I had big hopes and plans for my one day of birding around Santa Maria, Guadalupe, and Orcutt. I had a list of places to go and birds to see.
I had strategically chosen my hotel to be close to Jim May Park. This is where a Common Gallinule had been seen recently. However there were no reports from the last few days so I was hoping it had not left. I departed the hotel as daylight was arriving and was at the park in short order. I was concerned for nothing, for within about 2 minutes after arriving at the park I was looking at the Gallinule. Common Gallinule joins the list at #272!
I searched around the park for a bit then headed out to my next stop, Jack O'Connell Park in Guadalupe. I was hoping for perhaps a Golden Plover, which can sometimes be found here this time of year. I did not find any Golden Plovers, but counted an amazing 123 Wilson's Snipes foraging in the grass. This is about 50 times more than all the Wilson's Snipes I have ever seen before. They are odd-looking with their long bills but have quite handsome markings.
After the Snipe-fest it was off to the next stop - Guadalupe Dunes Park. Here I quickly found the expected American White Pelicans for Bird #273!
American White Pelican
I had to search awhile through the massive gathering of ducks in the estuary to locate my next target bird, the Canvasback. There were at least a couple but they were waaay out there. A scope would have been helpful but I did manage a loch ness style photo to document the event. Canvasback for #274!
While I was returning back to my bike a Phalarope landed on the shore of the estuary not far away. It had some oil on it, which is likely the reason it came ashore. At first I thought it was a Red-necked Phalarope, which I have already seen this year. Upon closer examination I began to suspect it was actually a Red Phalarope, which would be a new bird for the year. I took a pile of photos, checked my references, and got confirmation from local experts that it was indeed a Red Phalarope. This unexpected bonus bird joins the list at # 275!
Red Phalarope (Oiled)
As I was leaving the park and headed back towards the town of Guadalupe to search for lunch I stopped to try and get some photos of a Vermilion Flycatcher. I had seen this bird on the way out to the dunes but it had been camera-shy. It was still not being cooperative in the least. While waiting for it to reappear I looked up and saw a couple of hawks soaring overhead. In this part of the world it seems at least 99% of the soaring hawks you see are Red-tailed Hawks. It's always worth checking them out because you never know. In this case it was definitely worth checking, because it turns out one of them was a Ferruginous Hawk. I was hoping to see one on this trip but did not expect it would be so easy. Generally, taking photos of soaring hawks is above my pay grade but I did manage a couple photos that show the ID of this very handsome hawk. Ferruginous Hawk for bird #276!
This was quite amazing - it was not even lunchtime and I had added 5 birds to the year's total! Plus, it was a pleasant sunny day, the terrain was flat and the wind, if any, always seemed to be behind me. How could things get any better? Well, I found a nice little restaurant in Guadalupe that served food from Louisiana - one of my favorite cuisines.
After a great lunch I headed down Highway 1 towards Orcutt. I was looking for a Prairie Falcon but there were none to be found. The ride was quite nice though. Next I went over to Waller Park hoping to find a Snow Goose. There was one that lived there for quite awhile but it appears to be gone now. All the geese were strictly domestic and there was no Snow Goose for me today. There were a number of interesting birds to be found in the park, including a couple of Varied Thrushes and a Yellow-shafted type of Northern Flicker. These Flickers are more typically found back east and are quite unusual in our area.
Some photos from Waller Park:
Fox Sparrow (Sooty)
(Perhaps getting ready to try out for the circus, balancing that acorn)
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)
I left the park as the light was beginning to fade. A great day with the birds in the Santa Maria area and a big boost for the Green Big Year!
After the addition of these 5 species, the year's total stands at 276
The Score: Vermont 266, Green Big Year 276
Today I rode a total of 44.1 miles