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miscellanea, & reporting birds from unfamiliar areas

3:25 pm

First a few bits of miscellanea: two Black Scoters continue in South San Diego Bay as scoped at a good distance from Grand Caribe in Coronado Cays. The fairly cooperative Grace’s Warbler continues at Las Palmas Park in National City. And at Seaport Village there are active Black-crowned Night-Heron nests, one of which contains a large, begging fledgling at a time of year that would seem very unusual to already have a large youngster in a nest.
A few folks who went to Jacumba this morning to see the Bendire’s Thrasher, Lark Bunting, Harris’s Hawk, etc., also came across a Plumbeous Vireo. This bird is undoubtedly wintering there, but none had been seen since mid-November. This is unexpected at a cold-at-night 3000 feet in the far interior–although this species is fairly hardy. The recent increased visitation to Jacumba by birders chasing these rarities has also resulted in a number of likely erroneous eBird reports. For example, several folks have casually reported American Crows there, but that species is unknown there except as a very rare visitor and hadn’t been documented in three years–and, instead, Ravens are of course common. While two or three birders have photographed a Ladder-backed Woodpecker there this past week, normally this species is difficult to find but Nuttall’s is easy and several are seen daily–but a few folks have reported Ladder-backed but no Nuttall’s, without details. Several recent reports of Sage Thrashers included no details and it is unknown whether some of these reports involved heard-only birds–and MERLIN regularly messes up the ID of this species, including mid-identifying mimicing Mockingbirds. And lastly, ratios of the various blackbird species found there have been all over the place, with some observers reporting excessive numbers of Red-wingeds and Brewer’s, but too few Tricoloreds and Cowbirds.
The above scenario is a good example of how birders eBirding from “unique” sites where they are relatively unfamiliar with the status of birds in the area should then make extra effort to be careful in what they report, and do NOT make assumptions based on what occurs in other areas where they normally go birding.
–Paul Lehman, San Diego