Sunday, August 21, 2011


The morning was perfect, sunny with a slight breeze. I parked at the fig tree (will get back to the fig tree later in the blog), and walked north along the bluff looking for shorebirds. Many Black and Ruddy Turnstone feeding among the rocks and on the colorful kelp that washes ashore this time of year. (photo-Black Turnstone) Feeding on the kelp were Turnstone, Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, Brewer's Blackbird, Savannah Sparrow, and many ground squirrels. On nearby rocks a Spotted Sandpiper bobbed.

An extra fine treat was seeing the Ruddy in its breeding plumage. (photo by R0ger Zachery) It was a perfect day for photography and I did not have my camera (bad decision).

Eventually I looked out to sea. Thousands and thousands of Shearwater were streaming south and about a mile out was a giant area of them - looked like an oil slick.

Now, back to the Fig Tree. It is a landmark of sorts, as one can see it from Hwy. 1., and it is often where birders park. Due to all the rain the tree has been reborn. The Fig is huge and lush. As I climbed up the path to the parking area, a cacophony of sound was eminating from the tree. A large flock of busy Bushtit had arrived causing Bewich's Wren and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher to become highly agitated. California Towhee began chipping and sitting atop the shrub, oblivious to the melee, were a couple of House Finch merrily singing. A most delightful conclusion to a great morning of birding Estero Bluffs.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Destination this morning was the Old Creek Lagoon on Cayucos Beach. Stopped at the Turri Road Ponds en route. Spinning around to churn up itty-bitty insects were two Wilson's Phalarope (first sighting of the Wilson's this season), and 18 Red-necked Phalarope (photo). Click on the link for a short video on Phalarope feeding behavior.

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Very foggy when I arrived at the Old Creek Lagoon. Many Long-billed Curlew and Whimbrel, a couple of Killdeer, 4 Red-necked Phalarope, one Semipalmated Sandpiper, and over a ways was a cluster of gulls with Royal and Elegant Terns. When Royal and Elegant are together I can usually tell the difference as the Royal are larger than the Elegant, but their bill similarity continues to drive me to distraction. I will persist!

Friday, August 12, 2011


For over a week a Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) has been seen along Pismo Creek. The creek meanders south (photo), veers west (right) and empties into the ocean. As I meandered along the creek I spotted, in the dim distance, an Egret. Anyway, I thought it was an Egret. After a thorough examination, I came to the conclusion it was a Juvenile Great Blue Heron. Other birds were, Caspian Tern, scads of Mallards, numerous Pied-billed Grebe, the occasional Double-crested Cormorant, and a handsome Turkey Vulture dining on Heermann's Gull. (photo)

I had a feeling that I was going to see this little darling. The Reddish Egret, though a different species, resembles the G.B. Heron, particularly at a distance, and on a very gray day, and particularly to a fledgling birder, such as myself.

On my return trip, I studied the edges of the creek. Finally spotted the Reddish Egret across the creek, directly below an R.V. Park. This time of year they are more grayish than reddish. (photo - pardon the poor quality). He preened for awhile which allowed me an excellent look. Now the Reddish Egret is engraved in my birding memory bank.

No Starbucks around, so went to Trader Joe's for a miniature cup of free coffee. My next challenge will be the Pectoral Sandpiper.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


We made four stops on our morning birding adventure. The first stop was along Estero Bluffs (photo). The fog was lifting and the sea was beautiful. Harry and Norma Catchpole knew where to find a young Black Oystercatcher. They have been following its development since it was one of three eggs. The nest was a slight depression in the rocks.

We followed the trail along the cliff a short distance. We saw both adult Oystercatcher, but it took Harry a bit of time to locate the youngster which was tucked into a slight depression, not moving a feather. Both Norma and I looked but could not see it. Juveniles are gray with brown eyes and a dark bill, and as we can testify, they can be difficult to locate.

Old Creek Lagoon - Cayucos State Beach - Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Western Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, and after much pondering and comparing, 3 Semipalmated Sandpiper.

Morro Strand Lagooon - Morro Strand State Beach. The lagoon is extensive, but due to the Snowy Plover (an endangered species) fencing, a portion of the lagoon is inaccessible. Norma spotted the first treat - a mother mallard with 4 ducklings. Four American Avocet in breeding plumage were feeding. They thrust their bill under water and swing it from side to side along the bottom to stir up aquatic insects. Fascinating to observe.

Morro Creek Lagoon - Morro Strand State Beach. Three Red-necked Phalarope feeding. They spin quickly to create a vortex that churns up tiny invertebrates. Most entertaining to watch.

Successful morning of birding. We ended the day with a yummie lunch at the Blue Sky Cafe on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Morro Strand State Beach. The sea was azure, swells gentle, and the sun warming. My birding/photographer friend Mike, and I were looking for Terns, in particular the Royal Tern. I usually have difficulty identifying Terns (above photo). The Royal Tern and the Caspian Tern are nearly the same size. The Royal has a bright orange red bill (can vary). The Caspian has a dark red bill (mostly). How does one tell the difference? There is also the smaller Elegant Tern that has a more slender pointier, red to orange bill. And then there are the immature and sub adults. I have spent hours pondering over the Terns without coming to a firm conclusion. This year I am determined to become an expert in Tern identification.

No pondering today, as there was not a Tern to be seen. We did see large flocks of Heermann's Gull and numerous Whimbrel (photo). Long-billed Curlew were abundant, and there were a few Godwits. Killdeer, Black Phoebe, Mallard and a Pied-billed Grebe were in and around the lagoon on the south side of the Morro Strand Campground.

This weekend I will conduct a more thorough search for the Royal Tern.