Carrizo Plains

Diana Keeling <Dennissher@...>

Yesterday and today Rich Hansen and I birded on the Carrizo Plains.  We saw many wonderful birds, including raptors.  Golden eagle, prairie falcons, red-tailed hawks and kestrals were fairly abundant.  The unusual raptor we saw was an osprey sitting on the power poles near the Soda Lake Road/Temblor Road intersection.  We had spent the night on the 18th and saw the San Joaquin kit fox, giant kangaroo rats and in the day the antelope ground squirrel. 
Reptiles and amphibians included the desert phase of the gopher snake, whiptail lizard, side-blotched lizard, blue belly, and the western toad.  Insects were the focus of my attention and I photographed the scarab beetle called the Little Brown Bear. 
Dennis Sheridan. 

Nocturnal Migration

Brad Schram

After reading the SBCo Birding notes from Joan Lentz today regarding the
fall-out down there, and seeing a clear night with full moon up here, I
decided to do a little survey of nocturnal migrant activity.

I trained my spotting 'scope, equipped with 32x wide angle eyepiece, on the
moon on a crystal clear night from 9:19 PM to 12:01 AM tonight, April 18. I
watched, jotting down the time every time I had a cumulative total of four
birds across the moon. In that time I saw 55 birds cross the moon's disk
going north at various altitudes. Although the air was virtually still at
ground level here in Arroyo Grande, I saw small birds at high levels getting
blown a bit westward in the glide portion of the flap-glide flight pattern
typical of warblers, sparrows, finches, etc. This wasn't pronounced, but it
did occur a few times. Most birds were headed almost due north toward the
north star. A few were angling a bit east of due north, and two were
seemingly going due west. Many were warblers or other birds of that size
and flight pattern (vireos, empids, buntings, etc), some seemed like
thrushes, others like kingbirds, others like grosbeaks or tanagers. Once I
had a low flock (8) of what seemed to be small geese flash across the disk
too quickly to get more from them.

It's an amazing experience, watching the moon and seeing distant birds cross
it in stark silhouette. On such a clear night it looks as if the birds are
laser cut silhouettes--except that their wings are beating. The flight
patterns are quite clear and one can make educated guesses on what types of
birds they might be. Some were so high that they were merely animated
specks taking a relatively long time (maybe one and a half seconds?) to
cross the disk, the lower ones, of course, flashed across more quickly. A
few bats crossed in random directions. I heard no flight notes, although
given the nearby frog chorus and the distant hum of hwy. 101 this doesn't
mean anything.

I predict lots of migrants in SLO county tomorrow morning (4-19)--unless
they all go over us tonight and keep on going!


Stenner Creek 18 April

Mike Stiles

Stenner Creek on the Cal Poly campus is getting to be very birdy.
Today I had an Olive-sided Flycatcher and Black-headed Grosbeak, both
a first for the year. Warbling Vireos are abundant. The regulars were
very active today, even the Turkeys seemed to respond to my Pygmy Owl

Take care
Mike Stiles
Los Osos, CA

another sneak 'preview to week 6' at Piedras Blancas


Hi Brad --

Thanks for checking in. Nice to hear from you. Yes, I'm on the
'slocobirding' list so am getting all the current postings. I'm only sorry I
didn't join up last year.

Just when I thought Sunday's loon-brant-scoter flight was all but cleared out
based on what I saw (or didn't see this morning, Mo 4/17) as I posted the
week 5 summary, all hell broke loose again in the afternoon with another
40-50,000 Pacific Loons between 1400-1800hrs, ~15,000 Brant, and ~20,000 Surf
Scoters. Some 10-15,000 settled along the upwelling / convergence line south
of the 'point' mid-afternoon to feed and rest. At 1730hrs, the whole lot got
up like dominos in reverse over the next 10-15 minutes and headed north.
Clicker count totals were running 1000+ per minute for about 10-12 minutes!
Damn! This Low Pressure system was a doozy I think, perfectly slow, and
kicking off a strong persisting southerly flow which resulted in this rather
unusual afternoon loon-brant-scoter batch probably having been blasted out of
the SoCal Bight earlier today. The Low is still out there tonight off S.F.,
winds still southerly and gradually increasing as the Low gets closer despite
the fact that the main bowed out front passed Piedras Blancas long long ago
(0900hrs this morning). I'll be eager to see what tomorrow brings as the
winds I'd think should gradually shift SW to W to eventually NW and maybe
kill such massive flights for a day or two. Who knows; maybe I'll be dead
wrong. --Richard

Richard Rowlett (
NOAA/NMFS Gray Whale Survey
Piedras Blancas Lighthouse
San Simeon, California

"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what
nobody has thought" --Albert Szent-Gyorgi (1893-1986).

PB 2000 (week 5: April 10-16)


Piedras Blancas and north coast summary (week 5: April 10-16)

coastal seabirds --

Off and on dense coastal fog Tu-Th (4/11-13) hampered observations somewhat,
especially We 4/12 which solidly shut us down until about 1600hrs. Modest
loon flights (mostly Pacific now) were observed through the clear periods
with ~15,000 on both Mo 4/10 and Tu 4/11. Who knows what was really going on
We 4/12 with the widespread dense blanket of fog covering all of the central
and southern California coastal waters? Judging from past experience and
perceptions and my occasional peaks into the 'holes', such fog events appear
to ground loon flights. Even during the abrupt cleared period after 1600hrs,
virtually nothing was moving.

The ever so slow advance of that first dawdling weak low pressure storm
system on Th 4/13 triggered the first strong loon flight of the season as I
was kind of anticipating with ~25,000 packing through all day long in
addition to ~7,500 each for Brant and Surf Scoters. Fr 4/12 morning brought
forth the first welcome rain of the season, not much, but enough to settle
the dust and pack sand. Once that cleared out, Friday afternoon turned out
to be one of those most rare and gloriously beautiful afternoons one can ever
experience here. Seas were flat slick calm with crisp clear horizons and a
sun that was downright 'too hot' while the hills and Hearst Castle across the
road were blanketed by a pile of cumulus giving the whole area a feeling of
magic and the surreal. Despite such gorgeous conditions, the Pacific Loon
flight went essentially dead (<5,000) although Brant (~5,000) and Surf
Scoters (~7,500) pushed through in some really huge flocks. This was clearly
peak week for Brant with minimally 12,000 more on Su 4/15. Total Brant for
the week estimated 30-40,000 plus an unknown for the foggy We 4/12

Then, about 5pm on Fr 4/11, an interesting event occurred with a sudden and
spectacular movement of Common Loons. My 'clicker count' from 1715-1945hrs
tallied 1,237. That may not sound like much or very noteworthy compared to
tens of thousands of Pacific Loons streaming by here at rates up to 1,000 per
minute(!) at times, but those loose flocks of Common Loons up to 50 at a time
spread across the sky and all in full breeding plumage, especially when
passing directly overhead and to the east against such a spectacular mountain
/ cloud backdrop illuminated by the late afternoon sun is indeed one of the
most stirring sights to behold and one of those short-lived events which I
look forward to each Spring. Common Loons are not 'common' as the name
implies; they are in fact the cumulatively least numerous of the 'big three'
California loons. Why? Probably because of their migration pattern and more
cosmopolitan inland distribution makes them less exclusively restricted to
the narrow band of marine coastal waters as are Pacific and Red-throated.
Thus, Common Loons disperse in migration far and wide over the whole state
(and U.S.) and although they are perhaps more familiar to most, are perhaps
less numerous overall anyway.

As the season has been virtually dead for 'tubenose' seabirds thus far,
things changed abruptly late Fri (4/11) afternoon with the sudden appearance
of Sooty Shearwaters (~1,000) swarming about out there a mile or so over the
slick calm seas. The appearance of the first significant numbers of
shearwaters seemed to coincide with the first breezers of school fish seen
this Spring and a group of 6-10 Humpback Whales (season's first as well)
which have remained now daily through Su 4/16, some coming in within 400
meters of the 'Point', breaching, flippering, and otherwise just milling
around back and forth.

Fr 4/11 afternoon also brought the weeks highlight species, a FLESH-FOOTED
SHEARWATER, and only the third such sighting from shore here since 1994. A
large all dark shearwater, sooty brown/black including underwing, pinkish
bill, heavy set, deep winged, languid flyer somewhat suggestive of
Pink-footed and Cory's. Seen for about 5 min. coursing back and forth a few
times with plenty of Sootys about for comparison at about 0.5nmi at 1745hrs.
Speaking of Pink-footed Shearwater, I still haven't detected a single one
yet!! Su 4/16 should have been the day for sure, but it wasn't! Zero.

Sa 4/15 was yet another absolute prefect flat calm clear day. Life couldn't
have been better except that coastal bird flights had come to a virtual zero
apart from the 500 or so Sooty Shearwaters attending the Humpbacks and school
fish. Gone were the Common Loons, few other loons, Brant, and scoters. The
calm before the storm.

Sunday 4/16, all hell broke loose. The floodgates burst open as everything
seemed to be on the move with great urgency riding a 15-20kt SSE tail wind
thanks the second and strongest of the two low pressure storm systems this
week. A quick glance from the house early at 0630 and even as I was opening
up shop at 0645 I didn't register to the naked eye that much of anything was
going on. It wasn't until that first glance through the 'big eyes' (25X150
fujinon binoculars) that ...Holy S___!!... the sky offshore was literally
black with clouds of birds!! Mostly loons -- thousands upon thousands of
loons, most high and offshore, too far, too fast, and too dense to
distinguish Pacific from Red-throated but most were undoubtedly Pacific
Loons. From just 0645-0730, I 'clicker counted' 27,600 loons! Between
0730-0800, the flight dwindled to 4,000, and continued to diminish thereafter
to about 1,500 per hour for the rest of the day. Few Brant and scoters were
seen during the morning session -or- they were too far offshore and high to
be detected. However, some colossal Brant and Surf Scoter flocks (800-1200)
started passing the point after 4pm.

I conducted two short focused sessions on the 'big eyes' (0645-0900hrs and
1730-1830hrs) on this day in addition to making regular and frequent 'spot
checks' throughout the day. With my 'clicker count' figures plus minimal
estimate in between, I think a fair guess on loon numbers for the day was
easily 45-65,000(!), 90-95% of which were in all likelihood Pacific.

Selected species count results of focused ‘big eye' (25X150 fujinon
binoculars) coastal seabird watch conducted Sun 4/16 (0645-0900hrs and
0645-0930hrs -- weather: overcast, wind SSE 15kts, sea state B4, visibility
clear but slightly hazy near horizon;
1730-1830hrs: weather – overcast, very light rain, wind SSE 20kts, sea state
B5, visibility clear but slightly hazy near horizon.
Species listed marked with (*) were individually counted with hand clickers.
Also, you'll note some ‘zero' data listing species which I should be seeing
or should have seen by now but haven't. You know the ol' adage: Negative data
is just as important as positive, just not as much fun to collect. If this
little table below ends up out of alignment and scrambled at your end, sorry,
blame the Internet programers.

0645-0900 1730-1830 day estimate

Black-footed Albatross 3 0 unknown
Sooty shearwater ~4,500 ~1,500 unknown
Pink-footed Shearwater 0 0 unknown
Loons* 33,250 3,200 45-65,000
Pacific --- --- (~90-95%)
Red-throated --- --- (~5%)
Common --- --- (<1%)
Brant* 500 5,800 ~12,000
Surf Scoter* 810 2,400 ~7,000
White-winged Scoter 0 0 unknown
Black Scoter 0 0 unknown
R-b Merganser 0 0 unknown
Bonaparte's Gull 0 340 unknown
Black-legged Kittiwake 0 0 unknown
Forster's Tern 0 0 unknown
Common Murre 12 15 unknown
Rhinoceros Auklet* 305 0 unknown
other alcids 0 0 unknown
Phalaropes 0 0 ? unknown
shorebirds: nothing but a few flocks of small ‘peep' like jobs, one of which
might have been phalaropes, otherwise, none what so ever! ....or they were
all blown so far offshore beyond the limits of detection.

other coastal sightings / non-sightings of note, arrivals, departures,
etc.... --

Black-footed Albatross -- 3 immature on Su 4/16; a little surprising given
the offshore nature of the winds.
Pink-footed Shearwater -- still NONE sighted yet this spring
Bonaparte's Gull -- first sightings Mo 4/10 (early morning offshore flocks)
Black-legged Kittiwake -- one sighting; single adult on Tu 4/11
Glaucous Gull -- singles on Mo 4/10 (large chalky white 2yr bird), and Su
4/16 (pale mottled tan 1yr bird). Both birds were notably larger than the
Westerns with which they were associated, plumage uniform, large rectangular
shaped head and long two-tone bill
Forster's Tern -- small numbers all week
Rhinoceros Auklets -- good northbound flights during the first hour or two Mo
4/10 and Su 4/16. 200-300.
other alcids -- other than Common Murres & Pigeon Guillemots, none.
Black Scoter -- NONE still. I have scanned countless flocks and thousands of
flyby Surf Scoters, and not a Black amongst them ....yet. Still looking.

other stuff --

Peregrines -- activity unchanged from last week. Female is spending most of
her life these days inside the eyrie. I'm assuming (hoping) everything is
still going well. The male comes and goes, sometimes bringing in food and/or
at which time they change turns on the nest. Otherwise no dramatic chases or
kills observed this week.

hummingbirds -- The Anna's nest just outside the front window which has kept
us watchful and fascinated since Day 1 fledged the first chick at 1856hrs on
Th 4/13. It just shot out of the nest like it had been flying all its life.
Pretty amazing actually since I hadn't observed it exercising much. But the
departure was perhaps a bit premature. A visiting FWS biologist whom I'd
regrettably just shown the nest to 5 minutes earlier couldn't resist the
temptation to photograph them (camera, tripod, flash, the whole nine yards)
and jostling the branches at less than a foot away was all it took. So,
let's say I'm just a bit aggravated to spare you readers a burst of
profanity. On the other hand, the nest was getting really crowded and one
was sure to have to go soon. Still, and especially after watching over the
nest so carefully since the eggs were laid, through the moment of hatching,
and enjoying the routine of watching the daily routine just to have some here
today gone tomorrow intruder thoughtlessly disrupt the whole thing kind of
leaves a sour taste toward visitors of any ilk. Meanwhile, the second chick
has the whole nest to itself. By Sa 4/15, as it climbed up on the edge,
exercising and preening, I figured fledging was imminent. Then, it would
nestle back into the nest again. Ditto Su 4/16 despite the wind and rain. I
thought for sure the wind would at least blow it out or into taking it's
maiden flight. The female still comes around to feed it every 20 min or so.
I haven't actually seen the first bird to fledge but assume (hope) it's
around nearby somewhere as the female will continue to feed the fledglings
for sometime even when they are out of the nest. Meanwhile, this is one busy
female. Yet another brand new nest (nest #5 this season) in the cypress next
door. It looks like the same Anna's female tending her current fledging
fledglings as she also is in the process of building the new nest. I'm
guessing it probably has two eggs already, but it's up too high for me to
ever see into it. All the others nests are doing well and weathered the
weekend storm fine. One more Anna's with two chicks will be the next to
fledge followed by the luxury nest of Allen's. The other Allen's is still on
two eggs.

yardbirds -- nothing much of note. Golden-crowned Sparrows remain. The
Sunday storm brought in our first Orange-crowned and Wilson's Warblers but in
no great numbers to get all excited over.

San Simeon State Park --

morning walk (Tu 4/11, 0630-0930) -- A clear calm morning but again fairly
quiet. The species count was pretty good (80) thanks to padding by a strong
showing of coastal migrants (loons, brant, scoters) which are typically
abundant off PB but often missed at San Simeon since I only have time for a
quick cursory 10 min scan over the ocean and many of those birds are at the
bare edge of visual detection. The trail route was again fairly quiet and
warbler numbers seemed fewer. Western Tanager and Cedar Waxwing was new for
this springs morning walks at this location. Notable misses: Bushtit,
Townsend's Warbler, Bufflehead, Cinnamon Teal. The little gaggle of
waterfowl which I usually count on has pretty much cleared out leaving only
one Ruddy Duck in the small pond just east of the park campground. Even
scrounging up a single coot was a hard find. Three fresh broods of Mallards
were noted and a 'broilers dozen' (13) Wild Turkeys were seen in the usual
hillside pastures just east of the hilltop campground. The adult male
Peregrine was present again for the third weekly walk in a row on the large
rock at the mouth of San Simeon Creek.

**Preview to Week 6** -- Being a little tardy with this report, just a quick
update tacked on here on activity this morning (Mo 4/17) as the rains ceased,
skies cleared, and seas settled to a lumpy glassy state. Most notable was
the season's first FRANKLIN'S GULL (adult) followed 200 meters arrears by the
season's first Parasitic Jaeger. Also, the season's first phalaropes (unid)
were seen far out along the upwelling / convergence line. Loon, brant,
scoter flights have been virtually nil. Yesterday's blow must have really
scoured the 'loony bin' clean for a while. Cetaceans seen in an unusual
episode of simultaneous visibility from shore this morning: Gray Whale,
Humpback Whale, Risso's Dolphin, Pacific White-sided Dolphin, and Northern
Right-whale Dolphin. ....And, as of now (1400hrs), that lingering fledgling
Anna's Hummingbird continues to sit as it has all day so far on the outside
edge of the nest exercising, preening, feeding (from Mom), and just sitting.
Any second now..... varoom, varoom... Stay tuned.

Richard Rowlett (
NOAA/NMFS Gray Whale Survey
Piedras Blancas Lighthouse
San Simeon, California

"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what
nobody has thought" --Albert Szent-Gyorgi (1893-1986).

Birds 4/15

Karen Clarke <seachest@...>

Yesterday, Sat., I drove out to Elkhorn Road in the Temblor Range and the
California Valley. I had thought that between storms the weather would be
nice----cool and sunny. Wrong! The entire area from Hwy 101 to the Temblor
Range was socked in. The overcast skies cleared away around 10 AM to reveal
a higher cloud layer that became darker and uglier as the day went on. The
temperature may have reached 60. Anyway, I enjoyed the silence and
solitude. Other than 100s of White-crowned Sparrows, few birds were out and
about. Just to the east of the intersection of Elkhorn Road and Soda Lake
Road there were 2 active nests on the power poles----Common Raven and
Prairie Falcon (like last year). I saw a bird in each nest.

On the way home I stopped at Shell Creek to view the wild flowers. There
were several large patches of Tidy Tips, Goldfields, and Filaree with a
smattering of Owl's Clover, Brodiaea, and Blue-eyed Grass. The display is
not as large and varied as it was several years ago. I noticed 4 species of
lupine, from tiny to bush-sized. There may have been more. Very few Baby
Blue Eyes were present. Maybe it is too early. I found one cliff-side
patch of Scarlet Bugler whose flowers will be open in a day or two and
another spot under the pines where Parry's Larkspur was blooming. Here and
there were Sticky Phacelia, Fiddleneck, Indian Paintbrush, and bushes
covered with yellow composite flowers. Here I saw 2 handsome adult male
Bulluck's Orioles. To the north, where a dirt road leads eastward and a
gate sits on the left side of Shell Ck road, I saw what appear to be 4-6
plants of Desert Evening Primrose. They are not yet blooming.

At home, this morning, while reading the Sunday Times, an unusual chip in
the back yard attracted my attention. Near the bird feeder were an adult
male Hooded Oriole and a male Black-headed Grosbeak. they didn't stay long.
Each year I see one or two Hooded Orioles in my yard, but they have always
been immature specimens. Their presence caused me to think that maybe the
pull of subtropical air northward in the last two days has facilitated the
movement of migrants to the north?

Karen C.

Oldsquaw at Oso Flaco

Leslie Mosson <lmosson@...>

This morning, during a hike sponsored by the Dunescenter, Jamie Chavez
verified that a bird seen on the lake yesterday and again today is an
Oldsquaw. Both days the bird has been active (diving, preening, etc.)
on the right side of the boardwalk (the "north" side) as you cross the
lake. The bird appears to be a male --- closer to winter plumage than
breeding plumage.

Leslie Mosson

Shell Beach 4-16

Brad Schram

I was at Shell Beach (tennis courts) this morning for 1 hr. 50 mins.,
leaving at 10:50. The PEREGRINES have apparently hatched chicks there again
this year; their behavior is identical to last year when they had young in
the eyrie--they fly around and swear at you, harassing gulls in classic
displacement behavior. If you go to see the Peregrines there, I suggest--in
order to minimize disturbance--that you retreat up by the tennis court fence
if the birds get agitated; they calm down when you do this.

During the time I was there PACIFIC LOONS streamed by offshore at an
estimated average of 100 per minute. They were at spotting scope distance,
essentially on a course roughly from Pt. Sal toward Pt Buchon. I imagine
that Richard Rowlett up at Piedras Blancas had quite a flight this morning.
A few COMMON LOONS were seen going north also, as were only 4 CASPIAN TERNS
in this time. One WHIMBREL flew by offshore, headed north alone. A lone
Brant flew into the cove beneath the tennis courts. Rafting SURF SCOTERS,
approx. 150 in several small rafts, were offshore, as were 1-2000
Aecmorphorus grebes in a ratio of roughly 25 or more WESTERNS to 1 CLARK'S.

PIGEON GUILLEMOTS are displaying on the water just below the cliffs is rafts
of 4-10 birds, with much coming and going; there are a few PELAGIC
CORMORANTS nesting on the cliffs as well. The usual BRANDT'S CORMORANTS
were on offshore rocks along with BROWN PELICANS; a few DOUBLE-CRESTED
CORMORANTS flew by in breeding plumage--going downcoast. The resident
BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS piped loudly on occasion.

Common Dolphins were surfacing lazily just off the big rock. Sea Otters
floated on their backs 400-500 yards offshore. A mile or so out a Humpback
Whale spouted and sounded. A second whale breached, crashing back in a
massive splash. The second whale may have been a late Gray--its
paddle-shaped pectoral fins and lack of white on the throat and belly
certainly cancel out Humpback.

The usual flock of migrant gulls (for this date) was loafing on the beach
some with faded white primaries, were among them. Also among them was an
interesting gull, one sure to cause debate and maybe casual
misidentification. When if flew by I thought it may well be a genuine
Glaucous Gull, given the large size, seemingly pure white primaries, and
obvious bi-colored bill of apparently the right shape and size for Glaucous.
The tail was so faded that it gave no good clue--essentially all white with
a bit of a banded effect toward the body. Faded large gulls (particularly
Glaucous-winged) are common in April, though--birds that are late in
assuming second year plumage and their first-year feathers are worn and
faded. Fortunately it landed on the beach with the loafers and I got a 60x
look at it. I'm convinced the bird is a faded to white first-year HERRING
GULL. It was the size of the average WESTERN GULLs nearby, maybe a touch
smaller than the largest male Western--not good for Glaucous. There were
too many smudgy gray feathers on the otherwise white breast to give a
classic first winter Glaucous look, and it was not heavy-breasted in
proportion as Glaucous show. The bill shape and color are right for
Herring, thus cancelling Glaucous-winged (although Glaucous can show this
shape and proportion as well), but most importantly I could see in the
'scope as the bird preened that the base of its primaries--covered by the
greater coverts and tertials when the bird is at rest, and therefore
shielded from the sun--were a uniform faded brown. No Glaucous Gull has
primaries like that. If you were to see this bird fly by or asleep on the
beach and were not tipped off that there are many faded gulls this time of
year it would be easy to pass this off as a first year Glaucous. The bill
color is perfect and an uncritical look at the bird overall, simply noting a
large white gull with (seemingly) pure white primaries, supports Glaucous.
Gulls are a challenge.


SLO Birds 4/15

Tom Edell

I have birded the Cayucos Creek mouth for over twenty years, so I consider it
a good day when I get a new bird at that location. The last one I recall was
a Ruff I found there a few falls ago. This morning I added another bird to
my Cayucos Creek mouth list when a CANYON WREN was seen and heard singing
along the rock armoring the parking lot. There are no known locations for
this species in the immediate area, so I must assume it was a migrant. I am
aware of one other record of a migrant Canyon Wren in SLOCo, a bird Eric
Johnson had in the City of San Luis Obispo on 2 Aug 1991. Aside from the
wren other birds of interest were 300-500 shearwaters banking offshore at the
horizon (probably Sooty) and a flock of Black and Ruddy Turnstones on the
beach, some of which were in alternate plumage.


Tom Edell
Cayucos, Ca

ravens on the coast

Curtis A. Marantz <cmarantz@...>

Eric basically hit the nail on the head regarding coastal ravens. These
birds begin showing up where the bluffs meet the coast just south of
Carpinteria and occur from here south. The Pt. Mugu area is especially
good, but I believe that these birds probably occur coastally from here
south to the Mexican border. I can certainly say that where I grew up in
the hills of the Sepulveda pass (between the San Fernando Valley and Santa
Monica), both ravens and crows were common birds (one of few places that I
have seen this to be the case). Also, though not quite as common, ravens
are also not uncommon in coastal Orange County and through at least part of
the LA basin. My experience south of there is less extensive, so one may
wish to consult Phil Unitt's book on the Birds of San Diego County for this.

Curtis Marantz

more ravens and crows

Eric Johnson <e.johnson31@...>

FYI, here is what I have been able to figure out about raven/crow distribution in Calif. It works most of the
time! Ravens occur in the more arid climates (Calif. deserts) as well as the Sierra (conifers). Crows occur in the
more mesic climates of the central and north coast, and in the central valley. Coastal San Diego County has, to
my recollection, only ravens (arid). They co-occur where the redwood and doug fir (conifers) occupy a mesic
climate (coastal Marin, Mendocino, etc.). Why? Who knows! Ravens seem ro be adapted to the places crows
don't like. Are crows competitively excluding ravens from the milder climates? Anyone know of places where
crows have displaced ravens (or vice versa)? Maybe we need to look at the north cost in a century or so!

Eric J.

Re: grackles

Jamie M Chavez <jcwings@...>

Originally I only posted the grackle announcement to the Santa Barbara
County birding group so there may be some in SLO that aren't aware of
this story. I've included the text from the message below for anyone
interested in this. Mike has raised the question of whether or not
grackles are migratory. I can only say with regard to these particular
grackles that they were not present since last spring and summer since I
regularly cover Preisker throughout the fall and winter. I've been on
the lookout for these birds and they have only recently returned. Of
course, they could have simply moved out of the park to someplace
nearby. Curious... does it prefer the company of grackles or blackbirds?
The grackles appear to be seasonal.

Jamie Chavez
Santa Maria



He's back! The hybrid grackle has returned to Preisker Park in Santa
Maria. It was with a few blackbirds and a male and female Great-tailed
Grackle beginning nesting activities in the same pine tree as last year.

The identification on this bird more or less centered on Great-tailed X
Brewer's Blackbird (still uncertain) but its size closely resembles a
Common Grackle with a purplish sheen to its plumage. There are many new
members to this group since last summer so for those of you not involved

in the previous debate and discussion, this bird was found during last
year's Spring Migration Count and was originally misidentified (by yours

truly) to be a Common Grackle of the sedentary eastern "purple race". It

so closely resembled a Common Grackle in size and shape that I was
convinced this is what it was! The "bronzed grackle" remains the only
race of the Common Grackle to be found in the west since it is migratory

and prone to wandering. Last year this thing constantly displayed to
female Brewer's Blackbirds and called frequently. It even fed blackbird
chicks in an active nest, much to the disgust of the parent birds.

Preisker Park is located at the extreme north end of Santa Maria near
the S.M. River and 101 bridge. From north Broadway take Preisker Lane
north about two blocks to the park entrance. There is a row of
eucalyptus trees on your left as you enter the park. Next to the eucs
are about five or six pines. The grackles are nesting in the southern
most pine. The mystery bird frequents these pines or can be found
feeding on the lawn in the front portion of the park. It sometimes flies

out of the park and into the neighborhood directly to the east.

To see photos, a detailed description by Curtis Marantz and comment by a

few experts, go to Joe Morlan's California Birding Pages web site. Click

on the California Birding link, then go to Mystery Photos. This grackle
was the July '99 mystery bird. It is interesting to watch and a real
brain tease.

Jamie Chavez
Santa Maria

Re: More Ravens & Grackle

bbouton <bbouton@...>

Brad Schram wrote:

The, essentially correct, wisdom that California's Ravens are more birds
mountains and drier climes, while Crows are more urban and devoted to
farmland shows its inadequacy in the face of the channel islands Ravens.

Just a note on this topic:

A friend of mine who lives in Half Moon Bay, San Mateo County and I often
exchange birding visits to each other's home county. Between Half Moon Bay
and Santa Cruz, the land is nearly all agricultural. An American Crow found
along this stretch of coast is quite a rarity, but Northern Ravens are

Bill Bouton
San Luis Obispo, CA

Re: More Ravens & Grackle

bbouton <bbouton@...>

----- Original Message -----
From: M. Stiles <>
To: <>
Sent: Friday, April 14, 2000 11:21 AM
Subject: [slocobirding] More Ravens & Grackle

Mike wrote:

On another note. The return of "Jamie's Grackle" to Preisker Park is
interesting to me. Where would it have wintered? Are Grackles
migratory? Does its return change anyone's opinion of what it may be?
Should it be caught and a DNA sample be taken? Does anyone care?

Mike (and others),

I'd very much like to know what the bird REALLY is! I wish someone would
catch it.

Bill Bouton
San Luis Obispo, CA

Re: More Ravens & Grackle

Brad Schram

interesting. I was on Catalina Island for a week recently where
are residents and Crows are a rare vagrant.
The, essentially correct, wisdom that California's Ravens are more birds of
mountains and drier climes, while Crows are more urban and devoted to
farmland shows its inadequacy in the face of the channel islands Ravens.
They are common on Santa Cruz Island, including cliffs above the surf. I
haven't checked for Crow records there, there may be some--but surely only
as vagrants. One may suppose a variety of logical explanations for the
complexity of their separation, and their co-existance in some places as
pointed out on Calbird recently, but unanswered questions remain. Looking
at this species around the northern hemisphere one sees an incredible
ability to adapt to any climate extant.

On another note. The return of "Jamie's Grackle" to Preisker Park is
interesting to me. Where would it have wintered? Are Grackles
Yes and no; some are, some aren't. Some Great-tails (Walter Wehtje could
give us sub-specific/population differences on this) are migratory, some
aren't. The northern population of Common Grackle is migratory, the
southern population sedentary. A small northern population (largely
Appalachian) of "purple" Common is migratory, the Florida population

The visual field-mark problem with Jamie's Grackle (Quiscalus chavezi) seems
to center on the lack of bronzey edges to the scapulars. If the scaps had
bronzey edges there would be ID mark corroboration for a theory of the
infintesimal chance that it is from the (short-distance) migratory "stonei"
race of Common. I spent lots of time looking for this in all light
conditions last spring/summer and it wasn't there (although it should be
looked for again now when the bird is presumably in fresher plumage). This,
plus its confusing variety of calls and its behavior make the hybrid
hypothesis clearly the best.

Does its return change anyone's opinion of what it may be?

Should it be caught and a DNA sample be taken? Does anyone care?
Emphatically yes, and yes.


More Ravens & Grackle

Mike Stiles

I just wanted to add an observation of mine that I found to be
interesting. I was on Catalina Island for a week recently where
are residents and Crows are a rare vagrant.

On another note. The return of "Jamie's Grackle" to Preisker Park is
interesting to me. Where would it have wintered? Are Grackles
migratory? Does its return change anyone's opinion of what it may be?
Should it be caught and a DNA sample be taken? Does anyone care?

Mike Stiles

Crows and ravens

Miller, Mark C <mark.c.miller@...>

Here in the southern San Francisco Bay area, over the years it's been very
interesting to watch ravens pushing out from the immediate shoreline into
suburban areas. Ravens have always been common in the Santa Cruz Mountains,
but down in the flatlands, even as recently as 1990 it was very unusual to
see a raven more than a mile from the bay, and now they seem to be all over.
My guess is that now that the landfills are getting capped over, the ravens
are spreading out, and have taken to nesting on the roofs of buildings.
Ravens are strangely absent from the Monterey Peninsula, but become common
and occur with crows from Big Sur south.

Mark Miller

Montana De Oro State Park


A male and female peregrine falcon were at Spooner's Cove yesterday
morning, but it was not the Morro Rock pair five miles away, which were
being observed at the same time and are incubating eggs now. There was a
fast chase over the water and capture of a pigeon- the female landed on
a rocky shore outcrop with it and then flew north along the dunes.

Every few years one or two ravens together fly over Montana De Oro along
the coast going north..."vacationing" from the east or perhaps moving
north along the coast from south of Santa Barbara?? Ravens and crows
occurred in semi-arid Simi Valley adjacent to San Fernando Valley where
I grew up...I wonder how the population dynamics of the two species have
changed with the loss of the large orange and walnut groves and
eucalyptus stands and replacement by a sea of residential development
(more landfill habitat though!).


Re: north coast Band-tailed Pigeon & Common Raven


Band-tailed Pigeons are one of my regulars (2-8) usually encountered on my
spring time weekly morning walks since 1994 in San Simeon State Park. Most
often seen or at least heard on the nature trail near the crest of the piney
hills before descending down to the riparian area. They have also been seen
or heard on most of my exploratory forays during the Spring along the higher
forested parts of Cypress Mountain Road east of Cambria.

Common Ravens indeed are very scarce if not down right rare along the north
coast. This apparent historic coastal 'gap' between Santa Barbara and San
Francisco, which oddly enough includes the rugged Big Sur coast, the Santa
Lucia Mountains, and Ventana Wilderness seems down right weird. Imagining a
rational reason completely escapes me. Little different as to why they are
absent from urban 'Pugetopolis' (Seattle area) but common all around. The
occasional sightings of Ravens at Piedras Blancas each Spring, usually only
once or twice, involves birds apparently off on vacation from back east
somewhere and on some sight seeing adventure. Initial detection and
awareness is announced almost invariably by call. I've seen birds come
flying in high overhead from straight out of the east and head straight out
to sea for up to a half mile or so. Oops! And they make an abrupt "U-turn"
and head back from where they came. Occasionally a bird or two will stick
around for a day or two or three, quite obvious, quite vocal. None have been
detected yet this Spring. For what it's worth, even Common Crows seldom make
the trip to the point, although only a half-mile away along rt.1 they remain
a frequent sight as anyone would probably know.

Richard Rowlett (
NOAA/NMFS Gray Whale Survey
Piedras Blancas Lighthouse
San Simeon, California

"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what
nobody has thought" --Albert Szent-Gyorgi (1893-1986).

Band-tailed Pigeon

Karen Clarke <seachest@...>

Regarding Band-tailed Pigeon sightings, they have been present in the
forests of Cambria the last two years. I first sighted 1 on Weymouth St.
(east side of Hwy 1) March 8, 2000. A week later there were 6-8 at a bird
feeder in the Liemert Tract of Cambria. March 26 I counted 15 at the feeder
in my backyard on Moonstone Beach Dr. in Cambria. Since that date, 3 have
been present in my backyard at some time during the day. They are very wary
and bolt easily.

Last weekend as I searched for a Bell's Vireo in the Santa Clara River at
the Hwy 101 bridge (Ventura Co.) I spotted 5 Common Ravens flying low.
Remembering the email declaring Ravens as far west as the Hwy 101 bridge in
Santa Maria highly unusual, I discounted these birds as ravens. They had to
be crows, but then I heard one of them vocalize. Definitely raven in
timbre. Earlier I had been on Hwy 1 where it abuts Mugu Naval Air Station
and the Pacific Ocean. As I occupied myself spotting birds and watching the
Mugu air show, I spotted 4-5 dark birds soaring over the summit of the
adjacent Coreopsis covered hills. I could not make a clear ID of Common
Raven, however, I thought it unusual for a crow to soar with unflapping
wings minutes at a time. I now believe these birds to be the same ravens I
saw at the Santa Clara River site. Also at the Santa Clara R. site I came
upon a cage used to capture Brown-headed Cowbirds.

Karen C.