Watch Out for Those Killer Bees
Thanks to participant Robert Waters for an update on the Africanized honeybee situation as of May 1998. There are now three records for eastern San Diego County, from Horse Camp (D24) and Sunset Mt. (J26) in June 1996, and Scissors Crossing (J22) in April 1997. Six incidents of stings have now been reported in California, one from Blythe, five from Imperial County. In the latter area, the agricultural commissioner "is reporting a very high level of swarming" and has discontinued reporting suspect swarms "since the entire county is infested." a fireman responding to a hive in Calipatria "reported seeing the bees attack and kill a bird in flight." In El Centro "a dog was stung many times on the head and died." Watch out for bees!
Our blockbuster weekends for the 1998 breeding season got better and better as the season wore on. In the Dulzura/Potrero region on 16 and 17 May, 12 observers covered 12 squares, enjoying ideal weather if also braving brushes with the Border Patrol and nasty landowners. Fortunately, some friendly landowners made up for the latter and welcomed us onto private property to which we would otherwise have had no access. Interesting discoveries were Violet-green Swallows in four squares, showing this species to be more widespread in oak woodland and around cliffs (north of Barrett Junction) in south-central San Diego County than previously known. Joe Barth, Shauna Wolf, and Phil Nelson helped outline the lower limit of the range of Mountain Quail by finding it in squares S17 and T17, near Mother Grundy and Lawson peaks. Quite unexpected after last winter was a flock of Cedar Waxwings at Twin Lakes park north of Potrero. We found nests of 20 species, and confirmed the breeding of many more by other means. A treat for those of us spending the night at Potrero County Park was a fledgling Screech Owl, readily located by its harsh rattling call and seen well by flashlight.
In the Valley Center/Pauma Valley region on 6 and 7 June clouds kept temperatures low and birds active most of the day. Thanks to Helen Simmons and Willard Johnson for arranging access to private property. Thirteen observers covered 13 squares. In square D10, Gomez Creek (includes a section of the San Luis Rey River), Ed Hall and Jim Zimmer found 72 species, confirming an amazing 28 of them as breeding. All our other participants did extremely well, too finding nests of 23 species total. Our more notable observations: a Spotted Sandpiper along the San Luis Rey River in D10, on this date presumable at least a summering if not breeding bird (San Elijo Lagoon and Lake Hodges remain the only known sites for Spotted Sandpiper breeding in San Diego County). Apparently territorial Warbling Vireos in D10 by Ed Hall and Jim Zimmer, F10, by Lori Hargrove and Jim Wilson, and F11 by me suggest this species, nearly extirpated from San Diego County as a breeder, could be recovering in response to cowbird trapping like Bell's vireo. Likewise, I had a single Cassin's (Solitary) Vireo singing nonstop for 20 minutes in F11I know of no other recent records for Cassin's Vireo in the breeding season at low elevations. Perhaps the least expected were my three Purple Finches, including a pair, along Keys Creek in F11; Ed Hall followed up with a sighting of a pair just to the north in E11 later in the week. Combined with John and Lori Hargrove's observations of this typically montane forest species at low elevations (600-800 feet) in C11, these are surely among the more remarkable discoveries of our bird atlas effort to date.
Our special Corte Madera blockbuster on 20 and 21 June attracted 24 participants to cover the four squares centering on the private Corte Madera Ranch. Such intensive coverage enabled us to find 47-65 species in each square, 80-105% of the target lists, and we confirmed 16-26 species in each square 27-42% of the target lists. The most notable discovery was undoubtedly the Common Snipe flushed by Joe Barth, Emmy Garnica, don Geiger, and me I the extensive boggy area on the south side of Corte Madera Lake. It was just a single bird not engaging in any suspicious behavior, but if there is a place for the snipe to breed in San Diego County, this is it. Other noteworthy observations were of a Prairie Falcon by Geoff Rogers and Dave Seals (suitable nesting habitat on the south face of Corte Madera Mt.), two pairs of Purple Martins at nest holes by Mike Evans and Anna and David Stanton, a Great-tailed Grackle by Erik and Kai Berndes, and a singing Warbling Vireo by Emmy Garnica and me. All of us owe a big thank you to the homeowners of Corte Madera Ranch for this special opportunity and to Dale, Mary, and Dallas Clark for their gracious and generous hospitality.
Please watch for out winter blockbuster schedule in the next issue of Wrenderings-we will be visiting new areas!
Our Fall Wing Ding is happening
at the Chula vista Nature Center from 3:00 to 7:00 PM on Saturday 19 September. Park in the Nature Center parking lot just west of Interstate 5 at the west end of E Street, or if this is full, in the parking lot for the E Street trolley station just east of I-5. Buses will be running on an accelerated schedule to take us into the Nature Center. Consider coming early to enjoy the center's diverse exhibits on the ecology of San Diego Bay and for birding on the surrounding refuge. Bookstore open!
Nancy Conney of Skyhunters will be joining us to show some of the more unusual birds of prey that her group of rehabilitators features in its education programs. Andy Yuen of the U.S. fish and Wildlife Service will speak to us on the evolution of the new San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, a critical issue affecting conservation of both our aquatic and terrestrial habitats on which we should all be informed. Phil Unitt will update us on the atlas' progress and post our participants who have reached the threshold goal for their squares. Bird atlas T shirts will be available to all eligible participants (send any data now if you haven't yet!). And we will enjoy refreshments, catered by El Torito.
No charge for bird atlas participants (includes free admission to Chula Vista Nature Center); $10 for guests. Please call 619-232-3821 ext. 235 to let us know if you are coming and how many guests you are bringing.
Thanks very much to Barbara Moore and all the staff of the Chula Vista Nature Center for so generously making this delightful venue available for out event. See you on 19 September.