Mexican Whip-poor-will, 5 May 2020
(If you plan on trying tonight, let me know, as other folks are looking to go in a small group for safety reasons. Poor cell signal, rough trail, etc.)
A group of ~20 socially distant birders with faces covered had some success last night (May 5) listening for the Mexican Whip-poor-will near the Noble Canyon Trail on Pine Creek Road. As on 4 May, the bird apparently began singing at 9pm, although given the distance from which we were able to barely hear it, its possible it was singing earlier and we just couldn't hear it (distance, creek and frog noise). It was not loud or nearby as it was the previous night. By the end of the night it was below 50 degrees, so dress appropriately.
We started out along the long driveway with permission from the homeowner (again, do not go up the steep driveway towards the house), just before the steep left hand turn. From there the bird was barely audible, singing its "pur-purrr WHIP!" distantly to the south – note a few folks were unable to hear it, unfortunately. A small group walked back to the main road then down the Noble Canyon Trail about a half mile, where they were able to hear it better but not see it, and noted that the trail is "not for the faint of heart," featuring some loose rock and a few switchbacks all in the dark (solo travel not advised). A report from early yesterday (04:20 am) indicated the bird was audible from Pine Creek Road near the trail head. So it seems to move around some and may be difficult to pinpoint.
Cell signal is very poor – some folks had no signal, I could occasionally get one bar.
My email from yesterday is repeated below:
***If you intend to go look/listen for this bird, please adhere to the following directions***
1. First and foremost, please wear a facial covering and maintain 6 feet of distance from one another.
2. Adventure Pass necessary for parking. Do not park on the side of the paved road or block the driveway (parking directions below).
3. Do not approach the house beyond directions below.
4. The bird sings without the need for playback. Consider, like photographers, some folks may be recordists, so be mindful of chit-chat and foot shuffling.
5. Realize that a) this bird may be gone, and b) if audible may not be visible or possible to photograph!
As many of you may have received an alert from eBird (or a word-of-mouth message), a MEXICAN WHIP-POOR-WILL was heard and recorded singing its distinctive "purple-whip" song last night on private property in the Laguna Mountains near the Noble Canyon trail, about 1.9 miles southwest of Sunrise Highway on Pine Creek Road. I spoke with the observer today to get access permission and details. The observer heard it from his house and believes it was sitting in his driveway within private property. Access to the house from Pine Creek Road is via an unpaved forest service that runs south off the paved road and becomes a driveway and private property. A locked gate is at the Pine Creek Road end of this driveway. Pedestrian traffic is permissible on this service road but DO NOT APPROACH THE HOUSE beyond the property line, where the address is marked on a tree at a sharp left (east) turn up a steep hill, about 0.25 mi up the driveway from the paved road. This is roughly where the bird was believed to be last night but it could be anywhere. If you reach a water tank you've walked too far.
Parking: do not park on the side of Pine Creek Road or block his gate/driveway, which is at 1.9 miles (32.898575, -116.480281) from Sunrise Highway.
There are two parking pullouts for multiple cars on Pine Creek Road west of his driveway/gate:
the closest is at 32.896, -116.483, 0.2 mi west of the forest service road gate
another is at 32.897, -116.485, an additional 0.1 mi west of the first parking spot
In short, it may require about a 1 mile roundtrip walk much of which is a moderately steep hill.
Sunset is at 730pm and the bird seems to begin singing at 9pm, although it may begin earlier and just be out of earshot.
Again, please act safely and consider others! Absolutely do not go beyond the sharp (90degree) left turn in the driveway that approaches the house, and if you go down the trail, I would absolutely make sure you're with someone else.
Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports