Date   

Re: Adios & 'hungry loons'

Pterodroma@...
 

In a message dated 6/4/00 1:46:41 PM Pacific Daylight Time, CarolC7529 (John
Roser) writes:

Just wanted to say I enjoyed your posts and so did David Ward (the Alaskan
brant guy). Hope your new adventures are pleasant and hope to see you back
next year.
John --

Thanks for your message. All in all, it was a pretty good season at Piedras
Blancas I guess. Glad to hear that at least the Brant reports were of some
interest and use to somebody.

I started a reply (draft file) to your question several weeks ago about the
Pacific Loons feeding with the cormorants and seeming to 'do a double take'
as they flew over, turning around, diving in. I do see this from time to
time; it's a rather comical actually. You've got these long strings of loons
going merrily along focused on just following the leader and going north.
Then sometimes for some seemingly inexplicable reason, the momentum just
suddenly and without warning falls apart, the organization disintegrates, and
the whole lot hits the water (plunge dives) rather domino style. In extreme
episodes, I've seen up to 5,000 do this. Quite literally, they 'plunge dive'
right out of the sky, much like Sooty & Short-tailed Shearwaters when they
stumble upon a good patch of krill. There's no cruising around to look for
just the exact right spot or morsel; they just go straight in. Once in the
water, there is often a feeding frenzy. No sooner do they surface, then they
dive again, and again, and again. As the feeding frenzy starts to wane,
maybe 5-10 minutes, then the birds may just take off one by one, a reverse
domino style, and resume the familiar strings that characterize the loon
flights past Piedras Blancas.

Occasionally, a big raft will just sit or rest there for a while. But in the
'heat' of migration, just sitting there idle is not part of the plan.
They're still moving north, and I've seen rafts of several thousand just
slowly paddle north, against the longshore current. I think that this is
probably what happens at night when all loon flight activity halts entirely
(infrared heat sensor data). There are no loons flying at night; period!
Come daylight, they peel off one by one, a follow the leader sort of thing,
rather then all getting up at once like most waterfowl and shorebirds. This
I think explains some of these huge 'pulses' and unbroken 'strings' of loons
which pass the point, sometimes sustained for 20+ min at a rate of 300, 600,
even a thousand per minute. Huge rafts that have formed during the night,
maybe down around Morro Bay, then come first light, start peeling off one by
one until the whole lot is airborne.

When a small group is involved, and I got a little chuckle out of late this
spring, there was a little gaggle of 10 or so Pacific Loons tucked in and
feeding in the lee shore bay area (behind Brian's house) east of the Point
one afternoon. By and by, and one by one they started taking off. One
individual so busily diving and feeding, popped up late in this, and seemed
to suddenly be aware that everybody was leaving. He perked up, seemed
surprised, stretching his neck up high, intently started looking around as if
saying, "Hey! Wait! Where'd everybody go?!?" Then, he too took off.
Pretty cool stuff actually. ...Or, I'm just so easily amused :-))

Anyway, it's good to be back home for a while (too short!). A far cry from
the central SLO-Co Coast as it's been showery and rainy nearly nonstop for a
week now. At least everything is green and blooming all around and
everything smells clean and fresh. The Yellow Rail expedition to the Klamath
(Oregon) enroute home was spectacular! Klamath Marsh was literally infested.
Up to a half-dozen rails were 'ticking' away even at high noon and every
time I went near their area. I pulled an intense 'all-nighter' there (7:30pm
- 7:30am) including the 'peak' performance between 10pm-2am. So many Yellow
Rails, the marsh literally 'crackled' all night! Incredible experience in a
magnificent setting!!

Gotta run; I just signed on for a 10-day seabird / marine mammal assessment
cruise for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (Washington), so have
to get moving here. So, until 2001 (I hope), good birding John and to all.

Cheers! ---Richard Rowlett

****************************************************
Richard Rowlett (Pterodroma@aol.com)
47.59N, 122.13W
Seattle / Bellevue, WA, USA

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


Cloister Grackles 11 June 2000

Mike Stiles
 

I made a quick stop at the Cloister Pond in north Morro Bay and found at
least 2 male (possibly 3) and two female Great-tailed Grackles. The
females were foraging in the field between the park and highway 1 and
carrying food back into the cattails. The males were perching on the
trees and fences and doing their bill-pointing-to-the-sky display.

Looks like they're here to stay.

Mike Stiles
Los Osos, CA
mstiles@calpoly.edu


Philadelphia Vireo

Mike Stiles
 

I have added the picture of the recent Philadelphia Vireo banded at Oso
Flaco Lake to my web site. Thank you Paloma. Its at:
http://www.calpoly.edu/~mstiles/slobird.html

Follow the picture gallery link.

If anyone has pictures of uncommon SLO county birds I would be glad to
include them on the site. Send them as an attachment on an email.

Thanks
Mike Stiles
Los Osos, CA
mstiles@calpoly.edu


SLO Birdz 6/4

Tom Edell
 

Mike Stiles and I decided to look for the Philadelphia Vireo at Oso Flao Lake
this morning. On our way down we drove east of Nipomo to Dana Foothill Road
where we looked and listened for COMMON GROUND DOVE. We spent most of the
time birding from Grade Mountain Way where I have seen the birds in the past,
but also drove along Dana Foothill and Mehlschau Road. We were unable to
locate any of these birds. We did have a PHAINOPEPLA fly overhead while
birding along Grade Mountain Way.

At Oso Flaco Lake we tried to find the female PHILADELPHIA VIREO banded by
Paloma Nieto on Friday and reportedly seen on Saturday. After about 45
minutes we located a weakly singing vireo deep in the willows west of the
most westerly net. The bird sang for about 5 minutes and then stopped before
we could locate it. To my ear the song sounded most similar to a
Philadelphia or Red-eyed vireo song based on taped songs listened to in the
car as we left. While on the lake boardwalk, a single LEAST TERN was seen
flying over the lake.

The Encyclopedia of North American Birds by Terres mentioned only that the
male Philadelphia Vireo sings and doesn't mention whih sex of the Red-eyed
vireo sings. Does anyone have any other references on vireo singing. A
report yesterday stated that the Philadelphia Vireo was seen after listening
to the bird sing for a while. If only males sing, was the bird seen Saturday
the same one banded on Friday?

On our return we checked the Oceano County Park where we heard several male
GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES and found both a very worn and pale GLAUCOUS-WINGED
GULL and CALIFORNIA GULL amongst the many worn Cal Gulls.

This evening a short cold scoping session off the Cayucos pier from 1945 to
2015 produced four BLACK SKIMMERS flying north about a-half mile offshore and
4-5 Humpbacked Whales about 3/4 miles offshore.

Regards.....Tom

Tom Edell
Cayucos, CA
tedell@aol.com


(No subject)

Howard P York
 

Today, 6-2-00, a second year female PHILADELPHIA VIREO was banded at the
Oso Flaco Lake banding station. The station is located at the west end of
the bridge. She was captured in net 9, at the west end of the station on
the dirt trail that goes south from the main trail. She was renetted in
net 7 , just off the bridge and right.Please do not disturb the nets.
Several Least Terns are feeding on the lake and appear to be nesting
west of the lake. Please do not approach the nesting area.
Cheers, Howard York
________________________________________________________________
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PB 2000 (week 12: May 29 - June 01) -- partial week and final

Pterodroma@...
 

Piedras Blancas and north coast summary (week 12: May 29 - June 01)

This will be my last ancillary coastal bird report from Piedras Blancas for
the Year 2000 gray whale calf counting season. Each and every day of each
and every Spring here since 1994 never fails to dawn with me full of optimism
and anticipation. One never knows what the next second might bring and I
hate leaving the site even for a moment in mortal fear of breaking up the
continuity and missing something, even if it's just another good pulse of
loons, brant, or scoters. It's some sort of hopeless compulsive / addiction
disorder I suppose. Oh well, who cares. It's cheaper than alcohol, drugs,
and prostitutes :-))

This last 'short' week has been quite an interesting one even with the cold
northerly gales and yet still a number of startling and unexpected surprises.
Whoopee! It's those unexpected surprises that keep me going not to mention
having this wonderful opportunity of just being here for an extended period
and long enough to acquire some real intimacy with all the little nuances of
migration along the central California coast. Even the common and ordinary
birds to many of you but which are often rare or unusual here are a big deal
to me.

Will there be a PB Year 2001? Oh God... I fear it may be so. In fact, I
think we are looking at 3-5 more years!! This place has become my 'second
home'. I'll probably die here :-)) Can't complain though; the price for
living and housing on the finest piece of real estate on the California
coast, not to mention the *best* county in the state(!) is just right --
FREE, thank you very much; your tax dollars *are* hard at work -- really!
:-)). The only thing I can think of that needs fixing is the *light* on the
lighthouse.

Over the past seven years, we're developing quite a good time series of data
with respect to gray whale calf production and migration through our spring
time monitoring. This season marks an all time record low count for calf
production. Only 96 (calculated best total estimate 280) counted during
visual sampling this season compared to just over 500 (best est. ~1300)
during our peak season in 1997. We think it's probably due to heavy ice
years (1998 and 1999) on the primary summer feeding grounds in the Bering and
Chuckchi (Alaska) resulting in a short feeding season, and there just simply
was no calf production rather than anything more sinister. If our theory is
correct, a short feeding season results in undernourished animals that may
have been unable to build up the necessary fat and weight reserves to support
such a long annual migration to the Baja lagoons and back *and* support a
calf, and so, they just either didn't breed, delayed implantation, or even
perhaps aborted. We should know better in another year or two as the ice
conditions are currently back to normal this year which holds promise of a
good summer feeding season. Cows produce calves every other year, so calf
production after this Alaska summer won't really become known until 2001 and
especially 2002.

COASTAL SEABIRDS --

loons, brant, scoters....

Just when I think we're at the end of the loon parade, it just keeps going
and going and going although quite variable day by day and shutting down
totally by mid to late morning. Best day this week seems to be Th 6/01 --
June no less, and a rather significant late season calm morning flight in the
wake of the gale force NNW headwinds early in the week.
Mo 5/29 was a good day with ~700;
Tu 5/30, from 0545-1000hrs, exactly 71; (<100 for the day)
We 5/31, from 0545-0830hrs, exactly 43; (<100 for the day)
Th 6/01, from 0545-0845hrs with 756 clicker counted. Flight pretty much
died out completely by 0830hrs, so a fairly safe guess for the day was
probably ~800

There was only five Brant sightings this short week (2, 5, 1, 3, 1). Surf
Scoters have now dwindled to absolute stragglers totaling no more than about
60-75 total between Monday and Thursday morning. The Y2K season ends now
without a single Black Scoter sighting, the first time ever, and believe me,
I was looking. So, this negative note is perhaps of significance.
-----

tubenose seabirds....

Black-footed Albatross --
Tu 5/30 -- two immature (early morning)
Th 6/01 -- one immature (early morning)

Sooty & Pink-footed Shearwaters -- Early morning flights are starting to pick
up again. The primary early morning corridor is as it has been for most of
the season, 0.5 to 1.0 nmi offshore with very few usually visible further out.

SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER --
We 5/31 (0620hrs) -- a good satisfying sighting of one individual 0.5 nmi
out on the 'inside' edge of the northbound Sooty corridor. This is only the
2nd certain identification this Spring and there have probably been a few
others. Identification: slightly smaller than Sooty, more compact looking,
shorter neck, thicker, more rounded, hence smaller looking head, thinner and
seemingly shorter bill, pale area at base of bill and throat (Sooties usually
show a longer head / billed look which is typically darker looking in
contrast with the rest of the body). Also, wing linings were in this
individual solid uniform light brown. Caution: Suspected Short-tailed seen
*before* the sun crests the ridge are, at least from my on shore vantage
point, best left unidentified since the lack of direct sunlight combined with
any haze on the underwing often renders some Sooty Shearwaters as appearing
as if they have darker wing linings.

MANX SHEARWATER -- two sightings this week
We 5/31 (0617hrs) -- single bird and closest shearwater to shore this
morning, northbound at 14.0 reticules (~300 meters). 5th sighting this
season.
Th 6/01 (0653hrs) -- single bird mixed in with a 'wad' of Sooties at 7.5
reticules (0.4 nmi). 6th sighting this season. [Identification for both:
same as previously described; see week 11 summary report]
-----

jaegers, gulls, terns, phalaropes, alcids....

Parasitic Jaeger --
Tu 5/30 (0616hrs) -- two light morph adults flying north at 600 meters

Franklin's Gull -- No sightings this week

Sabine's Gull -- no sightings this week or all season! First season miss
ever, thus this negative report is of some significance. I think they just
passed further offshore as did Arctic Terns which they are sometimes seen
with in very low numbers.

ELEGANT TERN --
Th 6/01 -- single bird flying south, out ~0.4 nmi

BLACK SKIMMER --
Mo 5/29 (0835hrs) -- a pair of birds skirting the coast heading north.
Second record in my 7-yr tenure here and a sighting of these bizarre critters
and especially at this place always seems so out of place and most startling.

TUFTED PUFFIN --
Tu 5/30 (0601hrs) -- one alternate plumaged adult at 12.0 reticules (0.3
nmi) flying north leading the company of a Common Murre. All of my few
records of Tufted Puffin here since 1994 have all been northbound flybys and
all in the last week or two of May.
-----

shorebirds and miscellaneous odd waterbirds....

No shorebirds of note.

WHITE PELICAN --
Mo 5/29 (1105hrs) -- single bird, appeared over the 'pond' (the area
between the 'point' and PB Rocks), and looked as though it might round the
'point' and continue north. Apparently considering facing the bleak
prospects of the gale force headwinds and Big Sur ahead, it wheeled around
once overhead, then headed back south, circled PB Rocks a couple of times as
if contemplating a landing, then continued on back south toward San Simeon /
Cambria. This was my first ever WHITE PELICAN sighting at Piedras Blancas
and quite the surprise! This was also a very odd looking bird -- something
like a cross between a Condor and a Pterodactyl -- just weird! The head was
very shaggy and seemed to be missing a lot of feathers as to be appear
partially naked while the bill had some strange and quite large vertical
horn-like projection (4-5") in the middle. Even with a long study in the
'big eyes', I never could figure out what that was; I thought at first maybe
a fish but I don't think so. Maybe a portion of the gular pouch had somehow
been knotted up and flipped up in some bizarre manner so as to appear like a
horn. It didn't flop around, just rigid. [post query / comment: Might this
horn-like projection be normal attribute in White Pelicans? I just saw a
photo of a similarly looking White Pelican while I was doing some pre-post
PB- travel / birding research at the Klamath NWR website]

CANADA GOOSE --
A seemingly confused flock of 11 'white-breasted' CANADA GEESE were seen for
13 minutes, Mo 5/29 (1713-1726hrs) during the afternoon gale. They came up
from the south along and hugging the coast, but upon reaching the 'point' and
faced with the prospect of continuing into the teeth of the gale, circled
around and settled on the water just out front of the study site. They
remained put there for about six minutes bouncing in the choppy sea, probably
discussing amongst themselves just what they hell they were doing out there
and what they should do next. Then up they went, circled around, then headed
back to the east over the elephant seal beach, over route one, and last I saw
of them, they were headed directly toward the Hearst Castle Visitor's Center.

OLDSQUAW --
Th 6/01 -- single immature / molting female (or male?) flying north at
~400m. Two other single birds seen much further out earlier this week may
have been Oldsquaws as well, but I couldn't figure out what they were at the
time, gave up, and just let them go as 'something interesting but unknown',
and then just forgot about them until this bird this morning.
-----

the morning counts (none Sunday)....

Early morning full on 'big eye' counts (25X150 Fujinon mounted binoculars) --
Selected species (mostly migrants) of particular interest only.
Species marked with (*) were individually counted with hand clickers.
Species shown in brackets [ ] were additional notables seen at times when I
was off the 'big eyes' and on just normal gray whale watch mode (i.e sitting
in my director's chair, feet propped up on the table, listening to 'the
otter' - KOTR, and munching a PB&J, ...iow, just a typical day in the life).
And finally, since I won't be anywhere near these here parts come Sunday, I
polished off my Y2K Piedras Blancas tenure with one final 'loon song' 3-hr
full-on 25X watch on Th 6/01.

day Mo Tu We
Th
date 5/29 5/30 5/31
6/01
start time 0545 0545 0545 0545
stop time 0700 0700 0700 0845

wind direction NNW NNW ESE var
wind speed 20 10 12-0 0-5
Beaufort sea state 4/5 3/5 2/3 0-2
visibility (nmi) 3 3 3
3

Red-throated Loon 6 7 4 6
Pacific Loon* 75 46 33 756
Common Loon 16 6 4 11
Brant 2 0 6
1
Surf Scoter 7 1 4
26
OLDSQUAW 0 0 0 0
Black-footed Albatross 0 2 0 1
Pink-footed Shearwater 5 11 4 16
Sooty Shearwater (N)* 95 610 885 3830
SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATER 0 0 1 0
MANX SHEARWATER 0 0 1 1
Brown Pelican* 0 85 60 266
[WHITE PELICAN] (1) - - -
Parasitic Jaeger 0 2 0
0
Bonaparte's Gull 3 0 0
0
Heermann's Gull* 5 13 13 77
[BLACK SKIMMER] (2) - - -
ELEGANT TERN 0 0 0 1
unid tern 2 0 0
0
phalaropes 0 0 0
0
Common Murre 10 37 17 19
Rhinoceros Auklet 11 10 0 3
TUFTED PUFFIN 0 1 0 0
Whimbrel 1 0 0
0
Long-billed Curlew 0 0 0 1
unid 'peep' 1 0 0
0
[CANADA GOOSE] (11) - - -
--------------------

OTHER STUFF --

Peregrines --
'Zip' all this 'short' week. No action, and one final 'farewell' sighting of
the male perched atop the lighthouse as I was on my way out for the last time
this season.
-----

hummingbirds --
Nest #10 for the season, and Anna's #5 discovered We 5/31 on the tip of a
cypress branch behind Quarters 'C' with one egg. This is one I've suspected
and had walked right past it for the past several days when in fact it was
right there, right before my eyes all along. This is probably at the very
least, nest #3 for this bird in this particular cypress grove. #1 was found
nearby back in March and I long suspected that it had another one which I
never could find in between #1 and this most recent one. The timing would
certainly be about right. The nest contains only one egg and given it's
terribly exposed location and the wretched gales earlier in the week, there's
a good chance that the second egg may have blown out.

Otherwise, Anna's #4 is coming along fine and the female sure is giving the
little chicklet much attention and keeping it warm and protected from the
howling cold gales this week. She sits tight most of the day and only on
rare occasions do I seem to catch her even off the nest long enough to take a
peak inside.

Allen's #4 is likewise progressing well as is #5. Unlike the Anna's, the
female Allen's spend much less time in such intimate attendance to their
young although both are very nearby and I hear them 'scolding' when I'm ever
near the nests.
-----

other yard birds....

The previously reported MAGNOLIA WARBLER was last seen on Su 5/28.

A few Lawrence's Goldfinches continue to hang around PB Point area, often in
the company of American Goldfinches with a pair (adult male & female) seen
flying around and over the study site briefly on Mo 5/29
--------------------

San Simeon State Park -- No more visits or early morning walks this season.
However, one final last swing through the sewage ponds on my way to Cambria
recycling revealed a pair of BLUE-WINGED TEAL (adult male & female) on the
east pond at 1530hrs, We 5/31. These were the one and only Blue-winged Teal
seen at all around here this season.

And finally, one more story which I forgot to mention last week. After my
last Su 5/28 'big eye' session, and with the MAGNOLIA WARBLER still in the
bush here, I thought I should maybe explore the wooded San Simeon Point
(across from the old Sebastian Store) and the W. R. Hearst Beach Park
thinking that area might hold a few migrants or even a vagrant or two.
Totally blah. Nothing at all other than scads of House Finches everywhere
and all the other usual and expected residents. Not even a Wilson's Warbler
or any migrant species whatsoever.

However... (there's always got to be some however, huh).... After walking the
perimeter at San Simeon Point, I was bush whacking through the grass and
poison oak to intercept a little used cross trail. Once on that trail and
probably no more than 50 paces from intercepting the main trail on the south
side, a Bobcat just casually walked out in front of me, climbed up on a stump
fully in the open and looked me over at a distance of less than 30 feet.
What strange behavior I thought; I usually see Bobcats more as a blur dashing
across the road then parking themselves fully out in the open at high noon,
and started wondering if she might be ill or rabid or something. My
attention was also drawn to what sounded like a begging baby bird somewhere
nearby; up in the trees, on the ground, I couldn't tell for a while. Then, I
saw a rustle in the matted grass right alongside the trail at the base of a
tree 15 feet in front of me. Initially, I thought I'd interrupted a kill in
progress by the Bobcat.

Closer inspection revealed two tiny Bobcat kittens probably no more than
10-14 days old with eyes that looked like they had just opened. They
couldn't even walk, rather, just shuffled around in the grass and the source
of the baby bird like noises. I took a few steps closer and the female got
off the stump and came closer as well. We were down to 20 feet apart now.
Talk about a photo opportunity!! Full sunlight, fully in the open. Too
perfect!! But... no camera of course :-( We both just stood our ground for
a good 10 minutes. Since she seemed like she was at the least mildly
aggressive, growling and flashing her fangs, I decided that getting any
closer or even trying to pass by on the trail was too risky since I didn't
know what she might be capable of and an attack was the last thing I really
cared to deal with. So, while old San Simeon Point was a total bomb for
birds, that Bobcat encounter was by far the best consolation prize I could
have ever hoped for.
--------------------

Foreign Travel --

All points north and bound for 'greener' pastures (literally);
I'm outta here gang.
'Pterodroma' has left the building, the county, and the state.
Buh bye.

****************************************************
Richard Rowlett (Pterodroma@aol.com)
....on the road again,
via Klamath, Oregon: 'Yellow Rails' or bust, enroute to Seattle

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


North American Birds Spring Report

Tom Edell
 

SLOCo birders,

(I have shamelessly copied and altered the following request for bird reports
posted by Tom and Joe Heindel, compilers for Inyo County.)

With the spring season ending (March-May) it is time for observers to send
their sightings to county coordinators for the North American Birds spring
report. For San Luis Obispo County, I ask that reports are received by the
7th of June (email is fine) so I can have them in the mail to the regional
editor by the 10th. Remember that a posting does not constitute a report or
documentation. I cannot not include in my SLO County report any sightings for
which I have not received proper documentation. Sightings I have heard about
or read about on the net are only rumors until an "official" report is
received. I encourage all observers to take the extra time necessary to turn
their personal sightings into county records by submitting a report of
interesting birds seen and documentation for those species whose occurrence
is rare or casual for the area. If you are unsure if a species is rare, I
suggest you refer to publiations such as the Morro Coast Audubon pamphlet
"The Birds of San Luis Obispo County California" or Dunn and Garretts "Birds
of Southern California" or contact me by phone or email. In advance, I thank
everyone willing to take the time to report and document their sightings.

Tom Edell
46 Eighth Street
Cayucos, Ca 93430
tedell@aol.com
805-995-1691


Whale Rock Reservoir - Sat. 3 June - birding field trip

tnbpope@...
 

Tom Edell will be leading a Morro Coast Audubon birding trip on Saturday, 3
June, in the Whale Rock Reservoir area. You'll meet Tom at 8:00AM in the
paved parking lot at the western end of 24th St. in Cayucos. From there you
will caravan to the Reservoir - stopping along Old Creek Road and Cottontail
Creek Road. Tom will take the group through a variety of habitats. It should
be a great trip. For additional info call Tom at 995-1691 or myself at
547-0242.

Ted Pope
MCAS Field Trips
tnbpope@cs.com


PB 2000 (week 11: May 22-28) -- long!

Pterodroma@...
 

Piedras Blancas and north coast summary (week 11: May 22-28)

COASTAL SEABIRDS --

loons, brant, scoters....

Three good late season Pacific Loon flight mornings were observed this week;
Mo 5/22 after 1000hrs and coastal fog cleared with ~750;
Fr 5/26 (0545-0830hrs) with 540 clicker counted;
Su 5/28 (0530-0900hrs) with 1,082 clicker counted (est. ~1500 for day)
Otherwise, just a sprinkle now and then ranging from <100 to ~200 per day
plus a much lighter sprinkle of Common and Red-throated.

As for northbound Brant and Surf Scoters, late season migration couldn't be
even described as a trickle or a sprinkle; rather just occasional stragglers.
There were only seven Brant sightings all week including by comparative
early season standards, three relatively sizable straggler flocks of 40 (We
5/24), 24 (Sa 5/27), and 11 (Su 5/28).
-----

tubenose seabirds....

Black-footed Albatross -- sightings continue diminishing in frequency
Th 5/25 -- one immature
Su 5/28 -- three immature

NORTHERN FULMAR -- two sightings this week, the first and only near shore all
season, thus here highlighted in 'caps'.
Tu 5/23 (1445hrs) -- one light morph flying north
We 5/24 (0658hrs) -- one light morph flying north

Sooty & Pink-footed Shearwaters -- relatively, very scarce all week again, at
least within 'big eye' sight of the 'point' with the exception of Th 5/25
when the majority (94%) of ~640 counted in the early morning (0545-0700hrs)
were heading south. Otherwise, most have been moving north. Pink-footed
Shearwaters were detected only on Th 5/25 (2) and Su 5/28 (3).

MANX SHEARWATER --
Su 5/28 (0718hrs) -- single bird alone and no where near or remotely
associated with anything else observed; in superb full on sunlight (at my
back) and flying north at 6.0 reticules (0.5 nmi). Fourth sighting this
spring and like the others, was a small 'black & white' shearwater, flat inky
black over the entire dorsal area in sharp contrast to the snowy white
underparts from the chin and base of the bill through the undertail coverts
which extended all the way to the tip of the short tail. The black 'cap'
extended as a straight line from the base of the bill through and just below
the eye jagging up slightly on the side of the neck. There was no hint of
white ovals near the base of the tail or rump; just solid black. Wing
linings white.
-----

jaegers, gulls, terns, phalaropes, alcids....

Parasitic Jaeger --
Tu 5/23 (1445hrs) -- one adult light morph flying north

Franklin's Gull --
Mo 5/22 (1530hrs) -- 1 alt. plumaged adult, alone right over our heads
flying north

ROYAL TERN --
Su 5/28 -- single adult foraging around and drifting off to the north at
100 meters. The first sighting this spring and a rather unusual one due to
the late date. A few Royal Terns are usually and occasionally seen when I
first arrive here on site in mid-March. By mid-April, they are usually all
gone. However, this season, they've been strangely absent. Identification:
Largish shorter & thicker orange-billed tern; crest / crown already fading
back to the nape; grayer along trailing edge of primaries.

ELEGANT TERN --
Su 5/28 -- Two birds together flying / foraging northward at ~500 meters
offshore. Second sighting this spring (first were those anomalous presumably
storm driven birds back on April 17). Identification: similar to Royal but
a tad smaller and slimmer with longer thinner orange bill; underwing mostly
white including the trailing edge of primaries apart from narrow gray tips on
the outer most few.

Common Tern --
Su 5/28 -- first coastal sightings from PB this spring; loose flock of 7
flying north along the 'color line' at 0.6nmi.

BLACK TERN --
Th 5/25 (0615hrs) -- loose flock of 8 adults flying north ~2.0 nmi out
flying north

Marbled Murrelet --
Mo 5/22 (1757hrs) -- single adult flying north along the 'color' line at
0.5nmi

XANTUS'S MURRELET (_S. h. scrippsi_) -- First sightings of the season, five
sightings, seven birds, all observed with 25X150 Fujinon 'big eyes' (of
course!).
Tu 5/23 (1715hrs) -- pair of birds flying north along 'color' line at
0.5nmi (sea state 0)
Tu 5/23 (1721hrs) -- pair of birds flying north along 'color' line at
0.5nmi (sea state 0)
Fr 5/26 (0550hrs) -- one bird flying north at ~500 meters (sea state 4)
Su 5/28 (0624hrs) -- one bird flying north along 'color line' at 0.6nmi
(sea state 4)
Su 5/28 (0659hrs) -- one bird flying north along 'color line' at 0.6nmi
(sea state 4)

I know that these late May dates defy conventional wisdom and thus are
generally regarded as 'early' if not outright dismissed by the skeptics.
Since 1994, a few Xantus's have been detected consistently most seasons here
during the last week or two of May. Xantus's (_scrippsi_) breed fairly
commonly in the Channel Islands and the appearance off Piedras Blancas in
late May begs the questions; (1) foraging birds ranging far from 'home' or
(2) might there be an unknown or suspected breeding location north of the
Southern California Bight breeding sites? Morro Rock maybe??

Identification: (1) tiny 'black & white' alcid, (2) entirely flat inky black
above including straight back behind and around the eye, (3) white below from
chin at base of bill to under tail; (4) whitish wing linings; (5) all were
too far to assess bill characteristics. The only other species with which
these relatively long-distant sightings might be confused with around here
would be Ancient Murrelets, especially immatures, but they will always appear
'dark headed' which in good light, contrasts with a paler (grayer) back.
This has not been a good flight year for Ancient Murrelets. Baja dispersing
Craveri's Murrelet can't be dismissed either as an occasional possibility,
although again, conventional wisdom indicates a late summer / fall
occurrence. So far, in every case when these tiny alcids have been in range
to satisfactorily assess wing linings, they've always been distinctly white
rather than dusky. I've never detected or even suspected a springtime
Craveri's so far.
-----

shorebirds and odd waterfowl....

Not much; only occasional Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, and Marbled Godwits.
Three flyby Northern Shovelers (2m, 1f) on Fr 5/26 were the only waterfowl
out of the ordinary.
-----

the morning counts including a final season Sunday....

Early morning full on 'big eye' counts (25X150 Fujinon mounted binoculars) --
Selected species (mostly migrants) of particular interest only.
Species marked with (*) were individually counted with hand clickers. The
Fri 5/26 count was extended from 0700-0830hrs for three obvious "non-'big
eye' required" species since there was a significant movement of those 'easy'
naked eye targets (see end of this section). I intended to do a count on Sa
5/27 but was fogged out. I've added Brown Pelican and Heermann's Gull to the
list this week and regret that I didn't start two weeks ago. Hermann's are
broken down for full bright white-headed adults, and all the others which
includes immatures, sub-Adults, and adults with incomplete white heads.
About 2% of the Hermann's which pass by, both adults and brown immatures and
full adults show a curious and striking white or tan epaulets on the upper
wing as I'm sure many of you are aware. White in adults, tan in all brown
immatures. I think I read somewhere that this is a genetic anomaly which
pertains to a small percentage of the Heermann's Gull population.

day We Th Fr Su
date 5/24 5/25 5/26 5/28
start time 0545 0545 0545 0530
stop time 0700 0700 0700 0900

wind direction calm NNW NNW NNW
wind speed 0 15 20 15
Beaufort sea state 0 3/4 4/5 3/4
visibility (nmi) 1.5 5 3 4 (1.5
after 0800hrs)

Red-throated Loon 1 0 6 39
Pacific Loon* 37 32 108 1082
Common Loon 1 10 5 45
Eared Grebe 5 0 1 0 (scarce
this spring)
Black-footed Albatross 0 1 0 3
NORTHERN FULMAR 1 0 0 0
Sooty Shearwater (N)* 126 40 38 99
" " (S)* 0 600 0 0
Pink-footed Shearwater 0 0 2 3
MANX SHEARWATER 0 0 0 1 (4th this season)
Brown Pelican* 77 85 170 94
Brant 0 0 3 14
Surf Scoter 6 13 5 57
White-winged Scoter 0 0 0 0
Red-breasted Merganser 0 0 0 0
Jaegers 0 0 0 0
Bonaparte's Gull 0 0 0 4
Heermann's Gull* 10 13 31 30
" " (Ad)* (2) (4) (7) (3)
" " (im/sA)* (8) (9) (24) (27)
Sabine's Gull 0 0 0 0
ROYAL TERN 0 0 0 1 (season
first; late!)
ELEGANT TERN 0 0 0 2 (2nd Y2K,
early)
Common Tern 0 0 0 7 (season
first)
BLACK TERN 0 8 0 0
Red-necked Phalarope 0 0 3 5
Red Phalarope 0 0 0 0
Common Murre 2 4 10 18
XANTUS'S MURRELET 0 0 1 2 (season firsts)
Rhinoceros Auklet 0 15 3 65
Whimbrel 0 0 7 1
Long-billed Curlew 0 0 1 2
Marbled Godwit 0 0 9 0
Wandering Tattler 0 0 0 1

**Significant strong early morning flight totals counted Fr 5/26,
0545-0830hrs for just these select species:
Pacific Loon (540), Brown Pelican (360), Heermann's Gull (160)
--------------------

OTHER STUFF --

Peregrines --
The resident Peregrines appear to have largely abandoned the site. The male
is still seen on rare occasion and the female hasn't been sighted in two or
three weeks.
-----

hummingbirds --
Anna's nest #4 finally hatched the first egg around noon on We 5/14 but a
late afternoon check on the nest revealed that the tiny chicklet was missing.
Hmmm...? Brewer's Blackbird? House Finch? Garter Snake? or ?? Half of
the shell was strangely attached or stuck to the outside of the nest and
remained there for two days while the female remained tight on the nest and
remaining egg. After nearly three months and on her third nest, plus my
liberal supply of feeders, she has gotten so accustomed to my presence that I
can routinely get within 6 inches(!) of her and nest which is on an exposed
tip of a dead branch five feet above the ground, and she still won't budge.
The second chick hatched very early Fr 5/26 and appears to be okay so far. A
very long incubation period for this nest, more than 4 weeks, which makes me
wonder if things are really okay this time.

Meanwhile, still another hummingbird nest, nest #9 this season and Allen's #5
was discovered in the same tree as Allen's #4, but it's so high up (12 feet)
and too disruptive to get to that I shall never bother with it. I suspect
two or three others around in some other areas so maybe I can find those ones
too if I find myself with too much time on my hands this coming and last week
for me here.
-----

other yard birds....

Well, it's about time! Things are starting to perk up around here with a few
passerine migrants. Most notable this week has been an adult male *MAGNOLIA
WARBLER* which arrived with the warm foggy overcast on We 5/24, first turning
up in my favorite 'vagrant wobbler bush' (officially known as a coffeeberry),
and still remains an easy daily 'tick' now so far through Su 5/28. He's
quite the songster and adds a striking new fresh and cheery sound each
morning above the usual deafening din of House Finches and White-crowned
Sparrows through the morning hours. Over the years since 1994, this one
little 'vagrant wobbler bush' has produced Prothonotary, Black-and-white,
American Redstarts, and now MAGNOLIA, in addition to *all* the other common
to uncommon SLO Co warbler species although Y2K won't go down in the history
books as being one of them. God only knows what else probably turns up in
there when I'm not around, especially in the Fall.

Too bad we didn't have a good functional beacon on the lighthouse that
morning (We 5/24) as I think with the low overcast, fog, and warm offshore
breeze, an even better fallout might have been in the offering by this
season's standards as in addition to the MAGNOLIA, there were Wilson's and
Yellow Warblers and a Western Wood Pewee. There had been absolute 'zip' all
season until this particular morning. Thinking that maybe a more widespread
fallout might have occurred along the coast, I explored north to Arroyo de la
Cruz, the pines and creek at San Carpoforo, and Ragged Point later in the
morning. Zilch! Clearly all the action, what little there was, was at the
lighthouse.

An adult male Lawrence's Goldfinch was seen in the company of up to 8
American Goldfinches on Th & Fr (5/25-26) on thistles, mostly between the
rt.1 gate and inside cattleguard.
--------------------

San Simeon State Park --

morning walk (Tu 5/23, 0530-0930) -- ....ABORT.... Cold south wind and dense
coastal fog when I reluctantly departed the lighthouse at 5am for San Simeon
and just as bad if not worse down there. Yuck! I couldn't muster much
enthusiasm for yet another walk in the dark, cold, and gloom, and thought
about just turning around and going back to the lighthouse. But, since I was
up and about already, why totally waste the morning, so....

-- alternate plan 'B' -- San Simeon Creek Road --

I made a run up San Simeon Creek Road (8.3 mi) just to see how far inland the
fog had penetrated and just to poke around for a while. After about 4 miles,
I broke out into beautiful crystal clear blue skies leaving the fog and gloom
behind and below and the air temperature rocketed upwards 24 degrees (52 to
76), ...and this was still long before the sun was anywhere near cresting the
ridge top! Anyway, it was quite a sensational morning really.

The most stunning and photogenic spectacle was undoubtedly the Barbary Sheep
(4 ewes and 4 lambs) perched atop the uttermost tippy top of that spire of a
most scenic rock formation on the left side of the road at 7.6 miles up from
rt.1. Having never before seen any of this remnant herd from the W.R. Hearst
menagerie which have roamed those hills now for the past 60 years, the
discovery this morning was quite a startling sight. That rock is also a good
spot for Canyon Wrens and it was pretty cool just watching them with the
scope trained on the sheep as one was seen in the same field of view hopping
around at it's feet.

On the way back down and with a genuine conscious effort, I was actually
'Dipper hunting', when I was indeed rewarded with an AMERICAN DIPPER, much to
my amazement, in the upper San Simeon Creek at the bridge and cattle guard
located exactly 5.5 miles up San Simeon Creek Road from rt.1. The bird
initially revealed itself about 100 feet upstream with the characteristic
sharp loud 'zeet' notes and bobbing & blinking on a rock in the rushing
stream bed. As I walked in, it then flew downstream under the bridge and
further downstream somewhere. Repeated trips and checks up there on We, Th,
Fr, and Sa have so far failed to refind that bird, but it must still be along
there somewhere. There is and continues to be a very vocal Canyon Wren in
the creek there on the downstream side of the bridge; a bit of an odd spot,
but it's there for whatever reason.

My glowing Barbary Sheep report got everyone around here all excited and has
sent everyone running up there on gray whale watch break inland excursions
the past few days. Todd came back after just a two hour mid-afternoon jaunt
We 5/24 totally aglow with an even more inspiring report: at the Barbary
Sheep rock (7.6 miles), 30 sheep, a CALIFORNIA CONDOR soaring overhead in a
large kettle of Turkey Vultures and drifting north, two Peregrines on the
large roundish rock off to right and the south side of the road, and then a
quick stop at the far east sewage pond just east of San Simeon State Park on
the way back, a WHITE-FACED IBIS (same or a new one?), and two Lawrence's
Goldfinches. I dashed up through all those areas an hour later We, then
again Th, Fr, and Sa, and of course couldn't find any of those things other
than the sheep.
--------------------

Foreign and far eastern SLO Co. Travel --

Su 5/21 -- Cal City to Cal Valley....

Forsaking PB and my dutiful Sunday morning 'big eye' counts for the very
first time since mid-March and avoiding the dreadful prospect of being
eyeballs in a cold fog on a Sunday 'day off', I fled last Su-Mo 5/21-22 on a
far-flung field trip to the legendary eastern Kern Co. migrant / vagrant
traps of the Mohave oases at Butterbredt Spring, Galileo, and California City.

It was also an adventure in 'heat shock'. Only two miles inland on rt.46
east of Cambria, the heat hit with a vengeance -- 95 already! I was
completely unacclimatized and headed for a probable meltdown since I hadn't
been anywhere east of rt.1 and immediate outer coast and it's marine
influence at all since mid-March! What a tiny world I restricted myself to
all this time!

Having never been to any of these places before, the trip was quite enjoyable
and different. The peak of passerine migration had probably passed the week
before, but nonetheless, the experience was quite interesting, refreshing,
...and... *NOT MARINE*, and there were still enough passerine migrants to
sort through. No loons, brant, scoters, albatross, shearwaters, or alcids
I'm pleased to report :-)) There were enough Wilson's Warblers to make me
weary but would have certainly made a pie baker happy. Warbler Highlights
included the adult male HOODED and NORTHERN PARULA (Butterbredt), MAGNOLIA
and BLACK-AND-WHITE (Galileo), but I missed both the NORTHERN PARULA and
CONNECTICUT at California City's Central Park. By the time I got to Cal.
City, I was already at the 'melt down' stage (heat & Wilson's Warblers) at
3pm and decided to call it quits and head for an after dark rendezvous with
the Carrizo Plain and Cal Valley in SLO Co.

Needing to kill time until sunset, I roamed around those so incredibly ugly
as to be downright photogenic western Kern Co. oil fields along rt.33, ~30
miles north of Taft searching in vain for a SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER which
had been easy and sedate for several days previous. Oh well; it's not like
me to chase vagrants but since it wasn't much out of the way, I gave it a
shot for something to do. Gassed up in Taft, then headed out for a slow
after dark drive through the Carrizo on Soda Springs Road between rt.33 and
rt.58 (California Valley). This is something I've always wanted to do on a
warm spring desert night. Starting at 2000hrs, I slowly made the 45 mile
trek, looking for all the assorted nightlife, snakes, K-rats, kit fox,
burrowing owls, etc., and creep along at 15-20mph so as not to run over any
of 'em enroute. Highlights included 4 Burrowing Owls standing at scattered
intervals in the middle of the road, 21 Giant Kangaroo Rats, 2 Pronghorn,
three Gopher Snakes, one large Western Rattlesnake, and two gorgeous
California Kingsnakes, along with Western Toads, Western Spadefoots, a
smaller K-rat species, a couple kinds of pocket mice, several Black-tailed
Jackrabbits, and a Lesser Nighthawk. But no Kit Foxes; next time I'll bring
my big million candle power search light.

Around midnight, I headed up the remote and totally deserted Bitterwater Road
to car camp along there at the 'two trees' south of the Blackwell Corner and
hit the Cottonwood grove and some other spots early morning. It was brittle
dry and stone dead quiet out there. Warm too, I slept with the windows and
sunroof open listening for anything. Absolutely nothing! Not even a remote
hint of any overflying migrants. Soon after dawn, I was first disappointed
to discover that the little oasis right on the SLO / Kern Co. line 2 mi east
of Blackwell Corner on the Bitterwater Valley Road, the two abandoned houses
across from the pumping station and associated trees, shrubs, and brush which
I've found so birdy in the past had been totally dozed out, burned, and
scraped clean. Damn!

A couple of nice accommodating Barn Owls were clearly visible from the road
in the grove of trees along with several Lawrence's Goldfinches around a
ranch just north of Blackwell Corner on the east side of Bitterwater Road but
no migrant passerines. A little further north, the Cottonwood grove located
about half way between rts 58 and 46 along the west side of Bitterwater Road
and which borders a large seasonal but currently completely dry lake harbored
a few migrants but nothing out of the ordinary. There were a lot of birds in
those trees, like Wilson's, Orange-crowned, and Yellow Warblers, Warbling
Vireos, Swainson's Thrush, Western Tanagers, Bullock's Orioles, lots of
flycatchers (Western Kingbird, Ash-throated, Pewees, Epidonax), all three
goldfinches, and six Great Horned Owls including 4 recent fledglings. The
foxtails were horrindous and I pretty much ruined a good pair of socks,
however, I'd bet a few vagrants drop in there on occasion as well as around
some of those tree'd and watered ranch houses, although it's probably more of
a long shot than a sure thing. Birding there would likely be better when the
lake is filled with water.

Okay folks, enough! One more week which will likely be only a partial, then
I too will be 'migrating' out of here.

****************************************************
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).
****************************************************


Tri-colored colony 26 May

Mike Stiles
 

Today at the ponds just west of Cuesta College were approximately 500
Tri-colored Blackbirds. They were in the Scirpus that surrounds the
ponds. Female to male ratio about 3 or 4 to 1. They were making group
foraging flights to an adjacent field of recently cut hay and
returning with nesting material.

Also of interest was a very young coot. Bright red bill and reddish
down feathers around the head and neck.

The ponds are on Cal Poly property and birders have been asked to
leave before. The farm operations manager reluctantly let me bird the
area, and I've worked at Poly for 13 years. Enter at your own risk.

Mike Stiles
Los Osos, CA
mstiles@calpoly.edu


Coastal mallards in MDO

S_Schub@...
 

The past three mornings a drake mallard -flying nearby at the edge of
the sea cliffs in Montana De Oro SP- has come to rest on the sea surface
among the floating bull kelp in protected coves (ie., Corallina Cove),
while on Wednesday a female flying with the male landed and disappeared
into the dense coastal scrub vegetation (dominated by coastal golden
yarrow and wild mustard) some 100 feet inland from the steep bluffs.
Perhaps this is the location of the mallard nesting site from which
ducklings were led to the sea, reported by John Roser recently.
Will need to watch to see if they are raising a second brood.

Steve Schubert


checkerspots

Miller, Mark C <mark.c.miller@...>
 

Here in the Bay Area and in the eastern Sierra, where I've been spending a
fair amount of time, Variable or Chalcedon Checkerspot is out in numbers.
Medium large, black background with lots of large ivory-colored spots,
prominent red on leading edge. There's a good photo of it at the USGS web
site at http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/bflyusa/ca/166.htm
Take a look and see if that's your beast.

Mark Miller


butterfly

Eric Johnson <e.johnson31@...>
 

The bottom photo in the site Mark Miller recommended looks like our local one. Anyone have the Field Guide
to Western Butterflies (Peterson series)? I do, but it's packed!!

Eric


Laguna Lake

Ron Ruppert <rruppert@...>
 

Saturday, May 20-
Two GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, two CANADA GEESE, male and female G.T.
Grackle, one ROSS GOOSE and a plethora of singing marsh wrens made for a
lovely spring morning at Laguna Lake in S.L.O.
Ron Ruppert
Cuesta College
Biology
rruppert@bass.cuesta.cc.ca.us


Wood Ducks

Brad Schram
 

Hi All:

A drive this morning behind Arroyo Grande produced discovery of three
fledgling Wood Ducks on a beaver pond on the Huasna River. To be specific,
the dam and ducks are north of the wooden surfaced bridge over the river
where the road turns from blacktop to dirt. Otherwise, nothing unusual on
the bird front. A large Ring-necked Snake on the road near a stream
crossing added interest.

Lots of butterflies out. Does anyone know what the showy checkerspot is
that is found by every stream crossing right now? It has bright yellow
antennae and rufous legs.

Brad


Re: G.T. Grackle @ Cloisters Development Park

GRHensley@...
 

In a message dated 5/1/00 9:28:39 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
rruppert@bass.cuesta.cc.ca.us writes:

<< On Sunday, April 30 there was a male and three female Great tailed Grackles
in the sedges and rushes around the 'lake' at the Cloisters Park in North
Morro Bay. >>

Ron's Grackle's still at Cloisters - saw 2 (couldn't ID sex) this evening ,
May 21, about 6pm.

Gordon Hensley


Oso Flaco Lake

Paul & Rita Rosso <prrosso@...>
 

These birds of note were at Oso Flaco Lake Sat May 20th.

Oldsquaw -- first year male. I looked back a few weeks as I'm new to
sloco egroup and did not notice any mention of this duck. According
to Waterfowl by Steve Madge and Hilary Burn, young Oldsquaws have
been known to stay on Wintering Grounds over the next summer.

Cedar Waxwings
Spotted Sandpiper
Bonaparte's Gull

Paul Rosso


PB 2000 (week 10: May 15-21)

Pterodroma@...
 

Piedras Blancas and north coast summary (week 10: May 15-21)

COASTAL SEABIRDS --

The past two weeks have looked and felt more like early June rather than mid
May both with respect to considerable fog (most of Mo, Fr, & Sa) and
consistently low numbers of all high latitude coastal migrants during the
rest of the time. The arrival and steady stream of flyby Brown Pelicans and
Heermann's Gulls (Baja post breeders) this week in modest numbers was
particularly notable by Th 5/18. The ever increasing numbers now is
consistent with usual mid-May incursions which augments those which have been
around all along.

loons, brant, scoters....

The end is in sight. Brant and Surf Scoters are definitely down to
stragglers. Only 23 Brant were sighted all week (2, 1, 3, 7, 9, 1). Also,
we're scrapping the bottom of the loony bin as well. Numbers have been
tapering off as much as two weeks ahead of normal, or at least what I've come
to define as "normal" based on paying attention to all these things since
1994. With the exception of Fr 5/19 with a morning flight of ~1500 Pacific
Loons between 0600-1030hrs, numbers were running well less than 250 per day,
perhaps not even breaking 100 once or twice.

There was one unexpected prize out of this minuscule drivel....

YELLOW-BILLED LOON -- Fr 5/19 -- sub-adult at 0947hrs, lone bird flying north
~500 meters at eye level (20m), a flyby studied for about 10 seconds in the
25X150 'big eyes'. Second sighting this spring and very much a surprise at
this late date as overall the loon migration is rapidly winding down to
nearly straggler levels. A striking bird and presumably a sub-adult; not
fully molted (85%) but showing all typical adult features. (1) Large
(notably larger than Common) with particularly striking entirely pale
yellowish bill appearing, long, straight (including in particular the culmen)
carried with a decided upturned bent rather like a Red-throated. (2) Head
profile was larger and more squared than Common, 'peaked' both forward and
back of crown. Upper parts were more greenish-brown of a molting adult than
a full adult Yellow-billed or Common and also tending slightly paler but also
with (3) more extensive and well developed white scapulars, typical of
alternate plumaged breeding adult Yellow-billed; certainly much more so than
any similar plumaged Common.
-----

tubenose seabirds....

Weakening low pressure off Point Arena on Mo 5/15 kept us in the fog most of
the day with brief clearing midmorning becoming fully clear by late
afternoon. Lots of Sooty Shearwaters in the clear patches but abruptly
vanishing as the fog gave way to excellent visibility and slick calm seas in
the late afternoon Mo 5/15, so it seemed a bit odd if not just plain surreal
to observe a couple late afternoon Black-footed Albatross minus anything else
laboring about over those slick glassy seas. Mo 5/15 was the utter end of
the heavy Sooty Shearwater movements noted all the previous week with numbers
this week dramatically declining daily. The only Pink-footeds noted all week
were three on We 5/17. No Manx this week, nor Black-vented. The shearwaters
have clearly taken a break from the north SLO Co coast but no doubt will
return eventually. Where'd they all go?? Monterey, probably.
-----

jaegers, gulls, terns, phalaropes, alcids....

Not very exciting in this department either! There was one Parasitic Jaeger
on Mo 5/15. There were no Franklin's Gulls this week much to my surprise.
Nor have Sabine's appeared at all this season to my great disappointment.
Bonaparte's have all but vanished although one or two have continued to
linger all week at the mouth of San Simeon Creek. Phalaropes have all mostly
disappeared as well and it hasn't been a particularly memorable nearshore
flight year for these little guys either. Any chance for alcids? Not much.
Common Murres and Rhinoceros Auklets are down to single digit morning
tallies, and Cassin's Auklets have been absent all Spring. The only
semi-saving grace were two sightings of ANCIENT MURRELETS. A group of three
were seen late Mo 5/15 (1730hrs) at 6.0 reticles (0.5 nmi) offshore
'swimming' against the current northward in a glassy calm sea and actually
making pretty good progress at it. Three more (or the same?) were seen
flying north early We 5/17 (0634hrs) at about the same distance.
-----

shorebirds and odd waterfowl....

Modest Whimbrel flights were observed on We & Th 5/17-18 (a few hundred).
Long-billed Curlews and Marbled Godwits, both of which have been strangely
scarce here this Spring turned up as flyby migrants more frequently than all
previous weeks combined. There were no weird, wild, and wonderful other
waterfowl this week.
-----

the Sunday morning count.... NOT! Who knows; who cares?!?

The party's over. There hasn't been enough going on around here this week,
all week, to warrant my sticking around and subject myself to 3-4 hours of
maybe just a handful of loons and shearwaters and maybe a token Brant and
Surf Scoter much less a seemingly high risk of wasting prime time only to be
fogged out ....like *all* day today (Sa 5/20) as the 'Point' has been socked
in solid while *all* the rest of the County and the world has been enjoying
such a fine warm sunny spring day, no? So..... I've fled over the hills and
through the woods and far far away for a couple of days (mornings anyway) to
explore somewhere decidedly *unmarine*. There's a rumor afoot that there
might be more to this County (California even) than Piedras Blancas, eh.
Thus, this report gets 'mailed out' today (Sa 5/20) 'cause I'm outta here!
:-))

However.... Full on 'big eye' counts (25X150 fujinon mounted binoulars) were
conducted 4 early mornings this week (0545-0700hrs) just to keep in touch
with the rapidly diminishing coastal migration and action around here and
maybe get lucky and lay eyes on something less than usual. Even after 0700hr
and on through the prime morning hours and rest of all these days, the action
consistently decreased with the exception of Fr 5/19 when a push of Pacific
Loons in steady packs of 20-30 between 0700-1030hrs tallied up a total of
~1500. Only selected species (mostly northbound migrants) are shown.
Species marked with an * were counted with clickers. [note: Sa 5/20
abbreviated to only 30 min (0545-0615) due to incoming fog reducing
visibility to zero]

day Tu We Fr Sa
date 5/16 5/17 5/19 5/20
Beaufort sea state 0-1 2/3 2/3 3
visibility (nmi) 6 5 3 3

Black-footed Albatross 2 1 0 0
Sooty Shearwater* 115 60 45 10
Pink-footed Shearwater 0 3 0 0
Red-throated Loon 8 0 6 5
Pacific Loon* 49 19 109 23
Common Loon 1 4 6 12
Brant 0 0 2 1
Surf Scoter* 23 30 7 7
White-winged Scoter 0 0 0 0
Red-breasted Merganser 0 0 0 0
Jaegers 0 0 0 0
Bonaparte's Gull 0 4 0 0
Sabine's Gull 0 0 0 0
Terns 0 0 0 0
Phalaropes 0 0 0 0
Common Murre 2 3 6 2
Ancient Murrelet 0 3 0 0
Rhinoceros Auklet 7 1 2 1
Whimbrel 2 11 41 0
Long-billed Curlew 0 0 0 1

really exciting, huh..... NOT! .....Booorring
--------------------

OTHER STUFF --

Peregrines --
Mostly booorring. I'm not even sure the female is still around at all. I
see the male occasionally and even a sighting every day isn't always
guaranteed. However, the male did manage to snag a lone Red Phalarope right
out front and before our eyes on Th 5/18. I knew that phalarope was in
trouble even well before I even knew the Peregrine was in the area or had
laid eyes on it.
-----

hummingbirds --
Allen's nest #4 (renumbered from former #3 to accomodate chronological
sequence) hatched the first egg Sa 5/20. At 0700hrs, a bulge appeared on the
shell; by 0800hrs the egg was just starting to crack across the middle; by
0900hrs, the newly hatched chick had just completed its debut into the world.
By 1000hrs, both halves of the shell had been removed and just in time as
the second chicklet began poking out a tiny hole in a cracking egg #2; by
1100hrs, it still was working it's way out; at high noon, it too had fully
emerged and by 1300hrs only the second half of the shell remained. By
1400hrs, that too had been removed. So, at least *something* happened in the
fog today :-)) Total incubation time for the eggs laid 5/02 and 5/03, 17 and
18 days. Too bad I won't be around long enough for fledging. This coming
week (week 11) will likely be my last one here this season.

Anna's nest #4 was still in incubation up until I left for inland points east
late Sa 5/20 afternoon. Perhaps by my return by noon Mo 5/22, this nest will
have new hatchlings as well.

It's been fun observing all these nesting hummingbirds while being able to
satisfy my own curiosity in gathering some good detailed behavioral data and
date information. So far, I've recorded 8 nests, 4 each for both Anna's and
Allen's and I may have still missed one or two others altogether. I think
that there are two females of each species and that all four have probably
renested at least 2-3 times each, with each site being successful or expected
to be.

All of the nests have been found in cypress. The Anna's nests are typically
out in a somewhat more exposed location than the Allen's which tend to be a
little more protected and tucked into the trees. Curiously, all but one of
the nests have been on the more exposed cool wind swept side of the house
rather than on the sunny lee side of the house. This has always been the
case in all previous years. I suspect that this has to do more with
temperature regulation. When it's cold, the birds can control the incubation
temperature perhaps better than if the nest were on the sunny and much warmer
(hot even) south side of the house.

The female Anna's tends to stay glued to the nest much more than Allen's
which seems to spend far more time 'off' the nest than on. Out of all these
successful Allen's nests this season, I've yet to catch the female actually
sitting on the nest, yet the incubation period (15-18 days) is shorter than
Anna's (21-24 days). The female Anna's is much more confiding than Allen's
and will allow me to mess around the yard, even wash down the windows with
the hose only 3-5 feet away at or below eye level with even so much as
twitching. Once the young have hatched, I've still never seen the female
Allen's ever actually sitting on the nest keeping the nestlings warm. The
female Anna's remains attentive to the nestlings for as long as necessary
until they are sufficiently developed to tolerate increasingly longer periods
alone. By about 10 days or so before fledging, the females of both species
are already off building the next nest along with regular visits to feed the
young. All of 'em are busy busy ladies. Even before the young have fledged,
she's already sitting on eggs in the new nest which is usually within about
30 feet of the previous one.
-----

other yard birds....

An ever so slight respite in the next to nothing list of passerine migrants
showing up around here this Spring with a single Wilson's Warbler on Th 5/18,
the first seen here in three weeks and 4th all season. Also, a single
Dark-eyed Junco at the back yard feeding station, Fr-Sa 5/19-20, was the
first sighting way out here all season and a bit of a surprise. More
interesting about this bird was that it has but one single white tail feather
giving it a most odd appearance.
--------------------

San Simeon State Park --

morning walk (Th 5/18, 0530-0930) -- The slim pickings this week of coastal
migrants passing Piedras Blancas didn't bode well for much padding help in
that department. The absence of shorebirds and ducks didn't help either, nor
the terrible misses again (Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Green Heron, Peregrine,
White-crowned Sparrow). Nonetheless, the morning walk still yielded 75
species with Willow Flycatcher, Western Tanager, and MacGillivray's Warbler
representative of newly arrived migrants while Swainson's Thrushes were fewer
in number than last week. Still no orioles(!), pewees, or Olive-sided
Flycatcher yet this Spring. The Willow Flycatcher was seen and heard on the
lower slope southeast of the Washburn Campground where a best assortment of
migrant warblers were concentrated in the scrub. The trail there between the
campground and the north end of the riparian boardwalk btw was heavily tick
infested Thursday morning due to the tall grass overhanging the trail, so
beware. A Golden Eagle scored as a 'bonus' sighting, and a few Turkeys were
seen again around the windmill below the Washburn campground but were all
long gone well before the sun crested the ridge.

**The most significant sighting / event was nailing down a breeding
confirmation for the WINTER WREN. The wrens were unusually conspicuous this
morning including 2-3 fledglings being tended to and fed by one adult. The
birds were right on the trail about 40 paces above the south end of the
boardwalk through the riparian zone between the two lower rest benches while
one of the other adults was skulking about in the brambles on the slope south
of the bench at the start of the boardwalk. The recent fledglings still
showed wide mouths and extensive yellow on the bill around the gape.**

Last week's WHITE-FACED IBIS was *not seen* and unless someone has
information to the contrary, the visitation period remains Th-Sa 5/11-13.


****************************************************
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).
****************************************************


Morro Rock falcons

S_Schub@...
 

Brian Latta from the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group repelled
into the eyrie and leg-banded two peregrine chicks today. There are two
males about 25 days old, which occasionally look out now from the edge
and can be watched from below. There was a crowd with scopes and
binoculars watching from below, several reclined comfortably in lawn
chairs.
Joan Rainey, Marlin Harms and I were privileged to help carry climbing
gear and ropes in backpacks and make the climb to the top of the Rock. A
crushed peregrine egg was collected from the nest along with prey
feathers for later identification.


Steve Schubert


Cypress Ridge Survey

Karen Clarke <seachest@...>
 

Tuesday, May 16, Dick Davis ran a survey of the bird species present at
Cypress Ridge golf course. Eric Johnson and I helped him. The course is
brand new, but very attractive. Several lakes provide a great draw for
birds, including 2 Least Terns, 1 Greater White-fronted Goose (who thought
it was a Mallard), 1 White-tailed Kite, several Killdeer pairs fiercely
protecting their young (one of which tried to become invisible in the green
apron of a green), and a Black Phoebe pair nesting in the eaves of a
boathouse.

I'm not sure of the number Dick had for total number of species present. I
counted 55, possibly 56. Among birds seen were: Possible White-throated
Swift, Anna's & Allen's Hummingbirds, Western Wood-Pewee, Pacific-slope
Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Cassin's & Western Kingbirds,
Loggerhead Shrike, Tree, Cliff, & Barn Swallows, 2-3 Bewick's Wren families,
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Cedar Waxwings, 1 Orange-crowned Warbler, Western
Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Purple & House Finches, 2 Lawrence's
Goldfinches, as well as American Goldfinch.

This morning at Santa Rosa Creek by the Windsor Blvd bridge Chickadees were
feeding in larger than normal numbers on both sides of the road. Some of
them were fledglings begging for food. I estimate that there were 20-25
individuals. I still haven't heard or seen a Yellow Warbler here. Two
Warbling Vireos were new arrivals.

I have a question. In the past a Western Gull with one droopy wing has
spent a number of months at our house partaking of goodies from the dumpster
and from our house. We were able to hand feed it. It departed and was
absent for a number of months. I wasn't keeping track of the bird's
presence at that time. It returned, I think, sometime in late spring 1999.
The bird showed up every morning and late afternoon until March 10. This
afternoon, May 18, I saw it awaiting a handout on the railing of our deck in
front of the house. I fed it leftover sardines. Where would the bird have
gone for two months? It was around all of last summer. I seems impossible
that it could have bred. Do gulls return to the same locations yearly?
what's the story?

Thanks,
Karen C.