Mendocino Coast October 5, 6 & 7th.
- Thursday October 5th; I birded Usal in the morning and along the coast (Highway 1) to Ft Bragg during the afternoon. The day was overcast with occasional rain showers.
At Usal there was little wind and a lot of bird activity.On the north slope I found a Clay-colored Sparrow that ended up flying out to the beach with a couple of Savannah Sparrows. At the west campsites (wooded sites next to the grasslands) I found an active early morning flock which had an immature Black-and-white Warbler. A little later in the morning I came across a huge mixed flock on the road just south of the bridge that I stayed with for well over an hour. There were large numbers of Ruby-crowned Kinglets in all of the flocks I saw on the day. Another immature Black-and-white Warbler was in this flock along with 2 Black-throated Gray Warblers, 5 or 6 Yellow Warblers, a Wilson's Warbler, 1 Warbling Vireo, a Pacific-slope Flycatcher and an immature Hermit Warbler which was new for Usal for me. Back at the west campsites I found a Nashville Warbler which was also new.
On the drive out I stopped at the pullout/overlook above Usal and saw two very late Western Wood-Pewees competing for perching sites on the tops of the conifers.
I continued birding along the coast (Highway 1) which was very active even in the early to mid-afternoon. At milepost 81.25 on the east side of the road there is a Cal Trans property where they keep materials such as sand, gravel and on this day brush piles. There were large numbers of sparrows and with them was a Palm Warbler. I ended up @ 11 warblers on the day with 10 seen at Usal.
Friday October 6th; started out birding the south coast on a somewhat overcast day again with little wind. A very slow day birdwise. I did not even hear a chickadee until I got to the Navarro. On Miner Hole Road there were 2 or 3 Yellow Warbers. At Duxbury Road there was a Northern Mockingbird. Along the Navarro there were 2 Black-throated Gray Warblers. Also here were about 600 Brown Pelicans. On the day I estimate seeing a total of 1000 Brown Pelicans. Early afternoon I walked the train tracks but had no luck on locating the vagrants found the day before. Congratulations to Toby, Karen and Jim on those birds. The Black-throated Blue Warbler found by Jim was the second county record.
Saturday October 7th; back out at Usal on a clear cool day, but again very little wind. The numbers and diversity of birds were way down as compared to Thursday. However, the first thing in the morning I found 2 Swamp Sparrows moving back and forth between the grasslands and the coastal scrub on the north slope, another new rarity for Usal. About an hour later in a mixed flock I had an excellent close look at an immature Chestnut-sided Warbler in the campground area northeast of the bridge. Other additions to my Usal list were Red-winged Blackbird and Pine Siskin.
For the 5 trips made to Usal this fall I recorded a total of 5 vagrant warblers;Blackburnian,Tennessee, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, and Black-and-white (add Blackpoll and Palm found by others=7 at Usal) plus Clay-colored Sparrows on 4 trips and the Swamp Sparrows on Saturday. Last year I was out there 3 times and had American Redstart, Black-and-white and a White-throated Sparrow. This was probably an exceptional year (it has been a very good year for vagrants up and down the coast) but I think it is safe to say that Usal is one of the best locations to look for rarities in Mendocino County.
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