Santa Maria and Lompoc.

Florence Sanchez
 

Wes and I seem to hit Santa Maria about the same time but don't end up with the same birds.  Once again, I missed the Reddish Egret at the Santa Maria River and I really LOOKED!  The beach at the river mouth had a huge flock of Brown Pelicans and with them were 11 White Pelicans.  No shorebirds there today and only the usual gulls:  Western, Heerman's and California.  Birds of interest were a pair of Peregrines at the shoreline of the river mouth.  One was feeding on a shorebird.  It took off carrying the carcass when I set up my scope and dropped the prey in the water when it reached the ocean.  Later on, I found the second Peregrine in the dune scrub (different coloration), which also took off the minute I set down the scope.  For some reason, that must spell DANGER to them.  Walking back toward my car, I found the headless and crop-less carcass of the bird the first Peregrine was feeding on--it was a Long-billed Curlew from the coloration and size.  I rechecked the river where the Reddish Egret wasn't and found a few shorebirds there:  10 Black-necked Stilts, 2 Avocets, about a dozen Dowitchers all on the bank of a steep dune at water's edge, and about 6 Western and a couple of Least Sandpipers on a sandbar.

Earlier, I went to Jack O'Connell park but nothing of interest there or in nearby-fields (checking for Tri-colored Balckbirds without success).  I planned to go the SM Sewage treatment plant but drove right by it and decided not to turn around.  Big mistake from Wes's report.  Instead I went on to Ocean Park in Lompoc.

Unlike Santa Maria, which was windy, Lompoc was pleasant and only breezy, and the birding at the estuary mouth was the best I've had there all summer, in spite of the distance yo most of the birds.  Lots of shorebirds, including some large enough and close enough to identify--10 Marbled Godwits, 3 Whimbrel, 5 Willets, 2 Greater yellowlegs.  At the water's edge were the usual a little too distant peeps, but I still could get Western Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Plover, Snowy Plover, and Sanderling out of the group.  Two Least Sandpipers landed at the edge of the estuary near me at one point and I had more fly over.  There were several juvenile Red-necked Phalaropes swimming on the estuary.  The shorebird of the day however was a chunky bird that I was able to identify as a juvenile Red Knot--first of the year for me.

There were flocks of gulls in the water, at the water's edge, and up on the sand berm between the estuary mouth and the ocean.  All appeared to be the usual mix of Western, California, and Heerman's Gulls.  With them were a few Caspian and Royal Terns.  There were several groups of ducks both on the banks and at the estuary mouth.  Most were Mallards, but I also had a small flock of Gadwall in the mix.  And when I arrived at the lookout point, a flock of about a dozen Teal sprang into the air.  Definitely Teal due to small size, green speculum, powder-blue epaulets, but I could not determine the species.  The best duck was an unexpected female Pintail feeding along the far shore near the reeds.  The main body of the estuary had Western and Pied-billed Grebe, Ruddy Ducks, Great Blue Heron and both species of Egret, Double-crested Cormorants, and a Marsh Wren in the tules at the south edge.  A great day here and I encourage others to check this spot out after rather dismal conditions earlier this month.

Florence Sanchez

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