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bank swallow south san diego bay 7-22-24

8:48 pm

This afternoon around 1:45 I had a bank swallow in with a large flock of mostly cliff swallows, some rough-wings, barns, and at least 1 tree swallow in closed portions of the Chula Vista Wildlife Reserve/old South Bay Power Plant site.  Since they tend to shift around that area, it is worth checking out swallows around J Street Marina or the bike path off 13th St in IB.
Robert Patton
San Diego, CA

Siberian Pipits ID and caution

1:53 pm

With the very recent split of Siberian Pipit (formerly A. r. japonicus) will now come the ‘frenzy’ to see one in California and up and down the West Coast. For what it’s worth, I spent a month or more for about 20 falls in a row at Gambell, Alaska, which is arguably the best place in North America to see Siberian Pipit, including alongside regular American Pipits (A. r. pacificus). Siberian Pipit is a very uncommon fall migrant there, and it is rare to very rare in spring. In a typical fall I’d see perhaps 7-12 Siberians, low single digits in a bad year, and up to 30-35 in the best years. Such variation in numbers is also shown from fall to fall by Red-throated Pipits, and there is a pretty strong correlation between the very good early falls up there with the best later falls down here in California, and vice versa re: bad years. When the pending split was announced, my initial reaction was “uh, oh.” I gather the genetic evidence is pretty strong, although I hope they sampled in extreme northeast Russia, just a little west of Gambell, where there is the best chance for a notable amount of overlap between Siberian and American. Anyway, what I’d like to mention is that there are LOTS of intermediate birds in fall at Gambell (and I believe elsewhere in w. Alaska). So, like a lot of things, the extremes at either end–typical looking American and very typical looking Siberian–are fairly distinctive, but there are a whole lot of birds in the middle that are problematic. And I would typically see as many problematic birds each fall as I would “comfortable” Siberians.
Most problematic birds show many characters of Siberian, such as a thicker, blobby malar and heavier, darker streaking underneath (characters that make them somewhat Red-throated like when looking at them head on), and a grayer tone to the upperparts. But some of these birds would then show weaker wingbars than normal, the grayer upperparts were still tinged a bit with brownish, and a leg color intermediate between American and classic pinkish of Siberian (fairly similar to Red-throated)–so something like a dusky horn color. Leg color is probably the one most obvious character that often did not match up most often in these problematic birds.
So, we all wish the CBRC god’s speed in dealing with what will be appearing at their doorstep in the months and years ahead. Certainly any truly acceptable record will need to have multiple characters all lining up well, and multiple photographs, as simple written details will often be too tough to evaluate and only one or two photos will not show all the needed characters and can misconstrue subtle tones of color.
There are at least two or three prior reports of Siberian-type Pipits in San Diego County.
–Paul Lehman, San Diego

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