City couple fills empty nest with love for area birds
By Bonnie Eslinger
Published: Friday, December 30, 2005 1:26 AM PST
San Francisco bird lover Dan Murphy guesses he knows at least
species of birds by sight. Walking through San Francisco’s Pine Lake
Park on the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas bird count, he never
once glances at the field guide in his back pocket — he just calls out
the names of the feathered creatures as he sees and hears them.
more yellow-rumped warblers, and a pygmy nuthatch,” says Murphy, 61, a
no-nonsense guy, wearing binoculars and a blue American Birding
Association baseball cap. “And an American coot.”
it,” said his wife Joan, who follows along, taking notes while keeping
an eye out for the birds hidden in the eucalyptus trees and within the
Native San Franciscans, Dan and Joan Murphy have been married
years. A few years after getting married, Dan began bird-watching after
work to diffuse the stress of his job, working with Alameda County
youth in the juvenile justice system. Every afternoon, he’d take a walk
through Golden Gate Park, simply to look at the birds.
Murphy bought some books and took some classes, and eventually began
leading tours and sharing his
hobby with others. In 1983, Murphy and another local bird enthusiast
organized a San Francisco team to participate in Audubon’s annual
“It’s fun,” Murphy said. “There’s loads of variety and a lot
diversity. Their behavior is incredibly varied. They tell you a lot
about the conditions of nature. And they’re beautiful to look at.”
some birds, such as the California quail, are disappearing, he said,
due to feral cats and unleashed dogs, as well as a loss of habitat
caused by development.
While she now shares his enthusiasm for
birds, Joan Murphy, who also works as a library aide, said raising a
family kept her from getting involved with bird-watching during the
first few decades of
“At one time, I said I’d be crazy if I ever started to do this,” she
after the kids began leav-ing the proverbial nest did Joan get her
first pair of bird-watching binoculars. Now she’s hooked. “You don’t
realize when you’re not birding how many species are all around you,”
That was 15 years ago.
“She hasn’t been bird-watching as long as I have, but she’s coming
along,” Dan Murphy said with a smile.
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