PB 2000 (week 7: April 24-30)
Piedras Blancas and north coast summary (week 7: April 24-30)
COASTAL SEABIRDS --
loons, brant, scoters....
Impressive Pacific Loon flights passed the 'Point' on Mo 4/24 (~25,000 total,
16,700 between 0710-0745) and Th 4/27 (~25,000 total, 15,000 between
0720-0825hrs). Th 4/27 was a pretty wild crazy morning for everything
(loons, brant, scoters, shearwaters, shorebirds), perhaps sensing an urgency
to push through ahead of the strong headwind gales (35-40kts) the following
day which killed the loon flight to a few hundred at best and Sa-Su (4/29-30)
were pretty slow as well. Too bad Thursday couldn't have been Sunday when I
could have really focused on all the action instead of those pesky gray
The only birds battling the wretched NNW headwinds on Fr 4/28 were small
skeins (20-100) of Brant (~2,000 total) sprinkled throughout the day even at
the height of the blast through the afternoon. In fact, it was a pretty good
week, Tu-Fr 4/25-28 at least, for Brant (~20,000 total for that 4 day
period). By Sa 4/29, the Brant flight dwindled to maybe 500. Surf Scoters
also made a good showing during that same 4-day period with ~20,000.
Black-footed Albatross -- all immature as best I can tell.
Mo 4/24 -- 1-2 early morning and late afternoon
Th 4/27 -- 1-2 during afternoon, none in morning for some reason
Fr 4/28 -- 10 counted on one scan at 0630hrs was the highest total ever
Sa 4/29 -- 1 (early morning)
Su 4/30 -- 2-3 (early morning)
Pink-footed Shearwater and Sooty Shearwaters -- a regular presence daily
now in 'normal' numbers (~100:1 Sooty:Pink-footed)
MANX SHEARWATER -- First Spring sightings this week; Th 4/27 at 0700hrs
(0.8nmi) and Su 4/30 at 0755hrs (1.5nmi), both flying north and loosely
associated with Sooty Shearwaters.
Black-vented Shearwater -- Su 4/30 at 0618hrs, flying north and only the
second sighting this Spring.
jaegers, gulls, terns, phalaropes, alcids....
Parasitic Jaeger --
We 4/26 - one adult (light morph) flying north 1/4nmi off the 'Point'
Su 4/30 - one adult flying north
Pomarine Jaeger --
Th 4/27 - one adult flying north 1/4 nmi off 'Point'
Sa 4/29 - two adults (1 light, 1 dark) flying north
Su 4/30 - two adult light morph flying north
Franklin's Gull -- None
Bonaparte's Gull -- still very scarce
Black-legged Kittiwake -- None
Terns -- occasional Forster's and local Caspian's, nothing else.
Phalaropes -- scattered small morning flocks of Red-necked out along the
upwelling / convergence color line. No Red Phalaropes detected yet this
Alcids -- Nothing new, exciting, or different. Just the usuals.
Good shorebird flights Mo-Tu 4/24-25; mostly Semipalmated Plovers, Whimbrels,
Dunlin, Least and Western Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, and a few
Sanderlings. Also, fair numbers of Surfbirds and Wandering Tattlers at
times, but surprisingly, both Turnstone species have been exceedingly scarce
here and elsewhere along the north coast in seemingly appropriate habitat.
The Monday shorebird flight brought renewed hope for my weekly morning San
Simeon Park trip scheduled for the following day, Tu 4/25, which indeed
resulted in a few despite my bantering about the place being such a dud this
Spring, with Snowy Plover (1) being the highlight along with 3 Semipalmated
Plovers, 1 Whimbrel, 1 Short-billed Dowitcher, ~60 Western, and 8 Least
Sandpipers. Mind you, the San Simeon Creek mouth has been a near total zero
for shorebirds this spring until Tu 4/25 morning.
the Sunday morning count....
Sunday 4/30 full on 'big eye' count (25X150 fujinon mounted binoculars) --
Selected species (mostly migrants) of particular interest only.
0615-1000hrs -- weather: clear but hazy, wind NNW 5kts, sea state B2/3,
workable visibility 3-4 nmi. Species marked with (*) were individually
counted with hand clickers. Tom Edell and Mike Stiles joined me for today's
Black-footed Albatross 2-3 (immature)
Pink-footed Shearwater 32
Sooty Shearwater ~3,000
MANX SHEARWATER 1 (0755hrs; a reach at 1.5nmi out)
Black-vented Shearwater 1 (0618hrs; second sighting this
Red-throated Loon* 164
Pacific Loon* 3,560
Common Loon* 328
Surf Scoter* 482
White-winged Scoter 13
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Pomarine Jaeger 2
Parasitic Jaeger 1
Bonaparte's Gull 63
Forster's Tern 0
Red-necked Phalarope ~500
Common Murre 44
Rhinoceros Auklet 185
flyby shorebirds: very light; Wandering Tattler, Whimbrel, Surfbird, Dunlin,
dowitcher sp. (prob. Short-billed)
OTHER STUFF --
Peregrines -- Uh oh... We may have a failure? Little to no activity has
been apparent up in the eyrie all week since I first 'thought' hatching may
have occurred back on Th 4/20. In fact, I really haven't been seeing either
bird around at all much. They still perch atop the lighthouse in the early
morning and only occasionally on the Outer Rock. Otherwise, one of both fly
by once in a while. No kills were observed this week and most chases after
mostly shorebirds and phalaropes have resulted in failure and coming home
empty handed (taloned).
The only exciting moment noticed in the Peregrine world all week was on Mo
4/24 afternoon when an intruder (interloper?) female showed up. Both of the
PB resident birds pounced on her in a spectacular aerial display which went
on and on for nearly 5 minutes. It was mostly the two females locked in a
heated noisy skirmish as the smaller male remained on the fringe of the
battle. Twice, the two females locked talons and wouldn't let go as they
planed down to very near the ocean surface and then only letting go at the
last moment before they otherwise crashed in the water.
hummingbirds -- Allen's nest Number One (the luxury nest) fledged the
first bird precisely at 1304hrs Tu 4/25 and way sooner than I was really
expecting. I figured they had at least another week. One of the two birds,
super alert, looked around a couple of times then just rocketed out of the
nest when I was no closer than about 6-8 feet, the abrupt departure taking me
quite by surprise! Neither were even perched on the edge nor ever have been,
rather both were quite comfortably nestled well in the cup. But,
nonetheless, I guess it was time for one to go and it did, thus making more
space for the second young'n to spread out and linger for a few more days.
Second bird was last seen perched on the edge of the nest at 0630 Th 4/27.
On the next check at 1000hrs, it too was gone.
So, time to search for more nests. Not more than 5 minutes later, honest(!),
nest Number Six this season was located in an area I had been observing
suspicious activity. Another Allen's, under construction, no eggs yet. I
predicted one by Saturday morning but it didn't happen. So I expected one
Sunday.... nope. Monday maybe?
Meanwhile, the old Anna's nest outside the front window which fledged 2 young
two weeks ago is being 'dismantled' by presumably the same adult female
occupant that built it to further add to it's new pad in the cypress 'next
other yard birds....
Canada Geese -- two (ssp? they looked large to me) flew over low but kept
going early Mo 4/24.
Otherwise, passerine migration remains dull and boring. IOW, nothing.
Sounds like from other postings later in the week that passerine migration
has picked up some, but out here on the remote 'point' there wasn't a single
warbler or anything apart from the usual residents all week.
San Simeon State Park --
morning walk (Tu 4/25, 0600-0930) -- Nice morning but another deadly quiet
one. No new migrant passerines and even old ones (Orange-crowned and
Wilson's Warblers) were scarce. Missing altogether were the usual winter
birds and all the left over ducks now except the resident Mallards. Even the
residents were unusually quiet, many of which may be well into nesting and
less vocal. W-c Sparrow (like last week) was such a near miss it makes me
shudder. So, a lot of misses including some horrible ones like G-b Heron,
R-w Swallow (R-w Swallow -- how can that even be possible?!?), R-c Kinglet,
and Y-r Warbler, all of which the sprinkle of new shorebirds at the mouth of
San Simeon Creek and the sewage ponds couldn't even make up for. Total
species continued downward to the lowest count this Spring so far (68).
Bonus birds included Snowy Plover and Northern Harrier.
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).