Monday, September 17, 2018

Osprey portrait: Oceanside

Marlene and I invited friends to make a quick jaunt to the beach after work to "watch the sunset" and have dinner. Something so simple on Friday evening can often make a routine weekend seem like a "3-day weekend."

I was able to walk across the road and do a bit of birding and photography at the mouth of the San Luis Rey River [site guide] while the others sat in the sand staring out to sea. Then we ate! [Rockin' Baja Lobster]

An Osprey was perched on the light pole I had to walk under, so it was close!



Osprey. Oceanside, California. September 7, 2018.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Rare bird: Greater Pewee

Well, it's not a very good photo. The best that could be said of it is that it is a diagnostic documentation photo.

Here it is, a Greater Pewee I discovered at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. I put the word out and several people were able to view it later that day and even to the next morning. Several people obtained better photos. [eBird photos here]

rare Greater Pewee in San Diego
Greater Pewee. San Diego, California. September 2, 2018.
It is always more exciting to me to find a rare bird to share with others than to go and see a rare bird someone already found (a so-called "stake-out").

I had looked for a long-staying wintering Greater Pewee last December (2017) in Balboa Park, but missed it on the one morning I tried for it (see what I mean about my lack of enthusiasm for finding "someone else's" rare bird?). The previous San Diego sighting was in 2005, and just over a dozen birds since the first in 1974 (San Diego County Bird Atlas, Unitt, 2004). This is the first Greater Pewee for me in the United States (new "ABA bird" for me). My only other sighting was in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, in 2003 (6 birds on a hike through the "jungle").

The bird looks like an Olive-sided Flycatcher. But the wispy crest and long bill with bright orange lower mandible clinches the identification. It is found from the pine-oak mountains in SE Arizona and SW New Mexico south into Nicaragua.

My first field guide (Field Guide to Western Birds, Peterson, 1969) has this bird listed as Coues' Flycatcher, named after Elliott Coues, 1842-1899 (pronounced "cows"), a naturalist and ornithologist trained as a medical surgeon and working for the army in Arizona (a frequent occupation for ornithologists of that period, it seems).

So, even if the photo is less than good, I hope the story makes it interesting none-the-less.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Up Close with a Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Pacific-slope Flycatchers are San Diego County's most numerous resident and migrant Empidonax flycatchers--those little (4.75-6 inches long) olive-green look-a-likes with wing bars and eye rings.

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

I was able to get these photos recently at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery which is a location where many migrants pass through in fall.

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Key field marks for this species include the long primary extension, wide bill all-yellow underneath, teardrop-shaped eye ring, and yellow throat. The buffy wing bars--rather than white--indicate this is likely an immature bird.

Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Pacific-slope Flycatcher. San Diego, California. September 2, 2018.
Usually they are tucked up under the lower shady branches of forest trees--miserable conditions for photography. I was delighted to find this bird out in the open.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Female Hermit Warbler at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery

Autumn is the time migrant birds across North America wing their way south at night. Many of these birds are heading southwest to Mexico, but sometimes they (especially the young of the year) overshoot too far west. Thus, they may find themselves out over the ocean--especially on overcast nights. As the sun rises and the low fog lifts they spy land....

Point Loma sticks out into the ocean and it is covered with trees and bushes. The lush residential yards are inviting to migrants, but many birds first make landfall at the tip of Point Loma. The top and outer portion of Point Loma is the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. It is here that birders poke around from late August through October, hoping for rare lost birds that nest in the north or northeastern portion of the continent, and typically don't show up in southern California. [Birding site guide for FRNC]

I went birding there last week. There had been a marine layer covering the ocean. But migration during the previous night evidently wasn't heavy. There were actually not that many birds present. I did encounter a couple flycatchers and a tanager. I spent a couple of hours but birded only about a third of the large cemetery area.

My photo today, though, is a rather common migrant Hermit Warbler, a female or immature bird. Hermit Warblers nest primarily in the Cascades from southern Washington through Oregon to northern California, then down the Sierra-Nevada range. They pass through the San Diego region in the spring and fall, but you really have to be looking specifically for migrant warblers in order to find them. As you can see, they love pines. So in San Diego you can look for them in spring on the forested tops of the highest mountains or eastern desert oases. In fall, the residential plantings along the immediate coastline are your best bet.

Hermit Warbler
Hermit Warbler
Hermit Warbler. San Diego, California. September 2, 2018.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in Chula Vista

There are several regularly-occurring herons and egrets that are at the extreme northern edge of their range in San Diego. These include Little Blue Herons and Reddish Egrets, which are increasing, and Tricolored Herons, which have been decreasing in recent decades. It also includes Yellow-crowned Night-Herons.

There was a single resident Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in the San Diego area from 1981-2001. And there were several records of individual visitors that showed up occasionally during this same period of time.

juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Chula Vista, California. September 2, 2018.
I'm not sure of the history between then and when I arrived in 2013, but in the past 5 years or so these stocky herons have nested at Sea World. This colony accounts for sightings at Mission Bay, San Diego River mouth, and Famosa Slough. Another smaller nesting site is in Imperial Beach accounting for sightings at the Tijuana River mouth and, perhaps, the south end of San Diego Bay.

[eBird records of Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 2013-2018 in San Diego County]

There was a one-year-old bird in July 2018 here at Bayfront Park (known to birders as the "J Street Marina"). Otherwise, this juvenile is the only other reported Yellow-crowned Night-Heron from this well-birded site in the middle east side of San Diego Bay. I wonder which local breeding site it came from?