Territorial Yellow-breasted Chat at Whale Rock Reservoir + Atascadero migrants

Kevin Zimmer

I managed to tear myself away from the computer for a couple of hours this morning (Thursday 4/28), and headed over to Whale Rock Reservoir. My primary motivation was to see if Lazuli Buntings and Blue Grosbeaks were on territories. They were. I located 5 singing male Lazuli Buntings (and 1 female) and 2 singing male Blue Grosbeaks (and 1 female) along Cottontail Road. I also photographed an adult Bald Eagle that came soaring over, and heard a Western Wood-Pewee and a MacGillivray's Warbler singing from the riparian area along the creek below the beginning of Cottontail Road.

Of greatest interest however, was a very vocal, territorial Yellow-breasted Chat that was singing away from the riparian belt along the (dry) Cottontail Creek arm of the reservoir. His territory seemed centered on an area downslope (ca. 200-300 m) from the big dirt turnout on the left side of Cottontail Road almost exactly 1.0 mile from the intersection of Cottontail Road and Old Creek Road. I don't get to spend a lot of time birding the county during the breeding season, so perhaps this is old news, but as far as I'm aware, Yellow-breasted Chats are rare breeders (at best) in the coastal portions of the county, being much more regular in the Salinas River valley and around Lopez Lake.

In other news from Atascadero:

As of 4/18, there were still 4 different White-throated Sparrows hanging out in our yard. I photographed 1 in the yard yesterday (4/27), but have not seen any Zonotrichia of any species so far today. There were still at least 12 Golden-crowned Sparrows and 5+ White-crowned Sparrows in the yard through Sunday (4/24), but they all seemed to pull out over the next 24 hours (Monday-Tuesday).

Pine Siskins are hanging on, with ca. 20 still frequenting our yard (down from 40+ earlier in the month).

We had our FOS Yellow Warbler in the yard on 4/22, and that afternoon, I saw a single Vaux's Swift over the property, also my FOS. We've also had a trickle of Western Tanagers through the yard since 4/18, but still nothing like the numbers I recorded last year.

Finally, and most surprisingly, I had an immature male Orchard Oriole fly in from some distance away, land in one of our oaks, sit for about 30 seconds, and then take off, flying out of sight to the north. This was on the morning of 4/22. This coincided with the arrival of multiple 1-year old male Hooded Orioles in our yard (we've had two breeding pairs of adults attending our feeders for the past 3 weeks) -- seemingly a late northward push of younger orioles that hatched out last year. I was astonished to see an Orchard Oriole in the yard (a first) -- it was a much brighter, more lemon-yellow below than the young male Hoodeds that were all over our yard, and when I first saw it naked-eye, I half expected it to be a Western Tanager. The short bill and tail (compared to Hooded) and restricted black chin patch (compared to Hooded) were all obvious with binocular views.

Kevin Zimmer

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