Tuesday, May 6, 2014

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

Bald Eagles are everywhere! But, that wasn’t always the case. In the early 1980’s Bald Eagle didn’t breed in the county and it was a big deal to see one. Reintroductions starting in 1986
by the Ventana Wildlife Society (http://www.ventanaws.org/species_eagles/) shortly turned Nacimiento Lake into the most productive breeding location in California, and now the species is uncommon but regular, in small numbers, throughout our county. Breeding has likely occurred at all of the county’s larger reservoirs and there has been one report of a possible new nest site in the county this spring. Bald Eagle was recorded on the last three Morro Bay Christmas Bird Counts, but only once before, on the 2004 count; and that’s it for the past 65 counts! In March there were reports of three immature birds from Morro Bay, San Miguel, and San Luis Obispo, along with nesting birds at known nesting sites. The California recovery continues to be a great success story! According to eBird, 261 species were recorded in SLO County thru March 2014.

WATERFOWL: SNOW GEESE continued at Oceano County Park and Laguna Lake through the month (MLS,TME) and a secondyear bird was seen with an Aleutian CACKLING GOOSE in a field at Pozo on 28 Mar (MLS,TME). A BRANT census at Morro Bay on 14 Mar (JLR) again turned up below normal numbers; surprisingly few were reported along the coast where spring migrants are often recorded. A male and female WOOD DUCK were scouting a nest hole in a valley oak near the Atascadero Wastewater Ponds on 16 Mar (MLS). A male EURASIAN WIGEON at the Atascadero Wastewater Ponds 23-30 Mar (PAG) was a first for that location. HARLEQUIN DUCKS were again at Estero Bluffs State Park where two females and a male were reported from 15-21 Mar (KW,TME) and at Avila Beach where a male continued on 24 Mar (RN). The lone report of a WHITEWINGED SCOTER was from Oceano on 9 Mar (TS). The male LONG-TAILED DUCK at San Simeon Cove was last reported on 3 Mar (MLS) and a female plumaged bird at the mouth of Morro
Bay 6-12 Mar (DB,TO) was a new find.

VULTURE THRU SKIMMER: The BLACK VULTURE split time between Morro Bay 7-11 Mar (CF) and San Luis Obispo16-29 Mar (DN,mob) where it was found roosting in eucalyptus trees off Ramona Drive. Two transient BLACK-NECKED STILTS were along Bitterwater Road at Pinole Spring 12-17 Mar (MLS) and one was at Oso Flaco Lake on 19 Mar (SSt). One hundred SNOWY PLOVERS at San Simeon Creek mouth on 3 Mar (MLS,DGS) was an unusually high count for that location. No way to know if the LESSER YELLOWLEGS seen from the Morro Bay State Park Marina boardwalk on 10 Mar (MLS,DGS) wintered on the bay or was an early transient. Two BONAPARTE’S GULLS moved
between Caycuos and Morro Strand State Beach during the month (MLS,mob) and one was at Pismo Creek mouth on 26 Mar (CD) The last report of the second year GLAUCOUS GULL at the Point Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery was on 15 Mar (DW). Two well described ELEGANT TERNS on the beach at Oceano on 29 Mar (AF) provided the county’s earliest spring arrival date and the fi rst March record. Up to three transient BLACK SKIMMERS were on Morro Bay 7-10 Mar (JB).

HUMMINGBIRD THRU KINGLET: The first CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD this spring was a male at a feeder in Atascadero on 29 Mar (RHZ) and was shortly followed by males at two feeders in San Luis Obispo on 31 Mar (JW, HE). The last report of the male YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER at El Chorro Regional Park was on 11 Mar (KP). A rare spring migrant, two HAMMOND’S FLYCATCHERS at Cerro Alto Campground 27-31 Mar (RS,WHK) provided the county’s earliest spring arrival date. Two other species that set new early arrival dates were a CASSIN’S VIREO at Cerro Alto Campground on 20 Mar (EW) and WARBLING VIREO at the Carrisa Plain School on 2 Mar (WHK). First of spring reports in March included PACIFICSLOPE FLYCATCHER at Avila Beach 6 Mar (JC) and WESTERN KINGBIRD along Hwy 58 on 12 Mar (MLS). The last report for
the TROPICAL KINGBIRD wintering at Oceano was on 3 Mar (WHK). COMMON RAVENS were found along the coast with one at Montana de Oro State Park (SCS) and a fl ock of 12 at Point
Piedras Blancas on 19 March (SM) PURPLE MARTINS returned to breeding sites at Hwy 41 and San Gabriel Road by 16 Mar and along Hwy 58 east of Pozo Road by 22 Mar (MLS). Scarce
this past winter, a GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET was at Cerro Alto Campground on 25 Mar (WHK).

WARBLER THRU ORIOLE: First of spring dates for western warblers included a NASHVILLE WARBLER at Pecho Road willows on 27 Mar (JC), MACGILLIRAY’S WARBLER along Santa Rita Road on 21 Mar (MLS), YELLOW WARBLER at Oso Flaco Lake on 29 Mar (MLS), and BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER at Cerro Alto on 25 Mar (WHK). The last report of the YELLOWBREASTED CHAT wintering at the Pecho Road willows was on 3 Mar (JC). Single CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS at two residences in Morro Bay 12-24 Mar (KLP,SSa) were likely lingering winter birds. A total of nine WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS were reported during the month (mob). Two more fi rst of spring reports included a GRASSHOPPER SPARROW at Arroyo Laguna on 15 Mar (TME,MLS) and a BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK at Atascadero on 15 Mar (KJZ). Two oriole species set new early arrival dates for the county with a HOODED ORIOLE in Templeton on 5 Mar (WHK) and a BULLOCK’S ORIOLE in east Atascadero on 6 Mar (JRa). Always rare in the county, an ORCHARD ORIOLE visited a yard in Morro Bay on 24 Mar (KLP).

OBSERVERS: Thanks to everyone that reported their sightings, primarily via the yahoo “slocobirding” listserv and eBird, including those cited above: John Birsner, David Bush, Jay Carroll, Celine DiBernardo, Tom M. Edell, Herb Elliott, Alison Fox, Claudia Freitas, Peter A. Gaede, Kathleen I. Kent, Will H. Knowlton, Steve McMasters, David Nelson, Richard Norton, Tom Ogren, Kathy Parker, Kaaren L. Perry, Janet Rayner(JRa), John L. Roser, Jim S. Royer, Sylvia Sanchez(SSa), Ross Schaefer, Brad K. Schram, Steve C. Schubert, Tom Slater, Maggie L. Smith, Mike D. Stiles, Doug G. Stinson, Sarah Straton (SSt), Eric Weir, Kyle Wiechert, David Wimpfheimer, Jim Woolf, Roger H. Zachary, Kevin J. Zimmer, 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