At 9:59am today (May 11), on the Shoshonean Road hillside adjoining Fort
MacArthur, just west of the Cabrillo Youth Camp entrance gate, I heard a
Yellow-breasted Chat sing on and off until 10:06am. Judging from
the sound, he was at the top of the hillside, occasionally moving from
bush to bush (approx. 33.71620°N,118.28580°W).
Last I checked, May 7, the Phainopeplas continued at the Greg Smith
Conifer Grove at Angels Gate Park. That afternoon there were two males.
One sang at 5:32pm; I first noticed two at 6:43pm, and they were both
still there at 7:42pm, then at least one of them flew away. They were
there for much of the time I was observing, calling often, and I heard a
call type from one of them I hadn't heard before (but mostly they were
just doing the standard call). There was also a Townsend's Warbler,
Pacific-slope Flycatcher, and Lazuli Bunting.
My first-of-season (and first of year) sighting of Black Skimmers
occurred on March 5, when I saw 9 BLSK on the inner shore of Cabrillo
Beach. Three days later I saw 10 BLSK as they flew away from there. On
March 11 there were 49 BLSK on the inner shore.
BLSK were showing up fairly erratically this spring; some days there were
none, some days as many as 49 (as happened on March 11). On April 23,
there were 44+ BLSK, of which four were banded. It turned out that three
of these were from Chula Vista (two aged almost 5, and one almost
Lately BLSKs have been present here with greater reliability, and this
morning (May 11) there were 62 Black Skimmers , the most I've seen
in the Cabrillo Beach area in almost four years (since there were 187+
BLSK on Jun 17, 2014), of which at least 5 were banded; one of these
turns out to be almost 16 years old and from Seal Beach / Bolsa Chica
(and another one or two were the same individuals from Chula
There has been much more Bonaparte's Gull (BOGU) activity* at Cabrillo
Beach than any previous year since I started birding (2006). This spring,
large numbers of them have been spending tons of time at both the outer
Cabrillo Beach shore (outer beach) and the Cabrillo Youth Camp (scout
camp) shore, and have been spending lots of time hunting around the kelp
(when on the outer beach, mostly Talitridae sandhoppers, I think,
and the occasional fly). They're almost all hatch-year individuals
(mostly in nonbreeding plumage), but a few are in close to full breeding
plumage. On May 2 there were as many as 24 on the outer beach, and for
large parts of the day close to that number. It's been a great
opportunity to see their frenetic style of on-land hunting (much faster
than any other gull I've seen, with Ring-billed being the runner-up), and
to hear a great variety of their calls. While hunting, some of them have
been fiercely defending their patch of kelp territory; in particular, two
slightly-breeding-plumage hatch-year individuals have chased other BOGUs
away dozens of times during the hours I've watched and videoed them.
They're also often on the outer beach rather late; on May 3 there were 24
on the shore at 7:58pm before flying away, and on May 9 there were 29 on
the water at 8:05pm before flying away.
* by "activity" I mean a combination of behaviors, numbers, and
time spent, not just sheer numbers.
This year this was foreshadowed when there was 1 BOGU on the scout camp
shore on April 1-3, when 15+ BOGU flew by Cabrillo Beach on April 6 at
2:23pm, and when there were 31 BOGU at the scout camp shore on April 11
at 4:33pm (one of which was in full breeding plumage, but sadly, oiled on
its left leg). The newness of it became clear when I saw 14 BOGU all
foraging on the outer beach on April 22 at 9:49am.
In previous years, BOGUs have often been at the scout camp shore, but
usually fewer in number, and rarely on the Cabrillo Beach shores. (On Apr
3, 2016 there were 96 of them at the scout camp, but usually there're far
fewer than that
on the order of a dozen or so or less
and in any
case, they usually aren't foraging when they're there.) On Nov 3, 2007 I
saw one frenetically catching flies (mostly in midair) while running
along the outer Cabrillo Beach shore, which was quite unusual to see.
Last year, 2017, two were hanging out at the scout camp shore for an
extended period of time, and I got to see them shift from
close-to-breeding-plumage to full-breeding-plumage, and often even forage
there. And of course, on pelagic trips often hundreds of them can be
seen. But the show the BOGUs have been putting on this year at Cabrillo
Beach is something different, and has been quite a treat to see.
Yesterday (May 10) there were 95 Bonaparte's Gulls at 3:10pm on
the Cabrillo Youth Camp shore (almost a record-breaker) after a gradual
build-up (there were just 63 BOGU at 12:57pm), most of which were
foraging either on the water or the shore, adjacent to the shore's edge.
Three of these were in nearly-complete breeding plumage. Like on the
outer beach, there two individuals defending their kelp territory, not
allowing others to come too close while foraging.
As they have in previous years, Elegant Terns (ELTEs) have been gathering
in large numbers and doing their courtship dance. This year it started
around the beginning of April. Most of the time (as far as the Cabrillo
area is concerned) they only gather at the scout camp shore, but
sometimes they gather on the inner beach. There have also been plenty of
Caspian Terns (as usual), but a surprising number of Royal Terns for this
time of year; on May 1, there were 11 of them on the scout camp shore (8
nonbreeding, 1 partial-breeding, and 2 breeding plumage). On April 6, the
band number on one Caspian Tern here showed it to be from Crescent
Island, Washington, and almost 11 years old.
The ELTEs have not shown any sign of slowing down, and at last count
there were about 250 or more alternating between gathering on the outer
beach and the Cabrillo Youth Camp shore. (I'll do exact counts later from
video footage taken earlier.)
On April 18 there were 4 Wandering Tattlers at Cabrillo Beach (my FOS).
Two (along with two Black Turnstones) were on the breakwater adjacent to
the Fishing Pier, and two (along with a Surfbird and a Black Turnstone)
were on the rocky shore on the inner beach adjacent to the
nearly-vertical wall just west of the Fishing Pier.
Yesterday (May 10) I finally got them as a yard bird when two were
foraging on the outer beach from 9:24am (or earlier) to 9:35am (or
Unless it's a coincidence, Long-billed Curlew(s) seem to be coming here
more often lately. On April 26 there was one in the Cabrillo Salt Marsh
from 5:19pm (or earlier) to 6:07pm, and yesterday (May 10) I added the
species as a yard bird when one was briefly foraging on the outer beach
at 5:59pm (and then called and flew away when two people walked too near
what makes it more frustrating is that although I got the LBCU on
video, I didn't get the take-off and call, because I was adjusting my
tripod's horizon level at that moment).
On March 21 there were 5 Surfbirds along the NW side of the
mini-breakwater that stretches from 33.70771°N,118.27753°W to
Going back a little further: My observed Mew Gull count peaked at 149 on
January 22. They were still present in numbers greater than 100 until
March 4, when there were 105 MEGU. Their numbers subsequently decreased
rapidly, with only 32 MEGU present on March 5, and only 9 MEGU present on
March 7. By March 9, the only ones remaining were three first-year
individuals. The last I saw was a single first-year individual on March
12. I still have never seen a Mew Gull in 100% full breeding plumage; it
seems they leave before reaching that plumage with perfect
San Pedro, CA