“People often ask me how it is that I seem to be so much at peace. There is a primary reason — and it is available to all who wish to have it. Here’s a simple prerequisite to attaining peace at that level. I invite you to observe the beasts, birds and fish and let them teach you. Let this be a daily routine and life, as you know it, will never be the same.”
– Eddie Bo

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Day 224 - Ocean Beach Park, Lompoc

Today I began an overnight journey, with the goal of visiting Ocean Beach Park outside Lompoc.  This park is about 60 miles from my house, and has been generating good bird sightings all summer long - while I was away.  My main goal was to see the Least Terns here.  This is a species I have only seen once before, and never in Santa Barbara County.  They breed in this area and there have been up to 60 of them seen here over the summer.  However, it is getting late in the season and they could move on at any time.

The first portion of the ride, from home to Gaviota Pass, was uneventful and I even had a tailwind which was in opposition to the predicted winds from the west.  The next portion, from Gaviota to Lompoc, had a bit of a headwind but this was offset by the generally downhill topography.  The last 10 miles, from Lompoc to the beach, was more typical of my experience in the Lompoc area - very stiff headwind and most unpleasant.

About halfway to the beach I spotted a few sandpipers working the shallow water in a cement drainage channel.  Checking them out provided a good excuse to stop pedaling into the wind so stop I did.  I immediately noticed that one of the birds was significantly larger than the rest, which were Western Sandpipers.  The larger bird had a streaked upper breast in sharp contrast to white underparts, yellow legs, darkish crown, and bi-colored and slightly downcurved bill.  I consulted my field guide, and confirmed Pectoral Sandpiper.  This was a new bird for the year and a completely unexpected bonus, which made the remaining 5 miles into the wind much more bearable.

Pectoral Sandpiper

 Pectoral Sandpiper, with Western Sandpiper for size comparison

Immediately after arriving at the park I spotted a Northern Harrier working over the broad expanse of low plants.  This was a bird I had managed to miss closer to home earlier in the year, so it becomes #2 for the day, and a very nice start to my visit to Ocean Beach park.

Northern Harrier.  Possibly the worst photo ever?
At least you get the diagnostic pattern of the tail.

Along the entry road to the park there is a good area to watch shorebirds, though the water has been receding lately.  I did not find any new species here but did manage a decent photo of this Lesser Yellowlegs.

Lesser Yellowlegs

I made my way out to the beach where the Least Terns are most often seen.  Unfortunately there were none around to be seen.  Perhaps they have left for the season, or the stiff breeze kept them away.  There were some other interesting birds around, including an Osprey, a Mute Swan, several American Avocets, and some Short-billed Dowitchers.  The Dowitchers were kind enough to take off and give their "tu-tu-tu" call which is the most reliable way to distinguish them for the very similar-looking Long-billed Dowitcher.  That makes 3 new birds for the day.

I stayed around for a couple of hours hoping for a Least Tern sighting, but alas there were none to be seen.  I am unlikely to see one elsewhere this year - definitely a species I missed out on by being away for the summer.

The stiff wind made the ride back to Lompoc a breeze.

I couldn't get an ID on this one, seemed very stealthy.

Pied-billed Grebe, juvenile

After the addition of these 3 species, the year's total stands at 236.

Today I rode a total of 75.5 miles - longest ride of the year so far!

More later,

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