing very high over the southern Interstate 85/Highway 101 intersection. I searched the Internet after the first sighting to see if someone might be able to identify the birds, but found nothing. Do you have any idea what kind of birds these were?
DEAR S.: I talked with area birders and folks with the Golden Gate Audubon Society and there are two likely possibilities. The first would be white pelicans. They are large enough birds that people would definitely notice them. They often fly in a straight line formation. The white pelicans are not as common here as brown pelicans, but they have been spotted in the Bay Area recently.
The other likely choice is sea gulls. They can be quite impressive when flying as a flock. They would also match the color description.
One for the bird(er)s
San Juan Capistrano has the swallows that return each year; Lake Merritt has a tufted duck. Maybe not as dramatic, but certainly more exotic.
For 22 of the past 36 years, a male tufted duck has shown up at the Oakland lake to spend the winter. And this year's visitor has arrived.
It's very unusual for this Eurasian species to come to North America, but one guy makes it almost every year. He hangs out with a flock of scaup, a common native duck that bears a resemblance to the tufted, making him hard to spot. But a trip to the lake and search for the duck is well worth the time. Otherwise, the nearest place to spot one is in Siberia.
For more details, go to www.goldengateaudubon.org/blog-posts/welcome-back-to-our-tufted-duck.
Pups in the window
The San Francisco SPCA is once again teaming up with Macy's for "Holiday Windows," the annual event where adoptable animals are showcased in Macy's display windows in Union Square. An unveiling with former Mayor Willie Brown and 49ers running back LaMichael James is set for 5 p.m. Nov. 16, at the corner of Stockton and O'Farrell streets. The displays will remain up through Jan. 1.
The theme for this year's displays is iconic San Francisco neighborhoods. Last year about 325 animals found new homes and almost $80,000 was raised for the SPCA.
The SPCA needs volunteers to help spread the holiday cheer at the windows, greeting the public, collecting donations, and directing visitors to a pop-up adoption center inside Macy's. The 2-hour shifts do not require special training. Groups are welcome, and children are invited to volunteer alongside their parents. For details or to sign up, go to www.sfspca.org/holiday-volunteer or call 415-554-3008.
Each holiday window will be equipped with a video camera that streams images to www.sfspca.org/holiday, so you can watch the kittens and puppies from your computer. The video is supported by KSFO Radio.
On Dec. 14, National Believe Day, Macy's will be matching all donations collected outside the holiday windows, up to $1,000.
All of the animals on display are available for adoption; donations help provide for the care and the general welfare of the shelter animals.
Contact Joan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.