PB 2000 (week 3: Mar 26 - Apr 2)


Piedras Blancas and north coast summary (week 3: Mar 26 - Apr 02)

Weekly summaries henceforth starting with this one will end on Sundays rather
than Saturday.

It was another fine week but a little slow in the bird department. Longshore
northerlies were a bit strong Monday and Tuesday after which the winds and
seas quieted down and by Friday through Su 4/02, this place was heavenly.
Especially Sunday! It was flat slick calm and crisp to the horizon from
sunrise to sunset. Such magical days are extremely rare and although
Sunday's are our 'day off', I couldn't think of any place else to wander off
to that could have been better, so I just stayed put, watched the birds, and
soaked up a bit of sun. We'll no doubt have to pay for those fine early
Spring days soon enough.

coastal seabirds.....

After a 5-day lull and slow start this week, Pacific Loons 'turned on' with
the first perceptions of an actual migration midweek with numbers gradually
building day by day through the end except on Fr 3/31 when the strong
offshore Santa Anna winds kicked in and killed any chance of seeing much of
anything along the coast. If there were any birds out there, they were
pushed further offshore. Red-throated still far outnumber Pacific (about
2:1) and several hundred of both species were seen almost daily from midweek
on except Fr 3/31. Likewise, Common Loons are on the move but in much
smaller numbers.

The only notable flight of Surf Scoter flight this week was on Th 3/30 with
~6-8,000. Brant flights so far this season have been relatively light.
There were no tubenose type seabirds sighted at all this week! Black-legged
Kittiwake numbers are vastly diminished to maybe no more than a dozen all
week. Ditto Mew Gulls. Usually, I've seen a Glaucous or two by now, but
have detected none of those yet. Of course they and anything really can slip
by when I'm not present or happen to be looking. A little group of 5 Royal /
Elegant type terns were just a wee bit too far offshore to confirm an ID on
Tu 3/28. Otherwise, no other terns apart from occasional Caspians. Fewer
Common Murre and Rhinoceros Auklets were seen this week. Shorebird migration
picked up a wee bit this week but nothing particularly noteworthy.

A dedicated coastal seabird count conducted Sunday 4/02 (0700-0900hrs)
weather: clear, wind calm, sea state flat slick 0, visibility unrestricted to
the horizon
nonstop effort on the 'big eyes' (Fujinon 25X150 binoculars) resulted in the
following selected species counts:

'tubenose' seabirds 0
Red-throated Loon 1070 (steady all day; est. 2500-3000 for the
Pacific Loon 620
Common Loon 8
Brant 61
Surf Scoter 235 (better after noon, est; ~1500 day
White-winged Scoter 11
Red-breasted Merganser 2
Brant 60
Common Murre 12
Rhinoceros Auklet 16

weeks highlights and other notes....

Ross's Goose -- two dropped in on the 'Point' on Su 3/26, but only as an
afternoon wonder. A pair of Canada Geese, also seldom seen around here,
dropped in on Th 3/30. "Molly", Susan's either totally adilpated or secretly
ultra intelligent (after six seasons, we still don't know which) Golden
Retriever chased after them which kept them from landing right at our feet.
They did manage to put down on the west point in the iceplant and rested
there for a couple of hours before moving on. Usually, Molly just lays
around at our feet all day pretending to be dead and only wakes up with a
heart stopping jolt when a Turkey Vulture comes by and goes off wildly
chasing and barking. It's just her way of letting them know that she's not
really a lifeless dinner morsel carcass as she appears to be most of the time.

Ferruginous Hawk -- the light morph was still hanging on at least through Fr
3/31 much to my amazement and has actually been a bit more conspicuous this
week, or I've just been having better luck with my casual glances over there
from time to time from our gray whale monitoring site on the southwest point.
Also one or two Harriers along with the ubiquitous and several Red-tailed
hang out out there as well.

Rufous Hummingbird -- A slight improvement this week with a few scattered
around from time to time but not in significant numbers.

Anna's Hummingbird -- The nest and tiny younglings are still doing well
outside the front window. Yet another nest containing two eggs was found on
Su 3/25 and both hatched on We 3/29 between 0630 and noon. I've witnessed
all four now as they punched out of their tiny miniature jelly bean sized
eggs. Witnessing a hummingbird actually hatching is a most inspirational

Allen's Hummingbird -- continues incubating two eggs laid a week ago. She's
much more skidish about hanging around the nest and seems to spend more time
off than on.


Peregrine Falcons -- I'm fairly certain that the traditional PB pair are
incubating eggs now up in the tiny cave like eyrie on the SE face of the
Outer Rock (the big rock just off the western most point). Copulation was
observed up on the lighthouse on Mo 3/27 and both the male and female were
tinkering around inside the eyrie early in the week as well. It appears that
the Brant's Cormorants are reigning kings of the hill top this year. In the
past, the top of the rock has been a favorite perch and lookout and the
Peregrines usually clear the cormorants off. Not this year. Even some of
the other previous favored ledge perches on the rock are occupied by Pelagic
Cormorants and a pair of Western Gulls. Never mind. Since the top of the
lighthouse has been decapitated (no rotating beacon any more or any light
that works at all for that matter), the Peregrines seem to have opted for
utilizing the unobstructed view from the rail around the top as the most
favored perch especially on calm days.


other things of insular PB local interest.....

Nothing much actually. The Spotted Towhee remains along with the two House
Wrens which continue to sing. A Lincoln's Sparrow has been seen off and on
and a few Golden-crowned Sparrows (missing until this week) have finally
joined the yard bird collection.


further afield.....

San Simeon State Park --

morning walk (Tu 3/28, 0600-0930) -- A much quieter morning than the last
visit on 3/23. I had to find most things the hard way, missed several common
woodland species that shouldn't have been missed, and had to struggle just to
find a token Junco and House Wren. Still managed to tally 71 species, but
unfortunately the Winter Wren wasn't one of them.

Merlin -- female hunting over the large marsh area and perched in the first
dead snag where the trail starts to climb up the hill after leaving the
boardwalk over the marsh. Incredibly tame for a Merlin; I was able to nearly
walk right up to it. An adult male Cooper's Hawk was seen in that same tree
about an hour earlier on my way in.

Common Merganser -- the two females and one gorgeous adult male remain in San
Simeon Creek below and just east of the road and foot bridge (the one inside
the campground).

Hermit Thrush (1), Pacific-slope Flycatcher (2-3), and Wilson's Warbler (3).

Townsend's Warblers and Purple Finches, the two jays, and Acorn Woodpeckers
were among the most conspicuous noise makers up in the woods.

White-tailed Kites -- There *are* for sure at least four hanging around the
park and immediate adjacent area. I suspected more than a pair, but this was
the first time I've ever been able to confirm such and actually *see* all
four at once.


Cedar Waxwings -- a tight flock of 80-100 were seen swirling over and
alighting in the pines in West Cambria as I was rolling up to the stop light
on rt.1 at 5pm Th 3/30. I don't know if Cedar Waxwings are generally common
or just irregular. I seldom seem to run into them, so thought I'd just
mention it.


and finally, just over the county line again.....

With Friday's (3/31) offshore Santa Annas heating up the area and blowing all
the muck and haze offshore, I couldn't resist making an overnight camping
trip to San Martin Top, camping out under the stars on the open ledge ~2500
feet straight up above rt.1, the ocean, and Gorda (Monterey Co). A gorgeous
warm dry night up there. Birdwise, pretty quiet but the TOWNSEND'S SOLITARE
reported last week was still present and was most confiding and conspicuous
as it kept me close company during dinner and again for breakfast before I
had to descend and go back to 'work'. A Common Poorwill and Great Horned Owl
were calling just before dawn.

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).