Lake Hodges: An Important Bird Area
Many of us gathered at Lake Hodges on 15 April for dedication and recognition of the lake and its surroundings as a "globally important bird area," by criteria defined by the American Bird Conservancy and National Audubon Society. Dick Barber and Wayne Pray were the key people gathering and compiling the data on the California Gnatcatcher population qualifying the lake at this level, and the Palomar Audubon Society sponsored the application. Bob Barnes of California Audubon presided over the even, which brought together a divers group supporting the lake's value to birds, including San Diego councilwoman Barbara Warden, former Escondido mayor Jerry Harmon, California Audubon executive director Dan Taylor, and San Diego reservoir superintendent and key atlas supporter Jim Brown. grasshopper Sparrows serenaded the ceremony, and the most sensational attendee was the Poor-will, spotted by Clark Mahrdt and a new species for the lakes list, that sat in plain view on an exposed rock through the entire event.
School Yard Atlasing
Because of my involvement with the Bird Atlas, I decided to develop a Bird Atlas curriculum along with Joy Moorhead, Chula Vista Elementary School District's Science Resource Teacher. School children can learn to identify the birds in and around their schoolyard, learn how to count and record them, and then to send the information to us to be entered into the Bird Atlas database. We have included activities that encourage listening, seeing, and observation. We have several teachers participating and are hoping that more will join in. If you are a teacher, a parent, or know a teacher who might be interested, call me at (619) 422-2481 or Joy Moorhead at (619) 476-7836.
The Birds of North America
The Research Library on the third floor of the San Diego Natural History Museum has a wonderful collection of resources for ornithology, as well as other local natural history information. The library has about 92,000 volumes, including many monographs on bird anatomy, physiology, conservation, systematics, etc. Among the many valuable serials in our holdings are the Auk, Bird conversation International, Bulletin of British Ornithological Club, Condor, Ibis, Journal of Field Ornithology, and Western Birds.
The most recent addition, through the generosity of a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, is the Birds of North America. This series, which is scheduled for completion by 2002, will ultimately cover all 700+ North American species. Four hundred accounts have already been published, each as a separate pamphlet. Each well-illustrated species profile covers information on distribution, systematics, migration, habitat, food habits, vocalizations, breeding, and many other topics. Because of its value and the potential for loss of individual treatments prior to binding, this series is currently kept in the library office.
To use any of the resources in the library, you will need to make an appointment with me, the librarian. I can be reached by phone at (619) 232-3821, ext. 225, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The library is open Monday through Friday. this is a non-circulating library, but you are welcome to make photocopies at a charge of 10 cents a page. We will be happy to have you visit and browse our resources; schedule an appointment soon so we can show you how our library can help answer your questions!
Target Lists for Bleak Desert Squares Reduced
Three years of experience have now shown that the breeding-season target lists for the desert squares that lack significant oases were too optimistic. The listed species may occur but in such low density (possibly less even than one pair per square) that even experienced observers cannot find them in 25 hours afield. Some of the listed species, such as the Lesser Goldfinch and Mockingbird, are irregular, occurring and nesting after wet winters like 1997-1998 but disappearing after dry ones like 1998-1999. If the next two winters are dry it would clearly be impossible for the threshold in these squares to be reached. Therefore, after consulting with the advisory group and some of our participants covering such squares, I believe it is best to reduce the target lists by 25%. The squares affected are C23-29, D27-29, E23, E25-29, F26-28, G25-28, H27-29, I25-27, J24-28, K23-29, L23-29, M27-29, N24-26, N28-29, O27-29, P26-29, Q27-29, and R29. To refigure the threshold goals for these squares, simply multiply the original target list by 0.75. Thanks very much to our dedicated observers covering these areas who can now focus on a more realistic goal.
Our weekend in the southern Anza-Borrego Desert 17-18 April attracted 17 participants, enabling us to cover 10 squares, some for two days. But because of lack of rain, desert birding is tough this year, and some species were absent or scarce in areas where they were common last year. Many birds may skip nesting entirely. Still, we found nests, old if not new, of 14 species. We found Leconte's Thrashers in six squares, helping to clarify the range of one of the county's sparsest resident birds. Migrants hadn't yet built up to the numbers of the last week of April, but four Gray Flycatchers were notable. The biggest surprise was the discovery by Paul Jorgensen and Ed and Lauren Wallace of a previously unknown oasis in Carrizo gorge in square R27 (four-wheel drive needed to reach the spot). Apparently underground earth and water movement have driven water to the surface at a new spot, and the habitat was sufficient to have been colonized by Red-winged Blackbirds and Killdeer.
Only seven of us made the weekend in the Oak Grove region of north-central San Diego County on 1 and 2 May, but that didn't prevent our making some of the most interesting discoveries on a blockbuster yet. Bryan O'Leary and Joe Barth found a trail down from the Palomar Divide Road into the bottom of Blue Canyon in square E17, where they discovered an active nest of Long-eared Owls. They also found a singing Gray Vireo, Joe tape-recording it to confirm the identification. Andy Mauro found another in Previtt Canyon in D17, extending our knowledge of the scarcest breeding bird of the chaparral. The road between Warner Springs and Indian Flats Campground was the only place where the Gray Vireo was previously known in this part of the county. In addition to the almost domesticated flock of "Wild" Turkeys Sue and Jim Berg and I saw near the Puerta La Cruz Conservation Camp (E18), Kirsten Winter had one just south of Oak Grove (D16), showing that this species has spread over almost the entire width of the county since its introduction in 1993. On Sunday we again covered the "All One God Faith Rainforest" in Chihuahua Valley (C18), thanks to the cooperation of Melody O'Driscoll. By breaking into two teams we again found 90% of the number of breeding species on the square's target list, as well as large numbers of migrants. Might this high sagebrush-covered plateau suit the Vesper, Savannah, and Brewer's Sparrows, all of which we saw, as breeding habitat?
By the time you receive this, our Pine Hills blockbuster scheduled for 23-24 May will have passed, but don't forget the last one for 1999 breed season: Valley Center/Palomar Mountain. Because of conflict with the annual conference of the Western Field Ornithologists, this weekend is rescheduled one week later than advertised in the last Wrenderings: is now 12-13 June, and the campsite is shifted to the Observatory Campground. Please meet at the Valley Center post office on Cole Grade Road just north of Valley Center Road at 6:30 AM. Our Valley Center blockbuster last year proved one of our most interesting and successful, and covering two or three Palomar squares on Sunday should make it even more so.
Thanks very much to Kirsten Winter for having made the camping arrangements for the Oak Grove, Pine Hills, and Palomar blockbuster weekends for us.
Mark your calendar now for Sunday afternoon 12 September for our fall WingDing. We're still working out the details, but our target location is Point Lomaa great place to spend the day during fall migration. Watch for more details in the next Wrenderings and an invitation coming later this summer.
If you are clearing your threshold this summer, please be sure to send us your data in time so that we can recognize your accomplishment at the WingDing!
Thanks to Vince Manson, Carol Moffatt, and Dan Tilton for enabling us to have our spring WingDing at the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, to Jerry Schad for an awe-inspiring presentation, and to Janet Chenier of the Museum's store for making Jerry's book available for sale. Thanks again to Barbara Anderson, Kathy Estey, Joan Roberts, Cheryl Mann, and Barbara Moore for getting our record-setting number of guests checked in smoothly. And special thanks to the Zoological Society of San Diego for the financial support that has made our semiannual get-togethers possible these past two years.
Redhead chick sketch by Nicole Perretta