UCSB East Beach, Aug 27&28, 2007

Thanks to a posting about the Baird’s Sandpipers near Campus Point, I went to UCSB East Beach on Monday at 5pm in search of an up-till-now elusive photo of a Baird’s. The Monday walk was not successful in this regard (there were many walkers on the beach), but it was fun to watch the collection of mostly Elegant Terns at the beach. They were fishing up and down the East Beach waters seemingly undisturbed except for a few gulls trying to steal their fish catch. The Terns were very vocal and active.

Elegant Terns
(Elegant Terns – UCSB East Beach – August 28, 2007)

I returned on Tuesday between 4:45 and 5:45pm, in what turned out to be a more successful walk. After watching the Terns for a short while, I walked down toward the waterfall area of the beach, and came across a pair of birds that I had never seen before. They seemed very young and wary, and kept close to each other. (Later that evening when downloading the pictures, I discovered that they were juvenile Red Knots after referencing my “NG Birds of North America”.)

When I moved on after watching the Red Knots, the Baird’s were still nowhere to be seen. As I was walking back, I saw a flock of disturbed peeps fly past and land ahead of me. This time, dog disturbance worked in my favor; it was a mixed flock of Semipalmated Plovers and Baird’s Sandpipers. A combination of slow-creep and standing-and-watching allowed some reasonable close-up pictures of the juvenile Baird’s Sandpipers (there were at least two).

It seems that most of the pictures on this page include juveniles of the species, and two firsts for me: Baird’s Sandpipers and Red Knots.

Baird's Sandpiper
(Baird’s Sandpiper – UCSB East Beach – August 28, 2007)

Red Knots
(Red Knots – UCSB East Beach – August 28, 2007)

Black Turnstone
(Black Turnstone – UCSB East Beach – August 28, 2007)

Forster's Tern
(Forster’s Tern – UCSB East Beach – August 28, 2007)

Brown Pelican
(Brown Pelican – UCSB East Beach – August 28, 2007)

Devereux, Aug 22,24,25

On Wednesday morning August 22nd, I walked along the eastern edge of Devereux Slough, where birds can be closer and easier to photograph. Better pictures were obtained of Wilson’s Phalarope, Red-necked Phalarope and Lesser Yellowlegs. Early pictures from that morning were mostly black-and-white (monochome) in the thick fog, but the sun broke through at the end of the walk.

Wilson's Phalarope
(Wilson’s Phalarope – Devereux Slough – August 22, 2007)

Red-necked Phalarope
(Red-necked Phalarope – Devereux Slough – August 22, 2007)

Lesser Yellowlegs
(Lesser Yellowlegs- Devereux Slough – August 22, 2007)

Great Egret
(Great Egret – Devereux Slough – August 22, 2007)

(Phalaropes – Devereux Slough – August 22, 2007)

On Friday evening, August 24th, Callie Bowdish and I met at the northeastern corner of Devereux, and walked all the way around Devereux via Sand’s Beach. Returning along the western side, Callie spotted fourteen Avocet that we had not seen before walking to Sand’s Beach. These were seen from the northwestern bank of Devereux. On leaving this area, I spotted a number of Rough-winged Swallows perched on the top of the tallest (and least-leafy) Eucalyptus, one of the remaining trees in this area of current restoration. (I had seen Rough-winged Swallows in this area in 2006.) They appeared to be youngsters, and often took short flights around the area before returning to the same tree.

(Avocets, 14, – Devereux Slough – August 24, 2007)

On Saturday morning, August 25th, I stopped off at Devereux on the way to the nearby shopping center. There appeared to be just one remaining Avocet, fortunately on the eastern side – close and on the right side of the sun.

(Avocet – Devereux Slough – August 25, 2007)

What an amazing place — that should get more interesting as other birds continue to pass by or stop off for the winter.

GDevereux Slough
(Devereux Slough, northeastern side – August 24, 2007)

Devereux, Aug 12, 2007

I walked around west Devereux late Sunday afternoon to see the recently reported bird arrivals – and to continue on to Sands Beach to see the visiting Least Terns, that Callie reported.

(Devereux – August 12, 2007)

At the northwest corner of Devereux, a community of birds was very busy feeding, but the path was too far away for any good shots. Identified amongst the many birds were a great number of Egrets, many Black-bellied Plovers, probably Western and Least Sandpipers, Black-necked Stilts, the usual Black Phoebes and an Ash-throated Flycatcher (lots of Mallards). Further along the path toward the beach, many Phalarope were seen in the deeper water of the slough – Red-necked and reportedly Wilson’s. The seemingly ever-present Belted Kingfisher flew away from a hidden perch.

(Sand’s Beach – long line of peeps – August 12, 2007)

Sand’s Beach is really quite fabulous – where a large number of birds, big and tiny, share the beach with humans. The birds know that the area behind the rope lines is safe – and often perch at the edge where they can observe what is going on, retreat to safety (from humans) or make a dash to the sea. When I arrived at the beach, there was a long single-line of shorebirds extending from the roped-off safety haven to the sea. As people approached, the birds would retreat and then move forward again after people passed by. Eventually some walkers disturbed them into the air, and they landed further down the beach – see the sequence in the slideshow at the end of the post.

Least Tern
(Young Least Tern – August 12, 2007)

A number of Least Terns have brought their offspring to the beach to feed and school the youngsters in fishing. Callie Bowdish said on her website that there are 20-30 birds at Sand’s Beach. I used my new portable stool and sat and watched them for about 10 minutes, and took a few pictures – photos in slideshow.

Least Tern
(Adult Least Tern – August 12, 2007)

As usual, there were numbers of Snowy Plovers (it is a very successful breeding site despite daily use of the beach by humans), and a few new arrivals of Semipalmated Plovers, Whimbrels and Sanderlings, many with breeding plumage.

Snowy Plover
(Snowy Plover – August 12, 2007)

On the walk back along the western side of Devereux again, plumes of Pyrocumulonimbus clouds from the Zaca fire were seen above Camino Cielo. Marc Kummel, who lives on East Camino Cielo, did some research on these clouds and wrote up about them on this page.

Zaca fire
(Pyrocumulonimbus clouds from Zaca fire – August 12, 2007)

Close to 6:30pm in the evening, many swallows and a handful of Great-tailed Grackle were perched along the overhead wires along the north end of Devereux slough. One of them appeared to be a very young Tree Swallow with fluffy feathers.

Young Tree Swallow
(Young Tree Swallow – August 12, 2007)

Goleta Slough Birds, July 2007

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
(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
(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.

Newly fledged Red-tailed Hawk
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(White-tailed Kite nesting tree, west end of More Mesa, July 31, 2007)