Christmas Bird Counts
Christmas Bird Counts again made a huge contribution to the atlas effort this past winter. Over 50 squares clearing the winter threshold this year received a boost, in some cases a major one, from the Christmas Bird Counts. All the counts did well this year, meeting or exceeding their average number of species. Organizing and compiling a Christmas bird count is an enormous amount of work even without coordinating it with the atlas, so we must be sure to thank Claude Edwards (San Diego, Lake Henshaw), Robert Patton (Rancho Santa Fe), Bob Thériault (Borrego Springs), Ken Weaver (Escondido), and Dennis Wysong and Christine Rideout (Oceanside) for their terrific efforts. We owe an enormous thank you to the many participants who so carefully allocated their observations on these counts by atlas square. The grand prize goes to Geoff Rogers, who on the Lake Henshaw count covered six squares, carefully assigning each observation to its proper square.
Winter Thresholds for Bleak Desert Squares ReducedHard experience this winter confirmed that the original target lists for the squares in the Anza-Borrego desert lacking substantial oases or human development are too long, just as the ones for the breeding season were. After discussing the situation with several of our participants covering such squares, as well as the advisory group, I've concluded the best solution is again to reduce the target numbers of species by the same fraction. Again, just multiply the number on the original list by 0.75 and round to the nearest whole number. The squares affected are C23-28, D24-29, E23, E25-29, F26-28, G26-28, H24, H28-29, I25-27, J24-28, K23-27, K29, L23, L25-29, M27-29, N24-26, N29, O26, O28-29, P26-29, Q27-29, and R29. This change allows our dedicated observers covering these difficult areas to focus on a realistic goal.
Spreadsheet for Strategizing
We'll be updating our spreadsheet of lagging squares after receiving this year's winter data. We are glad to make this tool for targeting our effort in the second half of the project where it's needed most to any interested participant. If you're shopping for a new square to adopt, please peruse this list, as several participants have already. If you can take the spreadsheet electronically in Excel, please do so; if not, we're glad to send you a paper copy.
Again we scheduled four blockbuster weekends for winter 1999-2000. Three took place before the printing of this issue of Wrenderings, and all three were eminently successful. On the first, over 8 and 9 January to the southern part of the Anza-Borrego Desert, 18 of us covered 15 squares, finding 45 species. Especially notable were two Gray Flycatchers (along Bow Willow Wash in O28 by Ed Hall and Clark Mahrdt and along Carrizo Wash in P28 by Andy Mauro and Frank Unmack, three Sage Thrashers, in Torote Canyon (O27), near Dolomite Mine (P29), and near Dos Cabezas Spring (S29), six Le Conte's Thrashers, in P27, Q27, and S29, and 12 Scott's Orioles.
On the second, to the Campo/Boulevard region of southeastern San Diego County over 22 and 23 January, we had 22 participants, an especially great turnout enabling us to cover 18 squares and find 110 species. Despite the desperately dry weather, the scattered ponds and marshes in this area had a remarkable variety of water birds, including Blue-winged Teal, Hooded Mergansers, and Common Gallinules or Moorhens (one in S23 by Lori Hargrove, one in T25 by Fred Belinsky, Evelyn Dalby, and Royce Riggan), the latter not known from southeastern San Diego County before this winter (Frank Unmack and Jim Wilson had earlier found one on Tule Lake in T27). A Green-tailed Towhee (in T23 by Ginger Rebstock), multiple Lewis' Woodpeckers, Varied Thrushes, and Mountain Chickadees staged unexpected appearances in this region where they had rarely if ever been known previously. The finding of Ladder-backed Woodpeckers in squares R24 and U25 extended the range of this species and suggested dispersal of this desert species over the Tecate Divide during the nonbreeding season, helping explain the species' persistence on the coastal slope in Miller Valley in square S24confirmed again by Lori on the weekend. Thanks very much to Frank Unmack for hosting us overnight at his ranch near Bankhead Springs.
On the third, to the Oak Grove/Chihuahua Valley region of north-central San Diego County over 5 and 6 February, 11 of us covered nine squares, recording 83 species. Mary Beth Stowe and Ed Wallace encountered the "Wild" Turkeys that seem to be domesticating themselves at Puerta La Cruz Conservation Camp in square E18, and Jim Wilson and Hank Ingersoll relocated the population of Steller's Jays in coniferless oak/riparian woodland at Adobe Springs in C18. Margaret and Bert McIntosh heard three Soras at Twin Lakes in C18, and Mike Mathos and I were surprised to find two Phainopeplas and a Mockingbird around clumps of mistletoe in C19 at Boden Fieldelevation 4400 feet. Thanks very much to Kirsten Winter for arranging camping for us at the Forest Service's Oak Grove campground and to Melody O'Driscoll for authorizing access to the "All One God Faith Rainforest" in C18. And thanks above all to the dedicated participants who have made these attempts to extend our coverage of the county as widely as possible such a success.
Please note the blockbuster weekend schedule for the coming breeding season:
April 29-30: Southern Anza-Borrego Desert. Meet at 6:00 AM along Highway S-2 at the turnoff to Bow Willow Campground. Camping at Bow Willow.
May 20-21: Campo/Boulevard. Meet at 6:00 AM at the Buckman Springs rest area along Interstate 8. Camping at Frank Unmack's ranch.
June 10-11: Lake Henshaw. Event tentativearrangements still being made. Please stay tuned for further details.
June 24-25: Oak Grove/Chihuahua Valley. Meet at 6:00 AM in the parking lot along Highway 79 across from the entrance to the Warner Springs resort. Camping at the Forest Service's Oak Grove campground.
A Plea, a Promise and a Thank You
First, thanks so much to those participants who have used the Natural History Museum's Website (www.sdnhm.org) to submit their winter data during the past three months and to those who have already sent in their winter forms. We're hoping for an avalanche of forms from the rest of you now that the winter season has come to a close. Please, send in your data as soon as possible. You might clear your threshold and earn a hat! The Wing Ding is less than one month away! We promise to recognize all winter threshold clearers at this event. But you must send in your data NOW!!
Wing Ding Things
Our Wing Dings are just getting better and better, and the upcoming Spring event is one that you will NOT want to miss! Put Sunday March 26th on your calendar now, for an afternoon in Balboa Park. First we will meet at 3:00 PM in the brand new auditorium of the Museum of Photographic Arts for David Bittner's slide and video presentation on the Golden Eagles of San Diego County. We have all seen these magnificent birds, and no one knows more about them and their trials and tribulations than David. Phil will give an update on the bird atlas project, and we will award a bird atlas hat to all who have cleared the winter threshold in their square(s). This will be your opportunity to take a well-deserved bow for all your hard work and to applaud your fellow atlasers as well. The hats have been designed by our very own Fred Belinsky, of the Village Hat Shoppe. They were premiered at the last Wing Ding and are certain to become an important part of every atlasers wardrobe!
Afterward, we'll head over to the Natural History Museum for some delicious refreshments served in the recently opened "Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park: The Lost World". We'll have the Museum all to ourselves, a great opportunity for you to see one of the largest traveling dinosaur exhibitions in the world. And to cap off the evening, the Museum's Covey will treat us to a variety of delicious and decadent homemade desserts!
Golden Eagles, cool hats, dinosaurs, and chocolate.... this promises to be quite an event! Watch for your invitation in the mail!