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Monthly Archives: February 2023

January SDFO Program

January SDFO Program
By {authorlink} – 3:37 pm

Hello Birders,

In case you missed the excellent program last month by our Program Chair Rick Grove on The “Sage” Sparrow Conundrum in San Diego  or just want to hear it again, the link to the recording can be accessed here. This program used part of a presentation to LA Birders by Kimball Garrett, with added discussions by Paul Lehman and Chris McCreedy.


I have also attached a link to the PDF by Peter Pyle on On Separating Sagebrush Sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis) from Bell’s Sparrow (A.
belli) with particular reference to A. b. canescens
 that was referenced during the program.


Happy Birding!

Char Glacy

Secretary SDFO




2600 Robins, Orchard & Summer; mis-ID’s of Yellow-billed Loon, Little Stint, & “Sage” Sparrows

2600 Robins, Orchard & Summer; mis-ID’s of Yellow-billed Loon, Little Stint, & “Sage” Sparrows

By {authorlink} – 10:48 am

Early Thursday morning I counted departing American Robins from the large San Diego Zoo roost from the zoo parking lot and tallied 2600 birds between 6:19-6:45 AM. The young male Orchard Oriole continues in the several coral trees at the southeast corner of the lot, first appearing at 7:10 AM.
Today’s installment of the “A Summer Tanager a Day Keeps the Doctor Away” is brought to you by a female in a nice little canyon that runs behind homes southward from Thorn St., just east of Boundary St., at the border of the southern North Park and Altadena neighborhoods, just west of the 805 X 15 interchange.
I can speak for several of us eBird reviewers in saying that we are noting a fair number of problematic reports of the Yellow-billed Loon, Little Stint, and Sagebrush/Bell’s Sparrows. I’d guess that in the past ten days that we have seen as many photos submitted of misidentified Common Loons being reported as the Yellow-billed as we have the real Yellow-billed. Almost all of these problematic birds are by visiting birders whose abilities we do not know. But as is often the case, the written details accompanying the mis-ID’d photos often match what the Yellow-billed actually looks like. And that is the same problem with the Little Stint: written details that almost always say just the right things about what the Little Stint should look like and behave, but the photos fairly regularly show what is likely a distant Western or Least Sandpiper. And then there’s the saga of Sagebrush and Bell’s Sparrows out in the Borrego area. Here the issue is folks knowing what characters to mention but then having some photos that are anomalous, perhaps showing varying malar stripe boldness and darkness depending on the bird’s pose, or individuals that show the malar pattern more like Bell’s but a back pattern more like Sagebrush. We would STRONGLY ENCOURAGE all birders who are reporting this species pair from the desert to watch the recorded SDFO zoom meeting presentation on this very topic from just last month. See the SDFO website for the link. It’s a pity that relatively few birders watched it compared to the number who report most/all these birds to species when they visit the desert.
Paul Lehman, San Diego

Brown Creeper at Marston House Balboa Park 2/8

Brown Creeper at Marston House Balboa Park 2/8
By {authorlink} – 1:00 pm

Was pleasantly surprised to see a Brown Creeper (new 5MR bird for me) just after noon in a pine approximately here: (32.7417308, -117.1583030) Also an interesting looking (ssp. TBD) Junco on lawn in same general area.

Nathan French

La Jolla new T. Solitaire and Summer T.; a thought on residential rarities

La Jolla new T. Solitaire and Summer T.; a thought on residential rarities
By {authorlink} – 12:35 pm

Weds. morning, a check of some nicer neighborhoods in La Jolla that rarely receive attention produced a new Townsend’s Solitaire in the Muirlands neighborhood and a new Summer Tanager in the pink-flowered eucs in the small park just north of the United Methodist Church in southern La Jolla. Another day, another new Summer Tanager!
The neighborhood around Cerrissa Street and Cerrissa Court in Nestor/Palm City is nothing special for birds, although the creek there has produced, over the past 15 years, a few wintering Yellow Warblers, a Nashville, and even a Swamp Sparrow. The Townsend’s Solitaire continues in the fruiting trees along Cerrissa Court, just over the little bridge, as of yesterday, and that bird’s presence since mid-Dec, plus the fact that it’s inside my San Diego CBC area means that it has gotten several visits from me and others this winter. But despite those ca. 6 total visits between early Dec and early Feb, a few days ago Hanna Zhao photo’d a new adult male Orchard Oriole there, and yesterday a new adult male Summer Tanager was found there by Patton and Copper. So this sort of begs the question as to what countless number of other goodies are floating around the parks and residential neighborhoods of San Diego County and elsewhere in coastal California that are never seen even at places that receive multiple visits during the season??!!
–Paul Lehman, San Diego

Robins, robins everywhere

Robins, robins everywhere
By {authorlink} – 9:08 pm

So many of us are glorying in this winter’s robin extravaganza, sometimes with the added fillip of cedar waxwings in amongst flocks of at least 100 robins at a time gorging on berries and sipping water. So is this influx perhaps caused by the severe drought many parts of California experienced for a long time, perhaps forcing the robins south to more agreeable climes? This morning we had about 100 robins here, with some cedar waxwings. Especially for a former easterner like me, I am so happy to see them. But I’ve not yet heard a single robin sing for its supper! Come on, guys, give us a song.

Sally M. Gall
La Jolla

San Diego Bay “pelagic” trip

San Diego Bay “pelagic” trip

By {authorlink} – 12:26 pm

Tuesday morning, four of us putt-putted around San Diego Bay from just north of the Coronado Bridge to the south end of the Bay. Highlights included 3 Common Mergansers together along the shore in northern Coronado off Harborview Park at the foot of E Avenue. One or two birds had been reported in this area back on 19 January. Very rare on saltwater and in South County, these three birds join the other up to three individuals that are currently present also on saltwater on n. Mission Bay. A continuing female Black Scoter was in the usual section of Bay between Chula Vista and Coronado Cays. Tallies of scaup at the south end of the Bay included the often-impressive aggregation of some 1800+ Greater Scaup…..Yes, that is not a typo, 1800+ Greaters, mostly in a couple tight flocks, whereas the hundreds of Lessers are typically scattered more widely. Two separate Ring-necked Ducks were somewhat rare for saltwater. A roost of 65 Ruddy Turnstones. Also, one Loggerhead Shrike along the Silver Strand near the end of Attu Avenue–a species that has become pitifully rare along the coast.
–Paul Lehman et al., San Diego

Re: Red-crowned vs. Lilac-crowned Parrot records and distribution in San Diego County……Rethinking needed!

Re: Red-crowned vs. Lilac-crowned Parrot records and distribution in San Diego County……Rethinking needed!
By {authorlink} – 9:43 pm

Dear friends,


Since 1996 we have preserved 29 specimens of Amazona from San Diego County for the research collection at the San Diego Natural History Museum. There has been no selection by species—we have preserved all specimens we have received, as I knew the problem of distinguishing the Red-crowned and Lilac-crowned would only grow, and these specimens give perspective to the evolving situation. Of the 29, approximately 20 are Red-crowned and 9 are Lilac-crowned. I say approximately because in the lack of specimens from the natural range of the Red-crowned, I cannot say what the range of normal variation in the Red-crowned really is. Within the set of San Diego County specimens, of both apparent species, there is noticeable variation in the shade and extent of red on the forehead and in the shade and extent of bluish on the hindcrown. Some individuals may be hybrids. It will take analysis based on comparison with specimens from the natural range to say for certain. Also, tissue samples from all specimens are archived at SDSU and could be analyzed if genetic markers distinguishing the species are discovered. One specimen of the Lilac-crowned was picked up as early as 1996, and the others range in date from 2009 to 2022. So both species have been around for a while, ample time for hybridization. Yet another example of cities and introduced populations becoming crucibles of evolution before our eyes.


Good birding,


Philip Unitt

San Diego


Long=eared owls continue Tamarisk Grove Campground

Long=eared owls continue Tamarisk Grove Campground
By {authorlink} – 6:18 pm

 2pm 2/6/2023, wind 5 mph, t 68. Following excellent guidance from other posts yesterday, found both male and female same location:  2/3 of the distance from campsite 10 to campsite 12.  (Campsite 11 does’n exist) In tamarisk along north boundary low rail fence.  Rock on one fencepost marks location.  Female facing north, best photo from across road.  Owl pellets on ground directly under male.  Male and female about 10′ apart, same tree.

A guy came to campsite 10, his usual spot, and was setting up as we left.  Seemed quiet, pleasant.  I told him other birders might be by.