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Summering Townsend’s Warbler, and an editorial comment

8:42 am

First off, the hybrid American X Black Oystercatcher, actually much closer in appearance to American, is back off and on again at La Jolla at the seawatch site, where it turns up sporadically now for about 2 years. Typically with a small number of Black Oystercatchers.

But the really big new news is the presence of an apparent summering Townsends Warbler at the Bird and Butterfly Garden in the Tijuana River Valley. This bird has been rumored to be present two or three or four previous times this month since the conclusion of the regular spring migration for this species, which will run into the first several days of June, and with the latest record of a spring migrant being about 10 June. The most recent report was as recently as yesterday via eBird by Mayers et al. Southbound migrants conceivably can start appearing at the very end of July. But anything in between would be exceptional, and there was only one previous true summer report of this species ever in the county. That report is of two birds along the upper San Luis Rey River at about 2,500 feet elevation during the atlas around the year 2000. I am unaware of the details surrounding that report. The current bird at the Bird and Butterfly Garden looks primarily like a 1-year-old male and also shows a bit of feather issues, perhaps at least in the tail region.
This record brings up the need for an editorial comment (!), and that is that such an exceptional, unexpected unseasonal record is actually far far far far far more unusual than just yet another late spring Northern Parula or Rose-breasted Grosbeak and even much, much more unusual than yet another late June Yellow billed Cuckoo or another singing White-eyed Vireo in early summer. But such unseasonal records generate relatively little interest among most birders, and few birders attempt to properly document such records either through detailed written descriptions or attempts to get photos. Also, all too many birders are unaware of the status of these unseasonable birds and either then don’t properly document them or misidentify them because they’re unaware that they are very unusual, and they just assume it’s that species which might occur regularly at a different season. Under-appreciation of proper local status and distribution is a common problem. Many of the best birders anywhere all have proper appreciation of status and distribution of most species, whereas some of the most error-prone birders do not have such knowledge, and often don’t care, and so get off on the wrong track easily and do not pay close attention to unseasonable birds DURING the observation, but then hear about that it’s unusual after the fact and then have to produce details that actually weren’t gathered while the bird was under observation. And often no attempt was made to get photographs of such unseasonal rarities. Such after-the-fact reports are pretty often erroneous.
It would be great if somebody could get recognizable photos of the current Townsends warbler at the B&B. I tried this morning but by the time I got my camera out of the car, the bird had disappeared. Yes yes, slightly sloppy behavior on my part!
Paul Lehman, San Diego