Monday, March 10, 2014

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

One of the highlights of the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival is the offshore boat trips. Each year an all-day and a half-day trip are scheduled. This year’s trips cruised south out of Morro Bay to Point Buchon, offshore to the 100 fathom line, and then north before returning. The lack of wind and warm temperature combined for two great trips. Good numbers of NORTHERN FULMAR, PINK-FOOTED and BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATERS,and RHINOCEROS AUKLETS and several Gray Whales were seen on both days. Weekend highlights were a MANX SHEARWATER (JS; 18 Jan), two SHORT-TAILED SHEARWATERS (CAM,TME; 18- 19 Jan), two SCRIPPS’S MURRELETS (CAM; 18 Jan), a TUFTEDPUFFIN (TME; 19 Jan), and a fi rst winter GLAUCOUS GULL (NG; 19 Jan).

According to eBird, 231 species were recorded in SLO County in January 2014. Abbreviations: PSBOC = Pismo State Beach Oceano Campground; SSNP = Sweet Springs Nature Preserve.

WATERFOWL: The SNOW GEESE present at Laguna Lake and Oceano since last winter continued through the month (RHZ,TME). At Pismo Creek mouth, the ROSS’S GOOSE was last seen on 11 Jan (MM) and four CACKLING GEESE were last reported on 11 Jan (MM) with one remaining to 16 Jan (SDR), while another was off SSNP 1-5 Jan (JSR) and yet another was at Laguna Lake 22 Jan (TME). At least one male EURASIAN WIGEON was on Morro Bay where the latest report involved an adult male and rufous morph female seen from SSNP on 4 Jan (TME). Possibly the same male HARLEQUIN DUCK that summered at Estero Bluffs State Park was there 25-31 Jan and with two females on 25 Jan (TME). Sea ducks worth noting along the north coast are a male WHITE- WINGED SCOTER around Little Pico Creek 12-15 Jan (KLP), a BLACK SCOTER in the same area 3-4 Jan (TME), and a fi rst winter LONG-TAILED DUCK in San Simeon Cove 19-31 Jan (MLS).

VULTURES THRU GULLS: The wayward BLACK VULTURE appeared at Cal Poly during the bird festival (19 Jan) and was seen the following day from Cerro San Luis (JM). The sub-adult BALD EAGLE continued at SSNP a little past mid-month (mob). A dark and light morph male, and a female/immature ROUGH- LEGGED HAWK were all photographed at the Carrizo Plain in Jan (mob) with most sightings along Soda Lake Road from Panorama Road to the Traver Ranch; another female/immature was along Cholame Road on 11-31 Jan (MLS). Continuing shorebirds included a PACIFIC-GOLDEN PLOVER along the North Coast at Arroyo Laguna through at least 22 Jan (RB) and the LESSER YELLOWLEGS at the Turri Road tidal ponds through 21 Jan (MLS). Rare again this winter in SLO County, a single BONAPARTE’S GULL was at Laguna Lake 28-29 Jan (RHZ). THAYER’S GULL are a bit scarcer than normal this winter, with the three reported in January involving fi rst winter birds at San Simeon Creek on 1 Jan (KLP) and at the elephant seal rookery 15-26 Jan (BKS), and an adult at San Simeon Creek on 12 Jan (KLP). A second-winter GLAUCOUS GULL turned up at the elephant seal colony 12-25 Jan (TME); this location draws more northern gulls during the birthing season.

WOODPECKERS THRU SWALLOWS: Our resident LEWIS’S WOODPECKERS remain along Dallons Drive in Paso Robles with a highcount of four there on 11 Jan (RHZ); a single one was in Santa Margarita on 25 Jan (HE). In the better late than never category, a male YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER discovered atEl Chorro Regional Park 7-30 Jan (DK) was likely missed on last month’s Christmas bird count. Up Dairy Creek from the El Chorro Regional Park, the EASTERN PHOEBE was last seen on 4 Jan (MLS). A TROPICAL KINGBIRD continued between the PSBOC and the Oceano Airport 2-15 Jan (mob) and another was found at Laguna Lake on 23 Jan (MLS) A WESTERN KINGBIRD found in the village of Arroyo Grande on 15 Jan (BKS) is likely one of the two there last winter. A COMMON RAVEN in Los Osos Valley on 12 Jan (MDS) may be the same one recorded there on the Christmas bird count. The only BARN SWALLOW reported was one at Oso Flaco Lake on 29 Jan (MLS).

NUTHATCHS THRU WARBLERS: A calling RED-BREASTEDNUTHATCH in Arroyo Grande on 22 Jan (MLS) provided the fi rst South County report this winter. Rare along the coast, a SAGE THRASHER at Estero Bluffs State Park on 19 Jan (JG) was a fi rst for that location. A female/immature BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER along 3rd Street in Los Osos on 29 Jan (HL) may be the same bird present there last winter. A PALM WARBLER sporadically visited a water feature in Cayucos through 30 Jan (CWE). Other noteworthy warblers are a NASHVILLE WARBLER seen at the Pecho Road willows on 5 Jan (JCC) and a HERMIT WARBLER near the old Piedras Blancas Motel 1-10 Jan (KLP,MLS). One of the more interesting birds reported is the YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT at Pecho Road Willows 15-29 Jan (JCC). There are seven winter records for the county; all are from this location, and the most recent five suggests the same bird wintered here in 2010 and 2012-2014. 

SPARROWS THRU GOLDFINCHES: A GRASSHOPPER SPARROW in the grasslands above South Bay Blvd and north of Turri Road on 20 Jan (RB) may be the same bird that wintered there last year. The two NESLON’S SPARROWS wintering along the Morro Bay State Park boardwalk were present through 15 Jan (BKS), but missed on subsequent searches. An interesting FOX SPARROW also found alongthe boardwalk 19-31 Jan (VR) appears to be an altivagans form, which is considered part of the Red or Slate-colored group by different authorities. Totals of fi ve SWAMP SPARROWS and nine WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS were reported during the month (mob). The LAZULI BUNTING, first seen last month, returned to a Cayucos backyard water feature on 14 Jan (CWE). Both rare in winter, a calling SUMMER TANAGER was at PSBOC on 22 Jan (MLS) and a WESTERN TANAGER was near French Hospital on 4 Jan (HE). A lone PINE SISKIN was found at a San Luis Obispo feeder on 23 Jan (MLS) and a LAWRENCE’S GOLDFINCH was at the Las Pilitas Nursery on 24 Jan (HE,MLS).

OBSERVERS: Thanks to everyone that reported their sightings, primarily via the yahoo “slocobirding” listserv and eBird, including those cited above: Ron Beck, Jay C. Carroll, Chris W. Edell, Tom M. Edell, Herb Elliott, Neil Gilbert, Jessica Griffiths, Dave Keeling, Dave M. Lawrence, Henry Luckie, Michelle Maani, Curtis A. Marantz, Jennifer Moonjian, Kaaren L. Perry, Spencer D. Riffle, Vicki Robinson, Jim S. Royer, Brad K. Schram, Maggie l. Smith, John Sterling, Mike D. Stiles, 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 Tom Edell