Santa Ynez River Mouth July 15

Florence Sanchez

I birded the estuary at mid-morning today and found it worth the drive from Santa Barbara.  It took some looking to run down the shorebirds, but they were around.  Most were on the mudflats on the ocean side of the railroad trestle.

I think the best shorebirds today was a group of 10 Short-billed Dowitchers, most still in good breeding plumage.  I was able to get a good look at them and determined that the red on the underparts did not extend all the way under the tail (though at least two were obviously molting and had lost much of the red color on the underparts).  None showed Long-billed's  vertical barring on the flanks.  The final ID clincher came when the flock took flight and I heard their distinctive short "tu-tu" call, a lot like that of a Lesser Yellowlegs.

Other shorebirds included 4 Greater Yellowlegs, a dozen Semi-palmated Plovers, 1 Kildeer, and a Black-bellied Plover I heard call frequently but could never locate.  The most abundant shorebirds were Western Sandpipers.  I located a flock of 35 on the mudflats west of the trestle and was able to peruse most of them closely.  I could not pull out any candidates for Semi-palmated Sandpiper from the group.  Then something spoked the flock and they took to the air, and from all over the mudflats came others to join them until there were at least 100 circling and swarming around for a long time.  Also, right after my arrival, I spotted a group of 6 Long-billed Curlews flying up the channel, coming to rest somewhere out of sight.

Other birds seen included the continuing juvenile Reddish Egret, first seen well up the channel.  A little later it flew downstream over the trestle and I relocated it working a small channel of the main one near the estuary mouth.  A few snowy Egrets and Two Great Egrets were working the channel opposite the parking lot.  I had one Caspian Tern today and eventually 3 Least Terns showed up.  In the water was a nice group of 10 Pied-billed Grebes and several Cormorants rested on the snags.  Surprisingly, there were no gulls or pelicans roosting on the beach at the estuary mouth as there have been on my two previous visits.

Florence Sanchez