Santa Ynez River Estuary July 28

Florence Sanchez

I went to the estuary this morning, arriving shortly before low tide.  Soon after, I was joined by John Deacon and Peter Schneekloth.  There were not a lot of shorebirds around, but the diversity of what we saw was pretty good:  Kildeer, Snowy Plovers, Semi-palmated Plovers, Greater Yellowlegs, Willets, Long-billed Curlew, Dowitcher sp. (too distant and silent to identify further), Western Sandpiper (the most abundant Peep), Sanderlings, and Least Sandpiper.  In with the Western Sandpipers was a fresh-plumaged juvenile.

The Heron family was also well-represented with Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egrets, and the continuing juvenile Reddish Egret.  The latter was in good view most of the time.  In the water, we had Pied-billed Grebes and an assortment of ducks well up the channel that all appeared to be Mallards.  There were about 20 Least Terns resting on the mid along with about a half a dozen Caspian Terns further up.  After a bit, 2 Elegant Terns flew in.

We also watched for a time an Osprey, who had caught a fish and was eviscerating, then eatin git.  First he perched on the trestle to do the job; then flew with it to a snag out in the mud island where he continued slowly eating it, with long pauses between bites.

After about an hour, I decided to go up to Surf Station to try a sea watch.  Though it was still pretty overcast, there was visibility out at least 4 miles.  I didn't find a lot of birds out there but it was interesting.  Closest to shore I had 2 Common Loons and a male Surf Scoter.  3 Bottlenose dolphins were swimming near the Scoter.  Eventually the Loons moved further offshore and in scanning them, I found an alcid behind them.  It was hard to get it in perfect focus at high power and I went back and forth in my mind between Common Murre and Pigeon Guillemot before eventually deciding it was the latter.  Even further out were a few Shearwaters.  The rapid wingbeats and short glides indicated they were Black-vented.

After about an hour of sea watching, I returned to the Estuary before heading  home and found things much the same.  The osprey was still polishing off what was left of its fish.

Florence Sanchez