San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature Connection[San Diego County Bird Atlas Project]

Notable Observations
Fall 1998

The Common Loon normally occurs in San Diego County as a migrant and winter visitor only, so two spending the summer on Lake Cuyamaca (squares M20 and M21), observed by Ann and Tom Keenan and Paul Jorgensen, and four on Lake Henshaw (G17) 17 July, observed by Claude Edwards, were exceptional -- I find only four previous reports of loons summering on San Diego County lakes.

More Magnificent Frigatebirds have spread north out of Baja California this summer than in at least 15 years. In San Diego County Shauna Wolf's early sighting (5 June) of one at Mariner's Point, Mission Bay (R7), was followed by Freeman Hall's near San Elijo Lagoon (L7) on 2 July and John Boaz's at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (O7) on 22 July.

Remember the Harlequin Duck and Oldsquaws in south San Diego Bay last winter? They never left. Robert Patton and Shauna Wolf found the Harlequin, one Oldsquaw, and a White-winged Scoter spending the entire summer around the Chula Vista Wildlife Reserve (U10).

A first for San Diego County: successful fledging of the Osprey. The pair nesting on the floodlight at Stroop Field in North Island Naval Air Station (S9) fledged two young in late July. Joan Dudley reports that workers near the nest ensured that one of the young, on the ground after its maiden flight, successfully evaded a marauding cat.

The only sighting of a Zone-tailed Hawk during this breeding season was mine of an adult over Mesa Grande Road at the top of the escarpment overlooking Lake Henshaw (H17) on 13 June.

Notable early fall migrant shorebirds were an adult American Golden Plover found by Claude Edwards at the Tijuana River mouth (V10) on 27 June and two juvenile Stilt Sandpipers found by Robert Patton at San Elijo Lagoon (L7).

Franklin's Gulls appeared more widely than normal in California this year. In San Diego County, Rich and Susan Breisch found three at the mouth of Las Pulgas Creek on 30 May, while Brennan Mulrooney found one at Santee Lakes (P12) on 29 June.

Elegant and Caspian Terns attempted to colonize a new site: Zuóiga Jetty at the mouth of San Diego Bay (S8), where Robert Patton found one nest of the Elegant and six of the Caspian on 4 May. But all the eggs had suffered predation by 5 June.

The Burrowing Owl was reported from only one square this season away from known sites at North Island and Otay Mesa, dramatizing how tenuous the species' hold on San Diego County has become. Paul Jorgensen found two burrows near the Borrego Valley Airport in F25, hearing the nestlings in one.

Two Belted Kingfisher nests are known to have fledged young this year: Kirsten Winter and Charles van Tassel followed one on Chicarita Creek within the Saber Springs housing development in M10, while Margaret and Bert McIntosh found a family on Bernardo Bay of Lake Hodges in K10.

One half of a new breeding species for San Diego County? Dan Cooper found a Red-naped Sapsucker, far out of its normal summer range, paired with a Red-breasted and followed by a fledgling along Chimney Creek on Palomar Mountain (E14) on 19 July. Palomar Mountain is the only area in San Diego County where the Red-breasted breeds regularly, making Mike and Margaret Smith's observation of one on the southeast side of Hot Springs Mountain (F21) on 4 July and Ann and Tom Keenan's of two feeding young along the Azalea Springs trail in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park (M20) on 20 June noteworthy.

Quite a surprise was Robbie Fischer's discovery of a Hairy Woodpecker feeding a fledgling in Camp Pendleton along the Santa Margarita River near Rifle Range Road (F5) on 28 June. In San Diego County typically a species of montane pine forest, the species also occurs at low elevations to the north of us. Reports several years ago from the Santa Margarita River near Fallbrook are the only previous suggestion, to my knowledge, that this lowland distribution might extend south to San Diego County.

Geoff Rogers found a singing Olive-sided Flycatcher in a eucalyptus grove on the campus of USIU (O11) on 24 June. The only precedent for this typically montane species in the lowlands of San Diego County in midsummer is the pair that nested successfully at San Elijo Lagoon in 1982.

Possible new breeding sites for the endangered subspecies extimus of the Willow Flycatcher were found by Ken Weaver on upper Temecula Creek near Oak Grove (C16) 20 June and by Michael Patten at Scissors Crossing (J22) on 21 June. Even on dates so late in the spring, however, migrants of the subspecies brewsteri can still be on their way to the Pacific Northwest, calling for follow-up of these sites still later in the summer. For example, a Willow Flycatcher found by Nicole Perretta in an isolated patch of willows southeast of El Cajon in R14 on 20 June could not be relocated later and was likely a migrant.

Late spring migrant Gray Flycatchers were noted in the Anza-Borrego Desert by Richard and Susan Breisch in Arroyo Seco del Diablo (N28) on 2 May and by Phil Nelson at Yaqui Well (I24) on 12 May.

No reports of nesting Vermilion Flycatchers this year -- the only birds observed were single males by Christine Rideout near the Wild Animal Park (J12) on 31 May and by Bob Thériault near Sentenac CiČnaga (J23) on 14 June.

Another new site for the Gray Vireo is along the Pacific Crest Trail south of Barrel Spring in H20, where Claude Edwards had one on 24 May.

Migrating Hermit Thrushes occurred late this spring. One of the subspecies slevini hit the window of Ruth and Marvin Kantor on Point Loma (S7) on 1 May, providing our latest specimen yet for San Diego County, and Pete Ginsburg saw an exceptionally late vagrant there on 4 June. Then Dan Cooper had three or four singing along Chimney Creek on Palomar Mountain (E14) on 19 July, making the first record of multiple Hermit Thrushes summering in San Diego County -- still no breeding record.

The Brown Thrasher is a rare vagrant to California, occurring more often in fall and winter than in spring migration. Paulette Ache had one staying for a week beginning 27 April at her feeder in Borrego Springs (G24).

Lori Hargrove's Bendire's Thrasher south of Ocotillo Wells in J29 on 19 May was suspiciously close to the only known site of nesting of this species in San Diego County, in square J28 in 1993.

Further breeding records of the rare Purple Martin are Ed Hall's of two pairs in William Heise County Park (K20) on 10 June and Claude Edwards' of 12, with adults feeding young, at Lake Henshaw (G17) on 17 July.

The single report of a Red Crossbill was of one on Middle Peak by Richard Webster on 19 May. The species occurs rarely on the tops of the Cuyamaca Mountains even in noninvasion years and could breed, though the only previous record in San Diego County is for Point Loma during the invasion of 1967.

The enormous influx of Brewer's Sparrow in the Anza-Borrego Desert this spring culminated with Bob Thériault's observation of one near Sentenac Ciénaga (J23) on 28 May, the latest spring record ever for San Diego County.

Paul Jorgensen's singing summering Nashville Warbler -- the only one ever known to summer in San Diego County -- returned for its second year to the wier along the creek below Doane Pond (D14).

A bizarre observation was Margaret and Bert McIntosh's of a female Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler in Blue Sky Ecological Reserve (L12) on 23 June. Though a few summer and breed near the summits of Hot Springs Mt. and Cuyamaca Peak, there are no previous summer records from low elevations in San Diego County.

A first for San Diego County: a summer Ovenbird, found by Ken Weaver along Colb Creek near the Palomar Observatory (D15) on 7 July.

The American Redstart occurs annually in migration and winter but has been recorded in San Diego County only four or five times previously in midsummer. Bill Haas and Robb Hamilton found an aggressively territorial one in a willow thicket on the south side of Lake Henshaw (G17) on 26 July.

Several reports of the Summer Tanager in eastern San Diego County suggest that this species may some day nest here: along Cottonwood Creek in S22 on 9 May by Susan and Richard Breisch, along San Felipe Creek near Scissors Crossing (J22) on 20 May by Ed Hall, just east of there in J23 on 27 May by Bob Thériault (same bird?), and at Middle Willows on Coyote Creek on 28 May by Paul Jorgensen.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting are regular spring vagrants. This year, we have one report of each, a male of the former found by Rich and Susan Breisch along Buckman Springs Road east of Lake Morena (S22) on 7 June and a male of the latter found by Joe Worley at Point Loma (S7) on 12 June.

Three reports of the Yellow-headed Blackbird this spring -- in the San Diego Valley (M8) on 13 May by Jane Lesley, at Lake Cuyamaca (M20) on 28 May by Ann and Tom Keenan, and at San Elijo Lagoon (L7) on 12 July by Barbara Moore -- but the species has still never been confirmed nesting in San Diego County.

Bill Haas noted a flock of 400 Tricolored Blackbirds descending on the pond near the corner of Highway 78 and Magnolia Avenue in Ramona (K15), where they established a new colony, and Ken Weaver found another colony near Oak Grove (C16), where he estimated 650 on 27 June.

Dave Povey located the most coastal summering Scott's Orioles yet known in San Diego County around Dulzura in U17, with one pair along Marron Valley Road and another near the Dulzura Summit along Highway 94.

Another Bronzed Cowbird entered a cowbird trap in the Borrego Valley (G25) -- this one provided the third specimen ever for San Diego County.

--Philip Unitt

Fall 1998 Wrenderings | Wrenderings Archive | Bird Atlas Introduction