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Record “Big Year” for San Diego County

San Diego resident and Big Year record holder Barbara Carlson.

San Diego resident and Big Year record holder Barbara Carlson.

In 2013 San Diego resident Barbara Carlson attained the record birding “Big Year” for San Diego County when she observed, or heard, a total of 387 bird species within the county boundary. This total number has validity based on widely recognized American Birding Association (ABA) guidelines and has been endorsed by SDFO as well as completely validated through eBird’s rare or unusual bird species review process.

In addition one more species that Barbara saw in the county, the Sagebrush Sparrow Artemisiospiza nevadensis at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, is pending admission to her year list. There are ongoing discussions by eBird advisers about identification criteria and difficulties separating the “Mojave” form of Bell’s Sparrow Artemisiospiza belli canescens from the Sagebrush Sparrow A. nevadensis. As of March 2014, eBird recommends they are entered as a species-pair, i.e. they are considered indistinguishable based on currently known field marks.

Both Sagebrush Sparrow and the “Mojave” form of Bell’s Sparrow winter in the desert back country of San Diego County and can be found comingling there in small flocks. From field notes taken by Barbara about the sparrows she observed, recognized experts have confirmed they were indeed Sagebrush Sparrow. The addition of this species would bring Barbara’s total to 388 bird species seen in San Diego County in 2013!

The 388 species, or 387 with one species pending, seen by Barbara in San Diego County in 2013 is the highest county “Big Year” ever accomplished by an individual birder in the ABA area.

Barbara Carlson writes of her 2013 Big Year endeavor:

“The absolute highlight of 2013 was coming home to find a Mourning Warbler hopping through the bushes in our front yard. Here was one of my most-wanted birds for the county as a YARD bird! The second most exciting bird for me was the Great Shearwater spotted on a “Grande” pelagic. This first record for San Diego County and the first for all of southern California was floating placidly on the water within 30 feet of the boat. Even my cell phone was able to capture images.

The year had the above highs, but there were also a number of lows in the form of misses. For example, I made repeated trips to Scissors Crossing, North County’s rivers, and the Tijuana River Valley looking for Yellow-billed Cuckoo. All of the trips to Scissors Crossing were made before work, which meant getting up and driving an hour and a half to arrive at first light. I would search and listen, and listen and search. Nothing remotely sounding or looking like a cuckoo turned up. However, I would inevitably pick up a hitchhiker or two in the ugly form of dog ticks. This was not a good trade-off! I also missed Scissor-tailed Flycatcher a couple of times, only to have a cooperative stake-out show up four days after the end of the year.

In all, to the best of my knowledge, I missed a total of 21 species that were seen by other observers in San Diego County in 2013.”


Barbara Carlson's San Diego County Big Year 2013

January (213 species)
1         Brant
2         American Wigeon
3         Mallard
4         Northern Pintail
5         Redhead
6         Lesser Scaup
7         Surf Scoter
8         Bufflehead
9         Red-throated Loon
10       Pacific Loon
11       Common Loon
12       Horned Grebe
13       Eared Grebe
14       Western Grebe
15       Double-crested Cormorant
16       American White Pelican
17       Brown Pelican
18       Great Blue Heron
19       Snowy Egret
20       Cooper’s Hawk
21       Red-shouldered Hawk
22       Red-tailed Hawk
23       American Kestrel
24       American Coot
25       Semipalmated Plover
26       Willet
27       Marbled Godwit
28       Surfbird
29       Ring-billed Gull
30       Western Gull
31       California Gull
32       Black Skimmer
33       Rock Pigeon
34       Mourning Dove
35       Anna’s Hummingbird
36       Belted Kingfisher
37       Black Phoebe
38       Cassin’s Kingbird
39       American Crow
40       Bushtit
41       Hermit Thrush
42       Northern Mockingbird
43       Cedar Waxwing
44       Orange-crowned Warbler
45       Yellow-rumped Warbler
46       Common Yellowthroat
47       Yellow Warbler
48       Black-throated Gray Warbler
49       Townsend’s Warbler
50       Song Sparrow
51       White-crowned Sparrow
52       House Finch
53       Northern Flicker
54       Nuttall’s Woodpecker
55       American Avocet
56       European Starling
57       Western Bluebird
58       Lesser Goldfinch
59       American Goldfinch
60       Pine Siskin
61       California Towhee
62       Merlin
63       Chestnut-sided Warbler
64       American Robin
65       Snow Goose
66       Long-billed Curlew
67       Killdeer
68       American Redstart
69       House Sparrow
70       Prairie Warbler
71       Common Gallinule
72       Herring Gull
73       Hutton’s Vireo
74       Blue-winged Teal
75       Gadwall
76        Green-winged Teal
77        Eurasian Wigeon
78        Cinnamon Teal
79        Common Raven
80        Western Sandpiper
81        Black-and-white Warbler
82        Nashville Warbler
83        Ross’s Goose
84        Clapper Rail
85        Northern Shoveler
86        Say’s Phoebe
87        Summer Tanager
88        Western Tanager
89        Bay-breasted Warbler
90        White-tailed Kite
91        Great Egret
92        Northern Harrier
93        Savannah Sparrow
94        Lincoln’s Sparrow
95        Western Meadowlark
96        Pied-billed Grebe
97        Painted Redstart
98        Ruddy Duck
99        Turkey Vulture
100      Ruby-crowned Kinglet
101      White-throated Sparrow
102      Red-breasted Nuthatch
103      Grace’s Warbler
104      Plumbeous Vireo
105      Ring-necked Duck
106      Dark-eyed Junco
107      Hepatic Tanager
108      Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
109      Northern Waterthrush
110      Wrentit
111      Canada Goose
112      Bewick’s Wren
113      Hammond’s Flycatcher
114      Western Scrub-Jay
115      Little Blue Heron
116      Downy Woodpecker
117      Allen’s Hummingbird
118      Marsh Wren
119      Swamp Sparrow
120      Black-bellied Plover
121      Sanderling
122      Eastern Phoebe
123      Nelson’s Sparrow
124      Common Murre
125      Brandt’s Cormorant
126      Northern Fulmar
127      Royal Tern
128      Heermann’s Gull
129      Black-vented Shearwater
130      Palm Warbler
131      Brewer’s Blackbird
132      House Wren
133      Green Heron
134      Hooded Oriole
135      Forster’s Tern
136      Common Goldeneye

137      Pacific Golden-Plover
138      Cattle Egret
139      Cactus Wren
140      White-throated Swift
141      Clark’s Grebe
142      Spotted Towhee
143      Common Merganser
144      Spotted Sandpiper
145      Canvasback
146      Tropical Kingbird
147      Thick-billed Kingbird
148      Mountain Chickadee
149      Bullock’s Oriole
150      Acorn Woodpecker
151      Bonaparte’s Gull
152      Lewis’s Woodpecker
153      Osprey
154      Greater Scaup
155      Hooded Merganser
156      Eurasian Collared-Dove
157      Red-winged Blackbird
158      Vaux’s Swift
159      Costa’s Hummingbird
160      Black-throated Blue Warbler
161      Dunlin
162      White-breasted Nuthatch
163      Chipping Sparrow
164      Hermit Warbler
165      Least Sandpiper
166      Wilson’s Snipe
167      Long-billed Dowitcher
168      Black-necked Stilt
169      Greater Yellowlegs
170      Red-breasted Merganser
171      Ruddy Turnstone
172      American Pipit
173      Gray Flycatcher
174      Black-crowned Night-Heron
175      Vermilion Flycatcher
176      Short-eared Owl
177      Reddish Egret
178      Burrowing Owl
179      White-faced Ibis
180      Virginia Rail
181      Great-tailed Grackle
182      Harris’s Hawk
183      Oak Titmouse
184      California Quail
185      White-winged Dove
186      Brown-headed Cowbird
187      Sharp-shinned Hawk
188      Hairy Woodpecker
189      Pygmy Nuthatch
190      Vesper Sparrow
191      Mountain Bluebird
192      Ferruginous Hawk
193      Tricolored Blackbird
194      Bald Eagle
195      Red-necked Grebe
196      Solitary Sandpiper
197      Cackling Goose
198      Red Knot
199      Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
200      Loggerhead Shrike
201      Greater White-fronted Goose
202      Wood Duck
203      Evening Grosbeak
204      Pine Warbler
205      Black Turnstone
206      Tree Swallow
207      Curlew Sandpiper
208      Short-billed Dowitcher
209      Peregrine Falcon
210      Barn Swallow
211      California Thrasher
212      White-winged Scoter
213      Broad-billed Hummingbird

February (46 species)
214      Long-tailed Duck
215      Prairie Falcon
216      Phainopepla
217      Townsend’s Solitaire
218      Mew Gull
219      Whimbrel
220      Pelagic Cormorant
221      Rhinoceros Auklet
222      Pomarine Jaeger
223      Scripps’s Murrelet
224      Cassin’s Auklet
225      Greater Roadrunner
226      Golden-crowned Sparrow
227      Harris’s Sparrow
228      Baltimore Oriole
229      Parasitic Jaeger
230      Manx Shearwater
231      Lesser Yellowlegs
232      Glaucous-winged Gull
233      Zone-tailed Hawk
234      Western Screech-Owl
235      Red-breasted Sapsucker
236      Band-tailed Pigeon
237      Steller’s Jay
238      Lark Sparrow
239      Wild Turkey
240      California Gnatcatcher
241      Green-tailed Towhee
242      Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
243      Verdin
244      Le Conte’s Thrasher
245      Black-throated Sparrow
246      Crissal Thrasher
247      Common Ground-Dove
248      Great Horned Owl
249      Ladder-backed Woodpecker
250      Short-tailed Shearwater
251      Thayer’s Gull
252      Barn Owl
253      Horned Lark
254      Yellow-headed Blackbird
255      Lawrence’s Goldfinch
256      Golden Eagle
257      Clay-colored Sparrow
258      Pacific Wren
259      Red-crowned Parrot

March (43 species)
260      Cassin’s Vireo
261      Common Poorwill
262      Sooty Shearwater
263      Pink-footed Shearwater
264      Fox Sparrow
265      Mountain Quail
266      Purple Finch
267      Violet-green Swallow
268      Sora
269      Northern Rough-winged Swallow
270      Cassin’s Finch

271      Wandering Tattler
272      Cliff Swallow
273      Gambel’s Quail
274      Swainson’s Hawk
275      Western Kingbird
276      Rock Wren
277      Rufous-crowned Sparrow
278      Spotted Owl
279      Northern Saw-whet Owl
280      Scott’s Oriole
281      Pacific-slope Flycatcher
282      Yellow-throated Vireo (H)
283      Caspian Tern
284      Elegant Tern
285      Bell’s Vireo
286      Snowy Plover
287      Lucy’s Warbler
288      Sage Thrasher
289      Canyon Wren
290      Red Crossbill
291      Gull-billed Tern
292      Grasshopper Sparrow
293      Black-chinned Hummingbird
294      Black-headed Grosbeak
295      Ash-throated Flycatcher
296      Wilson’s Plover
297      Black-chinned Sparrow
298      Bell’s Sparrow
299      Gray Vireo
300      Brown Creeper
301      Laughing Gull
302      Warbling Vireo

April (18 species)
303      Wilson’s Warbler
304      Least Bittern
305      Rufous Hummingbird
306      Black Oystercatcher
307      Brewer’s Sparrow
308      Brown Booby
309      Red-necked Phalarope
310      Black Storm-Petrel
311      Calliope Hummingbird
312      Blue Grosbeak
313      Yellow-breasted Chat
314      Lazuli Bunting
315      MacGillivray’s Warbler
316      Franklin’s Gull
317      Western Wood-Pewee
318      Lesser Nighthawk
319      Least Tern
320      Olive-sided Flycatcher

May (14 species)
321      Swainson’s Thrush
322      Tennessee Warbler
323      American Bittern
324      Purple Martin
325      Willow Flycatcher
326      Common Tern
327      Ashy Storm-Petrel
328      Red Phalarope
329      Sabine’s Gull
330      Flammulated Owl (H)
331      Rose-breasted Grosbeak
332      Brown-crested Flycatcher
333      Bronzed Cowbird
334      Bank Swallow

June (8 species)
335      Black-footed Albatross
336      Dusky Flycatcher
337      White-headed Woodpecker
338      Pigeon Guillemot
339      Indigo Bunting
340      Buller’s Shearwater
341      Masked Booby
342      Wilson’s Phalarope

July (6 species)
343      Lesser Sand-Plover
344      Stilt Sandpiper
345      Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
346      Arctic Tern
347      Leach’s Storm-Petrel
348      Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel

August (5 species)
349      Black Swift
350      Pectoral Sandpiper
351      Craveri’s Murrelet
352      Red-billed Tropicbird
353      Black Tern

September (11 species)
354      Inca Dove
355      Baird’s Sandpiper
356      Semipalmated Sandpiper
357      Nutmeg Mannikin
358      Blue-footed Booby
359      Bobolink
360      Ovenbird
361      Least Storm-Petrel
362      Yellow-green Vireo
363      Red-throated Pipit
364      Magnolia Warbler

October (12 species)
365      Flesh-footed Shearwater
366      South Polar Skua
367      Crested Caracara
368      Great Crested Flycatcher
369      Lapland Longspur
370      Great Shearwater
371      Guadalupe Murrelet
372      Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
373      Golden-crowned Kinglet
374      Scarlet Tanager
375      Red-naped Sapsucker
376      Northern Parula

November (11 species)
377      Gray Catbird
378      Blackpoll Warbler
379      Mourning Warbler
380      Williamson’s Sapsucker
381      Black Scoter
382      Orchard Oriole
383      Black-throated Green Warbler
384      Black-legged Kittiwake
385      Sagebrush Sparrow (†)
386      Varied Thrush
387      Blue-headed Vireo

December (1 species)
388      Glaucous Gull

Legend
H – heard only
† – pending