Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Eureka! Birds of San Luis Obispo County - February 2013

BLACK VULTURE AT MORRO BAY STATE PARK! Mike Bush posted this to the slocobirding listserv late afternoon on 10 Feb after he and Jeanne Miller saw one going to roost with Turkey Vultures in tall eucalyptus trees by the golf course. Next morning a group of anxious birders saw the vulture perched and later in fl ight as it departed from the roost that it returned to again the following night before vanishing. This is the fi rst one found in SLO County and is likely the same bird that has frequented Santa Barbara and Ventura counties for the past few years. According to eBird, 217 species were recorded during February in SLO County and a total of 245 species have been recorded this year. Abbreviations: MDOSP = Montana de Oro State Park.

WATERFOWL THRU SHEARWATER: BRANT numbers continued to drop on Morro Bay due to the severe decline in eel grass. Only 63 birds were recorded in mid-Feb (JLR), a time when typically 2-3,000 are present in good years. An Aleutian CACKLING GOOSE continued next to the campground at Morro Strand State Beach through the month (mob). The three adult male HARLEQUIN DUCKS wintering along our coast continued with one at San Simeon Cove to 4 Feb (AC), one at Avila Beach to 21 Feb (TME), and another off Old Creek in Cayucos to 26 Feb (TME). The female BLACK SCOTER remained off Old Creek on 27 Feb (KLP) and the adult male was seen again off Little Pico Creek on 19 Feb (MLS,DGS). Also continuing along the coast was the male LONG- TAILED DUCK at Morro Bay, which was being seen both in the harbor mouth and on the north side of Morro Rock through 25 Feb (DK). A breeding plumage RED-NECKED GREBE at Santa Margarita Lake on 28 Feb (SS) provided the fi rst record for that location and only the second inland record for the county. The last BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATER report involved 25 seen from the MDOSP bluffs on 2 Feb (TME)

RAPTORS THRU ALCIDS: Three reports of ROUGH- LEGGED HAWK on the Carrizo Plain between 2-18 Feb all involved light morph birds and included two on 3 Feb (MP). A LESSER YELLOWLEGS in a channel along Soda Lake Road, Carrizo Plain, 17-23 Feb (MB) was the fi rst to be found away from the coast in winter. Basically absent from the county this winter, a lone BONAPARTE’S GULL was seen fl ying along the coast at Estero Bluff State Park on 2 Feb (MLS). High winter counts for two gull species came from Morro Creek where 27 HERRING GULLS and fi ve THAYER’S GULLS were recorded on 19 Feb (KLP). A lone adult PARASITIC JAEGER off Old Creek on 18 Feb provided the only report this winter. Sporadic in winter, a BLACK SKIMMER was seen from the Morro Bay State Park boardwalk on 1 Feb (RB). Two adult PIGEON GUILLEMOTS in breeding plumage off MDOSP on 16 Feb (TME,MLS) were only a day shy of the county’s earliest arrival date for this species. Also seen from the bluffs were two RHINOCEROUS AUKLETS on 2 Feb (TME).

WOODPECKER THRU THRUSH: The only unusual woodpecker reported was a “yellow-shafted” NORTHERN

FLICKER seen at the Islay Creek Campground, MDOSP, on 26 Feb (M&DT). The Tyrannus fl ycatcher gathering continued through the month in the Village of Arroyo Grande. Up to two TROPICAL KINGBIRDS, 35 CASSIN’S KINGBIRDS, two WESTERN KINGBIRDS, and the immature male SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER were reported (BKS,mob). The earliest arriving CLIFF SWALLOWS were recorded at Cuesta College on 18 Feb (NJM). Up to three singing PACIFIC WRENS along Coon Creek in MDOSP 16 and 22 Feb (TME,MLS,DK) were in an area this species is known to breed. Wintering GOLDEN- CROWNED KINGLETS were recorded at the Pismo State Beach Oceano Campground on 18 Feb, Oso Flaco Lake on 22 Feb, and the Islay Creek Campground, MDOSP, 23- 25 Feb (all-JG). This has been a fairly good winter for VARIED THRUSH with the latest sightings from Cerro Alto 2-22 Feb (MLS), along Coon Creek 21 Feb (RHZ,RZ), and at the La Panza Campground on 23 Feb (TME).

WARBLER THRU CROSSBILL: A NASHVILLE WARBLER that visited a water feature in Cayucos on 25 Feb (TME) was undoubtedly the same bird seen there in late January. In addition to the continuing one to two PALM WABLERS along the Morro Bay State Park Marina boardwalk through at least 24 Feb (mob), another was found in the dunes between the Azure Street parking lot and Morro Strand State Beach (JG). The wintering female WILSON’S WARBLER continued in the Arroyo Grande Village on 13 Feb (BKS). A RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW was singing from a silver lupine in the dunes north of Spooners Cove, MDOSP, on 14 Feb (SCS). This habitat is quite different from the dry, south-facing hillsides with scattered California sagebrush where this species is typically found. The second CHIPPING SPARROW report this winter involved a lone bird in Atascadero on 3 Feb (GM). After being somewhat scarce this winter, two RED CROSSBILLS were found at Black Hill, Morro Bay State Park, on 3 Feb (RB), up to 30 continued in the Islay Creek Campground, MDOSP, 10-26 Feb (mob), and fi ve whose calls were recorded in Morro Bay 21-24 Feb (KLP). Cornell University identifi ed the calls as “type 3”, the small billed “Western Hemlock” group found primarily in the northern coastal areas of western U.S.

OBSERVERS: Thanks to everyone who reports their sightings, primarily via the yahoo “slocobirding” listserv and eBird, including those cited above: Ron Beck, Bill A. Bouton, Mike Bush, Allen Chartier, Tom M. Edell, Jessica Grifi ths, Dave Keeling, Nancy J. Mann, Gary Manninen, Matthew Page, Kaaren L. Perry, Brad K. Schram, Steve C. Schubert, Maggie L. Smith, Scott Stellar, Douglas G. Stinson, Marge and Don Thornton, Roger H. Zachary, Ruth 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” or contact Tom Edell at (805) 995-1691 or tedell@aol.com....Tom Edell