CP Ornithology trip report: Santa Maragrita (5/3/12)

Jessica Griffiths

Belated trip report this week, but we did not see much out of the ordinary in our trip to Santa Margarita. By far the highlight was the MERLIN we watched hunting CLIFF SWALLOWS at the intersection of G St (Hwy 58) & Estrada Ave (also Hwy 58)--that's the spot where Hwy 58 jogs right & crosses the train tracks, on the edge of Santa Margarita Community Park.

There is a Cliff Swallow colony in a culvert under the road, and the Merlin tried again and again to catch one. It would sit a top a tall pine on the NE side of Estrada, waiting for a lone swallow to fly in or out. The students and I must have watched it hunt unsuccessfully for at least 15 or 20 minutes. It never caught a thing! The dark, streaky plumage and high failure rate made me think this was probably a juvenile.

We birded around the park & the Santa Margarita Cemetery, then headed out to Las Pilitas Rd to check out the bridge over the Salinas. We saw 32 species for the morning, no other remarkable sightings. Oh, we *did* watch an ACORN WOODPECKER apparently caching acorns in the roof of a camper trailer near the park. That's what happens when you leave your trailer parked outside for a long time next to an oak tree...


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