Monday, August 15, 2016

Birding Oso Flaco Lake

Oso Flaco Lake is a small fresh water lake tucked inside the vast Oceano Dunes.  The lake is located about 4 miles northwest of the town of Guadalupe, California USA.  Since it is a state park there is a $5 fee, but free parking is available before the entrance.  photo - Cormorants perched on posts - the dunes are behind the trees.  The lane that leads to the lake is dense with willows and is the habitat for numerous resident and migratory species.
For the last two weeks birders and photographers have been flocking to the lake, primarily to view two species, one quite small and one quite large, Sternula antillarum, and Egretta rufescens commonly known as Least Tern and Reddish Egret.   Reddish Egret photo by Roger Zachary
The seldom seen Reddish Egret is a great attraction.  It's feeding behavior is amusing, as it runs through shallows with long strides, leaping and raising one or both wings.  It does not appear to be bothered by the birders and photographers on the boardwalk.
The California Least Tern is local and endangered.  It is the smallest Tern in North America (above - Least Tern chick).  Like the endangered Snowy Plover, the Least Tern nests in depressions in the sand dunes.  Every year the Tern chicks perch on the boardwalk railing while they wait to be fed by a parent.  Between the parents and the chicks, the sound can be quite raucous.  Below - chicks waiting to be fed.  To the right adult Terns.   
Another fun sighting was watching three Green Herons, 2 juveniles and a parent.  The juveniles were fussing at the parent who was letting them know, in no uncertain terms, that they were big enough to feed themselves.
I doubt anyone could have imagined how important a boardwalk railing would become to an endangered species.

I highly recommend birding Oso Flaco Lake, as it is one of the premier birding areas on the Central Coast.  


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Birding Baywood

Birding Baywood - Weather perfect, slight breeze - The Audubon Overlook is located at the north end of 4th St.  Below is a view of Morro Bay taken from the overlook, when it is not foggy of course.  Morro Rock, to the far left,  and the hills are remnants of volcanoes created about 20 million years ago.
Four Greater Yellowleg, looking positively splendid in their transitional plumage, were preening themselves by the waters edge.
Six Whimbrel were sleeping, eight Godwit and a Long-billed Curlew were looking for edibles in the pickleweed, and a Black-bellied Plover accompanied a small flock of Western Sandpiper.  Dependable Black Phoebe was busy flycatching. 

Next stop, the 3rd St. Coastal Access, a sweet little path takes one down to the bay.
The path is lined with pink blooming mallow and blooming fennel which smells like licorice.  The fennel bulb can be grilled or braised.  I have yet to try it.  From here one can walk, if the tide is not high, to the Baywood Coffee shop and the Baywood Pier.  Forster's and Elegant Tern were, with great gusto, diving for fish.  Elegant Tern has a very piercing and sharp kee-rick call where as the Forster's has a loud, heavy k-yarr call.  The sounds coming from the Terns were positively delightful. 
Migratory Terns, mainly Elegant, with a smattering of Royal and the occasional Caspian, gather in large flocks on the Morro Strand Beach.  The adults are kept busy feeding the fussy juveniles.  Can you find the Royal Terns?

While the feeding melee was going on a Double-crested Cormorant and a Snowy Egret were having a disagreement over feeding rights.  As I walked along the edge of the bay, a Cooper's Hawk sped by and four Canada Goose honked as they passed overhead.  In the area of the Baywood Pier were eight Ring-billed Gull.  Birding Baywood was delightful!  Now, isn't that interesting, my walk ended at the coffee shop.

 Спасибо за чтение моего блога бирдинг.
Spasibo za chteniye moyego bloga birding.
Merci d'avoir lu mon blog d'observation des oiseaux.
Vielen Dank für meine Vögel beobachten Blog zu lesen.
Thank you for reading my birding blog

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Early Birds

This weekend I had the pleasure of birding the Montaña de Oro Sandspit (above) and the Marina Boardwalk.  I was looking for Early Birds, birds that breed elsewhere and come to the Central Coast for the fall, winter, and early spring.

 Sandspit - A flock of 30 Brandt's Cormorant were resting on a rocky point.  Brandt's can be seen on the central coast all year, but they have been missing from Montaña de Oro's rocky shoreline.  I was rather happy to see them.
 On the beach 40 adult and one immature Herrmann's Gull (above).  Heermann's is classified as "Near Threatened," as 90% of their breeding is confined to Isla Raza in Baja California.
 At the edge of the surf about 30 Whimbrel (above) fed, dashing hither, thither and yon. 
Whimbrel breed in Alaska and Arctic regions of Canada and Greenland.

Although the morning was heavily overcast, fortune shined.  Above the high tide line were two endangered Snowy Plover.  In the wet sand, feeding on a bird carcass, were two Turkey Vultures.  Diving in the rugged surf about 10-15 Surf Scoter.
 Marina Boardwalk - Feeding in the pickleweed was a mixed flock of several hundred Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, and Willet (above).  Many were in transition between their breeding and winter plumage.  In the center of the bay rested about 50 amazing White Pelican (below).  They can weigh 30 pounds and their wing span can exceed nine feet.  They are fabulous to see in flight.
 In the brush two Bewick's Wren were active, heard White-crowned Sparrow and House Finch.  Black Phoebe was sallying forth from her perch on the boardwalk to snatch unsuspecting insects.  I am seeing fewer birds everywhere.  Unfortunately drought and global warming is taking its toll.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Islay Creek Riparian Habitat - Birding by Ear

Montaña de Oro State Park - Islay Creek is located in a lush Canyon.  From the road one is looking down into a creek that is dense with Willows, Oaks and occasional Sycamores.  On the other side of the road, the north side, are the chaparral covered hills, favored habitat for the entertaining songster, the California Thrasher.  The above photo was taken at the only access point on the creek.  It allows one to cross from the Reservoir Flats Trail to the Islay Road.

If you enjoy birding by ear, spring is the perfect time to hike up the Islay Creek Road.  The male Swainson's Thrush flute-like sound can be heard throughout the creek.  It is difficult to describe the beauty of two miles of Swainson's Thrush song.

The birds that nest in Islay Creek may be difficult to see as the trees are dense with spring growth, and you are standing above them, looking down.  Once you hear the Swainson's Thrush song you will never forget it.  In the video, accompanying the Thrush is the male Wilson's Warble, whose song is not exactly dramatic, but it is persistent, forceful, and also not easily forgotten.  In the first frame of the video you will hear Swainson's Thrush, accompanied by Wilson's Warbler; second frame, you may need to turn up your sound to hear the quiet Pacific-slope Flycatcher, accompanied by the call of a California Quail and the song, once again, of the male Swainson's Thrush.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Birding Turri Road

Turri Road* gracefully meanders over low hills to the Los Osos Valley agricultural area.  The road is narrow with few areas to park.  With several attempts I managed to back off the road into an unused overgrown lane that leads to private property (above). Willows were dense, a brushy field on the east, open fields to the north.

I had been birding about 20 minutes; experienced an excellent view of Mr. and Mrs. Blue Grosbeak, and a Common Yellowthroat; identified the distant chatter of a Western Kingbird and the persistent song of a Black-headed Grosbeak, but that was it.  I was about ready to try another location when one of the best birders in the county, drove up. 
Immediately, and I do mean immediately, she spotted a Warbling Vireo, Swainson's Thrush, Ash-throated Flycatcher (below) on a twig of a Coyote Bush, and a Lazuli Bunting by the edge of the road.  Her speed of identification was a sight to behold. Unfortunately, she was pressed for time and left after a few minutes.  Needless to say, I was delighted at my good fortune.

Continued on down the Road.  Perched on barbed wire fencing were two Cassin's Kingbirds, a Lark Sparrow, and Say's Phoebe.  In the fields -  Meadow Lark, Red-winged Blackbird and Western Bluebird.  For a complete list see bird list at end of blog.  Once again this peaceful country road proved to be a birding goldmine.  As soon as we get a sunny morning, I will return for another look at these beautiful little darlings.

 * Turri Road is located on the Central Coast of California between the Communities of Morro Bay and Los Osos.

Bird List:  American Kestrel, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Cassin's Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Common Yellowthroat, House Finch, Lazuli Bunting, Meadowlark, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Red-tailed Hawk, Song Sparrow, Swainson's Thrush, Turkey Vulture, Warbling Vireo, Western Bluebird, Wilson's Warbler

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Birding Coon Creek

                   The Coon Creek Trail Begins
Montaña de Oro State Park - Coon Creek is a coastal canyon at the south end of the park.  Round trip 5 miles. The trail follows the creek as it flows to the sea.

I volunteer for the state parks as a roving docent.  My duties involve walking the trails, answering questions, interacting with visitors, and in general being a presence in the park.  I know, sounds like a tough job, but someone's got to do it. 

 Yesterday morning roved with Mike (don't you love the pink socks).  The trail is narrow and has a few ups and downs and rocky areas and is more challenging than the Bluff Trail. The day was mild with no wind, a perfect day for a rove. 

As soon as we neared the creek, vegetation became intense.  In some areas the plants had grown over the trail. (photo, on right Hemlock, on left Mugwort)   In the willows between the trail and the creek, birds such as Wilson's Warbler, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Wrentit, and Bewick's Wren, were singing their hearts out.  Mr. Wilson has a piercing song.  In no uncertain terms he was communicating his territorial rights.  (Bird list at end of blog)
We stopped many times to listen to bird songs and to admire native plants.  Spring is a rare and fleeting time of year. I felt fortunate to be walking this beautiful trail.
Sticky Phacelia (above) was in dense patches on the steep hillsides. 

During our entire walk we were never without bird song.  I was hoping to hear the haunting song of a Canyon Wren.  Shortly after passing over the first bridge we heard the song.   On our return, the Wren was singing but at a distance.  The song sounded like it was coming from a high cliff or one of the many rocky outcrops, preferred habitats for the Canyon Wren.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get a usable video of the song.

I did manage to record a few other bird songs.  The video recordings are rather primitive, but the songs can be heard.  You might want to turn up the volume.

My favorite plant was the prolific Thimble Berry which has a beautiful flower and large velvety leaves.  The berry will be red and edible.
 Bird List for Coon Creek - Wilson's Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Canyon Wren, Bewick's Wren, Wrentit, Bushtit, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Purple Finch, California Quail, California Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Scrub Jay, Downey Woodpecker, Ann's Hummingbird, Red-tailed Hawk.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Birding the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden

The San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden is located in El Chorro Regional Park, across from Cuesta College and the Dairy Creek Golf Course.  Yesterday morning Bullock's Oriole and Hooded Oriole were seen in the garden.  

The morning was damp and foggy as I entered the Botanical Garden, not ideal conditions for birding.  Did I get a slight glimpse of an Oriole? No, though I did see 25 other bird species.  (See bird list at end of blog)
The American Robin was looking especially perky this morning, with its deep rufus (orange/red) breast and charming behavior of head tilting to find a worm.  Until recently I thought the Robin was listening for worms; raise your hand if you have had that same thought.  Instead of listening for worms, they are looking for them.  Bird eyes are located at the side of their head; unlike a human eye, a bird's eye does not move.  The Robin's classic head tilt directs the eye.  We are much like Robins.  When we see see a worm out of the corner of our eye; what do we do, we move our head to get a better view.

After birding the Botanical Garden, checked out nearby Dairy Creek and the campground which abuts the golf course.  The Dairy Creek Golf Course has become a habitat for our North American "Big Bird," the Wild Turkey. 
 I had  progressed only a few feet along the golf course path when I heard the first gobble.  For several minutes experienced birding nirvana as I observed the courting behavior of a colorful, male, Wild Turkey, gobbling his heart out while posing and strutting on the Golf course.  Unfortunately for this lone male, no female turkey was in sight. (above photo by Len Blumin)

Coincidentally, a few days ago, at Montaña de Oro, I recorded a Wild Turkey gobbling from his perch in a Eucalyptus tree.  (Yes, they can fly short distances.) The terrain was such that I could not get a view of the Gobbler, but he definitely sounded lonely.  At the moment of the recording I am about 1/2 way down Horse Camp road.

The various habitats of El Chorro Park and the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden offer some of the best birding on the Central Coast.  Spring is a special time to bird. Dust off your binoculars and get out and about.

Bird list - Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Scrub Jay, Western Bluebird, American Robin, Wrentit, Bushtit, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, California Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Anna's Hummingbird, Eurasian Dove, Mourning Dove, Brewer's Blackbird, California Quail, Song Sparrow, American Goldfinch, House Finch, Cedar Waxwing, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Wild Turkey