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Monthly Archives: February 2019

San Ysidro Laughing Gull and Vermillion Flycatcher

Today, February 21st, at 2:10 the male Vermillion Flycatcher continued on the sheet metal fence behind the Ross store of the Las Americas Plaza shopping center, it has been there without fail for the last couple of weeks. The continuing second cycle Laughing Gull was hiding amongst the vegetation in the flood plain of the Tijuana River south of the Sod Farm, today it was joined by five Bonaparte’s Gulls. It flushes often, revealing the black in the tail and dark underwings.

Dan Jehl
San Diego
Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports

Swainson's Hawks in Borrego Springs

Yesterday evening 18 Swainson's Hawks roosted at the Date Farm (Evans Farm is the correct name now). We officially opened the hawk count today. Each evening we hope to monitor incoming hawks from a mesquite dune located 1.8 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive on Borrego Valley Rd. Incoming hawks usually arrive between 4pm and just after sunset. The morning watch is located 2.8 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive on DiGiorgio Rd. (south of Henderson Canyon Rd.) Our official count site is on a raised sand hill to the east. We monitor migration hawks from 8am-11am each morning through March. If you would like to be on the ALERT list, send me an email and you will be added. I send out information about roosting hawks when we get more than 100 in town. I estimate the departure time for the following day. A major flower bloom is predicted this season. If we have a super bloom and with it millions of caterpillars, we will have a record number of Swainson's Hawks. Beware that March weekends will be very crowded in Borrego Springs especially with a warmup in the coming weeks. On March 18, 2017 we counted 3,713 Swainson's Hawks migrating. You can access information about the hawkwatch at Hawkcount.org and our blog at Borregohawkwatch.blogspot.com

Borrego Springs

Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports

Re: on identifying and reporting Sagebrush Sparrows

Chris McCreedy was responsible for the recent 'Sage' Sparrow study in Arizona. His response to Paul's email is below.
Justyn Stahl
San Clemente Island
Hi Paul, 
I
conducted the study in AZ, with the help if many volunteers. As Paul
wrote, identifying the two taxa in the field can be very difficult. 
I
apologize I have not gotten our results out there earlier, i has been a
busy few years. I finished my thesis, my Dad died and I was responsible
for his estate, I moved twice, changed jobs, and much of my free time
was devoted toward desert avicaching and desert thrasher survey protocol
developement. I have finally completed nearly all of those things and
will be picking back up on the Sage Sparrow paper this spring. 
We
captured wintering Sage Sparrows and used blood sampling to confirm sex
and assign ID. The differences are there, we caught 70-80 birds if my
memory serves, and our in the hand identifications conflicted with lab
identifications for only one, or perhaps two birds. Those conflicts
occurred the first day or two of the study, and it did not take long
before we were pretty confident of which species we had in the net
within a few moments of extracting the capture. 
We
photographed all of our birds and I will include ranges of overlap of
plumage traits in the paper. But I just wanted to say that following
Paul’s comments, I studied these birds intensively and I still leave the
majority of individuals I encounter in the field as ‘Sage’ Sparrows,
and I am instantly suspicious when I encounter eBird checklists with
most or all birds observed taken to Sagebrush and/or Bell’s, with 0 or
few left as Sage Sparrow. 
Common
mistakes are assuming that back streaks = nevadensis and that lack of
streaks (without taking distance and glare off of the back into account)
= A. belli canescens. Multiple photographs are desired both for views
of different characters and because camera settings and lighting can
make it difficult to understand plumage coloration and contrasts in
individuals with just a shot or two. 
I
am happy to look at photographs if you send them, though I work a lot
and cannot always get to them immediately for you.  You will find that I
will often tell you ‘best to leave it as a Sage Sparrow’.  I will have
the article out for you as soon as I can, and yes, I would love to
replicate our study at more sites and habitats in AZ and SE CA. 
Chris McCreedy
Tucson

Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports

Re: GW Teal X Mallard drake at Santee Lakes, 20 Feb 2019

It's hard to tell from your photos, but it might be the same bird that has been reported there as a Gadwall x Mallard hybrid  or duck sp. since early last fall. 
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S48695783
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S52975997
Due to its large size, I wouldn't expect Green-winged Teal to be one of the parents.
Brennan Mulrooney
Santee, CA

From: SanDiegoRegionBirding@groups.io <SanDiegoRegionBirding@groups.io> on behalf of Susan Smith via Groups.Io <seiurus@…>
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2019 4:35 PM
To: sandiegoregionbirding@groups.io
Cc: SanDiegoRegionBirding@groups.io
Subject: [SanDiegoRegionBirding] GW Teal X Mallard drake at Santee Lakes, 20 Feb 2019

 
There is a pretty spiffy looking  Green-winged Teal x Mallard (?) cross  drake at Santee Lakes, first spotted by Char Glacy and also seen by Sara Mayers, Barb Carlson,
Marcie Mason and myself this morning.  It was viewed from the children's artificial rock playground island on Lake 5 (there is bridge to island). Head is cinnamon and green, much like a Green-winged
Teal but cinnamon on cheek and neck is paler than crown, and with bordering black neck ring, and mottled  cinnamon breast. Flanks and wings pretty much uniform palish grey, black undertail coverts and tail separated from grey flanks by white vertical line;
bill size and shape more Mallard-like than Teal-like; bill mostly yellow with some darker markings.  I took some lousy digi-bins pcs with my phone, which are on our checklist at https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S52967445


Susan Smith 

Seiurus Biological  Consulting 
Del Mar, CA 
seiurus@…



Susan Smith
Seiurus Biological Consulting
Del Mar, CA


Brennan Mulrooney
Santee, CA
Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports

GW Teal X Mallard drake at Santee Lakes, 20 Feb 2019

There is a pretty spiffy looking  Green-winged Teal x Mallard (?) cross  drake at Santee Lakes, first spotted by Char Glacy and also seen by Sara Mayers, Barb Carlson, Marcie Mason and myself this morning.  It was viewed from the children's artificial rock playground island on Lake 5 (there is bridge to island). Head is cinnamon and green, much like a Green-winged Teal but cinnamon on cheek and neck is paler than crown, and with bordering black neck ring, and mottled  cinnamon breast. Flanks and wings pretty much uniform palish grey, black undertail coverts and tail separated from grey flanks by white vertical line; bill size and shape more Mallard-like than Teal-like; bill mostly yellow with some darker markings.  I took some lousy digi-bins pcs with my phone, which are on our checklist at https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S52967445


Susan Smith 

Seiurus Biological  Consulting 
Del Mar, CA 
seiurus@…



Susan Smith
Seiurus Biological Consulting
Del Mar, CA
Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports

Kendall Frost Marsh

This morning (2/20/19), the continuing SAGE THRASHER was present on the fence south of the viewing platform.

 

There was a pair of BLACK SWANS foraging in the marsh.  They are obviously introduced but I hadn’t seen any previous reports.

 

                                            Jim Roberts

                                            University City

Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports

on identifying and reporting Sagebrush Sparrows

To start this discussion of a thorny issue, let me say that I am far from any sort of "expert" on the subject of Sagebrush vs. canescens Bell's Sparrows. I do not have any magic answers. And I do NOT wish to suggest that any particular sparrow report is in error–but rather, that the overall situation is likely murkier than perhaps some observers believe. Over the past many months and couple years, a fair number of folks have been reporting numbers of Sagebrush Sparrows from a variety of sites in the Anza-Borrego area in eastern San Diego County. It is extremely likely that some (a few? some? most? almost all?) are correctly identified. But it has struck a number of us that PERHAPS a fair percent of observers are also separating and reporting Sagebrush vs. canescens Bell's Sparrows a bit too nonchalantly (?). This is NOT a straightforward identification. Well, at least some observers think it is not so "easy" as some others have been led to believe. The desert form of Bell's Sparrow–canescens–is, of course, somewhat intermediate in many key features between the more obvious separation of nominate Bell's Sparrow from Sagebrush Sparrow. Following the taxonomic split just a few years ago, there were several postings, on-line sites, and perhaps publications which discussed the separation of these "new" species, and a number of us think that some of those presentations might have made the situation seem more clean-cut and straightforward than it really is. But I am sure there is disagreement even on that score, as some folks do think the two "species" are straightforward most of the time; whereas others think the situation is decidedly more muddied, with perhaps just the two end-point extremes of the "plumage continuum" being readily ID'd in the field, but with a lot of muddy gray-zone in the middle; and then there are even at least a couple very knowledgeable museum ornithologists who say that, based on an analysis of specimens in the hand, there is too much overlap in many key characters as to make confidently IDing many birds in the field impossible. Many of the eBird reports of Sagebrush Sparrows from Anza-Borrego are accompanied by the best details allowable under the circumstances and/or are accompanied by a very helpful SERIES of good photographs, whereas some others are pretty minimal, with only a few mediocre photos or no photos at all and only some brief, cursory written details covering only a limited number of field characters (e.g., back streaking, malar boldness). In many cases, such brief written details are simply not detailed enough to allow for proper review by eBird reviewers and others. I know that there is more than one frustrated eBird reviewer out there (not me!), frustrated by the limited details that make any sort of meaningful review virtually impossible.

A fair number of observers reporting Sagebrush Sparrows will write that a bird had distinct back streaking and not a distinct dark malar-stripe. Burt this is not enough. In fact, canescens Bell's Sparrows often have very distinct dark back streaking on the entire sides of the back (totaling well over 50 percent of the back area), and it is only right in the middle of the back that these streaks get weaker or disappear completely. And a very large percent of canescens Bell's totally lack the upper half of what would be a complete dark malar-stripe, but do have a lower-half malar that is distinct (quite dark and not too thin).  Also, there may or may not be an important habitat preference that might shed some light on some reports of Sagebrush Sparrow in the county. Sagebrush Sparrow may well prefer the most semi-barren desert areas characterized by saltbush (Atriplex), creosote, and related veg at places like "Dump Road," or well away from the sewage ponds, or at Clark Dry Lake.  In other words, think LeConte's Thrasher!  And canescens Bell's is found there as well. But once one enters slightly more "lush" habitat of mesquite–such as immediately bordering the old sewage ponds, or out in much of the Borrego Sink, or in the fringing desert veg right near many of the hotel-resorts in Borrego Springs and vic.–then almost all the sparrows are canescens Bell's.

So, what to do??  I think it would be good for us to take one step BACKWARD in reporting these two taxa to species in San Diego County, and report only those that are seen very, very well (as best as can be done with these shy, fast-running birds!!!!!) and try to obtain a series of good photographs; but be willing and happy to leave many of them identified only as canescens Bell's/Sagebrush. Most of us have NOT spent lots of time in the desert Southwest over the years closely studying LARGE numbers of Bell's and Sagebrush Sparrows. I certainly haven't.  So, how many of us really know the variation possible in these taxa?  A few people have done so, including a detailed banding-study in sw. Arizona a couple years ago (which we could now use in se. CA !!!), but very few. Also, please carefully note your location and the dominant desert vegetation (atriplex/creosote vs. mesquite vs. ??) when you submit your reports. In many, but not all, areas in the Borrego region, canescens Bell's is likely the default "Sage" Sparrow. But that should not be used to make an ID, and, as mentioned earlier, the use of slash Bell's/Sagebrush is encouraged in many instances.

Lastly, please do NOT send me any of your photos to identify! :-)  As I said at the beginning, I am no expert on this species pair. Like lots of people, I am fumbling around with a fair percent of the birds I see (or photographs I see) out at Anze-Borrego and elsewhere in se. California.  And it doesn't help that these little buggers often don't sit still!

–Paul Lehman,  San Diego
Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports

Nelson’sSparrow, RN Grebe

The Nelson’s Sparrow at Kendall Frost put on a very brief appearance this morning (Monday Feb 18). It was a 7.1 high tide, as is tomorrow.
The Red-necked Grebe was foraging at Shelter Island. First seen near the fishing pier, but quickly moved down shore and I finally came even with it near the Friendship Bell.
I scoped the bay from Grand Caribe Park, and then briefly from J St. I did not spot any Black Scoters, but did see some Horned Grebes and Bonaparte’s gulls. At J st there were several BOGU on the mud spit.

Nancy Christensen
Ramona

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
Chinese Proverb
Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports

Yellow-crowned Night Herons at Sea World

Quick FYI – at Sea World with the family today and there are four adult YCNH roosting in their usual spot in the trees on the NE corner of the Nautilus Ampitheater (the side facing the penguin encounter).

Eitan Altman
San Carlos
Source: SanDiegoRegionBirding Latest Reports