Wednesday, August 31, 2016

An Annotated Bird Checklist to San Diego County

I have created a stand-alone page for an Annotated Checklist to the Birds of San Diego County.

The main purpose of this checklist is to answer the question:
"When and where is the best place to find each bird species within San Diego County?"

Use the comments section of this post to offer corrections or additions to the checklist. I will use your comments to keep the checklist up-to-date and as accurate as I can.

What, exactly, is an annotated checklist? Well, a simple checklist is a list of birds that have been found in the county. Most checklists also provide seasonal abundance. An annotated checklist provides additional information in the form of textual annotations.

Why is an annotated checklist needed?

518 species of birds have been found in San Diego County (counting the newly split Townsend's Storm-Petrel in July 2016). Only five states have recorded more birds: Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas. Of course, being far to the south and west, San Diego has recorded many birds that aren't expected very often. Of those 500+ species, how many can you be likely to see in a single year?

The authority on the birds of the county is the 600+ page book "San Diego County Bird Atlas" by Philip Unitt, published in 2004. This volume maps and discusses birds during a 5-year county-wide survey by hundreds of volunteer birders from March 1997 to February 2002. Like me, you can buy this book for $50 on (but only 6 left).

The San Diego Field Ornithologists provide a County Checklist. It lists every species of bird ever found in the county along with a rarity status code.

These two references suffer from opposite problems as far as birders seeking information on bird-finding. The checklist is too brief and the book too in-depth for quickly finding information.

The book is also starting to suffer from obsolescence due to two things: 1) Bird populations are constantly changing and the book is now a dozen years old. 2) 20% of the county has burned since publication, including 98% of the mountain conifer forest in the huge Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

A new source of bird distribution information started in 2002: eBird. This citizen science web-based bird reporting database system really took off in 2010, growing since then at a rate of 20-30% per year. In May 2016 a record 11.8 million bird records from around the world were added to the database during just that one month! California has always been at the forefront of eBird, and San Diego bird records are well-represented.

How this annotated checklist came about

As I approach 3 years living and birding in San Diego County I have now seen most of the expected annual species. But there are still several species I haven't found. And I have yet to find over 300 species in any single year. So, rather than rely on chance and my own exploration, I researched both the Atlas and eBird to try to figure out when and where each species is most likely to be found.

Knowing that others would benefit from my research, I organized and preserved my findings on the page in this link:

I hope you find it useful.

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