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San Dieguito Valley: Summer Tanager, White-fronted Geese, Vermilion Flycatchers, Semipalmated Plover

San Dieguito Valley: Summer Tanager, White-fronted Geese, Vermilion Flycatchers, Semipalmated Plover
By {authorlink} – 5:19 pm

Dear friends,

In the San Dieguito Valley for the Rancho Santa Fe Christmas bird count this morning I had one Summer Tanager: first I heard the characteristic sputtering call, descending in pitch, along San Dieguito Road about 0.2 mile southwest of the intersection of El Apajo. I turned to look and saw a female-plumaged bird across the road in trees of a backyard overlooking San Dieguito Road. Near the southwest corner of the former horse pastures (most of which are now sadly overrun with heavy construction equipment) was a minimum of 95 White-fronted Geese, along with 4 Snow Geese and many Canada Geese. Also along the pasture’s southwest fence and in the riparian scrub along the south edge of the Morgan Run golf course were at least 4, probably 5, Vermilion Flycatchers (3 males, 2 females). Down at the former polo, now soccer, field just east of El Camino Real and south of Via de la Valle, the bird that surprised me was a Semipalmated Plover, hanging out with the Black-bellied Plovers and Canada Geese. Also 3 Dunlins.

The massive changes now underway in the San Dieguito/Osuna Valley include clearing of a former seasonal wetland along San Dieguito Road between Rancho Diegueño Road and El Apajo. When we had adequate rain, this used to be a great spot for waterfowl (including the Blue-winged Teal and Hooded Merganser) and shorebirds (including the Lesser Yellowlegs and Wilson’s Snipe). Now it is graded with a plastic drainage pipe down the center that suggests its function as a wetland will be eliminated permanently. What happened to the regulations concerning conservation of wetlands? Or did this seasonal wetland not qualify? In spite of the fact that seasonal wetlands can be much more productive than permanent wetlands. The degraded seasonal wetland east of El Camino Real between Via de la Valle and the polo/soccer field had some water but few ducks and no shorebirds (this is another site where I have seen the Lesser Yellowlegs repeatedly in wet years).

Good birding,

Philip Unitt
San Diego