Monday, July 21, 2014

Birding Cayucos

Cayucos - Weather warm, humid, semi-cloudy (photo of Morro Rock taken from Cayucos Beach).  The morning could not have been more perfect.  Feeding along the edge of the sea were Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew (center photo), and Willet.  Off the beach were Surf Scoter, Western Grebe and a sprinkling of Eared Grebe in breeding plumage.

Next stop was at the northern end of Cayucos, a narrow little residential street with an overlook that looks down on a pocket beach with rock formations.  Somewhere in the rocks is a Oystercatcher nest that is easily viewed from the overlook.  Every other birder in town has seen it.  Could I find it?  No!  I tried various angles, walked down a private driveway hoping to get a view of the rocks, but no luck.  I really wasn't disappointed as I have seen them several times in MdO.

What I did observe was a feeding frenzy with Brown Pelican, 3 species of Cormorant, 3 species of Tern, gulls, and 2 Sea Lions; the chaos was marvelous.

Next stop, the Cayucos Pier, an historic landmark built in 1872 by Captain James Cass, the founder of Cayucos.  It was built out of Cambria Pines Logs for a cost of about $15,000.  The pier closed in 2013 due to damaged pilings; rebuilding is scheduled for next month.  In the meantime the precious old pier is being enjoyed by a variety of birds, mainly the very vocal and elegant, Elegant Tern, plus a few Forster's Tern and the big daddy of Terns, the Caspian.  Gulls, Western and Herrmann's are here and there and a few Brown Pelicans (photos were shot through chain link fencing).
In the foreground of the long shot are several immature Elegant Tern.  At the end of the pier the Brown Pelican perch.  I do hope the birds are not too traumatized when rebuilding begins.
Final stop of the morning was at the Turri Road Ponds.  Last week 12 Wilson's Phalarope had been seen.  Great fun to watch them spin as they feed, but the only birds feeding this morning were 6 Greater Yellowlegs.  As I turned away from the ponds I noticed a large bird feeding on the dry hillside, a female Wild Turkey;  first one I have seen in this area, snapped a few photos.  I was about to get in my car when the Turkey swooped over my head and into a dense stand of weeds near the ponds - the treat of the day.  A swooping Wild Turkey is a sight to behold - the perfect end to a perfect morning of birding the Central Coast.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Birding Change of Pace

Since June, I have been a participant in the docent rover program at Montaña de Oro State Park (MdO).  "What is that," you ask.  Roving is a fairly new program at MdO.  Rovers either rove the trails or people an information table at a trail head.  I rove the trails,  answering questions, interpreting nature, and have a cell phone if an emergency should arise with visitors or wildlife; sometimes, the visitors are the wildlife.  (click on the photo for a larger image)
 On June 27th. a dead Humpback Whale came ashore at Hazard Beach, one of the more remote beach areas of MdO.  The following morning Mike, a fellow rover, and I were down at the site.  Two whale researchers from Santa Barbara were gathering data.  It appeared that a severe wound to the tail, above the flukes, contributed to the death of this peaceful denizen of the deep.  For a brief video on my observations go to

 Observing this magnificent mammal was, to say the very least, an experience of my lifetime.   A few days after the first visit I was back at the site, along with many photo taking visitors (the teens were being photographed by their mother).  News of the whale's arrival had spread fast.  In the process of decomposition, gases such as ammonia, methane, and sodium nitrate build up causing the whale to bloat and turn over; now its under side was exposed and the severity of the wound to the tail could be seen.  More than likely the humpback had become entangled - a recent study showed that entanglement in fishing gear is the primary cause of Humpback Whale death.  I have a one minute video that shows the whale in the process of decomposition.

While on the beach had the pleasure of seeing a few Snowy Plover, Oystercatcher, a large flock of Heermann's Gull, Willet, Whimbrel, and a Great Egret feeding in the surf.  Oh, I must not forget the 50 or more Turkey Vultures circling over the area.

I have not been active at MdO for a couple of years and it is good to be back.