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Yellow Rail, etc.

Yellow Rail, etc.
By – 11:22 pm
Dear friends, On 21 October 2022 a resident of the apartment building at 3995 Crown Point Drive, adjacent to Kendall-Frost Marsh in Mission Bay found a Yellow Rail along the shore at that address. She brought the bird to Project Wildlife but it was extremely emaciated (approximately half the normal minimum weight for a female Yellow Rail) and died the next day. Maria Gonzalez of Project Wildlife sent me photos from which I confirmed the identification, then today Linda King transferred the specimen to the San Diego Natural History Museum, and I prepared the skin and partial skeleton (SDNHM 57230). The bird was in immature female, weight 22 grams on intake at Project Wildlife, 19 grams when I received it today. The range of weights of 6 female Yellow Rails reported in the Birds of the World account is 41 to 61 grams. The bird from Mission Bay had so little breast muscle it was probably flightless. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but to my knowledge there has not been any record of the Yellow Rail anywhere in southern California since the one brought to Project Wildlife from Santee on 16 December 1998, representing the only previous record for San Diego County. At least Kendall-Frost Marsh is better habitat for a Yellow Rail than the street in residential Santee where the 1998 specimen was found. But a multistory apartment building immediately adjacent to a critical marsh is not good for bird conservation. The second after I send this message I am uploading some photos of the Yellow Rail to www.iNaturalist.org. The Yellow Rail is a second specimen (and record) for San Diego County, but we recently added two first county specimens to the collection. On 3 October 2022, as Gjon Hazard was leaving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Carlsbad where he works, he saw a Canada Warbler—which then flew repeatedly into one of the building’s windows. Gjon kindly brought the specimen to the museum, where I prepared it as SDNHM 57221. Although over 60 Canada Warblers have been sighted in San Diego County over the years, and at least 8 specimens have been preserved from elsewhere in California, the Carlsbad specimen is the first for San Diego County. And, no surprise, we recently received our first San Diego County specimen of Swinhoe’s White-eye via Project Wildlife. Yet another notable recent specimen received via Project Wildlife is a Black Storm-Petrel, found under a car parked on the roof of the BMW dealership in Kearny Mesa on 17 October 2022. I confirmed the strange story in a phone conversation with the man who brought the bird to Project Wildlife. The cars parked on the building’s roof belong to local customers—they are not cars newly imported on ships on which a storm-petrel might have landed. The bird had a badly broken mandible and could not be released. This past Monday Maria Gonzalez prepared it as SDNHM 57227—prepared it beautifully, in spite of the thick fat and oil in the skin that required the skin be scraped, washed, and blow-dried before being stuffed. Bizarre, yes, but part of a pattern. Just like the last two inland Black Storm-Petrels we received, the one from Kearny Mesa was a recently fledged juvenile with tufts of down still adhering to some of the belly feathers. And all of the now over 20 specimens of storm-petrels recovered inland around San Diego were found in fall. I can’t help but infer that fledgling storm-petrels emerging from the burrows on Los Coronados Islands are disoriented by the lights of San Diego and Tijuana and end up flying toward them, then get lost in the city, with fatal results.  Project Wildlife sent 5 White-fronted Geese that it received this fall to the wildlife disease lab in Rancho Cordova near Sacramento. Linda King just heard that one of those, at least, did test positive for avian influenza, and samples of the virus from it are being sent to a lab in Washington, DC, for gene sequencing to identify the strain of influenza. Thanks very much to Linda and Maria for maintaining our vital communication between Project Wildlife and the museum. Finally, the museum has so many bird contracts on tap for next year that we need more field ornithologists! Please see the job announcement at https://www.sdnhm.org/about-us/employment/ and write Kevin Clark at kclark@… if you are interested and qualified! Good birding, Philip UnittSan Diego