Santa Ynez River Estuary Feb. 28

Florence Sanchez

I hadn't read Nick's post before I went today but still found a nice mix of species.  The road into Ocean Park remainsl closed to vehicles though it is no longer flooded, so I had to walk in but that provided an excellent opportunity to scope the duck flocks in various ponds and channels.  Shovelers were the dominant species (next to American Coots!), but there were also lots of American Wigeons and Gadwall, along with a few Northern Pintails, a couple of Mallards, and a pair of Cinnamon Teal.  I did not turn up any Blue-winged Teal, White-faced Ibis, or a Northern Phalarope.

In the main channel, I found both Clark's and Western Grebes, lots of Eared Grebes, a few Ruddy Ducks and Buffleheads, and the best find in the estuary:  a pair of Common Goldeneyes (male and female).  I was joined by David and Linda Blue, and I believe David got a photo of them.  Heron family was scarce--only 1 each Great Blue Heron and Great Egret found.  However, sparrows were abundant in the salt marsh, including Song, Savannah (including singing Belding's form), and White-crowns; there were also lots of Brewer's and Red-winged Blackbirds present, along with one Great-tailed Grackle.  Gulls were almost non-existent and no swallows were seen while I was there.  A Sora sounded off twice in the marsh.

Linda spotted an Osprey near the testle that was scared off by a track maintenance vehicle, but we also had a Peregrine perched on a post on the trestle that provided great views.  The only shorebirds I found in the estuary were Greater Yellowlegs and a couple of Kildeer.

The path to the beach under the trestle was flooded, so I had to walk up the berm and across the tracks to get to the dune path to the estuary mouth and beach (last day to do this--beach closes tomorrow due to Plover nesting).  There was a modest flock of shorebirds at the estuary's edge, most of which were Black-bellied Plovers, but with them were a few each Western and Least Sandpipers and a few Sanderlings.  I tailed a bird at the very western edge of the estuary suspecting it might be a Dunlin, and it was.  Absolutely no gulls on the beach or flying overhead.

I finished up at Surf Beach, hoping to do a seawatch from the train station, but after a few minutes I realized the seas were just too rough to pick up much of anything before it disappeared behind a wave, so I called it a day.  Giant Coreopsis are blooming nicely, turning grotesque plants into something beautiful for a few weeks of the year.

Florence Sanchez