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, July 21, 2014

Morro Strand Beach Walk photos

Thanks to participant Richard Grise for sending along these pics from last week's Morro Strand Beach Walk field trip.

We love to see you photos and read your trip reports. Please send your MCAS field trip photos and/or reports to and we'll try to use them on our website or Facebook page.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

MCAS proudly introduces Dave Clendenen, our new Lands Manager!

MCAS is proud to announce that we have hired Dave Clendenen as our Lands Manager. Dave brings a huge amount of biological, restoration, and permitting experience to the job, as well as being a super personable, energetic, and pragmatic team member.

Dave has spent the last 11 years as the ecologist and preserve manager for Wind Wolves Preserve, a 95,000-acre preserve in Kern County with an enormous amount of cultural and biological resources. We feel lucky to be working with such a highly qualified individual, and we're looking forward to beginning this new chapter at Sweet Springs and the other MCAS lands. You can learn a little more about Dave's background in his bio below. Please join MCAS in welcoming our newest team member Dave Clendenen!
David Clendenen grew up in Big Horn, Wyoming, then moved to California in 1973 when he was 16 years old. Dave graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 1981 with a BS in Wildlife Biology. He worked first for the Audubon Society and then for the US Fish & Wildlife Service during his 15-year tenure on the California Condor Recovery Program. 
He participated in all phases of the Condor Recovery Program, including studies of the remnant wild flock, before assisting in the capture of the last free-flying birds for captive breeding. He held the position of Lead Biologist during the early stages of condor reintroduction, and was appointed by the FWS Regional Director to serve on the Condor Recovery Team. During a hiatus between capture of the last wild birds and reintroduction, Dave participated in the bald eagle reintroduction on Catalina Island, and worked on a study of bald eagles in Arizona.  
He left the Condor Program in 1997 to work for The Wildlands Conservancy. He served for 11 years as the Manager of Wind Wolves Preserve near Bakersfield, before moving into a new position as organizational Ecologist, where he served until May of 2013. During this time, he developed a deep love of conservation land stewardship, and initiated multiple projects for restoration of native habitats and the control of invasive plants.  
Mr. Clendenen left The Wildlands Conservancy to join Vollmar Natural Lands Consulting, where he remains engaged in conservation efforts in the San Joaquin Valley. He has enjoyed new challenges at Vollmar Consulting, including biological assessment of private ranches in preparation for the placement of conservation easements, wetland mapping, and targeting natural lands for conservation, with priority focus on parcels adjacent to existing conservation lands, or parcels that contribute to the preservation of wildlife corridors in the San Joaquin Valley.  
David remembers visiting Sweet Springs during his college years at Cal Poly, and has returned there periodically over the years. He has recently moved back to San Luis Obispo, and is honored to have been selected for the position of Lands Manager by Morro Coast Audubon. David is looking forward to contributing to the stewardship of this very special preserve, in partnership with Morro Coast Audubon and the local community.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Community Program - Joan Easton Lentz, May 19th @7pm

NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SANTA BARBARA REGION: WHY SHOULD YOU CARE? presented by Joan Easton Lentz on Monday, May 19th, 7:00pm.

@ El Chorro Park, SLO Botanical Garden Oak Glen Pavilion (across from Cuesta College). Here is a map.

Join Joan as she summarizes why she chose the natural history of our region -- which includes San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura Counties--for her latest book, and why this place is unique on all the planet.

Joan Easton Lentz is an author, teacher, and research associate at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. For over thirty-five years, she has been a serious student of the natural history of the Santa Barbara region. Lentz has written four books, her most recent being Introduction to the Birds of the Southern California Coast. Joan will bring copies of her latest book “A Naturalist’s Guide to the Santa Barbara Region” for purchase and for signing. You can read more about Joan at her website here:

All ages are welcome to the free MCAS Community Programs. Refreshments will be provided, please bring your own mug. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Job Announcement - MCAS Lands Manager

Morro Coast Audubon Society is seeking a part-time Lands Manager to oversee several MCAS properties within the community of Los Osos, including the Sweet Springs Nature Preserve. This is a paid position.
Applications must be submitted to Morro Coast Audubon Society in electronic format only, no later than 5:00pm on May 22nd, 2014. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered, nor will faxed or hand-delivered submissions. 

The position announcement and job description can be found at the following link:
Please disseminate it to anyone you believe might be interested.

Email application materials to:

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

Bald Eagles are everywhere! But, that wasn’t always the case. In the early 1980’s Bald Eagle didn’t breed in the county and it was a big deal to see one. Reintroductions starting in 1986
by the Ventana Wildlife Society ( shortly turned Nacimiento Lake into the most productive breeding location in California, and now the species is uncommon but regular, in small numbers, throughout our county. Breeding has likely occurred at all of the county’s larger reservoirs and there has been one report of a possible new nest site in the county this spring. Bald Eagle was recorded on the last three Morro Bay Christmas Bird Counts, but only once before, on the 2004 count; and that’s it for the past 65 counts! In March there were reports of three immature birds from Morro Bay, San Miguel, and San Luis Obispo, along with nesting birds at known nesting sites. The California recovery continues to be a great success story! According to eBird, 261 species were recorded in SLO County thru March 2014.

WATERFOWL: SNOW GEESE continued at Oceano County Park and Laguna Lake through the month (MLS,TME) and a secondyear bird was seen with an Aleutian CACKLING GOOSE in a field at Pozo on 28 Mar (MLS,TME). A BRANT census at Morro Bay on 14 Mar (JLR) again turned up below normal numbers; surprisingly few were reported along the coast where spring migrants are often recorded. A male and female WOOD DUCK were scouting a nest hole in a valley oak near the Atascadero Wastewater Ponds on 16 Mar (MLS). A male EURASIAN WIGEON at the Atascadero Wastewater Ponds 23-30 Mar (PAG) was a first for that location. HARLEQUIN DUCKS were again at Estero Bluffs State Park where two females and a male were reported from 15-21 Mar (KW,TME) and at Avila Beach where a male continued on 24 Mar (RN). The lone report of a WHITEWINGED SCOTER was from Oceano on 9 Mar (TS). The male LONG-TAILED DUCK at San Simeon Cove was last reported on 3 Mar (MLS) and a female plumaged bird at the mouth of Morro
Bay 6-12 Mar (DB,TO) was a new find.

VULTURE THRU SKIMMER: The BLACK VULTURE split time between Morro Bay 7-11 Mar (CF) and San Luis Obispo16-29 Mar (DN,mob) where it was found roosting in eucalyptus trees off Ramona Drive. Two transient BLACK-NECKED STILTS were along Bitterwater Road at Pinole Spring 12-17 Mar (MLS) and one was at Oso Flaco Lake on 19 Mar (SSt). One hundred SNOWY PLOVERS at San Simeon Creek mouth on 3 Mar (MLS,DGS) was an unusually high count for that location. No way to know if the LESSER YELLOWLEGS seen from the Morro Bay State Park Marina boardwalk on 10 Mar (MLS,DGS) wintered on the bay or was an early transient. Two BONAPARTE’S GULLS moved
between Caycuos and Morro Strand State Beach during the month (MLS,mob) and one was at Pismo Creek mouth on 26 Mar (CD) The last report of the second year GLAUCOUS GULL at the Point Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery was on 15 Mar (DW). Two well described ELEGANT TERNS on the beach at Oceano on 29 Mar (AF) provided the county’s earliest spring arrival date and the fi rst March record. Up to three transient BLACK SKIMMERS were on Morro Bay 7-10 Mar (JB).

HUMMINGBIRD THRU KINGLET: The first CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD this spring was a male at a feeder in Atascadero on 29 Mar (RHZ) and was shortly followed by males at two feeders in San Luis Obispo on 31 Mar (JW, HE). The last report of the male YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER at El Chorro Regional Park was on 11 Mar (KP). A rare spring migrant, two HAMMOND’S FLYCATCHERS at Cerro Alto Campground 27-31 Mar (RS,WHK) provided the county’s earliest spring arrival date. Two other species that set new early arrival dates were a CASSIN’S VIREO at Cerro Alto Campground on 20 Mar (EW) and WARBLING VIREO at the Carrisa Plain School on 2 Mar (WHK). First of spring reports in March included PACIFICSLOPE FLYCATCHER at Avila Beach 6 Mar (JC) and WESTERN KINGBIRD along Hwy 58 on 12 Mar (MLS). The last report for
the TROPICAL KINGBIRD wintering at Oceano was on 3 Mar (WHK). COMMON RAVENS were found along the coast with one at Montana de Oro State Park (SCS) and a fl ock of 12 at Point
Piedras Blancas on 19 March (SM) PURPLE MARTINS returned to breeding sites at Hwy 41 and San Gabriel Road by 16 Mar and along Hwy 58 east of Pozo Road by 22 Mar (MLS). Scarce
this past winter, a GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET was at Cerro Alto Campground on 25 Mar (WHK).

WARBLER THRU ORIOLE: First of spring dates for western warblers included a NASHVILLE WARBLER at Pecho Road willows on 27 Mar (JC), MACGILLIRAY’S WARBLER along Santa Rita Road on 21 Mar (MLS), YELLOW WARBLER at Oso Flaco Lake on 29 Mar (MLS), and BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER at Cerro Alto on 25 Mar (WHK). The last report of the YELLOWBREASTED CHAT wintering at the Pecho Road willows was on 3 Mar (JC). Single CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS at two residences in Morro Bay 12-24 Mar (KLP,SSa) were likely lingering winter birds. A total of nine WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS were reported during the month (mob). Two more fi rst of spring reports included a GRASSHOPPER SPARROW at Arroyo Laguna on 15 Mar (TME,MLS) and a BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK at Atascadero on 15 Mar (KJZ). Two oriole species set new early arrival dates for the county with a HOODED ORIOLE in Templeton on 5 Mar (WHK) and a BULLOCK’S ORIOLE in east Atascadero on 6 Mar (JRa). Always rare in the county, an ORCHARD ORIOLE visited a yard in Morro Bay on 24 Mar (KLP).

OBSERVERS: Thanks to everyone that reported their sightings, primarily via the yahoo “slocobirding” listserv and eBird, including those cited above: John Birsner, David Bush, Jay Carroll, Celine DiBernardo, Tom M. Edell, Herb Elliott, Alison Fox, Claudia Freitas, Peter A. Gaede, Kathleen I. Kent, Will H. Knowlton, Steve McMasters, David Nelson, Richard Norton, Tom Ogren, Kathy Parker, Kaaren L. Perry, Janet Rayner(JRa), John L. Roser, Jim S. Royer, Sylvia Sanchez(SSa), Ross Schaefer, Brad K. Schram, Steve C. Schubert, Tom Slater, Maggie L. Smith, Mike D. Stiles, Doug G. Stinson, Sarah Straton (SSt), Eric Weir, Kyle Wiechert, David Wimpfheimer, Jim Woolf, Roger H. Zachary, Kevin J. Zimmer, 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

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.