South County birds: Blackpoll, Prothonotary Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Ruff

Kevin Zimmer

Just back from a long, but very productive day of birding the south county, with Bill Rucci. We spent the entire morning at Oceano, looking without success for the Golden-winged Warbler and Chestnut-sided Warbler seen yesterday by Roger & Ruth. We did, however, find a fall-plumaged Blackpoll Warbler (photographed) [later seen also by Maggie Smith and Kaaren Perry] and a male Prothonotary Warbler. I found the latter bird at about 10 a.m., feeding low along the water edge on the west side of the peninsula (near the bat boxes). Bill and Brad Schram also saw the bird before it gave us the slip. None of us obtained photos. We alerted Maggie and Kaaren, and the five of us spent another hour or so looking for the Prothonotary without success. Mike Stiles subsequently found what was almost certainly the same male bird at the south end of the lagoon, in the willows adjacent to Pier Avenue. The only other birds of note that we recorded in the campground were 2 Hermit Warblers, one dull, the other notably brighter.

After leaving the Oceano Campground, Bill and I drove to the Monarch Butterfly Preserve, and hiked the trail along the creek (Meadow Creek?) that borders the north edge of the Preserve. There, amid a flock of chickadees, Bushtits, Townsend's Warblers, and Orange-crowned Warblers, we found and photographed an immature Magnolia Warbler.

Jazzed by seeing 3 species of vagrant warblers in such a short period of time, we headed down to Oso Flaco, where, alas, our luck ran out. Chickadee/Bushtit flocks in the willows there had multiple Townsend's, Wilson's and Orange-crowned warblers, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and a Hutton's Vireo, but little else.

On the way back north, we stopped to check out the Pismo Creek mouth. The tern flock has dwindled to about 150 birds (about 75% Elegants), and no sign of any Common Terns. We did, however, find a single Black-necked Stilt (juvenile) and a juvenile (likely female) Ruff (both photographed), which were the only shorebirds present except for 4 Red-necked Phalaropes. While we were watching the Ruff, 3 Plegadis ibis (assumed to be White-faced) flew in, thought about landing, and then headed out over the ocean.

All in all, a great day, even without seeing either of the two species we went to chase!

Kevin Zimmer

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