Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Monday morning - Only a few feet into the Marina Boardwalk, when from overhead, came a pesky squacking - a Peregrine Falcon with a small bird clutched in its deadly talons was being chased by a Red-tailed Hawk.  Then from out of the blue, came three Red-shouldered Hawks.  The falcon with its prey sped off over the bay with Hawks following.  The entire drama happened in about a minute. (note: try not to blink when birding, you might miss the action)

Due to the morning's high tide White Pelicans were fairly close. (photo by Mike Baird)  They usually hang out on Grassy Island in the middle of the bay, but during high tides they can be seen floating in the estuary channels or resting on the Pickleweed.  Directly across the channel from the Pelicans were a huge flock of Willet, Curlew, and Godwit.

Several Birders were clustered together looking intently into the brush for the Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow.  Do hope they were successful.  Best sighting from the Marina Boardwalk:  Lincoln Sparrow, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Yellow Warbler, and a hovering Kingfisher.

Sweet Springs never disappoints; observed a male Downy Woodpecker, the Smallest North American Woodpecker.  Its drumming sound, compared to other Woodpeckers, is quite delicate.  And from the overlook watched a flock of about 200 Brant Goose swoop in for a landing along the edge of the pickleweed.

The highlight of the week was a Red-breasted Nuthatch in my front yard.  It landed at the top of a bottle brush tree, crept down, flew over to the bird bath, took a few sips of water, flew back to the top of the tree, foraged around and flew off.  Hope the little darling makes a return visit.

Monday, November 4, 2013


The Brant is a small goose that feeds in Morro Bay during the winter and breeds on the high arctic tundra during the summer.  At the time I moved here, about 17 years ago, there were a couple thousand Brant wintering on the bay.  Unfortunately, the number of Brant overwintering in Morro Bay has steadily diminished over the past decade (last year less than 200).

Possible explanations include climate change and a reduction of the amount of eelgrass, the birds main food source.  And due to shifting storm patterns, in some years, a third of the population may winter in Alaska.

Yesterday about 130 Brant were seen in Baywood Cove.  This morning I was determined to find the Brant.  It might be my only chance to see them this year.  My first stop was Sweet Springs, where one can get a good view of the Baywood Cove - no Brant.  I did observe a small flock in flight that was moving south toward Shark Inlet.

Shark Inlet, the most southern section of the bay, was beautiful.  About a mile out was a large flock of Scaup, Ruddy Duck, and Bufflehead - no Brant.

I headed into Morro Bay; last year the Brant fed on eelgrass in the channel - no luck.  Last stop was the Marina where one can get a broad view of the bay and the estuary - no Brant.  On the little hill directly above the marina is the Museum of Natural History.  They have a scope and also a view of Grassy Island where Brant are known to haul out.  The scope made all the difference; on a narrow sandbar, the one in the foreground of the photo, were 50 or so Brant.  Success!!
Unfortunately, at the southern (left) edge of the island, the broadest dark area of the photo, a hunter had set up his decoys and was waiting for an unsuspecting Brant.  It seems a crime to take the life of a small goose, that mates for life, and has just flown nonstop from Alaska to Morro Bay. 

(note:  a portion of Morro Bay is designated as a state and national bird sanctuary.  This means it is illegal to kill or harm a bird in that portion of the bay.)  I feel it is time to extend the sanctuary designation to the entire bay.