For July, Goleta Slough mouth, Atascadero Creek and More Mesa photos have been grouped together under Goleta Slough – which are actually included in the “Goleta Slough Ecosystem” (map here). While July is generally a slow month for birds, there have been a few highlights, the most interesting of which was the Reddish Egret at Goleta Slough mouth. The opportunity for a full-frame close-up never happened, but some pictures were taken on some of the few days it was in the area. Other birds of interest at this time, were a large flock of Long-billed Curlews, a couple Greater Yellowlegs, and a single Red-breasted Merganser, which continue at the slough mouth.
(Reddish Egret – Goleta Slough mouth – July 11, 2007)
On July 12th, on an early morning walk along Atascadero Creek near its confluence with Goleta Slough mouth, I came upon a young Great Blue Heron. The tall trees overlooking the north bank of Goleta Slough are used every year as a Great Blue Heron rookery. In the last few years, Great Egrets have used the vacated Great Blue Heron nests to raise their young. There are five Great Egret nests this year, and hopefully Great Egret fledglings will be seen in August. The trees along the Goleta Slough mouth are also used for roosting by Black-crowned Night Herons.
(Great Blue Heron, juvenile, Goleta Slough mouth, July 12, 2007 )
On July 25th, I drove down to Goleta Slough mouth at low tide at lunch-time, and as I got out of the car, I heard two hawks calling and making quite a noise. The sound was not the typical call of Red-tailed or Red-shouldered hawks. To get a closer view, I hurried along the low-tide-sand-bar to just below the tall trees on the north bank, around the top of which two young Red-tailed Hawks were circling. Shortly thereafter they disappeared behind the tall trees. The following lunch-time I walked at low tide along Atascadero Creek from the end of Ward Drive to Goleta Slough mouth at Goleta Beach Park and back — and heard the youngsters calling, but never saw them again. Lucky timing to have seen the youngsters — and thankfully the camera was set at just the right setting for decent pictures because there was no time to futz with exposure.
(Red-tailed Hawk, newly fledged, Goleta Slough mouth, July 25, 2007)
However, on the July 26th walk from Atascadero Creek, I did see a couple of Green Herons at the start of the walk near the stone crossing in the muddy islands created by the low tide. The birds were not close enough for any full-frame shots, and subsequent visits to that area (near the stone-crossing) were not any better for closer shots; in fact they seemed to be more skittish and flew into either the willows or the area above the stone-crossing. I wonder if they are two parents feeding chicks.
(Green Heron, Atascadero Creek near stone crossing, July 28, 2007)
On July 27th, while I was walking along the bike path along Atascadero Creek from the stone crossing in the opposite direction to south Patterson, I saw a hovering White-tailed Kite for a very brief period of time on the other side of the hedge, where agriculture fields are found. After hurriedly raising the camera, I was able to fire off just one shot before the kite dropped down. The following day, I went back to the area around the same time, 5pm, but saw no kites.
(White-tailed Kite, south Patterson ag fields, July 27, 2007)
More Mesa Birds
On July 24th, I took a brief a walk on the eastern side of More Mesa to photograph the ashes of the recent, very unusual fire. On the eastern end, two adult White-tailed Kites and a Loggerhead Shrike were seen.
(Loggerhead Shrike, More Mesa, July 24, 2007)
On July 29th, west More Mesa was visited from the furthermost west entrance near the horse corral. Birds of note seen in this area were an Ash-throated Flycatcher and Hooded Oriole. The walk was continued to central More Mesa and the cliffs, where Cliff Buckwheat is flowering very well. In most years at this time, these plants are covered in an assortment of bees, butterflies and other insects. This year, butterflies are scarce including the usually common Buckeye. Honeybees are present in fair numbers. The Loggerhead Shrike was seen again, and as I was leaving a Harrier was seen in the distance. The sighting was very confusing because the wings seemed much lighter than Harriers previously seen on More Mesa. From the behavior and size, it appeared to be a Harrier; from the coloring in the very late afternoon, a White-tailed Kite.
(Northern Harrier male, More Mesa, July 30, 2007)
On July 30th, More Mesa was visited again for a better photo of the Harrier – which put in a fast appearance while I was walking near the large central Oak. The visit of this male Northern Harrier (possibly youngster) is a rare occurrence in this area. The very overgrown east/west path to the western exit has not been used for a while because of the overgrowth, but I decided to return along this path. Most fortuitously, because a young White-tailed Kite was seen — this youngster would represent a second nesting for the “western” kites. The chick was perched in the large nesting tree on the west end that has been used many times by White-tailed Kites.
(White-tailed Kite youngster, west end of More Mesa, July 30, 2007)
On a walk late afternoon on More Mesa on July 31, no Harrier was seen. At central More Mesa, an Ash-throated Flycatcher was photographed. From the western side of the Eastern canyon, a pair of White-tailed Kites was seen perching on dried Fennel twigs, on the other side of the canyon close to the “Oak Hollow” area.
(Ash-throated Flycatcher, central More Mesa, July 31, 2007)
While I was walking back from the cliffs on one of the paths on the west end, two White-tailed adult kites were seen in the air: one southwest and the other northwest. I walked toward the path that overlooks the large nesting tree, and saw no chicks where one was seen yesterday. As I walked closer, the kite that was foraging over the northwest area, flew to an oak close to where I was walking. As I moved further west, so did the kite — which I assumed was watching where I was going — until I left More Mesa at the top west exit. I am guessing that there will be at least one fledgling from the western nesting tree in August.
(White-tailed Kite nesting tree, west end of More Mesa, July 31, 2007)