This morning's lab was at a favorite beach birding spot of mine, Crystal Cove. It's a great place to see the species that frequent shorelines, like sanderlings, black-bellied plovers, brown pelicans, and gulls galore, as well as coastal sage srub habitat featuring the "California" trio - towhee, thrasher, and the endangered gnatcatcher.
It was a gorgeous morning, sunny (almost to the point of glare) and breezy. We peeled off layers as we walked in the sunshine along the waterline. It was a great day for shorebirds, the usual suspects like willets, whimbrel, marbled godwits, and sanderlings all showed, as did some other coastal species like both ruddy and black turnstones, a black oystercatcher, and surfbirds. I leaned and observed a new field mark for black-bellied plovers - a black armpit visible in flight. Exciting. Another great find was a red-breasted merganser that flew by, and was encountered again on the walk back.
Double-crested and Brandt's cormorants were present in the surf, and brown pelicans cruised along the waves. Some tidepools gave a good opportunity to get some gull I.D. practice in, as ring-billed, Heerman's, and western gulls all probed the crevasses for food. A royal tern sat in among them, and a caspian flew overhead, providing those quick enough to see them with a contrasting view of the species.
A single osprey was our bird of prey for the day, flying overhead south along the shore to Laguna. As we walked up into the sage scrub, white-crowned sparrows were hanging out in the bushes, and twice a California thrasher provided us with good looks of it perched and singing. The Cal gnatcatcher called its raspy mew much to my delight (they happen to be one of my favorite species). A solitary raven flew over as we headed back to the cars, with a low guttural croak.