Sunday, January 29, 2017

EUREKA! THE BIRDS OF SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY – November-December 2016

The Christmas Bird Count always turns up new birds on count day (Dec 17) and during count week (3 days before and after). This year the Black Vulture, back for its fourth year, was found on count day (J.Moonjian,S.Little†). In addition to the continuing Eastern Phoebe at the north end of Pecho Road, Los Osos 2 Nov-31 Dec (J.Royer), another was found along San Luis Obispo Creek above Madonna Road (T.Edell†). Two of the four Grasshopper Sparrows on count day were east of South Bay Blvd in Morro Bay SP (G.Smith), one was at Laguna Lake (B. Bouton), and another was in the South Hills Open Space in San Luis Obispo (=SLO) (T.Edell†). A Nelson’s Sparrow, at a drainage ditch between Chorro Flats and Quintana Road, was in a strange location on count day (G.Smith). Found prior to and seen on count day were a Long-tailed Duck north of Morro Rock 14-17 Dec (R.Zachary), two male Eurasian Wigeon on Morro Bay Nov-Dec (H.Elliott), a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Santa Rosa Park in SLO 15-31 Dec (C.Lish†), a Black-and-white Warbler and a Swamp Sparrow at the “Doris Ave Marsh”, Los Osos 2-17 Dec (R.Zachary, J.Royer), and a female Bullock’s Oriole on Henrietta Ave, Los Osos through Dec (J.Royer). 

Missed on count day, but a heck of a good winter bird, was a Bay-breasted Warbler coming to a suet feeder on Grove Street, Los Osos 18-31 Dec (J.Royer†). Two other count week birds were up to nine Mountain Bluebirds along Turri Road 9-18 Dec (M.Smith,G.Smith) and a female Summer Tanager at the north end of Pecho Road 7-31 Dec (J.Carroll).

Two birds were strong contenders for rarest of the period. A Dusky-capped Flycatcher in Los Osos 1-3 Nov (B&F,Wilde†) would represent only the fourth county record if accepted by the California Bird Records Committee. Equally impressive was a Brown Thrasher in Avila Valley on 12 Nov (R.Saval) that accounted for only the fifth county record.

Morro Bay and Laguna Lake accounted for a majority of the waterfowl. A total of 31 Greater White-fronted Geese were recorded with a high count of 29 at Laguna Lake on 9 Nov (P&J,Clayton). Of the eight Snow Geese reported, one group of four was likely a family group with two adults and two immature birds at Laguna Lake on 28 Dec (P&J,Clayton). Seven Ross’s Geese were widespread from San Simeon Creek to Morro Bay 25 Nov-18 Dec (many observers=mob) and seven Cackling Geese were more even more widespread occurring from San Simeon Creek to Avila Beach 1 Nov-18 Dec (mob). Low numbers of Brant are at Morro Bay again this winter with a high count of 485 on 14 Dec (T. Edell). Rare on Morro Bay, a single male Canvasback was seen from Sweet springs on 26 Dec (M.Harms).

Waterfowl in other parts of the county included an unidentified swan that flew north over San Simeon Cove on 3 Dec (R.Zachary) and a Long-tailed Duck in the San Simeon Creek lagoon 3-12 Dec (R.Zachary†). Though Redhead remain rare in SLO County, nine were recorded from Whale Rock Reservoir to the Santa Maria River mouth 3-14 Dec (mob). The two female and one male Harlequin Duck continued at Estero Bluffs SP 2 Nov-27 Dec (mob†). A total of five White-winged Scoters were seen from the San Simeon Pier south to Cayucos 10-16 Dec (mob). At Atascadero Lake, a male Eurasian Wigeon was reported from 14 Nov-24 Dec (R.Zachary†).

The pulse of Palm Warblers that started in Oct continued from 1 Nov-2 Dec when seven were found along the coast from Estero Buffs SP south to Oso Flaco Lake (mob) and one was east of SLO along Moretti Canyon Road on 6 Nov (P&J.Clayton). The Black-and-white Warbler found at Pismo State Beach Oceano Campground last month continued to at least 12 Nov (W.Knowlton†). A late Nashville Warbler was near the Cuesta Inlet on 30 Nov (J.Royer) and an apparent female Black-throated Gray Warbler was at the Morro Bay SP Campground 5-17 Dec (T.Edell). Perhaps not too unusual in fall and winter, but better recognized now, are “gray-headed” Orange Crowned Warblers. There were several reports of birds likely representing both the northern subspecies celata and the western (away from the pacific coast) orestera.

Because selasphorus hummingbirds are not (yet?) resident in SLO County, those seen in winter typically remain unidentified to species. Five Rufous/Allen’s found along the coast 7 Nov-17 Dec was above average and included one first-winter male documented as a Allen’s Hummingbird (K.Perry†) with the aid of a spread tail photo showing the diagnostic shaped rectrices. Two rare birds in Atascadero were a male Costa’s Hummingbird 16 Nov and 12 Dec (R.Derevan†) and a “gray-headed” Dark-eyed Junco that returned for its second winter 5 Nov-1 Jan (R.Zachary†); this bird accounts for only the 6th county record. Staying with sparrows, single Chipping Sparrows were at Heritage Ranch on 9 Dec (K.Kent) and in SLO (N.Mann), where it is somewhat rarer in winter, four Clay-colored Sparrows were west of the Santa Lucia Range from Los Osos to Arroyo Grande 6 Nov-12 Dec (mob), and three Swamp Sparrows were found along the coast from Chorro Flats to Pismo State Beach Oceano Campground 2 Nov-18 Dec (mob).

North Coast birding documented the continuing three Pacific Golden-Plovers at Point Sierra Nevada Beach 1-11 Nov (mob) and another along Villa Creek Beach, Estero Bluffs SP on 10 Nov (M.Smith†,H.Elliott), a Cattle Egret at Santa Rosa Creek mouth on 10 Nov (M.Smith,H.Elliott), an immature Black-legged Kittiwake at San Simeon Creek mouth on 26 Nov (T.Edell†), and a late Elegant Tern at San Simeon Creek Mouth (P&J.Clayton†). But, the best find on the North Coast was an adult female Brown Booby on the rocks off the Elephant Seal Rookery 21-22 Dec (V.Leipzig†). For the second consecutive winter Mountain Bluebirds are at Harmony Headlands SP with seven there on 1 Dec (T.Edell†).

This winter Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers outnumber Red-naped. In addition to the previously mentioned Christmas Bird Count bird, the immature male found at El Chorro Regional Park in Oct remained through the period (mob) and an adult male was at Santa Margarita Lake on 3 Dec (C.Young†). The lone Red-naped Sapsucker report involved a male at the Avila Beach Golf Course maintenance area along the Bob Jones Trail 3-5 Nov (P&J.Clayton†) and is likely the same bird present there last winter. As expected, Bullock’s Orioles outnumbered Hooded. The six reported were all along the coast and included four adult males and two females from 12 Nov-13 Dec (mob). Three Hooded Orioles, two females and one unsexed, were recorded along the coast from 7 Nov-30 Dec (mob). Also found only on the coast were two Tropical Kingbirds, one each at Oceano 3-27 Dec (J.Chavez†) and one in the Arroyo Grande Village 18 Dec (B.Schram), and single White-faced Ibis at Laguna Lake on 9 Nov (T.Edell†) and Morro Bay 1-2 Dec (T.Edell†). Three other notable birds on Morro Bay were the continuing Red-necked Grebe. It was initially found in Baywood Cove, then moved to the north T-Pier in Morro Bay on 27 Nov (P&J.Clayton), and was last seen at the harbor mouth on 2 Jan (P.Chaon). A Lesser Yellowlegs found at Sweet Springs was later seen from the Morro Bay SP boardwalk 1-13 Dec (M.Smith,H.Elliott) where an adult and immature Black Skimmer were seen on 13 Nov (H.Elliott,†).

At Oso Flaco Lake, an adult Common Galinule on 15 Nov (H.Elliott) may be the same bird reported there early in early Oct. Surely the Least Bittern reports from 22 Nov-3 Dec (B.Bouton) involved one of the breeding pair and/or first-year birds present at the lake this past summer. Not surprisingly, the only American Bittern reports were from the lake on 4 Nov-3 Dec (mob). Also in South County, a first-winter Glaucous Gull was found at the Town Center parking lot in Arroyo Grande 12-31 Dec (C.Lish). Apparently gulls have keyed in on the popcorn disposed into a dumpster behind the Festival Theater. The gull flock there has also included two Thayer’s Gulls (B.Shram). A late Warbling Vireo was at the Pismo State Beach Oceano Campground on 2 Nov (O.Johnson) and a female Summer Tanager seen there 6-11 Dec (J.Chavez) is surely wintering.
A Townsend’s Solitaire was discovered on Cuesta Ridge 25-30 Dec (W.Knowlton) where it is likely of semi-annual occurrence in winter. Two more rarities in Los Osos were a Hammond’s Flycatcher in willows along the edge of Morro Bay on 5 Nov (J.Royer) and a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak along Freeman Lane on 11 Nov (G.Smith). A White-winged Dove near Meadow Park in San Luis Obispo on 27-30 Dec (S.McMasters,) provided the only report for this species.


The symbol indicates a report was documented with a photo. For seasonal status and distribution information about birds mentioned in this report, consult the Morro Coast Audubon publication “The Birds of San Luis Obispo County, California”, eBird at the following link https://goo.gl/JQscuN, or contact me at tedell@aol.com. For information on birding locations, including those mentioned above, consult the Morro Coast Audubon Bird Finding Guide at http://tinyurl.com/Bird-Finding-Guide ….Tom Edell