SAnta Barbara Harbor this morning

Florence Sanchez

I must have missed Mark Bright by an hour or so!  I walked down to the breakwater and sandspit from Shoreline Park this morning, starting out around 7:30.  Today there was a good-sized flock of large shorebirds along with some gulls on the east end of Ledbetter Beach, as there often is this time of year.  The flock was somewhat disturbed by a couple of beach walkers and flew up the beach to a point opposite to where I was walking on the sidewalk.  I decided to cross the beach and see what I might pick out at water's edge.  

The flock moved a bit and then suddenly took to the air with alarm calls from gulls and shorebirds ringing out all around.  I saw a that large, very dark Peregrine Falcon had flown in and was going after the shorebirds.  It made contact with a Long-billed Curlew who started struggling and screeching at the top of its lungs.  I lost sight of them below the berm for a second or two--then when the Peregrine flew back into view, it had no curlew in its talons.  It wheeled and dropped back on the sand out of sight.  I crept up carefully until I could see the Peregrine. It had landed on the beach sans any prey and was just standing there.  I watched for several minutes as gulls and shorebirds came back warily to the general area.  The Peregrine started to walk around in the sand and from the way that it moved, it appeared to have a damaged leg or talon.  After about 5 minutes it took off and turned toward the water's edge, immediately scattering the gulls and shorebirds that had returned.  It took a bead on a particular Curlew and started after it, chasing it out over the sea where I lost track of both birds.  I wondered if it was the Curlew that was struck before.  Anyway, folks might keep their eyes out for this falcon--it may need to be picked up by a certified wildlife rehabilitation agency.  Slightly fuzzy photo of Peregrine is attached.

The rest of the walk was anti-climatic.  There was a nice mixed flock of gulls and pelicans on the sandspit but itwas spooked by the appearance of a dog, so I didn't get a good tally.  In it were about 30 Black Skimmers.  At the Mission Creek outfall/Lagoon, there were no terns, but the Skimmers came in and landed there, and on the banks of the lagoon were mixed flocks of gulls and shorebirds.  The gulls were mostly Western and Heerman's with a couple of California gulls mixed in; the shorebirds were 25 Willets, 22 Long-billed Curlew, and 5 Whimbrel.  Also in the gull flock was an interesting Glaucous-winged type gull--third year bird perhaps.

On the breakwater, I found only 2 Black Turnstones feeding and 1 resting breeding-plumaged Wandering Tattler.

Florence Sanchez