Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Eureka! The Birds of San Luis Obispo County Nov. - Dec. 2013

2013 was a banner year for SLO County birding. Five first county records (one a subspecies) made it memorable for even long time local birders. New for the County were Black Vulture (Feb), Gull-billed Tern (May), and Yellow-billed Flycatcher, Blue-winged Warbler and Asiatic American Pipit (Oct). In addition, the fi rst Blue-footed Boobies were present since 1971! No telling what will show up in 2014, but there will surely be a few surprises. According to eBird 226 species were recorded in SLO County in November and December and a total of 341 species were recorded in 2013. Abbreviations: MDOSP = Montana de Oro State Park; MBSP = Morro Bay State Park; PSBOC = Pismo State Beach Oceano Campground; SLO = San Luis Obispo.

WATERFOWL: Previously reported SNOW GEESE remained at PSBOC, Laguna Lake, and the Cloister’s Pond in Morro Bay with the adult and immature birds at the Cloister’s moving to the Sea Pines Golf Course in Los Osos 1-5 Dec (TME). A few ROSS’S GEESE fi nally arrived in the county with two adults seen at Laguna Lake and later on Morro Bay 14-23 Dec (CAM) probably representing the same birds; another adult was at Pismo Creek mouth 26-31 Dec (MB). The fi rst BRANTS, a fl ock of 130 birds, arrived on Morro Bay on 3 Nov (JLR). There were several WOOD DUCK reports from the dam on lower San Luis Obispo Creek with a high count of 18 on 28 Nov (EG). At least three male EURASIAN WIGEON, one an apparent fi rst year bird, were at Morro Bay on 22 Nov (MDH,TME) and likely remained through the period. Fairly rare in the county, up to four REDHEAD remained at the mouth of Pismo Creek 10 Nov-7 Dec (DML) and a male was at OFL on 14 Nov (MLS). A male HARLEQUIN DUCK seen from North Point Natural Area on 5 Nov was likely the same bird that summered at Estero Bluffs and was seen there on 9 Nov (KLP); another male was at Avila Beach 8 Nov-8 Dec (JCC). A female BLACK SCOTER at Little Pico Creek on 13-22 Nov was joined by an adult male on 22 Nov that remained through the end of the month (MLS); another female was off Willow Creek in Cayucos on 20 Nov
(KLP). The only LONG-TAILED DUCK reported was seen fl ying with scoters off MDOSP on 27 Nov (JSR).

VULTURE THRU YELLOWLEGS: The continuing BLACK VULTURE was at Morro Bay on 2 Nov (JLR), back at Laguna Lake on 8 Nov (JCC), at MBSP 28 Nov-11 Dec (mob), and then unfortunately disappeared before the Christmas Bird Count. A sub-adult BALD EAGLE at Laguna Lake 24 Nov and 14 Dec (BAB), may be the same bird seen at Morro Bay 26 Nov-8 Dec (mob). Small numbers of ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS winter in southern California though the Carrizo Plain is probably the most reliable place to find one; both an adult male and female were photographed and seen intermittently from 9 Nov -31 Dec (KIK, mob). Unexpected on freshwater, a PACIFIC LOON was at Whale Rock Reservoir on 20 Nov (KLP). Up to two PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVERS well studied and photographed near the mouth
of Arroyo Laguna from 12 Nov-31 Dec (WK) are apparently wintering there. Also at that location on 8 Dec (TME) was a banded SNOWY PLOVER last reported in Baja California at the beginning of Dec and three MOUNTAIN PLOVERS on 4 Nov (WK). Rare in winter, LESSER YELLOWLEGS were found at the Turri Road tidal ponds 11-30 Dec (DK) and at Laguna Lake on 13 Dec (BAB).

KITTIWAKE THRU KINGBIRD: A fi rst-winter BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE found at Pismo Creek mouth 26-28 Dec (MDH) was the fi rst found in the county since Jan 2012. A lone BAND-TAILED PIGEON fl ying along the Caliente Range neat Caliente Peak on 16 Nov (MDS) was a fi rst for that area. Always rare along the coast, a SHORT-EARED OWL was along the bay near Nancy Ave, Los Osos on 9 Dec (JSR). A LEWIS’S WOODPECKER was along Pozo Road near Hwy 58 on 4 Nov (BAB) and two were along Bitterwater Road on 7 Dec (KJZ). A juvenile YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER at Cal Poly on 24 Nov (TME) didn’t remain for the Christmas count; however male RED-NAPED SAPSUCKERS at the MBSP Campground on 13-14 Dec (CAM) and along south Higuera Street on 14 Dec (MB) were both count day birds. The EASTERN PHOEBE that wintered along Dairy Creek last year was present again from 5-31 Dec (MLS). Also returning for another year was a TROPICAL KINGBIRD at PSBOC 6-23 Dec (MS). The county’s first December record for WESTERN KINGBIRD involved one at Laguna Lake on 13 Dec (BAB).

SWALLOW THRU WARBLERS: Three BARN SWALLOWS showed up in December with one at Laguna Lake on 3 Dec (MLS) and two at the SLO Wastewater Plant on 14 Dec (KJZ). Very rare this winter (and following last year’s influx) single RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES were in SLO on 6 and 14 Dec (MLS,BK). Interesting MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD reports were a high count of 625 along Hwy 33 on 20 Nov (PAG), up to two males and a female along Turri Road 30 Nov-14 Dec (MLS), and two along Pennington Creek Road on 14 Dec (DR). Following up on a bird heard last month, A RED-THROATED PIPIT was seen in the fi elds by Oso Flaco Lake on 3 Nov (MLS) providing the sixth county record. Always rare west of the Santa Lucia Range and especially in winter, a male PHAINOPEPLA was along Dairy Creek on 13 Dec (MLS). A BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER continued at PSBOC through 9 Nov (BAB). Several warblers seen in December were apparently late migrants including NASHVILLE WARBLERS in Arroyo Grande on 3 Dec (MS) and in Meadow Park in SLO 3-9 Dec (KLP), BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS near the SLO train station on 8 Dec (HE) and at Mitchell Park on 14 Dec (CAM), and HERMIT WARBLERS on Black Hill, MBSP on 3 Dec (WK) and on the south ridge above Coon Creek, MDOSP on 14 Dec (TME).

SPARROWS THRU SISKIN: Three Spizella sparrows worth mentioning are a CHIPPING SPARROW in Paso Robles on 12 Dec (PAG) and single CLAYCOLORED SPARROWS at PSBOC 10 Nov (SDR) and at Arroyo Laguna on 1 Dec (KJZ). A late BLACK-THROATED SPARROW was photographed in Creston on 6 Nov (LT) and a GRASSHOPPER SPARROW near Cheda Reservoir at Cal Poly on 14 Dec (JMC) is probably wintering. Continuing sparrows included two NELSON’S SPARROWS along the MBSP Marina boardwalk through 31 Dec (mob) and two SWAMP SPARROWS in Los Osos 16 Nov-31 Dec (JSR). An interesting DARK-EYED JUNCO was a “Cassiar” type photographed at the California Valley Community Center on 17 Nov (KLP). Possibly the same male SUMMER TANAGER returned to PSBOC 9 Nov-8 Dec and another was heard calling in eastern Los Osos on 23 Nov (GPS). A fi rst winter male BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK was near the swinging bridge in the Arroyo Grande Village on 20 Dec (BKS). A LAZULI BUNTING found in Cayucos on 25 Dec (TME) provided the county’s first winter record and was quickly followed by a report of two males and a female along Hwy 1 near Toro Creek on 26 Dec (RA); this species is casual in California during winter. A male BULLOCK’S ORIOLE was in bottlebrush trees in Meadow Park in SLO 1-5 Dec (TME). Though numerous last winter, only two PINE SISKINS were reported during the period with one at a Wild Birds Unlimited feeder in SLO on 17 Nov (DGS) and another in See Canyon on 19 Nov (SKB).

OBSERVERS: Thanks to everyone that reports their sightings, primarily via the yahoo “slocobirding” listserv and eBird, including those cited above: Rick Austin, Sara K. Bilsten, Bill A. Bouton, Mike Bush, Jay C. Carroll, Jamie M. Chavez, Tom M. Edell, Herb Elliott, Peter A. Gaede, Eric Goodhill, Marlin D. Harms, Dave Keeling, Kathleen I. Kent, Will Knowlton, Betty Kulp, Dave M. Lawrence, Curtis A. Marantz, Kaaren L. Perry, Dave Richardson, Spencer D. Riffl e, John L. Roser, Jim S. Royer, Brad K. Schram, Mitch Siemens, Greg P. Smith, Maggie L. Smith, Mike D. Stiles, Douglas G. Stinson, Linda Tanner, 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 http://tinyurl.com/mr5ca9v, or contact Tom Edell at (805) 995-1691 or tedell@aol.com….Tom Edell