Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sand Spit Re-visited

On April 9, Ross Schaefer and I walked out to the sand spit in hopes that there might be some different shorebirds or sea birds.  It is a long long walk on a sandy trail: out to the sandy beach and north to the breakwater.  From my house in Los Osos it was a ten to twelve mile walk that felt much worse due to the sand! The way out was fun - we stopped frequently to look, at and photograph, flowers and butterflies.  The usual birds of the coastal scrub - towhees, thrashers, gnatcatchers and sparrows called and sang in the sunlight.

Once we got out to the beach it was quiet, bird-wise.  We did see a couple of American Pipits (photo above), and Snowy Plovers were numerous. We walked several kilometers before we saw  flocks of shorebirds other than plovers.  We did stop occasionally to scope the ocean and Ross picked out a Pigeon Guillemot as it flew by, showing its white wing patches contrasting with its otherwise all black plumage (new green year bird). An occasional Common Murre flew by as well.  The only rare birds we found were two Common (not so common) Ravens spotted by Ross, feeding on a sea lion carcass on the beach (new bigby species).
This species is very rare in the coastal portion of San Luis Obispo County for some unknown reason.  It is common south and north of the central coast in California.
The birding was otherwise very slow and so Ross and I were looking at other creatures, like the rove beetle (Thinopinus pictus)
(above) - a wingless beetle that lives on beaches from Alaska to Baja.  It was feeding on beach hoppers (sandhoppers or sand fleas), a terrestrial amphipod crustacean that feeds on detritus that washes up onto the beach. (Click on the photo for a larger image).  The ravens, the rove beetle, and many wild flowers (beach primrose left) were the highlights of the walk, which was much more tiring on the way back!  A green big year on foot seems like more work than one on bicycle, at times. Also, I can only range so far from home on foot and the addition of new species is much harder!  I cannot complain about two new year birds, with the ravens being an unexpected surprise!

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