Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Eureka! Birds of San Luis Obispo County - March 2013

A paper by Peter Pyle and Kristie Nelson published in the journal Western Birds examined California Caracara records. By comparing age, feather wear and molt, the authors determined that 60 California observations represented only 11 individuals, two of which were recorded in SLO County. Examining the observations involving SLO County’s 2012 record, it was determined that this bird was fi rst noted at Vandenburg AFB Dec 2011- Jan 2012, Los Angeles 13 Jan 2012, Point Piedras Blancas 10-21 Feb 2012, Point Sur 30 Mar 2012, and fi nally near Davis 16-20 Apr 2012. The fi rst SLO County record ranged more widely starting in Santa Barbara in Oct 2001 and was in Del Norte County as of Feb 2012, with several moves up and down the state (and into Oregon) in between including a visit to the Morro Bay sandspit on 1-2 Jun 2005.

According to eBird, 213 species were recorded during March in SLO County, and a total of 257 species have been recorded this year. Abbreviations: CPNM = Carrizo Plain National Monument; MDOSP = Montana de Oro State Park, PSBOC = Pismo State Beach Oceano Campground.

WATERFOWL THRU BITTERN: Five SNOW GEESE continued into March with single birds at PSBOC and Laguna Lake through the month (mob) and three at Santa Margarita Lake to at least 3 Mar (TME,MLS). The immature ROSS’S GOOSE was last reported at PSBOC on 1 Mar (SP) and may stay through summer as is often the case with year old birds. Also continuing was the CACKLING GOOSE on the beach at the Morro Strand State Beach as of 12 Mar (NW). A male EURASIAN WIGEON found on a fl ooded fi eld in Santa Margarita 6-22 Mar (PAG) was only the second to be found east of the Santa Lucia Range. An immature male WHITE-WINGED SCOTER off North Point Natural Area in Morro Bay on 2 Mar (TME) was the only one reported. Also seen there the same day was a male LONG-TAILED DUCK (TME) that was joined by three more males 4-31 Mar (MLS,DGS). Rarely recorded, a CHUKAR was heard calling near the southern end of Elkhorn Road, CPNM, on 1 Mar (JT). An AMERICAN BITTERN heard calling from the east side of Laguna Lake on 26 Mar (DGS) was in suitable nesting habitat, though breeding has yet to be confi rmed at this locale.

HAWKS THRU FLYCATCHERS: Having been a good year for ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK, it is not surprising that two remained into Mar, a female along Cholame Road on 2 Mar (MLS) and one at the CPNM 15 Mar (TW). The latest MOUNTAIN PLOVER report involved a fl ock of 40 at the CPNM on 2 Mar (JT). The LESSER YELLOWLEGS fi rst reported last month in a channel along Soda Lake Road remained to 2 Mar (MLS). The season’s fi rst CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD visited a feeder in Atascadero on 30 Mar (RHZ). LEWIS’S WOODPECKER continues to be seen along Dallons Road in Paso Robles where four birds were present on 26 Mar (WHK). The wintering Tyrannus fl ycatchers dispersed in early March with single TROPICAL and WESTERN KINGBIRDS through 3 Mar, three CASSIN’S KINGBIRDS through 11 Mar, and the immature male SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER last reported on 5 Mar (all- BKS).

RAVEN THRU THRASHER: Three coastal COMMON RAVEN reports involved at least 10 birds and included one along the immediate coast at Estero Bluffs State Park on 10 Mar (TME). Still a scarce breeder in SLO County, three PURPLE MARTINS were at the traditional nest site along Hwy 41 in Atascadero on 25 Mar (MLS) and two pairs were checking potential nests sites along Hwy 58 east of Santa Margarita on 26 Mar (KLP,MLS). The latest report of GOLDEN- CROWNED KINGLET was one in willows at Oso Flaco Lake on 9 Mar (TME) and the latest report of a MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD was from the Quail Spring trailhead in the CPNM on 16 Mar (TME,MLS). A VARIED THRUSH remained at the Cerro Alto Campground through 31 Mar where the high count was seven on 15 Mar (TME). Fourteen SAGE THRASHERS were at various locations around the CPNM where the high count was fi ve at a location along Elkhorn Road on 2 Mar (JT). A check of LE CONTE’S THRASHER nests at the CPNM on 29 Mar (TME,MLS) turned up fi ve birds including two adults with a partially grown juvenile.

WARBLER THRU CROSSBILL: A NASHVILLE WARBLER at the Sweet Springs Nature Preserve on 11 Mar (MLS,JC) was too early for a migrant and must have wintered in the area. The fi rst MACGILLIVRAY’S WARBLER of the season, a singing male near the start of the Cerro Alto Campground road on 21 Mar (MLS), provided a new early arrival date for the county. The latest report for PALM WARBLER at the Morro Bay State Park Marina was 9 Mar (KLP); a breeding plumaged adult was seen briefl y at a water feature in Cayucos on 29 Mar (TME). The highlight of the month was a HARRIS’S SPARROW visiting a feeder in Santa Margarita 6-31 Mar (PAG) that accounted for the 17th county record. The total of fi ve WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS reported is about typical for Mar (mob). After a lengthy absence, the adult male SUMMER TANAGER at PSBOC was seen again on 30 Mar (PT). A relatively early pair of HOODED ORIOLES was spotted in palms at the Cal Poly arboretum on 13 mar (MDS). The only report of a RED CROSSBILL involved a single bird at the Islay Creek Campground in Montana de Oro State Park on 1 Mar (MB). Two somewhat coastal LAWRENCE’S GOLDFINCH reports involved two pair at Deer Canyon in Arroyo Grande on 11 Mar (BKS) and one off Hwy 166 along Wineman Road on 23 Mar (JMC).

OBSERVERS: Thanks to everyone who reports their sightings, primarily via the Yahoo “slocobirding” listserv and eBird, including those cited above: Mike Bush, Jay Carroll, Jamie M. Chavez, Tom M. Edell, Peter A. Gaede, Will H. Knowlton, Kaaren L. Perry, Stephen Peterson, Brad K. Schram, Maggie L. Smith, Mike D. Stiles, Douglas G. Stinson, Marge and Don Thornton, Jim Tietz, Phil Trott, Norma Wightman, Todd Wills, 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” or contact Tom Edell at (805) 995-1691 or Edell