After a great night's sleep and a Denny's breakfast, we headed south a bit to Oceana Dunes, a combined facilty, nature center, campground with trails. As we arrived so did Joanna Iwanicha, an environmental scientist with the state's Dept of Parks and Recreation, who answered some logistic questions about parking. I told her about our big year and she said the Snowy Plovers were her responsibility and she had seen over 80 birds on the beach yesterday. At that point it began to rain so out came the raingear. We started our little walk around the willowy water edge, but hadn't gone far when we ran into a small group of Chestnut-backed Chickadees, our quarry for the walk (web photo). We also had a couple of singing Purple Finches, a bird that hasn't been easy this winter back in Virginia. At that point we decided to go to the beach and look for the plovers. It couldn't have been easier. Right where they were supposed to be were 28 Snowy Plovers (web photo). Although not the flock of 80, we were certainly satisfied. We also studied a gull that appeared to be an adult Thayer's Gull, but the underwings weren't quite right and the bill seemed too big. I hadn't brought the camera since it was raining or I'd post its picture for all of you to study.
From there we went up to the cliffs above Shell Beach where we looked for rockpipers. It was high tide, meaning that the waves were crashing against the rock and completely covering the usual feeding areas so the birds would be roosting, waiting for the tide to go out. However, with careful searching we found several Black Turnstones, Black Oystercatchers, and a few Surfbirds. No Wandering Tattlers, so we'll have to keep looking for them. Lots of nice looks at Brandt's, Pelagic, and Double-crested Cormorants, all in breeding plumage. Well above the hills to the North were two Red-tailed Hawks mating in mid-hover. Never seen that before. In the water were many Sea Otters, including one pup resting on its mother. A Harbor Seal also put in an appearance.
We turned south to pick up the Cuyama River Valley that crosses the Sierra Madre Mts. Along the way we stopped at a wet patch where Cinnamon Teal and American Coots were joined by a bunch of Wilson Snipes. Three swallow species (Tree, Northern Rough-winged, and Violet-Green) were flying around over the water. The road dropped us at the south end of the Carizzo Plains where a Ferruginous Hawk (photo) flew in and landed in a tree at the edge of the road. From there we turned onto the road up to Mt. Pinos, where in 1985 my California trip group watched the last of the wild California Condors fly by. No condor today. In fact it was a bit of a struggle since winter has not left the mountains here yet. We did see White-breasted Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees, Steller's Jays, and another White-headed Woodpecker. As we tried to ascend the mountain, snow began to fall. It turned to sleet during the descent, so we got a motel at I-5, had a Mexican meal, and relaxed. Tomorrow we will try for a couple of birds in LA on our way to San Diego. My total for the year is now 386 species.