Santa Maria Area

Florence Sanchez

I decided to check out various spots in Santa Maria today.  It was foggy and a bit misty to start but the ceiling lifted eventually and there was no wind.

My first stop was Jack O-Connell Park in Guadalupe.  The Park was quiet, but only shorebirds there were 3 Kildeer.  There is water in the old water treatment plant next door, but it didn't have any ducks or shorebirds in it, though 2 Least Sandpipers flew over.  After checking out a few ag fields, I went down to the Guadalupe  dunes and the Santa Maria River mouth.  A few ducks--Nothing of note in the river.  Least Terns were flying over the south part of the beach and estuary.

Heading up the beach, I could see there was a HUGE flock of Brown Pelicans roosting on the sand between the estuary mouth and the ocean (like 1000+ birds).  With them were 9 White Pelicans and more than 100 Heerman's gulls, with a few Western and California Gulls mixed in.  Also in the flock were 4 Caspian Terns, one of them a juvenile.  There were few shorebirds on the beach--1 Long-billed Curlew, 3 Snowy Plover outside the exclosure, and a fly-over of 2 Black-bellied Plovers.  There were 2 Bottlenose Dolphins in the surf.  After I got past the roped-off area and the pelican flock, I was able to get to the estuary mouth and see what was there.  The waterfowl were Mallards, Ruddies, and Coots, with a few Double-crested Cormorants mixed in.  The best birds were 3 Eared Grebes in breeding plumage at thte SLO County end of the estuary.  Shorebirds here were a few Black-necked Stilts and a good-sized flock of Red-necked Phalaropes.

I drove a few roads through the ag fields for a bit, looking for any flooded fields that might yield shorebirds, but had no success.  Our previously productive field near Black and Betteravia Roads had a tiny bit of water and mud at its lowest point, but no activity.  In addition, they are taking out some earth from some project at the far end of the field and dumping it near the road.  Not a good omen for winter here activity here.

My final stop was Ocean Beach Park in Lompoc.  There were at least 100 Peep at the water's edge of the far end of the blocked river mouth, but it was very hard to identify them from that distance, even with my scope cranked up.  I needed to be at least 100 yards closer, and that is not allowed at this time of year.  There definitely were a lot of Western Sandpipers--many juveniles with their rusty scapulars evident even at a distance.  I had one Least Sandpiper for sure in the mix and a possible candidate for Semi-palmated Sandpiper, but I was just a little too far away to be sure.  There were about a dozen Sanderlings there too, a few with their nice rusty breeding attire still in evidence.  In another spot, there were 6 Dowitchers feeding (sp. unknown) and an equal amount of Black-bellied Plovers.  Closer in at the edge of the reeds, I found 5 Greater-Yellowlegs.  No other large shorebirds present, and nothing of great interest swimming in the river mouth.

Florence Sanchez