Date: 10/22/17 5:57 pm
From: Adam Dudley <adam.dudley...> [peninsula-birding] <peninsula-birding-noreply...>
Subject: [pen-bird] SAS field trip report: Lapland Longspur and other coastal delights
Hi everyone, today's Sequoia Audubon Society field trip tried something new - we combined birding and history by birding the Cowell-Purisima trail South of Half Moon Bay, and visiting the Purisima Old Town Site to satisfy our historical curiosities. Our experiment was a resounding success! Not only did we see some great birds, but we also learnt a lot about one of the earliest settlements on the San Mateo Coast. 

17 birders gathered at the Southernmost Cowell-Purisima trailhead at 8am this morning. We started the morning watching a large flock of tricolored and Brewer's blackbirds that were gathered around the parking lot. We then headed out along the trail, and almost immediately a very yellow PALM WARBLER flew over the group! A great start! Further along the trail we noted various species of sparrows (savannah, song, Lincoln's, White-crowned and golden-crowned), as well as a HUGE flock of American Pipits that were busy feeding in the field to the North.

Meanwhile, the first of 10 species of raptor that we saw today (a Northern Harrier) was spotted quartering this field, and it eventually flushed the pipit flock which flew over us en mass. As the flock passed, we heard the distinctive rattle of a LAPLAND LONGSPUR as it called twice while flying over us! Fantastic! We "stayed put" hoping the longspur would circle back into the field, but to no avail. However, the field to the North of the trail was literally hopping with birds - House Finches, American Goldfinches, and what we assumed was the same bright yellow PALM WARBLER that we saw earlier (potentially the Eastern subspecies that is bright yellow below). All were busy feeding on the ground and on various seeding plants. As we headed out towards the bluff, a large flock of CACKLING GEESE flew over, calling their high-pitched call, and the first Cooper's Hawk of the day was spotted on a fence post. To soon we realized that our time slot at the Purisima Old Town Site was coming up on us, so we headed back along the trail back towards the parking lot. But Cowell-Purisima hadn't finished with us just yet - a LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE delighted us as it perched on a wire over the trail, giving excellent views. What a fabulous place!

We then car-pooled over to the Purisma Old Town Site, where we had gained permission to enter along with our very own docent, Barbara Dye. For the next hour or so Barbara expertly guided us around the site, entertaining us with historical stories of the Old Town, its inhabitants and its buildings. We also saw some fantastic birds here, including 2 Merlins, a Hermit Thrush, several golden-crowned kinglets that joined their more common cousins, and most surprising of all, a BARN OWL that flushed from deep within an ivy-clad tree as we passed by. 

All too soon it was time to head back to the parking lot at the Cowell-Purisima trail. We spent the last few minutes of the field trip 'scoping the hills above Bob's pumpkin and vegetable stand, and our luck held out as we saw the FERRUGINOUS HAWK reported earlier this week by Leslie Flint in among several red-tailed hawks. What a fitting end to a fabulous morning on the coast!

Good birding,

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