Bird Atlas Trivia--Take 2
How many species of birds have been confirmed breeding in San Diego County during the atlas period, 1997-2001? Answer: 197, if we exclude the Bald Eagle and Winter Wren, evidently unmated individuals of which were seen gathering nest material. Of these 185 are indisputably native species, 12 are escapees or more or less introduced--a fuzzy line in the case of the Canada Goose and Wood Duck, which are known to have been introduced yet could have colonized on their own as well. The exotics include species like the Mute Swan, Red-masked Parakeet, Black-throated Magpie Jay, and Cardinal, which though nesting in the wild have not clearly established a self-sustaining population.
What possibly breeding species were never confirmed? This is a slippery question because the question of what is a possibly breeding species does not have a black and white answer. Among native species known to have nested in the county in the past we have just the Northern Pintail, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Bendire's Thrasher, Red Crossbill, and Bronzed Cowbird. In most of these cases the observations were of single individuals only, which probably never found mates. The situation is similar for the Common Snipe, Flammulated Owl, Calliope Hummingbird, Winter Wren, Cassin's Finch, and Nashville Warbler, which have never been confirmed nesting in the county but might have under the right circumstances. The Flammulated Owl, with several observations on Palomar and Hot Springs mountains, is the species recorded during the atlas period most likely to have bred but not confirmed. Then we have the exotics like the Blue-crowned Parakeet, Nutmeg Mannikin, and Orange Bishop, known to nest in the Los Angeles region but not yet confirmed to do so in San Diego County. Finally, we have the Spotted Dove and Ring-necked Pheasant, introduced species that may not be sustaining themselves in the wild. In fact, the only species that has clearly died out of San Diego County in the past five years is the Spotted Dove.
Who confirmed the most species breeding in a single square on a single day? When and where? Bill Haas takes the cake on this one. On 3 July 1999, along the San Luis Rey River near the Forest Service picnic area in square G16, while studying the Willow Flycatchers nesting in this area, Bill confirmed an amazing 33 species! This result is quite a testament to the virtue of the sit-and-watch technique, to Bill's extraordinary powers of observation and familiarity with the area, and to the unique richness of the site itself. Runners-up are Margaret McIntosh and I, who confirmed 30 species between Ramona and San Pasqual (K13) on 25 May 2000, and Ed Hall and Jim Zimmer, who confirmed 29 in the San Luis Rey valley between Interstate 15 and Pala (D10) during a blockbuster weekend on 7 June 1998.
Thanks to Rich Breisch for suggesting some questions for the game this issue. Let's play again next time!