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Piedras Blancas 2003 -- 23-29Mar (week 2 of 11)

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  • Pterodroma@aol.com
    Piedras Blancas Gray Whale cow/calf survey Week 2 of 11 -- 23-29 March 2003 This week was pretty quiet on the bird front. Weather was reasonably normal early
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7, 2003
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      Piedras Blancas Gray Whale cow/calf survey
      Week 2 of 11 -- 23-29 March 2003

      This week was pretty quiet on the bird front. Weather was reasonably normal
      early on but turned ugly on Wednesday and Thursday after the passage of that
      benign and rainless but wickedly windy cold front early Wednesday morning.
      Friday featured a strong offshore blowing Santa Anna during the morning which
      melted away by noon and carried no spring passerine migrants to the coast.
      Saturday was just plain sunny, warm, and gorgeous.

      As the offshore phase 1 Alaska-bound migrant gray whales (adult males &
      juveniles) continues to wind down, we had our first cow/calf pair of the
      season on Thursday (3/27). Two more cow/calf pair were seen on Saturday
      (3/29), so we're off and running now until the end of May. A pair of
      northbound Blue Whales were seen about 1 mile off the 'Point' on Friday
      (3/28) which were way early and our first ever for the month of March.

      Coastal seabird migrants have been slow all week but were beginning to build
      by weeks end with Red-throated Loons dominating the scene in steady but low
      numbers (low hundreds) and often passing in loose packs of up to 30. The
      first hinting signs of Pacific Loon movements were noted on Saturday (3/29)
      with a few dozen sprinkled here and there. Those numbers should grow rapidly
      in the coming few weeks with daily morning flights numbering 15 - 40,000+ on
      any given morning in mid April.

      Strings of Brant (~500) and Surf Scoters (several hundreds) are increasing
      but the latter still seem low for this late in March. A single SNOW GOOSE
      winging north just above eye level following the coastal cliffs around the
      'Point' late in the day on Friday (3/28) was a startling surprise.

      Tubenose seabirds are exceedingly scarce. With the exception of 2
      Black-vented Shearwaters seen on Saturday (3/29), there have been no
      sightings since the 600 or so reported last week back on 3/20. There have
      been no albatross sightings at all and only one lonely Sooty Shearwater this
      week on Saturday (3/29) -- all this negative data despite some pretty brutal
      onshore gales both last week and this one.

      Eruptive wintering seabird species including Black-legged Kittiwakes and
      Ancient Murrelets simply don't seem to be around at all this Spring. I have
      seen absolutely none of either. Northbound Common Murres and Rhinoceros
      Auklets are running at average levels with a few of each every morning.

      The Piedras Blancas Peregrines still do not appear to be doing anything
      constructive. Some days I don't even see or hear them at all. They
      certainly are not nesting (yet) in either one of the two nest cavities on the
      south side of the Outer Islet like they normally should be doing by now. I
      don't know whether the native vegetative restoration work going on around
      here and on the west point has chased them away (I tend to think not), or
      whether the huge seas a month or so ago which literally washed over the lower
      shelves with spray showering over the top of that 110' high rock (the
      pictures are unbelievable!) dissuaded them from the traditional sites.

      The feeders around the back yard continue going full bore with Fox and
      Golden-crowned Sparrows among the usual hordes of local resident House
      Finches and White-crowned Sparrows, American Goldfinches, and Brewer's and
      Red-winged Blackbirds. The hummingbird feeders remain well attended with
      resident Anna's and Allen's, with a few migrant Rufous around everyday but
      nothing compared to the swarms that frequent this area in some years.

      Gray Whale sightings:
      cow/calf pairs----- 3
      adult/juveniles---- 192
      other species----- Blue Whale, Common Dolphin (sp?), Bottlenose Dolphin
      effort hours -------- 53.3 offshore (out of a possible 66.0)
      56.7 inshore (out of a possible 66.0)

      Richard Rowlett
      Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

      "Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what
      nobody has thought" --Albert Szent-Gyorgi (1893-1986).
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