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Red-hot Egrets: Bolsa Chica trip report, 8 October, 2016

October 12, 2016
Green Heron (J. Waterman 10-8-16)

Green Heron  (J. Waterman 10-8-16)

Contrary to widespread expectation, the weather was simply lovely, sunny with a nice breeze at Bolsa Chica. Only 6 of us were there to enjoy a very rich scene.  The birds were in fine form, diving for fish, which in turn were jumping all over the place. An unusual sight were White Pelicans in the harbor who have no need for the kamikaze dives of their brown brethren, but placidly swim around, scooping up what they need into their shopping bag bills.

Forster's Tern (J Waterman 10-8-16)

Forster’s Tern  (J. Waterman 10-8-16)

There were shore birds galore, occasioning discussions of the distinctive qualities of Greater versus Lesser Yellowlegs ( we saw 2 Greater). A fine, elegant bird, if you ask me.  Many Royal and Caspian Terns were swooping and diving.  The Savannah Sparrows were creeping in the low growth by the trail, occasioning more discussions about the field marks of the Belding’s Sparrow.

Long-billed Curlew (J. Waterman 10-8-16)

Long-billed Curlew  (J. Waterman 10-8-16)

We had a great opportunity to see Least and Western Sandpipers side by side. Egrets and herons did not disappoint.  Snowy Egrets were almost too numerous to count, and were quite talkative; one time one landed close and squawked at me (that might have been a “hello” but who knows).

Reddish Egret (J. Waterman 10-8-16)

Reddish Egret  (J. Waterman 10-8-16)

Bolsa Chica is an Ecological Reserve in Orange County, separated from the beach by Pacific Coast Highway. We looked for the Ridgway’s Rail we saw last year but had no luck, although some other people had seen one earlier.

White Pelican (J. Waterman 10-8-16)

White Pelican  (J. Waterman 10-8-16)

Great Blue Herons strutted around, a Green Heron was spied, as were 2 juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron and our target bird, the Reddish Egret, was represented by 4 individuals, one of whom did a lovely dance.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (J. Waterman 10-8-16)

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (J. Waterman 10-8-16)

A magnificent aerial display by a Says Phoebe, chasing what must have been an obstinate insect, impressed me greatly. An Osprey, American Kestrel (Chris Lord corrected from the opinion of a Peregrine Falcon) and a Red-tailed Hawk comprised the raptors. Once again we saw some  Dowitchers bringing up the old question “Short-billed or Long-billed?” (we concluded short-billed), Willets, and Savannah Sparrows (Belding’s).

Savannah Sparrow Adult (beldingi)—darkest subspecies, found in coastal marshes of SoCal (J. Waterman 10-8-16)

Savannah Sparrow adult (beldingi)—darkest subspecies, found in coastal marshes of SoCal  (J. Waterman 10-8-16)

American Wigeon 50
Blue-winged Teal 12
Northern Pintail 8
Ruddy Duck 12
Pied-billed Grebe 7
Horned Grebe 2
Eared Grebe 12
Western Grebe 1
Double-crested Cormorant 45
American White Pelican 11
Brown Pelican 5
Great Blue Heron 10
Great Egret 3
Snowy Egret 30
Reddish Egret 4
Green Heron 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 2
Osprey 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Coot 3
Black-bellied Plover 40
Semipalmated Plover 2
Killdeer 8
Greater Yellowlegs 3
Willet 30
Long-billed Curlew 10
Marbled Godwit 14
Ruddy Turnstone 2
Sanderling 1
Least Sandpiper 12
Western Sandpiper 6
Short-billed Dowitcher 7
Ring-billed Gull 1
Western Gull 12
California Gull 6
Forster’s Tern 18
Royal Tern 12
Rock Pigeon 4
Anna’s Hummingbird 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
American Kestrel 1
Black Phoebe 2
Say’s Phoebe 2
American Crow 2
Barn Swallow 15
Bushtit 10
California Gnatcatcher 2
European Starling H
Yellow-rumped Warbler 3
California Towhee 1
Savannah Sparrow 7
Song Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow H
Western Meadowlark 1
House Finch 15

It took a bit of walking to find the ducks, but we were rewarded by Northern Pintails, Blue Winged Teals and American Wigeons.  A California Gnatcatcher skulked in the bushes. The only disappointment: not a single rail.  We hope for a correction of this lack next year.
[Liz Galton]

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