MCAS' Local Destinations

Click to read about MCAS birding locations like the 4th Street Overlook and Sweet Springs Preserve. Photo: Dave Tyra

Birds of SLO County 2013.

Follow this link to see the slideshow. Photo: Teddy Llovet

MCAS Birding Guides

Follow this link to discover our trove of SLO County birding guides. Photo: Maggie Smith

Field Trips!

Click to read about MCAS field trips. Photo: Paul Andreano

MCAS Community Programs

Click to read about monthly MCAS community programs. Photo: Al Schmirer

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sweet Springs Volunteer Work Day - Saturday April 19th, 9am-noon

We will have a work day at the Sweet Springs Preserve this Saturday, April 19th from 9am-Noon. If you have a few hours or a few minutes to spare, please come on out and help us keep Sweet Springs beautiful!

 This is a great opportunity to get involved with MCAS, meet some of your Board members, and contribute to this incredible preserve that so many enjoy. We plan on doing quite a bit of work at Central Sweet Springs, including trail maintenance, raking, weeding, and watering. There is also some watering and weeding that needs to be done on the East side. Bring gloves (if you have them), a reusable water container (we'll have a big jug of water on hand), and any snacks you might need to get you through the morning.

 Please send me an email if you will be able to join us. Hope to see you there! Cheers, Paul

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Eureka! The Birds of San Luis Obispo County - February 2014

As a guest compiler of this column, I wanted to share a fun and informative tool that eBird is providing for anyone to use. Go here: Enter a county, state, province or country and see all the hot spots, recent sightings, county high records and more. It’s surprisingly intuitive to use. Let me know how you like it, Maggie Smith.

According to eBird, 240 species were recorded in SLO County thru February 2014. Abbreviations: ADLC = Arroyo de La Cruz; CPNM = Carrizo Plain National Monument; MBSP = Morro Bay State Park; PSBOC = Pismo State Beach Oceano Campground; SSNP = Sweet Springs Nature Preserve; WRR = Whale Rock Reservoir.

WATERFOWL THRU HERONS: A GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE was at WRR on 21-23 Feb (TAB, KLP). The SNOW GEESE present at Laguna Lake and Oceano since last winter continued through the month (MLS, TME). A CACKLING GOOSE was on Atascadero Lake on 6 Feb (RHZ). A female WOOD DUCK was found at ADLC lagoon on 16 Feb (WK). Two female RING-NECKED DUCKS (rare in California Valley) were on the Tule Elk Lane Pond on 19 Feb (PAG). Two male HARLEQUIN DUCKS were reported; one that summered at Estero Bluffs State Park was reported thru 20 Feb (KIK, mob) and one in Avila Beach near the Cal Poly Pier was seen on 11 Feb (PAG) and on 17 Feb (CAM). The continuing immature male LONG-TAILED DUCK was oft reported in San Simeon Cove 1-27 Feb (mob). A leucistic RUDDY DUCK was at the River Oaks Golf Course in Paso Robles on 9 Feb (TME, RHZ). A GREEN HERON (a difficult species to find in winter) was at Cal Poly on Drumm Reservoir on 7 Feb (MDS).

VULTURES THRU GULLS: Our wayward BLACK VULTURE was sighted on eight different days 12-25 Feb at various Cal Poly sites in or near the Dairy Unit (BAB, mob). A subadult BALD EAGLE seen at Baywood Cove on 11 Feb (JSR) and flying over the Bayside CafĂ© (CF) was mostly likely the same bird that was at SSNP in January. Two adults were at a nest on Dover Cyn Road on 11 Feb (JH). Single adult BALD EAGLES were on Cholame Road on 15 Feb (BAB), WRR on 23 Feb (MLS, KLP, TAB) and at Santa Margarita Lake on 24 Feb (MLS, DGS). A dark morph FERRUGINOUS HAWK was on Shell Creek Road on 22 Feb (TAB). The female/immature ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK continued along Cholame Road 5-10 Feb (mob). Two ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS continued at CPNM near the intersection of Panorama and Soda Lake Roads (CAM). Rare again this winter in SLO County, four BONAPARTE’S GULLS were at Laguna Lake 23 FEB (TAB, KLP). A second-winter GLAUCOUS GULL at ADLC on 16 Feb may be the same bird seen previously at the Elephant Seal Rookery (WK).

DOVES THRU SWALLOWS: A WHITE-WINGED DOVE was seen on Vachell Lane in San Luis Obispo on 24 Feb (KW). A SHORT-EARED OWL was observed at MBSP Bautista Property on 18 Feb (MLS). Two GREATER ROADRUNNERS were spotted; one on Gillis Canyon Road on 16 Feb (DML) and the other on San Juan Road on 22 Feb (TAB). Our resident LEWIS’S WOODPECKERS remain along Dallons Drive in Paso Robles with a high count of three there on 16 Feb (DT); a continuing one in Santa Margarita was reported thru 27 Feb (HE, MLS, mob) another single bird was found on Hwy 41, 10 miles east of Atascadero on 17 Feb (KLL). The continuing male YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER was reported thru 27 Feb (mob). A TROPICAL KINGBIRD continued at Oceano County Park on 15 Feb (TME, MLS). CASSIN’S KINGBIRD is becoming more common in winter with 8 reports; the high count was 15 in the village of Arroyo Grande on 1 Feb (BKS, mob). Two NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS were at the River Road Bridge on Pozo Road on 27 Feb (HE, MLS).

THRUSHES THRU WARBLERS: The only VARIED THRUSH reported was along the trail just east of the maintenance yard at PSBOC on 10 Feb (WK, NF). Four SAGE THRASHERS were found on San Juan Road near Shell Creek road on 2 Feb (HE). These birds were reported several times thru 27 Feb
(mob) with a high count of 6 on 5 Feb (KLP, MLS). One was seen on Cholame Road on 9 Feb (TME, RHZ). Four were seen on Elkhorn Road, CPNM on 16 Feb (MD). The only report of LE CONTE’S THRASHER was fi ve on Elkhorn Road, CPNM on 16 Feb (MD). A male NORTHERN PARULA was found at PSBOC on 9 Feb (CDiB). One of the more interesting continuing birds reported is the YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT at Pecho Road Willows 1-23 FEB (mob). There are seven winter records for the county, all are from this location, and the most recent fi ve suggests the same bird wintered here in 2010 and 2012-2014.

SPARROWS THRU GOLDFINCHES: A VESPER SPARROW was seen along Shell Creek Road on 10 Feb (MLS, DGS). Five reports of WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS included one on Estero Ave in Morro Bay 15&22 Feb (KLP, TAB); one at the mouth of Willow Creek in Cayucos on 15 FEB (KLP); one at Heritage Ranch on 15 Feb (KIK) and last but not least one on San Luis Drive in San Luis Obispo on 27 Feb (EW). A DARK-EYED JUNCO (slate colored) was at Laguna Lake on 8 Feb (TME). Two LAWRENCE’S GOLDFINCH were at the MU Ranch, CPNM on 26 Feb (KS)

OBSERVERS: Thanks to everyone who reports their sightings, primarily via the yahoo “slocobirding” listserv and eBird, including those cited above: Tom A. Benson, Bill A. Bouton, Celine DiBernardo, Matthew Dodder, Tom M. Edell, Herb Elliott, Natalie Folsom, Claudia Freitas, Peter A. Gaede, Jim Hallisey, Kathleen I. Kent, Will Knowlton, Keith L. Landers, Dave M. Lawrence, Curtis A. Marantz, Kaaren L. Perry, Jim S. Royer, Kathy Sharum, Brad K. Shram, Maggie L. Smith, Mike D. Stiles, Doug G. Stinson, Dave Tyra, Kyle Wiechert, Roger H. Zachary, and many observers (mob). For seasonal status information about birds mentioned in this report, consult the Morro Coast Audubon publication
“The Birds of San Luis Obispo County, California”, eBird at, or contact Tom Edell at (805) 995-1691 or….Maggie Smith

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Field Trip - Friday April 4th, Birds of Sea and Land at Morro Rock

Friday, April 4th 10AM-noon
Birds of Sea and Land at Morro Rock 

Claudia Freitas, Biologist and State Park Docent, invites all to join her at Morro Rock to watch cormorants, gulls of various species and age classes, Brown pelicans, and maybe a Common Murre or other surprises. The Rock is also home to two pairs of nesting Peregrine Falcons, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Common Yellowthroat, various sparrows and the elusive Canyon Wren. 

Meet near the restrooms located in the Morro Rock parking lot. Up to a mile of level, gentle walking. Dress for possible WINDY conditions. 
No RSVP necessary.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring Cleaning at Sweet Springs

Thanks to all those who came out to our work day at Sweet Springs on March 22nd! We weeded the east side planting areas, did some much needed repair work on Central, and watered plants.

Our next work party is on Saturday, April 19th and we're looking forward to seeing you there!! If you are not already on our volunteer list, please send an email to and we will add you to our list.

A big thank you to Jeff, Chuck and Jay for their on-going help with trail maintenance, trash pickup, and mutt mitts, (respectively). We couldn't do it without you!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Point Buchon Field Trip this Saturday!

Photo by Mike Baird
Point Buchon Field Trip
8:00 AM on Saturday the 29th at Point Buchon on the PG&E Diablo Canyon property,
Lead by Steven Griffith. Rain and/or threat of rain will cancel. 
Contact Jan Surbey  (805) 772-7273

What to Bring
While the coastal terrace can be warm, the winds blowing off the ocean can be cold. Wear layers for comfort and wear comfortable shoes. Bring water and binoculars, and a scope if you have it.

What to Expect
The Point Buchon trail is on PG&E property. Registration is required for all visitors, both to check in and to check out, and you will be required to sign a waiver. Please note that the Coon Creek crossing between the parking lot and the trailhead, while paved, is steep both coming and going. There are no fees for use of the trail. We'll be walking across Coon Creek, then along the bluff overlooking Coon Creek towards the beach. If the tide is favorable, we will have beach access and can bird a little in the riparian habitat and explore the sea cave. After Coon Creek, we'll be birding along the coastal bluff with the coastal terrace (open grassland) on one side and the rocky shore and ocean on the other. Distance traveled will depend on the group and how many birds we see.

How to Get There
Take Los Osos Valley Road to Pecho Road into Montana de Oro State Park. Once in the park, take the road all the way to the end and park in the lot. We will meet in the parking lot.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Volunteers Needed for MBNEP State of the Bay Events in April

Be part of State of the Bay, a special event series designed to engage our community in being good stewards of Morro Bay. Help provide education about the health of the Morro Bay estuary and watershed.

Contact Kathryn Winfrey of the Morro Bay Estuary Program (MBNEP) to sign up or for more information:
Phone: 805.772.3834 x13

Volunteer Opportunities:

April 5 - Bay Health and Science Presentations at Morro Bay Community Center
Event Set Up
11am – 1pm assist with event set up.

  • 1 – 2 Volunteer Openings
April 12 - State of the Bay Family Event at Tidelands Park
Traffic Monitors 
Each shift is about two hours in length. Traffic Monitors ensure that vendors park in designated areas, and ensure that event participants follow the regular parking rules (use only the painted stalls, don’t block traffic, legal use of handicap spaces, etc.).

  • 2 Volunteer openings 7:30am – 10am
  • 1 - 2 Volunteer openings from 10am – 2pm
  • 2 Volunteer openings 2pm – 3:30pm
Vendor Coordinators
Vendor Coordinators greet vendors when they arrive, help direct them to their assigned space, make sure they can connect to power if needed, direct them to the designated vendor parking spaces.

  • 1 – 2 Volunteer openings 7:30am – 10:00am
  • 1 Volunteer opening 2pm – 3:30pm
Water Safety Monitor
Each shift is two hours in length. Greet event participants at the day dock at Tidelands Park. Invite participants to wear life jackets when on the dock, and to hold the hands of children.

  • 1 – 2 Volunteer openings 9:45am – 2:00pm
Event Set Up and Clean Up
Assist in set up of the Information Booth and Superhero Photo Booth. Help with set up and take down of signs at the park.

  • 1 – 2 Volunteer Openings 7:30am – 9:30am
  • 1 – 2 Volunteer Openings 2:00pm – 3:30pm

Monday, March 10, 2014

Eureka! The Birds of San Luis Obispo County - January 2014

One of the highlights of the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival is the offshore boat trips. Each year an all-day and a half-day trip are scheduled. This year’s trips cruised south out of Morro Bay to Point Buchon, offshore to the 100 fathom line, and then north before returning. The lack of wind and warm temperature combined for two great trips. Good numbers of NORTHERN FULMAR, PINK-FOOTED and BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS,and RHINOCEROS AUKLETS and several Gray Whales were seen on both days. Weekend highlights were a MANX SHEARWATER (JS; 18 Jan), two SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERS (CAM,TME; 18- 19 Jan), two SCRIPPS’S MURRELETS (CAM; 18 Jan), a TUFTEDPUFFIN (TME; 19 Jan), and a fi rst winter GLAUCOUS GULL (NG; 19 Jan).

According to eBird, 231 species were recorded in SLO County in January 2014. Abbreviations: PSBOC = Pismo State Beach Oceano Campground; SSNP = Sweet Springs Nature Preserve.

WATERFOWL: The SNOW GEESE present at Laguna Lake and Oceano since last winter continued through the month (RHZ,TME). At Pismo Creek mouth, the ROSS’S GOOSE was last seen on 11 Jan (MM) and four CACKLING GEESE were last reported on 11 Jan (MM) with one remaining to 16 Jan (SDR), while another was off SSNP 1-5 Jan (JSR) and yet another was at Laguna Lake 22 Jan (TME). At least one male EURASIAN WIGEON was on Morro Bay where the latest report involved an adult male and rufous morph female seen from SSNP on 4 Jan (TME). Possibly the same male HARLEQUIN DUCK that summered at Estero Bluffs State Park was there 25-31 Jan and with two females on 25 Jan (TME). Sea ducks worth noting along the north coast are a male WHITE- WINGED SCOTER around Little Pico Creek 12-15 Jan (KLP), a BLACK SCOTER in the same area 3-4 Jan (TME), and a fi rst winter LONG-TAILED DUCK in San Simeon Cove 19-31 Jan (MLS).

VULTURES THRU GULLS: The wayward BLACK VULTURE appeared at Cal Poly during the bird festival (19 Jan) and was seen the following day from Cerro San Luis (JM). The sub-adult BALD EAGLE continued at SSNP a little past mid-month (mob). A dark and light morph male, and a female/immature ROUGH- LEGGED HAWK were all photographed at the Carrizo Plain in Jan (mob) with most sightings along Soda Lake Road from Panorama Road to the Traver Ranch; another female/immature was along Cholame Road on 11-31 Jan (MLS). Continuing shorebirds included a PACIFIC-GOLDEN PLOVER along the North Coast at Arroyo Laguna through at least 22 Jan (RB) and the LESSER YELLOWLEGS at the Turri Road tidal ponds through 21 Jan (MLS). Rare again this winter in SLO County, a single BONAPARTE’S GULL was at Laguna Lake 28-29 Jan (RHZ). THAYER’S GULL are a bit scarcer than normal this winter, with the three reported in January involving fi rst winter birds at San Simeon Creek on 1 Jan (KLP) and at the elephant seal rookery 15-26 Jan (BKS), and an adult at San Simeon Creek on 12 Jan (KLP). A second-winter GLAUCOUS GULL turned up at the elephant seal colony 12-25 Jan (TME); this location draws more northern gulls during the birthing season.

WOODPECKERS THRU SWALLOWS: Our resident LEWIS’S WOODPECKERS remain along Dallons Drive in Paso Robles with a highcount of four there on 11 Jan (RHZ); a single one was in Santa Margarita on 25 Jan (HE). In the better late than never category, a male YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER discovered atEl Chorro Regional Park 7-30 Jan (DK) was likely missed on last month’s Christmas bird count. Up Dairy Creek from the El Chorro Regional Park, the EASTERN PHOEBE was last seen on 4 Jan (MLS). A TROPICAL KINGBIRD continued between the PSBOC and the Oceano Airport 2-15 Jan (mob) and another was found at Laguna Lake on 23 Jan (MLS) A WESTERN KINGBIRD found in the village of Arroyo Grande on 15 Jan (BKS) is likely one of the two there last winter. A COMMON RAVEN in Los Osos Valley on 12 Jan (MDS) may be the same one recorded there on the Christmas bird count. The only BARN SWALLOW reported was one at Oso Flaco Lake on 29 Jan (MLS).

NUTHATCHS THRU WARBLERS: A calling RED-BREASTEDNUTHATCH in Arroyo Grande on 22 Jan (MLS) provided the fi rst South County report this winter. Rare along the coast, a SAGE THRASHER at Estero Bluffs State Park on 19 Jan (JG) was a fi rst for that location. A female/immature BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER along 3rd Street in Los Osos on 29 Jan (HL) may be the same bird present there last winter. A PALM WARBLER sporadically visited a water feature in Cayucos through 30 Jan (CWE). Other noteworthy warblers are a NASHVILLE WARBLER seen at the Pecho Road willows on 5 Jan (JCC) and a HERMIT WARBLER near the old Piedras Blancas Motel 1-10 Jan (KLP,MLS). One of the more interesting birds reported is the YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT at Pecho Road Willows 15-29 Jan (JCC). There are seven winter records for the county; all are from this location, and the most recent five suggests the same bird wintered here in 2010 and 2012-2014. 

SPARROWS THRU GOLDFINCHES: A GRASSHOPPER SPARROW in the grasslands above South Bay Blvd and north of Turri Road on 20 Jan (RB) may be the same bird that wintered there last year. The two NESLON’S SPARROWS wintering along the Morro Bay State Park boardwalk were present through 15 Jan (BKS), but missed on subsequent searches. An interesting FOX SPARROW also found alongthe boardwalk 19-31 Jan (VR) appears to be an altivagans form, which is considered part of the Red or Slate-colored group by different authorities. Totals of fi ve SWAMP SPARROWS and nine WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS were reported during the month (mob). The LAZULI BUNTING, first seen last month, returned to a Cayucos backyard water feature on 14 Jan (CWE). Both rare in winter, a calling SUMMER TANAGER was at PSBOC on 22 Jan (MLS) and a WESTERN TANAGER was near French Hospital on 4 Jan (HE). A lone PINE SISKIN was found at a San Luis Obispo feeder on 23 Jan (MLS) and a LAWRENCE’S GOLDFINCH was at the Las Pilitas Nursery on 24 Jan (HE,MLS).

OBSERVERS: Thanks to everyone that reported their sightings, primarily via the yahoo “slocobirding” listserv and eBird, including those cited above: Ron Beck, Jay C. Carroll, Chris W. Edell, Tom M. Edell, Herb Elliott, Neil Gilbert, Jessica Griffiths, Dave Keeling, Dave M. Lawrence, Henry Luckie, Michelle Maani, Curtis A. Marantz, Jennifer Moonjian, Kaaren L. Perry, Spencer D. Riffle, Vicki Robinson, Jim S. Royer, Brad K. Schram, Maggie l. Smith, John Sterling, Mike D. Stiles, Roger H. Zachary, and many observers (mob). For seasonal status information about birds mentioned in this report, consult the Morro Coast Audubon publication “The Birds of San Luis Obispo County, California”, eBird at, or contact Tom Edell at (805) 995-1691 or Tom Edell

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Keystone XL Pipeline decision coming soon?

President Obama will have to make his decision on whether the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project serves the “national interest”. The President has clearly stated that the Keystone project will be in the national interest only if it does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. Well, his own State Department’s Final Environmental Impact Statement acknowledges just that – it could accelerate climate change, and cause more CO2 to end up in the atmosphere.

As an Audubon chapter, we are most definitely concerned about the many environmental impacts of the Keystone project. For example the endangered Whooping Crane’s migration route passes directly over much of the proposed pipeline route for hundreds of miles; in addition, up to 300 miles of new power lines will add to the hazards of migrating cranes.

In our MCAS comment letter we ask the Obama administration to consider sustainability in his decision. Sustainability should encompass taking the long-term view of how our actions affect future generations, and making sure we don’t deplete resources or cause pollution at rates faster than the earth is able to renew them.

We ask President Obama, if he wants to move ahead in the national interest, that he should reject the Keystone XL pipeline project.

Click here to read our entire March 5, 2014 letter to Secretary John Kerry regarding the Keystone project.