Beach birding

Florence Sanchez

Yesterday I walked the beaches at UCSB shortly after dawn on the low but incoming tide.  There wasn't a lot going on on the beaches.  The largest group or birds was a flock of 10 Greater Yellowlegs at the foot of the wooden steps down to the east-facing beach.  The UCSB Lagoon however had more birds than it's had all summer, which still isn't saying a lot.  Besides the usual Black-necked Stilts (6) and Kildeer (3), I had 2 Greater Yellowlegs swimming (always an odd thing to observe), 1 Least Sandpiper, and a flock of 8 Dowitcher sp. that flew before any ID could be made.  There were at least 20 Mallards on the water and with them was a single Gadwall.  One each Great Blue HERon, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, and Black-crowned Night Heron, as well as a Belted Kingfisher flying out from the Lagoon Island.

Today I walked Sands Beach and the beach east of Coal Oil Point.  Acting on a tip from Nick, I found the pond at the base of the cliffs heading toward IV and in it, a single Baird's Sandpiper with a Western Sandpiper near-by for nice comparison.  That portion of the beach was loaded with Black-bellied Plovers and Sanderlings, with a few Least Sandpipers and a lot of Semi-palmated Plovers hanging around too.  Large shorebirds included 2 Marbled Godwits, 2 Whimbrels, and a Long-billed Curlew.  I spotted 1 Black Turnstone on the exposed rocks.

Heading west along Sands Beach, there was less activity, but I found a good number of Long-willed Curlews well along the beach, and eventually ran across several good-sized Sanderling flocks.  In the Snowy Plover enclosure, a good number of Snowies were resting and just beyond them, I found a big flock (100+) of Semi-palmated Plovers.  I worked through them in the hopes of turning up something rare, but did not have any luck.  Beyond the enclosure, I found flocks of Sanderlings and Black-bellied Plovers in the sand but again, nothing unusual appeared to be in them.

My final stop this morning was to check the Tern flock at East Beach, though this morning, they (and the Skimmers) were all on West Beach.  I scanned through the flock once and pulled out a couple of Royal Terns from the Elegants, but then they were spooked by walkers and that was it.  They moved down to their usual spot at East Beach but were very nervous and never stayed down for more than a couple of minutes before flying off and around, breaking up into small groups, and eventually coalescing again.  Once the flock spooked because of a Peregrine Falcon flyover and any walkers, even at a distance made them nervous, so I finally gave up on getting any sort of a count.  I estimate somewhere between 600-800 this morning.  I hope they make it through the holiday weekend.

Florence Sanchez