Date: 12/18/17 1:43 am
From: Kumaran Arul <karul2...>
Subject: [MBBIRDS] Santa Cruz CBC, section 10 Wilder Coastal report
Our Santa Cruz CBC group did Section 10, Wilder Coastal on Saturday, Dec 16 (from Wilder beach to Scaroni Rd. coastside of Hwy 1), with counters including Alexander Gaguine, Nelson Samuels, Alex Rinkert, Randy Wardle, Nick Levendosky, and Erika, Jeremy, Julian and Emma Arul. Many thanks to Wilder State Parks which grants us a permit each year to access the closed ‘study area’, including the Wilder bottomlands, willows and beach.

Best birds were PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER on Wilder Beach (found by Emma just below the overlook bench on Old Cove Landing Trail – possibly first winter record in county since 2003), (3) ANCIENT MURRELET (scoped by Alex) PARASITIC JAEGER (scoped just before sundown by Alex), GREATER WHITE FRONTED GOOSE and (3) CACKLING GEESE (found by Nelson and Alexander on fields at Baldwin Creek), BRANT (scoped by Alex), (2) BARN SWALLOWS and (2) TREE SWALLOWS (seen by my group over Wilder Beach) along with (3) SWALLOW sp over Baldwin, the “usual" (5) LEAST SANDPIPERS on Wilder Beach, and finally at night after the countdown dinner (where no BUOW were reported) (1-2) BURROWING OWLS on Ohlone Bluff trail along the coast at 9:30pm, count day (Julian with me). Other tough birds we got include a SWAMP SPARROW at 3 mile Beach (missed at Wilder and Baldwin), N.FULMAR, RHINO AUKLET (scoped by Alex), (4) BLUE WINGED TEAL at Baldwin creek ponds (by beach), the usual flock of AM WIGEON on the big reservoir at Baldwin, (3) BONAPARTE’S GULLS on the ocean, visible VIRGINIA RAIL and SORA at Baldwin Creek just before sundown after extensive playback (having missed them throughout the day), and (1) BARN and (3) GREAT HORNED OWLS just before sunrise at Wilder farm buildings. I believe we ended up with 116 species for the section – a good day.

The ‘story’ of the count for me this year was personal – the stars aligning to get all of my kids out birding, and furthermore that they turned out to be rather useful. Emma’s sharp eyes picked out the golden plover in a hard to see corner after I missed it with a couple of passes. And I have my eleven year old's naive persistence and optimism to ‘blame' for getting me out after the countdown dinner (and a very long day) to the cliffs of Wilder – in the dark, on bike – hoping for a Burrowing Owl. This was all because I casually suggested we might do such a thing if no BUOW was found on the count, never really grappling with that possibility. Of course, the kid clung to this idea, and immediately shot me a look when BUOW was called to a silent room. Thus I found myself bundled up, riding reluctantly into Wilder, headlamp beaming down the path. We flushed a number of sleeping Killdeer before reaching the coast and turning west along the Ohlone Bluff trail. Not long after, Julian yelled “owl", and we stopped, thrilled to catch a glimpse of a domed figure in the brush by the trail before it flew over the cliff edge. After creeping along for another 50 yards we spotted a (likely) second BUOW, obtaining great views of this bird as it stood on the trail staring at us, head turning side to side, eyes shining, before flying towards the fields. Julian was proud and vindicated, and I ended the day reflecting on the ways kids remind us all to keep being kids.

Many thanks to Eric for doing a great job leading the count, as well as all others involved with the countdown dinner (one of the best potlucks in my memory).
Kumaran Arul
Santa Cruz, CA

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