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

Sunday, January 4, 2015

MCAS, CNPS, and Sierra Club Field Trip @ Lopez Lake, Feb.1

Sunday, February 1st, 9 am, Lopez Lake.

Join Morro Coast Audubon, California Native Plant Society, and Sierra Club on a bird and plant walk. Expect to hike about 4 miles with a 200 foot elevation gain. We will be looking for waterfowl, which should be plentiful and visible along the trail, as well as an abundance of early spring flowers. A continuation hike to the top of the Duna Vista lookout is an option. 

Directions: From Arroyo Grande, follow the signs towards Lopez Lake. After crossing the dam, but before entering Lopez Lake County Park, turn right on Hi Mountain Road and proceed 0.8 miles to the junction of Upper Lopez Canyon Road. Bear left on Canyon Road and proceed 3.6 miles to the old entrance of the Boy Scout Camp (now closed). At this point, park along the side of the road. Restrooms are available. No day use fees will be charged as parking is outside of the fee area. Bring water and snacks, and dress in layers for changing weather. 

A hat, sunscreen, and sturdy shoes are recommended. For more information, call Bill at (805) 459-2103 or Rain or the threat of rain cancels.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Morro Bay CBC Preliminary Results

The Morro Bay Christmas Bird Count was held yesterday, December 20.  There was 100% cloud cover most of the day with little to no wind and drizzle early in the morning. A 6.2 foot high tide at 7:52 am and high surf made birding interesting along the beaches and in Morro Bay. Circle coverage was good this year thought I don’t yet have the total number of participants.

The tentative total for the count is 205 species; documentation could increase or decrease the count though only by a species or two in either direction.  Counters please provide area leaders with needed documentation now so they can complete their compilations.

One new species was added to the cumulative species total this year.  A SANDHILL CRANE at the mouth of Morro Creek is the 317th species recorded on the Morro Bay CBC. Other highlights are:

Snow Goose – two adults and two hatch-year at Laguna Lake

Ross’s Goose – not sure of the location at this time

Cackling Goose –two at Laguna Lake

Eurasian Wigeon – male at Morro Bay

Canvasback – not sure of the location at this time

Hooded Merganser – three females together in a well-wooded portion of San Luis Creek just above Bianchi Lane in SLO

Black-vented Shearwater – 1077 seen from the MDOSP bluffs

Green Heron – not sure of the location at this time

White-faced Ibis – one flew over Turri Road

Common Gallinule – adult continued at the SLO Water Treatment Plant pond off Stenner Creek Road

Marbled Murrelet –two seen from the MDOSP bluffs

Ancient Murrelet – one seen from the MDOSP bluffs

Rhinoceros Auklet – two seen from the MDOSP bluffs

Greater Roadrunner – at least three recorded

Western Screech Owl – See Canyon

Spotted Owl – See Canyon

Long-eared Owl – See Canyon

Yellow-breasted Sapsucker – adult male along Brizzolara Street in SLO

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – adult male continued at El Chorro Regional Park

Yellow-billed Magpie – San Luisito Creek Road

Common Raven – one up San Bernardo Creek Road

Barn Swallow – 4 seen along the Moro Bay Sandspit

Mountain Bluebird – not sure of the location or number at this time

Black-and-White Warbler – female/Hatch-year bird continued on Morro Creek

Nashville Warbler – one in cypress and eucalyptus trees just to the north of Pecho Willows, Los Osos

Hermit Warbler – one at Morro Creek

Wilson’s Warbler – one along Islay Creek, Islay Creek Campground, Montana de Oro SP

Grasshopper Sparrow – three in the Bautista Ranch (east of South Bay Blvd), Morro Bay SP

Savannah Sparrow (large-billed) – two seen from the MBSP Marina boardwalk

Swamp Sparrow – one at the west end of Ramona

HARRIS’S SPARROW – hatch-year bird around intersection of Campus and Questa near the Orfalea Family Center”, Cal Poly (5th count record)

White-throated Sparrow – in willows along Stenner Creek behind 475 Brizzolara Street

White-throated Sparrow – others reported, but not sure of the location at this time

Slate-colored Junco – continuing bird at Meadow Park, SLO

Summer Tanager – one continued at the Bowden Open Space

Western Tanager – not sure of the location at this time

Bullocks Oriole – a first-alternate in Liquidambar trees near the Ag.10 building often perching at Cal Poly

Bullock’s Oriole – female on the peninsula that juts northwest into the lake just beyond the park pier at Laguna Lake

There are 3 count week birds (missed on count day but seen three days before or after) as of today. If anyone saw these birds yesterday, please let me know.

Greater White-fronted Goose – Laguna Lake, SLO

Bald Eagle – Laguna Lake, Baywood Cove/Sweet Springs Nature Preserve

Western Flycatcher – Pecho Road willows, Los Osos

Thanks to everyone that participated. A special thanks to Maggie Smith the Count Coordinator (and an Area Leader), Bert and Elaine Townsend the Count Registrars, Bill Bouton, Kaaren Perry, Eric Weir and Mike Stiles/Ron Beck who also acted as Area Leaders, and to Connie Harms for handling the phone calls on count day.  And, the post-count potluck was excellent!

Tom Edell
Count Compiler
Cayucos, CA

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Birding around Morro Rock Field Trip - Thursday, December 18th

Join leaders Neil Gilbert and Jan Surbey for this rather spontaneous trip from 8-10AM on Thursday, December 18th.

Meet at the restrooms in the Rock parking lot and plan to walk an easy, slow mile or so around the Rock and Boardwalk.

No RSVP needed; all ages and experience levels welcome.  

For more information, contact Jan Surbey, MCAS field trip

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Harmony Headlands State Park Field Trip - Friday, November 28th

Would you rather be birding than shopping? Join leaders Steve Griffith, Jay Carroll, and sidekick Jan Surbey in turning “Black Friday” into “Bird Friday”. Carpooling is encouraged since there is limited parking on-site. Meet near the Main Street entrance in the southwest corner of Spencer’s Fresh Market parking lot in Morro Bay at 7:30AM, or on-site at 8:00AM. The park is located about a 5 minute drive north of Cayucos, 2.6 miles south of Harmony (look for the Linn’s sign if approaching from the south), on the west side of Highway 1.

Trip includes about 3 miles (round trip) of moderate hiking (some hills) through grasslands and coastal scrub to ocean views. A portable restroom is available along the trail. Target bird species include raptors, songbirds, seabirds, and waterfowl.  

The trip should conclude by late morning; bring water, snacks and dress in layers. Rain cancels.  

No RSVP needed; for additional information, contact Jan Surbey, MCAS Field trip chair:

Friday, November 21, 2014

2014 Carrizo Plain CBC Information

The Carrizo Plain CBC will be on January 3, 2015. Registration must be submitted by December 15. The Carrizo Plain Christmas Bird Count is on a different day than the SLO County CBC, and our local birders are encouraged to participate in both counts. both are free this year. Registration for the Carrizo CBC s less formal and can be done by emailing contacting Roger Zachary at or (805) 466-6222

We will meeting at the Community Center/Fire Station on Soda Lake Road at 8:00 a.m. There is no fee. We usually break the group into 7-8 parties in the morning then re- group at 1 p.m. for lunch and to check the number of species observed. We may be assigning section leaders for those who are dedicated and knowledgeable of certain areas. Bring your own food/ water and come with a full tank of gas. Several parties bird the afternoon depending on what we need to find or confirm. We're looking forward to a productive count as well as a great day of birding.

If you are an experienced birder and know the area please email or call me to let me know that you are participating by no later than Dec. 15.

Roger Zachary,
or (805) 466-6222

CBC Materials to Download

Forms and Checklists

Sector descriptions (download .pdf) or (download .docx)
Descriptions of each MCAS CBC sector and what species to look for once you're there.

2014 Christmas Bird Count Checklist (download .pdf) or (download .docx)
* Updated December 14, 2014. Suggestion: Print page one of checklist, turn the paper over and print page two to make a tri-fold checklist.

Rare Bird Report Form (download .pdf) or (download .docx)
This form is needed for any bird not on the checklist, and birds marked on the checklist with an asterisk.

2014 Target Birds Species to watch for on count day (download .pdf) or (download .docx)
* Updated December 18, 2014. This is the final update.


Google Earth MCAS CBC circle map with sector descriptions (download .kml)

Garmin MCAS CBC circle map with sector descriptions for your GPS unit (download .gpx)

Smartphone Apps

Count Circle for iPhone ($2.99) (download from iTunes) CBC mapping app

Count Circle for Android ($2.99) (download from Google Play) CBC mapping app

Audubon Birds for iPhone ($14.99) (download from iTunes) has eBird integration and field guides

Audubon Birds for Android ($3.99) (download from Google Play) has eBird integration and field guides

Audubon Birds - California for Android ($2.99) (download from Google Play) has eBird integration and California field guides

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Pelicans in Peril. . . A Call to Action

One would not think that our coastal fish-cleaning stations would be a threat to wildlife, but that is exactly what’s happening at the facility on the Harford Pier in Avila Beach, and other locations on the central coast.

Our beloved brown pelican is in danger, and juvenile pelicans are especially vulnerable. These birds are no longer fed by their parents and are expected to switch to “plunge-diving” for food, this takes time and patience. Instead, some pelicans learn to linger around fish-cleaning stations looking for, easy to find, scraps of food left by fishermen. In the process these birds get covered with fish oil that coats their feathers and compromises their ability to insulate themselves from the cold ocean water. The bird’s core body temperature lowers, they avoid the water, and they begin shivering. This deadly cycle continues as they stop feeding naturally and seek handouts from humans to survive.

A deadly handout that pelicans find at poorly designed fish-cleaning stations is fish carcasses and other large fish parts tossed to them, or thrown into the ocean water. The hungry pelicans try to eat these, but can’t. Their throats and pouches aren’t built that way. Pelican pouches are designed to scoop up slippery sardines and anchovies that slide down their throats. But, foot-long rockfish spines, and other large fish parts, are razor sharp which can puncture pelican’s internal organs or get caught in their pouches.

So, what can we do to prevent the needles suffering and death of these incredible birds?

First, our central coast fish-cleaning stations, which are outdated and wildlife unfriendly, must be modified. Second, we must do a better job of public outreach at our coastal marinas and piers regarding proper handling of fish waste. Third, we must let our local authorities know that we want changes made to protect our wildlife. It would seem that both our local and state authorities would want to promote sound fish waste management to protect our coastal environment – let them know that they should!

Please contact the Port San Luis Harbor Commission and let them know that you care. Now is the time to be heard!

Port San Luis Harbor Commission
3950 Avila Beach Drive
P.O. Box 249 
Avila Beach, CA 93424
(805) 595-5400

As always, stay alert and be involved.
- Douglas Tait, MCAS Conservation Chair

Sunday, November 2, 2014

December Work Party at Sweet Springs Preserve

Hello Volunteers! We'll be hosting another volunteer work party at Sweet Springs Preserve to continue the important work that has already been done by all you wonderful folks that have come out to support local conservation and restoration.

Depending upon the number of people that come out, we'll try to tackle multiple projects. First priority will be to enhance the boundary fence in East Sweet Springs, to help prevent trespass and resource damage that has occurred there as a result of unauthorized entry through that fence.

We would also like to continue control of veldt grass in East Sweet Springs, and begin work controlling invasive English ivy at the 4th Street Overlook. Drinking water will be provided. Please wear sturdy clothes you don't mind getting dirty, including a sun hat and close-toe shoes, and bring work gloves.

We'll meet at 9:00am, at the main entrance to Sweet Springs on Ramona Avenue, and work until at least noon. I hope you can make it out to help, and I look forward to the privilege of working side-by-side with you to enhance and restore the gem that is Sweet Springs Preserve.