Saturday, September 29, 2012


Morro Strand Beach - Weather, overcast, temperature mild, no wind, and few people; in other words, Perfect!  My desire was to hone my Tern identification skills.  As far as I am concerned, definitely not an easy task. My problem is sorting the Elegant Tern from the Royal Tern.

The Elegant is larger than the Royal, and its bill is more orange-red and thicker and less down-turned; even knowing this, when I look at a flock of Terns, they look alike, unless there is a larger Royal Tern (the bigger one) standing next to the smaller Elegant Tern. Recently, a very talented birder told me, if I am remembering correctly, to look at the eye. On the Elegant Tern the black touches the eye, whereas there is a slight space between the eye and the black on the Royal Tern. In the above photo the three Terns, to the rear, appear to have a slight space between the eye and the black, so they may be Royal Terns (I think). My Tern ID skills still need honing.

Included in this flock was a most unusual Tern, one with red legs (right center). Elegant and Royal Terns have black legs. Unfortunately, I only noticed it when reviewing my photos. The sleeping birds are Long-billed Curlew (rear), Heermann's Gull (front).

Enjoyed seeing an Black Oystercatcher among a flock of Heermann's Gull.  Other birds of note - small flock of Sanderling and thousands of Sandpiper with a sprinkling of Semipalmated Plover resting on the beach. While observing the sandpiper, a small raptor sped causing the sandpipers to rise into the air in several swirling masses; they swooped back and forth in tight circular motions, much like a school of fish fleeing a predator. Just hearing the sound of thousands of tiny synchronized wings was an unbelievable treat,

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Montana de Oro State Park - 9:00 am - The Weather was less than optimal, gray sky and drizzle. Fortunately, no wind. I had come out to see a rare migrant to our area, the Red Crossbill. This is one bird I thought I would never have a chance to see. Fortune shined!

A flock of a dozen plus were busily feeding in the Monterey Cypress on the south side of the Visitor Center. The odd shape of their bill allows them to extract seeds from tightly closed cones, such as those of the Monterey Cypress. They will feed hanging upside down like a Chickadee.

Other birds around the Visitor Center, Steller's Jay, Northern Flicker, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Bushtit, Wrentit, and Western Bluebird.

The Crossbill is not the only unusual bird in our area. An American Golden Plover had been seen along the edge of the bay near Cuesta Inlet. Within a few minutes of arrival I spotted her feeding cautiously in the pickleweed. There was no one else around, no dog walkers, which was nice. I was able to look at this graceful, solitary beauty with ease. I am including a barely acceptable photo. Clicking on the photo will give a slightly better image.
The American Golden Plover is amazing. It breeds in Arctic Tundra and has a migratory route of 25,000 miles; of this 2500 miles is over open ocean. Unlike the Black-bellied Plover who forages along the edge of Morro Bay, the American Golden Plover prefers pastures and dryer areas, so having the Golden Plover visit our area is indeed a treat.

Two new species in one day; be still my heart!