Join/Renew (2024 Dues)

Monthly Archives: July 2024

Laysan Albatross Offshore

8:39 pm

You may have heard that a Laysan Albatross was seen offshore on a whale watching boat on 7/7. It was about 5 miles off Mission Bay, then 4 miles off La Jolla.
WELL a/the same bird was seen again today (7/17) similarly far out. Seen by the same observer, Matthias Scheer (my college roommate!).
Not sure if sunset whale watching trips are usually birding gold, but you never know…
Nick Thorpe
University Heights

the infamous Del Mar whitish-backed Whimbrel (and how to eBird the record)

1:43 pm

Many of you went to see the odd Whimbrel on the beach in Del Mar that was present from 11-13 July. While it was last reported early on the 13th, it may or may not in fact still be around, as there have been no reports since then suggesting any careful search. This bird had white on the lower back (not truly on the rump), which begged the question as to whether it was one of the Old World forms, presumably Asian (Siberian) variegatus based on range and on the somewhat limited amount of white. (European phaeopus is even a bit more distinctly different from our North American hudsonicus.) Some of you eBirded it as “Whimbrel (White-rumped)” which covers all the Old World taxa. Some eBirded it specifically as “Whimbrel (Siberian).” Some as just generic “Whimbrel.” And perhaps a few of you just threw your hands up and haven’t submitted it yet as anything! It is the consensus of a good number of us that this bird does not fit neatly into any category. It is not a typical variegatus, as the amount and shape of white seems off, and virtually all other characters seem OK for a typical North American Whimbrel, including the underwing pattern and the obvious buffy tones to the underwing and tail. Yes, the bird did look slightly paler/colder in overall upperpart body tone than most of the many Whimbrels assembled, but there were certainly at least a small number of other North American birds present there that were a match in exact color. As those present at the site know, it was virtually impossible to know which bird it was until you could see the white on the lower back, and then follow it around. Suggestions on what the bird was range from an intergrade/hybrid between hudsonicus and variegatus (although precious few other characters looked intermediate), to a true variegatus, to simply an aberrant-plumaged regular hudsonicus Whimbrel. Add to these issues the fact that eBird currently does not have any way for a user to submit such a bird without declaring it one taxonomic group or the other or to submit it simply as a generic Whimbrel and then conceivably have this interesting bird “lost” amongst the thousands of records of typical Whimbrels.
We San Diego County eBird reviewers are, in fact, asking all of you who submitted this bird as some form or another to please change it to just generic Whimbrel for now, as that is the only safe entry. As a reviewer, we may be able to “tag” any photos associated with this record in the Macaulay Library, and/or via “MerlinVision,” as “aberrant” or some such so easier to find at any later time. But the bottom line is: if this record needs to be revisited, it would not be difficult to simply search out all Whimbrel submissions from Del Mar between 11-13 July 2024.
So, to repeat, if you have submitted this bird via eBird, please change it to generic Whimbrel. Any reports remaining as something else after a week will be sent back to the observer to be changed, and then, in the end, invalidated if still remaining.
Thanks for your understanding!!
–Paul Lehman and fellow eBird reviewers, San Diego

Curlew Sandpiper and seawatch

7:40 am

On Wednesday morning, I hear that Matt has the continuing Curlew Sandpiper at the hopelessly inside the Salt Works usual spot of his as of 7:20 this morning. So that’s the bad news, although the good news is knowing it’s still present and can still hope it comes back out to Pond 22 at some point, or somebody can find it perhaps at J Street?

La Jolla seawatch this morning has so far produced four southbound Common Murres and a notable northward surge of many flocks of northbound Brown pelicans from 1 to 3 mi out totaling many hundreds.
Paul Lehman, San Diego 

Curlew Sandpiper–good news and bad news

11:38 am

On Tuesday the 16th, the good news is that in late morning the Curlew Sandpiper continues, courtesy of Matt S., but hopelessly inside the northeast section of the Salt Works bordering South San Diego Bay–just where it was yesterday as well. The bad news is that one cannot see this area from any public viewing sites. And earlier in the morning, from dawn until after 9AM, a good number of folks checked Pond 20 and 22 off the end of 13th, with no luck. Pond 20 is drying, and Pond 22 (right at the end of 13th) may be lowering slightly, with increasing numbers of shorebirds, so it should once again be checked closely. Still 6 Wilson’s Phalaropes on it. And there was a Burrowing Owl along the south side of Pond 20, farther to the east.
–Paul Lehman, San Diego

Pelagic checklists

6:47 pm

Hello all –

 I have shared the checklists from the pelagic of July 14. Several of the users names on the list were not recognized by EBird, and those files bounced. And in one case, my broken pen (I broke THREE on the trip!) made a blotch of ink. If you did not receive the lists, please respond to this email offline (sent to me only) and I will get you fixed up.
Many thanks to Paul for the long day on the microphone, Dave for chumming, and thanks to the other leaders who worked so hard to get us these great birds!

Curlew Sandpiper update

2:06 pm

Matt reports that the Curlew Sandpiper has disappeared currently from his location, with flocks of Western Sandpipers scattering, some heading back south in the general direction of Ponds 20/22, some going elsewhere–probably due to a nearby Peregrine. He says there really is NO WAY to see even a bright Curlew Sandpiper from the business park north of Grainger, just north of Palomar Street. So, really the only game in town for the public is to try Pond 20 (and 22) while the former is lowered–a third of a mile to the east of end of 13th. Matt did say that the bird was associating with Western Sandpipers, as it was back early on Saturday when at Pond 22 (at the end of 13th).
Clearly, checking Pond 20 (and the raised Pond 22) later today, where it also may have been photo’d yesterday evening, would be a good thing to do, as well as checking Pond 20 starting at dawn tomorrow.
–Paul Lehman, San Diego

Re: Curlew Sandpiper continues Monday (INSIDE Salt Works)

2:04 pm

With the tide coming up and a falcon flushing birds the CUSA joined a flyby WESA flock and vacated the N flats area of Saltworks. I do not see it in the adjacent pond 15, so one can hope it followed the peep flock to pond 20 (the pond E of 13th along the bike path). Pond 20 is being lowered today so there are already a lot of birds in there.

Good luck.
Matt Sadowski

Curlew Sandpiper continues Monday (INSIDE Salt Works)

1:18 pm

Early afternoon Monday, Matt Sadowski has relocated the very bright Curlew Sandpiper I had seen early on Saturday morning at the Salt Works. That’s the very good news. The bad news is that Matt has the bird in an interior, closed part of the Salt Works at the northeast part of the Salt Works, west of the Bayside Business Park, just north of the Grainger building, along Bay Boulevard. So, one could try a Hail Mary from the back of the business park there, or…….It turns out a visiting birder named David Gersten photographed what could well be the bird (a very rufous-looking mid-sized sleeping shorebird at great distance) yesterday evening (Sunday) back where I had it on Pond 22 off the end of 13th Street. And, today they have also lowered Pond 20, the pond to the east of 13th, with lots of shorebirds there early today, so that will be worth checking for the next couple days, BUT at the same time they have raised the water level in Pond 22, the original site, so that now only has a thin edge of habitat to it, although they could then lower it again fairly quickly.
Undoubtedly, Matt will post his gorgeous photos later today in an eBird report.
Paul Lehman, San Diego

STREAKED SHEARWATER, more on Frigatebirds

11:32 am

First off, a bit more on frigatebirds, with the two “additional” birds this AM (15th) at La Jolla. It might have been tempting to say that the birds at the sw corner of San Diego Bay on July 13th and then “again” on July 14th were probably the same individual, but, in fact, they were clearly different. (And not yet sure how the Point Loma 14th bird fits in.) Photos show the 13th bird with nice full wings, whereas the bird on the 14th in the same area clearly has gaps in the feathering on both wings. Photos of all these various birds will be extremely helpful in trying to better get a handle of how many different individuals are involved the past several days–which likely will never be possible to do fully.
On yesterday’s July 14th San Diego pelagic trip, at 2:47 PM while heading back east in the eastern San Diego Trough (16-1/2 mi WSW of Point Loma) just several observers saw a shearwater make a quick pass off the right side of the boat, in somewhat harsh lighting, and called out that they had an odd-looking Pink-footed type bird with a distinctly pale face. The bird quickly continued on and disappeared. The only person to obtain photos was Alex Abela, whose camera that day was seriously acting up, so the quality suffered somewhat. Studying the photos on the back of the camera immediately thereafter, it did appear that the bird was a very good candidate to be a Streaked Shearwater, a Japanese species that is casual in California waters, primarily off northern California and almost all from September and October, with at least a couple mid-August records, the earliest of which was on 13 August back in the 1980s way inland at Red Bluff in the northern Sacramento Valley. So this bird would be even a month earlier than that. Following a little bit of photo brightness improvement and sharing with several folks with more extensive experience with Streaked, the consensus seems to be building (unanimous so far) that the bird is indeed a Streaked Shearwater. (Thanks so far to “outside” help from Louis Bevier, Alvaro Jaramillo, and Peter Pyle.) The photos can be viewed, as long as one has Dropbox access, at:
If anyone has any dissenting opinions or other helpful insight, input is welcome. Once the shared eBird checklists are available probably tomorrow (Tuesday), Alex can add a few of these photos there, for those of you without the Dropbox access.
And if anyone on yesterday’s boat happened to be taking shearwater photos at around 2:47 PM, check your photos!!
–Paul Lehman, San Diego  (who barely saw the bird fairly poorly)