Monday, January 18, 2016

Five recent additions to my San Diego County bird list

I used some vacation time at the end of the year to take several trips and got in some birding time. This resulted in seeing and photographing several birds I hadn't found before in San Diego County.

Here they are, in the order I saw them.

#314 Le Conte's Thrasher

This was my 4th visit over two years to the Old Springs Road Open Space Preserve near Borrego Springs, looking for this rare local resident. I had also looked for it without success twice at the nearby Clark Dry Lake area. I credit my success this time to arriving right at sunrise. You'd think it hard for this rather large bird to hide amid the thin creosote bushes scattered widely among the sand. But hide it does, and runs rather than flies.

This is only my 3rd sighting of this species, with one record previously in California in 1980 and Arizona in 2007.

Le Conte's Thrasher
Le Conte's Thrasher. Borrego Springs, California. December 28, 2015. Greg Gillson.
Le Conte's Thrasher
Le Conte's Thrasher

#315 Reddish Egret

Two or three of these birds spend each winter in the south end of San Diego Bay--the extreme northern edge of their range. There's a lot of shoreline here, and not all of it publicly accessible. These birds move around quite a bit as the tides change. For their first year of life these birds are white, thus easily hiding amid the larger Great Egrets and smaller Snowy Egrets. One of the characteristic actions of this bird is the hyperactive hunting style, running and flapping as it chases fish in the shallows.

This is my first record for the ABA area (North America north of Mexico); my only previous sighting was 5 birds in Rocky Point, Sonora, Mexico in 2007.
 
Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret wades among American Wigeon. Chula Vista, California. December 31, 2015. Greg Gillson.
Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret

#316 Thayer's Gull 

Thayer's Gulls are quite rare this far south, not reported annually. Formerly they were more common, but changes in landfill practices have eliminated gulls from these areas. The bird photographed below was about 5 miles offshore San Diego on our January 1st pelagic trip. Larger gulls are hard to identify, and this is especially true with immature gulls.

Thayer's Gull
Thayer's Gull (left, with Western and Heermann's Gulls). Off San Diego, California. January 1, 2016. Greg Gillson.

#317 Short-tailed Shearwater

Up to 20 million of these birds migrate back-and-forth between the breeding grounds in New Zealand and the non-breeding range in the Bering Sea. But usually only a few non-breeding birds are found in winter at sea off southern California. In some winters there is a larger influx. One was seen on our January 1st pelagic trip.

This is also my first record for California.

Short-tailed Shearwater
Short-tailed Shearwater. Off San Diego, California. January 1, 2016. Greg Gillson.
Short-tailed Shearwater
Short-tailed Shearwater

#318 Marbled Murrelet

While beginning to dock our boat at the end of our January 1st pelagic trip, the cry of "murrelet!" went up. We changed course to investigate this bird in the marina. Imagine our surprise to find the rarest bird of the day only a few hundred feet from the dock! There were only 3 county records of this species up to the 2004 publication date of the San Diego County Bird Atlas. There was a Marbled Murrelet for several days last winter at Mission Bay, but I didn't take the time to chase it down.

This is only my second California record; the first was way up north in Humboldt County in 2002 where they breed.

Marbled Murrelet
Marbled Murrelet. San Diego Bay, California. January 1, 2016. Greg Gillson.
Marbled Murrelet
Marbled Murrelet