Date   

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
below, mostly CALIFORNIAS and WESTERNS. Four or five GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS,
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.

Brad


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

Tom Edell
Cayucos, Ca
tedell@aol.om


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
http://www.egroups.com/group/sbcobirding

-------------


Greetings,

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.

http://fog.ccsf.cc.ca.us/~jmorlan/

Jamie Chavez
Santa Maria
jcwings@pronet.net


Re: More Ravens & Grackle

bbouton <bbouton@...>
 

Brad Schram wrote:

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.

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
common.

Bill Bouton
bbouton@fix.net
San Luis Obispo, CA


Re: More Ravens & Grackle

bbouton <bbouton@...>
 

----- Original Message -----
From: M. Stiles <mstiles@calpoly.edu>
To: <slocobirding@egroups.com>
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
bbouton@fix.net
San Luis Obispo, CA


Re: More Ravens & Grackle

Brad Schram
 

interesting. I was on Catalina Island for a week recently where
Ravens
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
migratory?
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
sedentary.

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?
No.

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

Brad


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
Ravens
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
mstiles@calpoly.edu


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

S_Schub@...
 

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!).

Steve


Re: north coast Band-tailed Pigeon & Common Raven

Pterodroma@...
 

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 (Pterodroma@aol.com)
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.


coastal ravens

Eric Johnson <e.johnson31@...>
 

It is my experience that ravens replace crows coastally roughly south of the Santa Barbara-Ventura county line.
Anyone else? Guy McCaskie has commented that the crow-raven distribution in Calif. is probably the least
understood. They co-occur coastally north of SF Bay!

Eric


Montana De Oro State ParK

S_Schub@...
 

It was quite an experience leadng a hike with kids on the Valencia Peak
trail today. At 700 ft. elevation an adult golden eagle suddenly
appeared at eye level out of the windblown fog at a 50 foot distance, a
red-tailed hawk in the air screaming at it.
Below a northern harrier flew low over the brush. A pair of white-tailed
kites are nesting in a patch ot taller coffeberry shrubs above a canopy
of coastal scrub, at about 300 ft. elevation near the Oats Peak trail.
All three goldfinch species are in the general viciniity of the
Spooner's ranchhouse. Other sightings on the mountain hike today: gopher
snake, yellow-bellied racer, garter snake, rattlesnake (six along the
trail yesterday!), fence lizards, alligator lizards, brush rabbits, and
a coyote.

Steve


Brant

CarolC7529@...
 

To: the group
From: John Roser

For those who are interested, here's an update on the Morro Bay Brant
population and a brief summary of some of my findings over the past 3 years:

Spring migration out of Morro Bay has been on in earnest the past few weeks.
Numbers have been as follows: 2,700 3/11, 2,200 3/17, 1,600 3/23, 1,300
3/30, 700 4/7, 170 4/12. This years population peak was 3,800 Brant during
the first week of February. Last year the population peaked at 2,400 and the
year before it was 1,700. The bay's Eelgrass beds were in very poor
condition 3 winters ago and have since slowly recovered to the approximate
acreage seen preceeding the fall of '94 Hwy 41 fire and spring of '95 floods
(which brought heavy sediment loads to the bay and led to a severe depletion
of Eelgrass). The Brant numbers seen this year are probably more indicative
of the bays current true carrying capacity. Brant counts from the '60s were
typically from 6,000 to 8,000 with a count in the '50s of 11,000. Band reads
obtained in Morro Bay represent all of the Black Brant banding localities
from Russia and Alaska to Banks and Victoria Islands in Canada. One
individual of the 'western high arctic' or 'gray bellied' race was observed
last year, and several were observed this year. Their breeding range is
Melville and Prince Patrick Islands and they winter in Puget Sound. They
currently are recognized as a distict race but they have no subspecies
designation. These birds look more like the eastern hrota race in plumage
(very pale, almost white bellies with a thin necklace that is typically
incomplete in front), but they are observably larger than our nigricans race
(as opposed to the hrota race being smaller).

This year I got over 1,100 band reads over the six month season. Once again
band read data showed that our wintering population seemed to consist of a
core of family groups that spend the entire season. Of the family groups in
which juveniles are banded as well as their parents, data shows that many of
them spend the entire season here from Nov. through Mar. or Apr. Family
groups typically stay intact until they leave on migration. Strong site
fidelity has been observed over the 3 year study. Many pairs have returned
to spend the entire season 3 years in a row. In January northward movement
from Mexico picks up. Many birds were observed all three years with their
first sightings here occurring roughly at the same time each year (for
example, if I first picked it up in Feb. the first year, odds are that's when
I first would pick it up in subsequent years). Some of these birds stay a
month or two, some seem to move on more quickly.

First arrivals in the fall are heavily weighted by family groups with a large
influx of what are probably failed breeders or non breeders arriving later in
mid to late Nov. During the 97/98 season a dramatic Eelgrass crash occurred
in January. At that time the population abruptly went from 1,700 to 600
individuals with many family groups remaining and the failed or non breeders
departing. At that time the birds fed in the salt marsh on algae and
vascular plants all day (both high and low tide) for several weeks (you may
have noticed this). This behavior did not occur during the past two seasons
due abundant Eelgrass availability.

It is estimated that about 80% of the 130 - 140 K population of Black Brant
now winters in Mexico. Of the approximately 40 radioed brant that were
radioed in their breeding sites in Alaska and were tracked migrating straight
to Baja, only one was detected using Morro Bay as a northward stopover this
year. Most Mexican migrants fly right by and I believe many don't even know
Morro Bay exists due to low flight elevations over Estero Bay and the dunes
of the spit obscuring their view of the bay. Some of these northward
migrants will stop briefly at intertidal sites along the coast to eat Ulva
(sea lettuce).


SLOCo Birding, 4/11 and 4/12

bbouton <bbouton@...>
 

Hi All,

I spent a couple of hours around the Oceano Lagoons (and campground) on
Tuesday. Birds of note included:

A pair of Eurasian Collared-Doves at the corner of Norswing and Harding and
another (same?) heard calling later in the campground where they nested last
year.

Laurence's Goldfinches, 6 or 7, in the pines along Highway 1 N of the ranger
station .

Dark-eyed Juncos feeding fledged young in the willows on the W side of the
lagoon.


I attempted to go out onto the ocean with Paul Lehman and his tour group
today (Wed), but the dense fog caused the plan to be aborted. So I went up
onto West Cuesta Ridge for an hour or so.

Band-tailed Pigeons were several times seen perched in the tops of the
cypress skeletons, the first time I've ever seen them up on the Ridge.

A Black-throated Gray Warbler was in song at the Cuesta Ridge Botanical Area
billboard.

Many Black-chinned Sparrows were in song along much of the route as were
Rufous-crowned Sparrows.

Cheers,

Bill Bouton
bbouton@fix.net
San Luis Obispo, CA


Morro Bay Doves

Tom Edell
 

I sent this message yesterday, apparently to the wrong address (thanks Mike).
It relates to Eric Johnson's question about Ringed Turtle Doves in Morro Bay.


PB 2000 (week 4: April 3-9)

Pterodroma@...
 

Piedras Blancas and north coast summary (week 4: April 3-9)

The season's first Gray Whale cow/calf pair showed up on Tu 4/04 thus
signaling the start of 'Phase 2' of the annual Alaska bound migration of this
coast hugging species and the primary reason I'm here in the first place. We
had a total of five by week's end plus at least one more on Su 4/09. Phase 1
involving adults and juveniles continues to wind down and on schedule. Other
cetacean species seen from shore this week included Minke Whale, Risso's,
Common, and Bottlenose Dolphins.

Last weeks string of magnificent calm days has been gradually breaking down
with the return of the marine layer (mornings) and increasing but tolerable
afternoon longshore northerlies. A telephone number you might find useful is
for current real time wind speeds at the lighthouse. Call 927-0386 anytime.
The little man we keep locked up in the lighthouse will eagerly take your
call 24 hours a day. Just the wind, nuthin' else cuz he doesn't know,
doesn't care :-))

coastal seabirds --

Strong flights of loons, brant, and surf scoters Mo 4/02. Tu was a virtual
zero; We & Th were only a little above that but steadily picking up midweek
through the end. The Mo 4/02 flight of Brant was the first significant
flight noted this Spring (~5,000). Good flights of both Pacific (several
thousands) and Common Loons (a few hundred) on Fr and Sa 4/07-08 kind of
petered out just in time for a rather disappointing Sunday 4/09 dedicated
'big eye' session (see below). Pacific Loons have taken over as the
predominate loon species now. Last week it was running about 3:1
Red-throated : Pacific; this week the trend reversed to about 4:1 Pacific :
Red-throated.

Still almost a total bust around here for 'tubenose' seabirds. One or two
immature Black-footed Albatross were present briefly Th 4/06 midday. A few
Sooty Shearwaters started appearing from Th 4/06 onwards finally breaking a
two-week zero dry spell. The general absence of shearwaters so far this
Spring is unusual as they should be becoming fairly plentiful around here by
now, yet more often than not, their conspicuous absence all the way out to
the shelf break (3 nmi) and horizon (6 nmi) has been particularly noticeable.

There were only two Black-legged Kittiwakes this week, single adults on We
4/05 and Su 4/09. The season's first Forster's Terns observed migrating past
PB were a flock of 5 on Sa 4/09.

alcids -- Impressive northward flight of Rhinoceros Auklets observed Sa 4/08
with 415 counted between 0700 and 0720hrs (flocks up to 35), after which it
all but stopped. Pretty good flight early Su 4/09 too. This was the first
time this spring Rhinos have been seen in such impressive numbers. Two
Ancient Murrelets were seen on Th 4/06 and one on Sa 4/08. Not a single
Cassin's Auklet has been detected or even suspected so far this season. When
they are about, they often make for a favorite Peregrine meal.

A dedicated coastal seabird count conducted Sunday 4/09 (0700-0900hrs)
weather: clear, wind NNW 10-15kts, sea state B3/4, visibility clear light
haze to ward horizon. Nonstop effort on the 'big eyes' (Fujinon 25X150
binoculars) resulted in the following selected species counts:

Sooty Shearwater ~40
Short-tailed Shearwater 1 (400 meters)
Red-throated Loon 545
Pacific Loon 2080
Common Loon 76
Brant 26 (very low!)
Surf Scoter 110 (very low!)
White-winged Scoter 2
Red-breasted Merganser 5
Greater Scaup 3 (one male, two female)
Black-legged Kittiwake 1 (adult)
Forster's Tern 11
Common Murre 125
Rhinoceros Auklet 280
migrant shorebirds: Black-bellied Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Whimbrel,
Marbled Godwit, Surfbird, Short-billed Dowitcher, and a few little 'peep'
like objects.

During the continuous 'big eye' scans, I spotted a tight little flock of 8
Surfbirds initially heading north out nearly a mile and just large shorebirds
sp.at that time. Sighting the 'Point' they turned to head toward shore. Bad
idea I immediately thought and kept my eye on them. About 30 seconds later
as they approached the beach, Mr. Peregrine bolted from it's top of the
lighthouse perch, blasting into the middle of the rocky shore bound
Surfbirds, deftly nabbing one from the group. The flock of 8 made an
immediate emergency departure as a flock of 7.
--------------------

other stuff....

Ferruginous Hawk -- not seen all week. Fr 3/31 was the last day and I guess
the strong Santa Ana winds that day must have blown it out of here or
inspired it to leave for good. March 31st thus is the latest coastal Hearst
Pasture / Piedras Blancas departure date on record here since I've been
keeping track (1994).

Peregrines -- nothing terrific or dramatic observed other than the Surfbird
incident mentioned above. They've pretty much settled down now to the
occupation of incubation.

hummingbirds -- The Allen's hatched on Tu 4/04 and the before described
luxury nest now hosts two tiny chicks. Only a 15-day incubation period seems
really short. The two Anna's nest and chick occupants continue to do well
and are growing like mad. The chicks in the nest outside the front window
are bubbling over the top now as they pretty much fill up the nest which
appears to remain quite secure despite its exposed location. Since this one
is fully exposed and well below eye level, it's easy and fun to watch the
female making the regular and frequent feeding visits. Yet another nest, my
fourth this season already, was discovered Sa 4/08. Another Allen's, very
much under early construction but already containing two eggs. It always
fascinates me to watch the female constructing the nest whichstarts out as
just a flimsy platform around the already laid eggs. The first time I
discovered such back in 1994, I thought the egg which appeared was just an
infertile 'practice' egg. Imagine my astonishment when a second egg appeared
within 48 hours and the nest grew up around them. Rufous Hummingbirds remain
scarce to almost nonexistent.

other yard birds -- Nothing of note, no migrants and not a single warbler
yet. I've suspended the back yard ground feeding temporarily which means
losing the Spotted Towhee I think. A few House Sparrows settled in and I
don't want to encourage them to get in the habit of hanging around or worse,
nesting here. Once they've moved on, and they will, then we'll open up shop
again. The singing House Wrens have finally given up and moved on too as I
expected.
--------------------

San Simeon State Park --

morning walk (Th 4/06, 0630-0930) -- What a difference an overcast morning
can make; the silence was deafening. The only thing really 'ripping'
(literally!) the silence apart were a couple very irate Great Blue Herons
disturbed from their roost (or nest) by the nearby roost of Turkey Vultures
as they began their day and commenced taking flight. Daylight Savings
doesn't help either this early in April when limited to a time constraints.
69 species, nothing new, no late departures, and missed several
characteristic and usually encountered species (Snowy Egret, Red-tailed Hawk,
Acorn Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Golden-crowned Sparrow). No Winter Wren
again. Hermit Thrush was the highlight in the wooded portion. An adult male
Peregrine was the only other notable, perched on the top of the large rock
just north of the mouth of San Simeon Creek. I thought this one might be the
Piedras male, but since I drove straight back to the lighthouse at 60mph from
there to find the adult male perched on a fence post in front of the house,
I'm guessing that the San Simeon Creek bird must be different ...unless it's
one hell of fast flyer! That rock is best viewed and scoped from the pullout
just south of the bridge (ocean side) and looking back north.

No foreign travel to Monterey Co. this week.


****************************************************
Richard Rowlett (Pterodroma@aol.com)
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).
****************************************************