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Piedras Blancas 2003 -- 18-22Mar (week 1 of 11)

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  • Pterodroma@aol.com
    Piedras Blancas Gray Whale cow/calf survey Week 1 of 11 -- 18-22 March 2003 We got off to a pretty rocky start this our 10th season at the Piedras Blancas
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7, 2003
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      Piedras Blancas Gray Whale cow/calf survey
      Week 1 of 11 -- 18-22 March 2003

      We got off to a pretty rocky start this our 10th season at the Piedras
      Blancas Lighthouse site. Wretched gales on Monday and less wretched gales on
      Tuesday abbreviated our days. Phase 1 (ad/juv) Alaska-bound whale migration
      is already showing signs of slowing. We don't come here for those anyway so
      don't really care. We are here to observe and assess calf production during
      the winter calving season in the Baja lagoons. San Luis Obispo County's very
      own Point Piedras Blancas in the Spring is the best location anywhere along
      the entire 2400 mile migration route between Baja and northern Alaska to
      conduct these surveys since every single last one of those little babies pass
      the 'Point' at just 200 meters starting about April 1st. The fringe benefit
      just for my own entertainment / amusement and keeping me attentive, Piedras
      Blancas is the California capitol of all coastal viewing sites for witnessing
      and experiencing the entire season spectacle from start to finish with the
      dazzling to often hypnotic northbound coastal seabird migration which zips by
      so nearshore each Spring.

      Week One was pretty normal and in keeping with previous seasons. Nothing
      much is happening yet. There is a slow steady trickle of Red-throated Loons
      while Pacific Loons (the real show stopper) and Common Loons haven't really
      started at all. Surf Scoters and Brant haven't really gotten going either
      but will be coming along in force soon. This week saw only two flocks of
      Brant (total ~60 birds).

      The most interesting morning was Thursday (3/20) with about 600 BLACK-VENTED
      SHEARWATERS streaming by between about 0630-0800hrs, all heading north along
      the color/upwelling line about a mile out. Most were in the steady trickle
      containing loose little packs of 10-15 birds each. Some years, they are out
      there in small numbers (mostly in March), while in other years I won't see
      them at all. Also a 'flock' or string of 18 scaup (14 Lesser & 4 Greater)
      were leading a string of 10 Surf Scoters. Notable only in that I've never
      seen a "flock" of scaup here before. Usually it's just the occasional one or
      two that just happen by at some moment when I happen to be looking.

      The back yard feeding stations are going full tilt now utilizing the picnic
      table and a ground station outside my bedroom window. So far, all the
      ravenous takers are only the usual cast of characters, House Finches,
      Brewer's & Red-winged Blackbirds, and White-crowned Sparrows. The three
      hanging thistle bag feeders are already being well attended by American
      Goldfinches. It's quite the cacophony of bird song around here early in the
      morning just as the sun is cresting the Santa Lucias and within seconds after
      putting out their breakfast.

      Six hummingbird feeders up are keeping those little buggers happy and well
      Only a few Rufous Hummers are being seen and it's not looking like 2003 is
      going to be a very good year here for them as they must be following a more
      inland route. In some years, the place swarms with dozens at any one time.
      Others are more like this one. An adult male Anna's showed up on Thursday
      (3/20), likely here only on a mating run. Mate, then dash back across the
      road and over the hills to more sunny warm flowery climes leaving the females
      to do everything else in this Alaskan Aleutian like place stuck on the outer
      coastal edge of California.

      I'm not sure what our resident pair of Peregrines are up to. They are around
      the outer rock on the west point and the lighthouse but I haven't been seeing
      or hearing much from them yet. I've seen them coming back to the nesting
      rock a couple times with unidentified prey items, one a small shorebird and
      the other something fairly large and black, maybe an oystercatcher or a
      scoter. I would be surprised if it were an oystercatcher since the two seem
      to have had in the past some sort of arrangement to leave each other alone.

      Gray Whale sightings:
      cow/calf pairs----- 0
      adult/juveniles---- 179
      other species----- none
      effort hours -------- 55.2

      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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