Sandhill Crane and other sightings in Santa Maria area

Florence Sanchez

I went back to the Sandhill Crane sight this morning and after a time I finally located it.  It was feeding along the back side of the fence that separates the flooded field from the one behind it, near some large white pipe structure.  Note:  I could not be seen from the wide spot along the road where one pulls off and parks.  I had to walk up the hill (east and scan from there before I located it.

The 6 Snow Geese and 2 Canada Geese were there when I arrived, but the Snow Geese flew off after about 20 minutes.  I couldn't even begin to tell you how many Greater Yellowlegs, Dowitchers (presumably Long-billed from the calls), and Least Sandpipers there were.  They were constantly on the move and flying everywhere.  Other shorebird species found were 1 Wilson's Snipe, 2 Marbled Godwits, and 3 Willets.  A large gull flock was present, but I found only California and Mew Gulls, though I left a couple of immatures unidentified.  No large gulls like Western or Herring were there today.  Raptors put on a good show too, with 2 Red-tails, 2 White-tailed Kites, and 1 female Northern Harrier working the fields.  The field is drying up, by the way.

After taking care of a purchase I needed to make in Santa Maria, I went back to the Mitchell Road site to see what I could uncover, though it was a little late in the morning for optimum birding.  Nevertheless, I spotted both Ferruginous Hawks, one of them on the same fence post as my last visit.  A Northern Harrier was also hunting over the field for a time.  A large mixed flock of Blackbirds was flying back and forth from the horse corral on airport property to the center of the field on the west.  Scoping the flock revealed that almost half of them were Tri-colored Blackbirds.  I can't recall the last time I saw so many Tri-coloreds in one place.  Small numbers of American Pipits flew back and forth across the road, and with them were a few Horned Larks.

I finished up at Mud Lake but did not find the Canvasbacks that John Deacon did previously in spite of careful scanning all along the fence.  There was a good number of Ring-billed Ducks hanging out there and a young Cooper's Hawk was in the willows.

Florence Sanchez

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