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.

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