Thursday, June 3, 2010

More Local Birding

On May 16, I rode back to Montana de Oro Stae Park and cycled on the dirt and gravel road along Islay Creek, and hiked Coon Creek (about 4 and 5 miles from my house). While Islay Creek was full of bird song by birds like Lazuli Bunting and Rufous-crowned Sparrow, I could neither hear nor see any new BIGBY species. At Coon Creek I hiked and played recordings, but could scare nothing new out of the thick riparian habitat. (I did find another female Black-and-white Warbler - third for the year!) I also saw the pictured rabbit, morning glory flowers and coastal Live Oak along the Coon Creek trail (below).

On May 17, I did an after-work pedal over to the ponds at Turri Road and South Bay Blvd., where high tide floods some tidal flats at the north side of Los Osos. I found a Wilson's Phalarope (BIGBY # 272) (below) here with some Greater Yellowlegs. These shorebirds would not let me get too close, so I had to blow up a rather far away shot of them. This is a regular spot for phalaropes, but Wilson's is not often seen coastally in this county.

On May 19, Nike and I found a Rose-breasted Grosbeak (BIGBY # 273) (below) a couple of blocks away from our house, sitting in a sycamore on a vacant lot with a berry patch. It was a lucky find as it was not singing or calling. (Later, it did sing for a couple of local birders who went to look for it and was still singing off and on in the neighborhood four days later.)

On May 22, I packed my scope, tripod and camera, and cycled 4 miles out to the bluffs just north of Spooner's Cove at Montana de Oro State Park, to scope for pelagics. It was breezy and the visibility was incredible as I scoped from 7 AM till 9 AM. A moderate number of birds were moving - hundreds of Pacific Loons and a variety of other species. The best bird was a Xantus's Murrelet (BIGBY # 274), which shot by going to the north and I had long looks at it. Also new for the year were 2 Red-necked Phalaropes (BIGBY # 275) and three Elegant Terns (BIGBY # 276).

After walking Nike (the Rose-breasted was still in the neighborhood), I cycled around the Los Osos area on the morning of Sunday, May 23, checking several different locations for whatever might be passing through. Los Osos Oaks State Reserve (best early on a Sunday morning before the major traffic noise on Los Osos Valley Road) had a lot of bird activity in the front, where the water is flowing. While looking through the oaks for flycatchers and warblers I saw a female Varied Thrush (BIGBY # 277) just before it took off from the oak branch it was perched on and disappeared back into the preserve. The front of the preserve was birdy near the only flowing water there - the small stream that flows most of the year near the entrance. Western Tanagers sang their melodious song and Wilson's Warblers and Pacific-sloped Flycatchers answered with their not so melodic songs. Hutton's Vireos, Hairy Woodpeckers and an adult Cooper's Hawk (with a Western Scrub Jay in its talons) added to the bird activity near the front.

I left the Oaks and cycled through a partially wooded residential area on Willow Drive and Nipomo Avenue and then over to the riparian habitat along Turri Road. This stretch follows the course of an arm of Los Osos Creek and has had breeders such as Grasshopper Sparrow (across the road from the creek, in the pasture), migrants, and a few vagrants (e.g. Kentucky Warbler) in the past. This time I had to settle for Lazuli Bunting, Black-headed Grosbeak and other common breeders. Next, I accessed the extensive wooded habitat of Chorro Creek Willows from two locations along South Bay Boulevard - before and after the Chorro Creek bridge. I heard the haunting metallic song of the Swainson's Thrush and the "witchedy, witchedy' song of the yellowthroat, along with other breeders. I visited many spots on the way home along the edge of the bay and played a Black Rail recording at several locations, but this once regular but uncommon bird did not respond (it has apparently almost disappeared from the edges of Morro Bay). All of these locations were within a five mile radius of my home and made for a morning of birding and only about 12 miles of riding.

On the morning of May 24, Nike and I were doing our usual pre-work morning walk and bird with the usual suspects, when I received a call from Morro Bay birder Kaaren Perry. She had just seen a Black Swift against the overcast sky, about 2 blocks from where I stood. I looked up and about 30 seconds later it came over my head (BIGBY # 278) and I had time for only two quick photos (above) before it disappeared to the west. I knew I had been fortunate lately with my frequent new BIGBY species and that spring migration was slowing. I would have to really work for any new year birds from now until fall migration (which, for shorebirds, starts as early as late June with the return of some adults).

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