Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I led two walks for the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival - The Cloisters and the Marina Boardwalk.

Cloisters Pond and Park  -  Nine enthusiastic birders showed up for the stroll through the Cloisters.  We were fortunate to see 31 species.  A flock of Western Meadowlark feeding on the lawn, gave us a beautiful view of their brilliant yellow breasts.  On the shrinking pond (the drought is taking a toll) were several Northern Shoveler, many Mallards, a Northern Pintail, and Pied-billed Grebe (Pied - having patches of two or more colors).  Resting in the reeds were Black-crowned Night Heron and Great Blue Heron.  Black and Say's Phoebe made an appearance; always fun to see the flycatchers. While ambling along the paths we were serenaded by a perky California Thrasher perched atop a Bush Lupine.
 The Morro Bay Marina Boardwalk and Trail - The weather was fantastic, temperature warm, tide high, and the bay like glass.  The marina is a cozy size which makes the feeding and resting birds easy to observe.  As soon as we stepped on to the path we saw Bufflehead, Greater Scaup, Ruddy Duck, and an Eared Grebe (photo).  An active discussion ensued over the difference between the Greater and Lesser Scaup.

Identifying Greater from Lesser can be a challenge, to say the least.  "In bright sunlight and at the right angle the Greater Scaup may show green iridescence on its head and neck.  The Lesser Scaup may also show green iridescence but can also show purple, which is never seen on the Greater Scaup." (a quote from

34 species were identified.  We were all in agreement that the best sighting was a small flock of Fox Sparrow.  They are the largest sparrow, brown to reddish brown, have a dark brown speckled breast, and scratch in the leaf litter for insects.  We were on the boardwalk when we spotted several digging in the sandy leaf litter.  They are known as enthusiastic diggers.  The little darlings were digging with such intense enthusiasm that the sand was flying - a first sighting for several of the birders.  A Merlin perched on a twig in a nearby Eucalyptus was our last sighting - a great way to end a memorable morning of birding the Marina Boardwalk.