Cacophony at East Beach

Florence Sanchez

Joan Lentz and I went down to East Beach this morning to check the Mission Creek outfall for shorebirds.  What we found was an Elegant Tern fest the likes of which I have not seen before in Santa Barbara County.  At first glance, I thought there were at least 200 terns perched in two main groups; however, when I painstakingly counted them, the number was around 550!  The birds were active and noisy, and included adults and juveniles. Casual beach walkers spooked the flocks a couple of times, but they soon settled back into one or two locations.  It was simply amazing and I had a hard time tearing my eyes from them to see what else was around.

In addition to the terns, were had 27 Black Skimmers, several Western Gulls, a few Heerman's gulls (adults and 2 dark immatures), and a California Gull.  Large shorebirds were also present in modest numbers (Joan has the count), ranging in order from most to least:  Willets, Long-billed Curlews, Whimbrels, and one Marbled Godwit.  The only small shorebird we could find was a single Least Sandpiper.

I scanned through the tern flock thoroughly with my scope and could not turn up any other tern species apart from Elegant, though that is not to say there couldn't have been something else with them.  If they stick around, it will be worthwhile to keep checking on this flock.

We also went to the Bird Refuge where we saw mostly expected species.  Special treats were Pied-billed Grebe chicks and Ruddy Ducklings.  We also had a fly-by of 2 Green Herons, which have been scarce this year.

Florence Sanchez