This morning I headed out to Goleta hoping to track down some birds. I had not been out on a "full day" (leave the house about 6:30, return early afternoon) outing for about a week. I was eager to get out there. People continue to report some interesting birds in the area, and I was looking to catch up with some of them.
On my "to-do" list today was Green Heron at Goleta Beach, Loggerhead Shrike at UCSB, and Cinnamon Teal from one of two spots in Goleta.
I arrived at Goleta beach to a very high tide. There were a good number of birds about, unfortunately I could not find any that I had not already seen this year. I was specifically looking for a Green Heron, which I have seen here a number of times in the past. It would be nice to get this bird onto the list. They are not super rare but can be hard to come by, making it a happy experience each time I find one. I could not find one to make me happy today.
I next headed over to the UCSB Lagoon. On the "Island" portion there have been numerous reports of a Loggerhead Shrike. In fact, I have seen one here in the past. Although there were many birds around, try as I might I could not locate a Shrike. They are predators and tend to sit in exposed places, such as on top of a bush, looking for prey. This habit makes them pretty easy to spot.
Scanning the tops of the bushes I saw numerous Song Sparrows singing. They are announcing their territory, and hoping to attract a hottie female to breed with. One other nice bird I found on top of a bush was a California Thrasher. It was kind enough to pose for photos.
One other consolation prize was seeing an Orchard Oriole in the same tree where I had found 2 last week - presumably one of the same ones. I managed one OK photo, which was one more than I could last week.
After striking out on the Shrike, I headed across campus to survey the Goleta Slough "Area K" which is a wetland that lies between the campus and the airport. This is one of the spots where Cinnamon Teal was recently reported. I scanned through the hundreds of ducks for a few minutes before spotting the rich rusty brown color of a male Cinnamon Teal. Score! This is one handsome duck. Unfortunately it was too far away for a photo, so I will include for your viewing pleasure one I took in Santa Barbara about 2 years ago.
Cinnamon Teal - Jan 2013 Santa Barbara
After grabbing a bite to eat, I started the trek towards home. It always amazes me how quickly these mornings pass. I decided to head down the North side of the airport. This is an open brushy area, perhaps I could find my Shrike yet. As I was pedaling along I was surprised to find another pair of Cinnamon Teal in a very shallow body of water between the road and the airport. They melted into the vegetation before I could get a decent photo.
I continued along, scanning the tops of bushes and the power lines for a possible Shrike. All I saw was Mockingbirds and Pigeons. But then a bird on the wire caught my eye. Just then it dropped down into the grass and then returned up to the wire - very predator-like behavior. I got a little closer, and sure enough it was a Shrike! And it polite enough to pose for photos.
I have not yet mentioned my favorite part about Shrike behavior. Often after capturing its prey (insect, rodent, small bird), the Shrike will impale it on a sharp object such a branch or fence. A couple of weeks ago in Florida I found a grasshopper that had met this fate.
Grasshopper, impaled by a Shrike. Viera Florida Jan 2015
All in all an enjoyable morning outing!
After the addition of today's 2 species, the year's total stands at 163.