Friday, March 29, 2024


 Rare bird alert.  A Sloof Lirpa were seen yesterday eating carrots at an organic carrot farm in Los Osos California.  Bird watchers from all over are rushing to Los Osos hoping to see the rare bird.  

After eating its fill of carrots it flew up into a tree.  Some people say that it gave a "loof, lool, whee, loof loof ahhhhhh" call, closed its eyes and went to sleep.  One reason the SlooF Lirpa is seldom seen is its ability to sleep 12 hours a day.

Thursday, March 28, 2024



Turri Road San Luis Obispo County - The morning adventure begins.  Wanting to make the most of every moment, my little Honda inched along at a snail's pace.

A raptor was perched on an old utility pole.  I knew it was not a Red-tailed or a Red-shouldered Hawk.  While I was mulling over identification, the raptor took flight.  It was a female Northern Harrier.  My first sighting was a winner!

The first quarter mile is Western Bluebird territory.   A pair were perched on top of their nesting box.  Both male and female feed the nestlings.  Inside the box a hungry chick was wondering when lunch would be served.  On both sides of the road Meadowlarks were singing. 

My top speed was about five mph, car windows wide open to hear bird songs when suddenly I heard a very loud and piercing Meadowlark song.  Oh, my gosh it had flown into the car through the open back window.  Well, it had certainly not flown into the car, but for a few moments I was convinced there was a Meadowlark in the backseat.

Continuing up the hill, the mesmerizing beauty of the hills, the deep blue of roadside Lupine, Poppies bursting with life, and glistening fields of yellow Buttercups were a joy to behold.  Finally made it to the top of the hill.

Red-winged Blackbirds, from the pond down below, were dashing over the fields.  I could even hear Mallard Ducks.

I continued my forward progress.  Around the next bend in the road I was anticipating seeing Cassin's Kingbird. Yes!  There they were, a pair of Kingbirds, flycatching from an old fence. 

Next, the ephemeral cattle pond, my favorite stop.  I love the pond, the dilapidated cattle shoot, and the old barbed wire fence (behind the gate) that goes nowhere.  Perched on the fence were Western Bluebird, and Cassin's Kingbird.  

At the far end of the fence, Tree Swallow's rested, though not for long, but long enough for me to get a good look.  Depending on the lighting, their iridescent feathers appear greenish or blueish. 

From the wetland across the road came a variety of bird calls** including a female Turkey who had just discovered she was alone.  She seemed anxious.  From observations of wild Turkeys I have come to the conclusion they get anxious when finding themselves alone, flockless.  I'm including a short video on young Turkeys hurrying to join the flock.      


The morning's birding was positively delightful.  What will be the next adventure?  Perhaps Raptors, Ravens and Wildflowers?   

**Birds heard but not seen - Song Sparrow, Bewick's Wren, Wilson's Warbler, Oak Titmouse, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Pacific Flycatcher, California Towhee, Red-shouldered Hawk. 



Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Back to Birding Turri Road

Turri Road - This Morning I was birding with Linda who was on her very first birding adventure.  In mid September migratory birds are just beginning to arrive on the Central Coast.  Some stop for fuel and rest before continuing their journey, others stay through the end of the winter season.
Migrating Brant Geese by local birding photographer Mike Baird. 

We were slowly making our way up Turri Road when I noticed a white car parked in the road and a woman with a camera.  I was hoping she would be a friendly birding photographer.  Luck was with us.
I stopped beside her, "Might I ask what you are looking at?"  She replied, "Bald Eagles."  I said excitedly, "Bald Eagles," stressing the "s."  When she arrived two Bald Eagles were perched on a low hill.  Coincidentally, the hill happened to be the same one I had taken a photo of a few days earlier.  (By clicking on the photo you can see a Bald Eagle, though it does resemble a black and white blob, it is a Bald Eagle.)  Now the hill was bereft of Eagles.  The women pointed to the Sky - The Eagles were soaring over the landscape.  Linda's first sighting was a soaring Bald Eagle.
When we arrived at Hinds Summit a Meadowlark was singing.  Notice the sign, the elevation is in chains.  In the 17th century an English clergyman and mathematician Edmund Gunter invented a distance measuring devise, a chain that was 66 feet long and had 100 links.  It was known as Gunter's Chain and was used in land surveying.  It is still in use today in Great Briton and Canada for surveying land in rural areas.

From our comfortable perch on the hand hewn bench we watched a flock of Brewer's Blackbirds.  An American Kestrel was perched on a nearby fencepost.  Although the Blackbirds were fluttering all around him, the Kestrel was not dislodged from its post.  
As we meandered downhill to the ponds we saw Cassin's Kingbird, Western Bluebird, and Lark Sparrow.
Our good luck continued.  Several Red-necked Phalarope were feeding in the pond.  I find Phalarope amusing as they have a unique method of feeding. 
They swim very fast, in tight circles, creating little whirlpools, which brings plankton to the surface where they can grab them with their bills. This unique feeding method is known as "whirling." Feeding on the edge of the pond were the less exciting, but marvelous, Western Sandpiper and Semipalmated Plover.
Our final stop was the Morro Bay Marina.  We heard California Quail and the coarse ra-tat-tat of a Kingfisher; saw Great Blue Heron, two Pied-billed Grebe, and a marvelous view of an Osprey.   In the estuary were scads of Snowy and Great Egret, Cormorants, Brown Pelicans, and a variety of shorebirds.  In less than an hour and a half we identified 20 species.  Wow!  Linda definitely has great birding Karma. Can hardly wait for our next birding adventure.



Friday, August 11, 2023


 The Bob Jones Trail - Warm sun filters through the Sycamore and the Coast Live Oak.  Heavy with leaves, the trees provide a variety of birds with endless opportunities to feed, nest and perch. ( Scroll down for a Bob Jones Trail map.)
The unusually heavy January rain flooded the trail.  Trees, and all the flora along the creek that had suffered from years of drought were now dense with healthy green foliage.  Finding a bird in dense vegetation can be difficult, if not impossible, but this morning I was birding by ear - no binoculars and I was using an App.
 I had added to my phone the Free Merlin Bird ID App created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  To say the App is fabulous and fun to use is an understatement.  I was near the creek when I though I heard a Kingfisher, (above) opened the Merlin ID App, clicked on "Sound ID;" Merlin, nearly instantly, identified Kingfisher plus House Finch, Spotted Towhee and Bewick's Wren.  Each recording comes with a list of the bird's various songs and calls.  The Merlin App is very helpful, especially when vegetation is dense or you would love to know the identity of a tiny bird singing from atop a tall tree.  
The highlight of the morning was a magnificent view of a Steller's Jay.  It was about 20 feet from me digging through leaves when it hopped onto the trail, pecked for a few moments at what looked like a cracker crumb and then flew into a nearby Oak.  I was delighted to see, up close, a Steller's Jay, as I had not seen one for several years. 
Eventually the topography along the trail changes; vegetation is less and the creek can be seen.  I was fortunate to see two Green Heron; one patiently perched on a sandbar, the other on a twig hanging over the creek.  Their song is a sharp croak and when disturbed a piercing shriek. 

Within an hour of birding I had observed or heard 15 species - The memorable birds were Nuttall's Woodpecker and Acorn Woodpecker, Hooded Oriole, Pacific Flycatcher (nest's in the creek), Bewick's Wren (singing), and a flock of Chestnut Chickadee (no Chestnuts but bushels of Acorns).

I really like the Bob Jones Trail as it is shaded, has a variety of birds, and midway along the trail is the Woodstone Marketplace with a charming trailside patio and excellent coffee.  Guess where I go after birding the Bob Jones?

Trail Map. The (1) is the location of the Woodstone Marketplace.  


Sunday, July 2, 2023


Montaña de Oro State Park - Bluff Trail - The day was perfect, wind silent, sky semi-cloudy.  At the small cove, often referred to as Smuggler's Cove, I was delighted to to see a pair of Black Oystercatcher (Bloy) nesting half way down from the top and a tad to the left of the cleft in the shale rock. (the happy couple in below photo)   A parent to be was sitting on the nest.  At the present time there are three nesting pair at Montaña de Oro (MdO).  Both adults incubate eggs and tend to the chicks. 
Fortunately I saw only five Pelagic Cormorant (below), as they are known to prey on Bloy eggs.
I have a special fondness for Pigeon Guillemots.  They arrive every spring to nest in holes in the eroding cliffs.  In August they will return from whence they came.  The Guillemots high pitched chatting was magic to my ears.  They feed tiny fish to their nestlings. 

In the cove Turkey Vultures were having a bit of a tiff over a well seasoned carcass.
The flowers were astounding!  In my many years at MdO I have never seen such a dense and brilliant display of Eriophyllum staechadifolium, commonly called Lizard Tail or Seaside Woolly Daisy.
Other Birds - Spotted Towhee (photo), always perched where it can be readily seen, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Common Yellow-throat singing, California Thrasher with an impressive repertoire, and hundreds of Brown Pelican flying north.  They often can be seen flying in a line, following the contours of the coastline.  Hint for the next time you are birding - Don't forget to look up.


Monday, April 24, 2023

Birding The Central Coast

Turri Road - A few minutes from San Luis Obispo, a few miles west on Los Osos Valley Road, a right turn onto a quiet rural road and you have arrived.  Spring green is the color of the day.  Brilliant patches of Buttercups, Lupine, and Poppies add color to the scene.  

Four Western Bluebird nest boxes were placed along the fencing.  Sallying fort from perches on the barbed wire fence was a pair of Bluebirds.  Hopefully they will soon be parents.

As I tootled up the road more Bluebirds and a pair of Cassin's Kingbird.  

Western Bluebirds are indigenous to the area and may be seen year round.  Don't forget to look up as they often perch on utility lines. 

Finally made it to the top of the hill.  Two male Meadowlarks, attempting to attract a female were singing, flicking their tails, and pointing their bill up.  They carried on for several minutes, sadly to no avail.  The female silently disappeared into the grass.  

I was admiring the view when I noticed a small bird perched on a well weathered post - A  Lark Sparrow, one of my seldom seen favorites.  Unlike many song birds, they walk on the ground rather than hop.

Next stop, " the ponds."  

To my delight there was a variety of birds, eight Greater Yellowlegs, one Green-winged Teal, a pair of Northern Shoveler, six Mallards, a Great Egret, a small flock of sandpipers, and a Cinnamon Teal resting on a clump of pickleweed.  With the exception of the Teal, they were all voraciously feeding.  (photo was taken a few days ago when there were no birds)  Many migratory birds use Morro Bay and its adjoining wetlands as a place to rest and refuel.


Monday, November 21, 2022

California's Wild Turkeys

I really like Wild Turkeys.  They can be entertaining, especially during breeding season.  They have also  learned to survive in a variety of habitats - eat all kinds of food, know how to evade hunters, have keen hearing and eyesight, and teach their young how to find food and water in suburban neighborhoods and on golf courses. 

 Tom Wild Turkey in full strut mode, ready to impress the females (Hens).

Identifying males, aka Toms or Gobblers (adult Toms) - 1.  Caruncles.  2.  Snood.  3.  Wattle.  4. Major Caruncle.  5.  Beard (brush like feathers - can grow up to 12 inches).

Dressed to Impress - Gobblers strut slowly, painfully slow if you are in a car waiting for them to cross the road.  About half way the Tom in charge will change his mind and the "raffle"** will slowly begin their strut back to the original point of entry.  Meanwhile the hens, who the Toms are trying to impress, are nearly out of sight.  Hint to birders - Binoculars are not needed to observe Toms in Breeding Plumage.
Hens, much like human females, are in charge of hatching and raising the young.  Unfortunately, Hens must abandon the nest to search for food, leaving the eggs vulnerable to predators.  The few survivors of the nesting process, mature quickly.  At five to six weeks they begin roosting in trees, thus reducing their vulnerability to predators. 

The Wild Turkey is not indigenous to California.  Developing a wild turkey population was unsuccessful in California until the 1950s when California Fish and Game imported the Rio Grande Wild Turkey from Texas.  Wild Turkeys are now abundant throughout the state.
Neighborhood Menace?  These innocuous appearing birds can quickly become pests.