Monday, January 14, 2008
A Stray from Mexico
I was very disappointed to have driven right by an American Oystercatcher on Saturday in Laguna Beach. This morning, my mom and I made a quick trip down there to look for it. American Oystercatcher is very rare in Orange County, and in Southern California in general. It has a wide range - along much of the east and gulf coasts, and the Pacific Coast from Chile to Mexico, falling just short of the United States - several individuals have been seen fairly regularly on the Los Coronados islands, just south of the border. Black and American Oystercatchers also hybridize frequently where their ranges overlap, but this bird is very clean and is apparently a pure American Oystercatcher.
We arrived at Crescent Bay Point Park around 8:30 this morning. I've been there a couple times already, since it is a good spot to scan some nice rocky shoreline for species such as Black Oystercatcher, Surfbird, and Black Turnstone. The tide was mostly out when we arrived - not good. This spreads out the birds - often they congregate on the higher rocks beneath the overlook at high tide. The only shorebirds in sight were a few Willets, Black-bellied Plovers, and Black Turnstones. After awhile, a single Black Oystercatcher showed up. It was followed by several other Black Oystercatchers, but no American Oystercatcher. After almost an hour of fruitless scanning, I decided we should check Heisler Park which is located about a mile south of Crescent Bay. It has similar rocky habitat. There weren't any oystercatchers of any kind here - the only shorebirds were a few Willets and a couple Ruddy Turnstones. I convinced my mom to take one last quick look at Crescent Bay. She gave me two minutes to look. I jumped out of the car, jogged to the overlook, and scanned - nothing. The same Black Oystercatchers were resting on the rocks. After a couple minutes I sighed, gave the rocks one last scan, and - WOAH, WAIT - there's the American Oystercatcher!
These photos aren't very good, but the bird was very distant so I was glad to get something. A very good ending as well - after working hard for a long time, I finally spotted the bird at the very end. Here's another bad shot, but showing the bird next to a Black Oystercatcher:
A very cool bird. Naturally, it was a state and county bird, and a great one at that. My county list continues to crawl its way towards three hundred...
Posted by Neil Gilbert at 4:42 PM