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Monthly Archives: June 2023

Common Loon in Breeding Plumage in Mission Bay

9:21 pm


Not sure why nobody else has reported this to our local listservs. Maybe
someone did and I missed it, or maybe it’s not a big deal to most local
birders. It was for me. There is a Common Loon in breeding plumage in
Mission Bay. As far as I know, the first eBird report was on June 26. It
has been seen every day since. Looks like one group went out on a boat
and saw it near the Mission Bay channel entrance on the 27th. After the
first sighting, it seems like most eBirders who have seen it from land
have reported it along the Mariners Point Park area. One person reported
it in Sail Bay this morning. Seems it likes to preen in the Mariners
Point area at various times from mid to late afternoon. I went there
yesterday and today. Didn’t find it between 3:00 and 4:30 p.m.
yesterday, but I saw it late this afternoon.  My eBird list with photos
and details on where I spotted it, what time, and its movements for
about an hour and a half are here:

This bird takes its feather care very seriously. I watched it preen for
45 minutes, and it was still at it when I left.

Lisa Ruby
Sabre Springs

Lisa Ruby
Sabre Springs

Chollas White-eyed Vireo; Ring necked & billed

10:11 am

On Friday the 30th, the singing White-eyed Vireo continues along Chollas Creek. And as in recent visits, the bird is a couple hundred yards to the west of where it originally was. If anyone is happy to just hear it singing and don’t need to necessarily see it, then one can actually drive right to the spot and be fairly close. The road to take is the one along the SOUTH side of the open space, called Chollas Parkway–but also is what the road along the northeast side of the open space is called (and where one used to park and walk a short ways to the bird). Perhaps the latter is specifically referred to as “North” Chollas Parkway, and the road that one can now take to the bird would be “South” Chollas Parkway. Anyway, take (South) Chollas Pkwy. to #5033 (has a tile roof), and the bird is singing straight out from there early in the morning (between 5:30-6:00AM).
In other June 30th news, a rare-in-summer female-type Ring-necked Duck is at the bottom end of Sweetwater Reservoir. And a rare-in-summer immature Ring-billed Gull is at EastLake in eastern Chula Vista. The upper (northeast) end of Lower Otay Lake has nice low green vegetation growing in the shallow water which is harboring a family group of Cinnamom Teal (I typically average somewhat fewer than just one nesting record per summer) as well as families of Ruddy Ducks, Common Gallinules, etc. There is definitely NO shorebird habitat there this year.
–Paul Lehman, San Diego

Summering Townsend’s Warbler, and an editorial comment

8:42 am

First off, the hybrid American X Black Oystercatcher, actually much closer in appearance to American, is back off and on again at La Jolla at the seawatch site, where it turns up sporadically now for about 2 years. Typically with a small number of Black Oystercatchers.

But the really big new news is the presence of an apparent summering Townsends Warbler at the Bird and Butterfly Garden in the Tijuana River Valley. This bird has been rumored to be present two or three or four previous times this month since the conclusion of the regular spring migration for this species, which will run into the first several days of June, and with the latest record of a spring migrant being about 10 June. The most recent report was as recently as yesterday via eBird by Mayers et al. Southbound migrants conceivably can start appearing at the very end of July. But anything in between would be exceptional, and there was only one previous true summer report of this species ever in the county. That report is of two birds along the upper San Luis Rey River at about 2,500 feet elevation during the atlas around the year 2000. I am unaware of the details surrounding that report. The current bird at the Bird and Butterfly Garden looks primarily like a 1-year-old male and also shows a bit of feather issues, perhaps at least in the tail region.
This record brings up the need for an editorial comment (!), and that is that such an exceptional, unexpected unseasonal record is actually far far far far far more unusual than just yet another late spring Northern Parula or Rose-breasted Grosbeak and even much, much more unusual than yet another late June Yellow billed Cuckoo or another singing White-eyed Vireo in early summer. But such unseasonal records generate relatively little interest among most birders, and few birders attempt to properly document such records either through detailed written descriptions or attempts to get photos. Also, all too many birders are unaware of the status of these unseasonable birds and either then don’t properly document them or misidentify them because they’re unaware that they are very unusual, and they just assume it’s that species which might occur regularly at a different season. Under-appreciation of proper local status and distribution is a common problem. Many of the best birders anywhere all have proper appreciation of status and distribution of most species, whereas some of the most error-prone birders do not have such knowledge, and often don’t care, and so get off on the wrong track easily and do not pay close attention to unseasonable birds DURING the observation, but then hear about that it’s unusual after the fact and then have to produce details that actually weren’t gathered while the bird was under observation. And often no attempt was made to get photographs of such unseasonal rarities. Such after-the-fact reports are pretty often erroneous.
It would be great if somebody could get recognizable photos of the current Townsends warbler at the B&B. I tried this morning but by the time I got my camera out of the car, the bird had disappeared. Yes yes, slightly sloppy behavior on my part!
Paul Lehman, San Diego

Yellow-billed Cuckoo ; Carlsbad 28 JUN2023

12:21 pm

I observed a coastal YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO  on the move this morning (28JUN2023) in the Agua Hedionda Creek area near Sunny Creek in Carlsbad. It flew off to the north towards Calavera Lake. Probably not chaseable, but I wanted to get the migration information out to group.


Tito Gonzalez

Carlsbad, CA

inland waterbirds; overall nesting success

11:42 am

Rare inland, a Willet was at Lake Hodges yesterday (6/25), a typical date for a southbound migrant; and today there’s an Elegant Tern at Sweetwater Reservoir.
A number of folks have commented that it appears to be a successful breeding season for many species, and I certainly concur. Presumably one major factor has been the wet winter followed by a “cool” and overcast spring and early summer, meaning there should be plenty of plant and insect food still available. One example from today (6/26) was the large summer concentration of 90 Northern Rough-winged Swallows–mostly juveniles–along Sunset Road in the Tijuana River Valley.
Paul Lehman, San Diego

new Neotropic Corm., Yellow-thr Vireos update, miscellanea

1:00 pm

On Saturday, 24 June, a new Neotropic Cormorant was in town, being present early in the morning perched on the boom at the main dam at Sweetwater Reservoir, with several Double-cresteds. “New” unless it is wandering from one of several other recent NECO sites in the county….. The June count for Neotropics in the county currently stands at a by-far record 12 birds–unless there is some inter-site movement going on, which would be essentially impossible to prove one way or the other. Also yesterday, two Northern Shovelers appeared at the eastern Dairy Mart pond, the first sighting in the county this month. And a somewhat early arriving 1-2 White-breasted Nuthatches were at Rohr Park in Bonita, where they are not known to breed.
As of this weekend, there is still a pair of Yellow-throated Vireos present on PRIVATE property north of Escondido. They fairly quickly abandoned their first nesting attempt after partially constructing a nest, now two weeks ago. Their nesting status since then is not clear. Rather, they are now behaving more sneaky than earlier this month, and they are more difficult to pin down.
–Paul Lehman, San Diego

Chollas Creek White-eyed Vireo continues

6:46 am

The bridesmaid White-eyed Vireo present along Chollas Creek since late May continues early Saturday morning at dawn around 5:30 to 5:40 a.m. Singing about 150 yards to the west of the “usual” stretch it frequented earlier in the season, although it has moved west before and then come back to the usual area. See posts or eBird lists from late May for directions. By the way, whether or not single females would feel comfortable walking here or not is somewhat of a legitimate question.

Paul Lehman, San Diego 

Re: Merlin Bird App

8:03 am

The use of directional mics will dramatically improve the functionality of Merlin. I personally use a Senheiser MKe400 mkii due to its small size and automatic power on/off control. I also have a Nitze super clamp with a Mount screwed in on the side.  It’s super easy to clamp it to your belt loop or zipper and walk around with the mic by your side.

The directional mix will often pickup birds I can’t even hear myself until I get closer and it’s super useful in new areas with unfamiliar sounds.  Merlin still picks up random nonexistent birds but I’ve found this setup dramatically improves performance.

Tom Ford-Hutchinson
San Diego, CA

Hornblower: June 10 & 17: Red-billed tropicbird; fulmar; Sabine’s gulls

7:04 pm

Blue whale season has started up, and I have gone out twice on the Hornblower in the past 10 days.
These were my 384th and 385th whale-watching or pelagic trips in San Diego waters.
I’m trying to make to to 400 by the end of July.

On June 10, we headed out and found whales everywhere within 4 miles of shore. 11–14 blues, a fin, 3 humpbacks. A mixed pod of common, offshore bottlenose and Risso’s dolphins.
As always, as soon as one of the whale-watching boats comes upon a whale, it stops and sits for an inordinate amount of time.
[I’ve been on trips where we found a whale 1/4 mile offshore, and stayed with it for the entire trip.]Luckily, these whales were in an area where there lots of dolphins, pelicans, gulls and terns working a very large bait ball.
During the hour we were sitting there, the bait ball attracted about 2 dozen black-vented shearwaters, 3 sooty shearwaters, 2 Sabine’s gulls and a single red-billed tropicbird that came in and left within 30 seconds. 1 brown booby. No storm-petrels or alcids.
Otherwise there were vast stretches of birdless ocean.

Vast stretches of birdless ocean continued on the 17th. Scattered black-venteds—dozens, not the hundreds and thousands reported from La Jolla Cove; a single pink-footed shearwater. 1 black storm-petrel. Water surface both days was very choppy; no alcids either day.
A single heavily molted intermediate-morph Northern fulmar was so feeble that as the ship came up to it, it just rode the bow wave away from the bow, didn’t even attempt to fly.
2 brown boobies.
Again, blue whales everywhere [including a humongous mother followed by her humongous calf], and 1000+ common dolphins. We basically sat in one place for most of 2 hours, about 7 miles offshore, off of La Jolla.

The other surprising birds were a first-summer herring or herring/Western hybrid and a third-cycle California gull in the bay near the bait docks. 3 adult Heermann’s gulls were the first I’ve seen this summer. [There may have been more around, but see comment on the bait docks, below.]

I get asked a lot of questions about whale-watching boats, Let me summarize.
For me, a year-long pass to the Hornblower coupled with the fact that I have a handicapped placard and can park for free, means I can go out several times a week during blue and gray whale seasons. That makes a 3-hours on the ocean trip cost me maybe $7 each time.
BUT, if you are going out just once, it is around $75 and parking on the nearby dock has gone up from $5 to $25 per car. Yikes!!!
You cannot use street parking because there is a 3-hour time limit.
Nor does the Hornblower still motor slowly close to the bait docks, which both days were covered with birds; instead they go right up and down the central channel, too far from the docks to pick out anything.
There is no naturalist about the Hornblower, but the SD Natural History museum volunteer group, The Whalers, who know their cetaceans well are always around.

San Diego Whale Watch, out of Quivira Basin, with a Groupon coupon, costs about $30-35. Parking is free.
Their boat is not as comfortable or as steady as the Hornblower, but it is okay. Very crowded at the bow.
You get the same approximately 3 hours out on the open ocean.

Hornblower and SDWW communicate with one another and chase the same whales; on both days, we were within a half-mile of one another.
SDWW does a little more cruising around looking for things and does pay some minimal attention to birds, but you’re pretty much on your own.
Neither boat permits chumming or throwing popcorn off the stern.

Your best bet is always going to be going on a real pelagic trip, such as those sponsored by Buena Vista Audubon. Excellent leaders, long periods out on the ocean, chumming, no sitting for an hour watching asingle whale, etc.

Stan Walens, San Diego
June 20, 2023; 6:35 pm

Merlin Bird App

6:28 pm

Looking for recommendation for listening mic for android phone to be used with Merlin, are they being used and are they effective.
     Thank You
     Butch Carter
     Santa Ysabel, California