Friday, September 21, 2018

Rare bird: Red-eyed Vireo

Fall migration continues strong through September in southern California. As I explained recently, nocturnal migrants heading for Mexico may find a point of land sticking out in the ocean as a refuge at dawn. Other birds, flying all night, choose irrigated greenery, feeding on insects in tree-tops first lit by the rising sun. That mean parks on the tops of hills near the coast are often prime places to find lots of migrant birds.

Thus, Buddy Todd Park, on the top of a hill in Oceanside, has been quite productive at delivering exciting migrants that are rather rare in southern California. A couple of weeks in spring and a few weeks in fall are your only chance to see many species of migrant birds that may breed in northern forests and winter in the lowlands of Mexico. Buddy Todd isn't nearly as productive as Point Loma, but it is much closer to my home in San Diego's North County region.

Recently I arrived at Buddy Todd Park at the same time as Tito Gonzales. We walked around together for a while and gradually split up. We exchanged numbers to text, in case we found anything interesting. I took many photos of regular migrants and residents. I was actually back at the car ready to be done for the morning when I got a text from Tito. He had found a Red-eyed Vireo on the other side of the playground.

Red-eyed Vireos nest in hardwood forests across southern Canada and the eastern United States, but not in most of the West and Southwest. They have been fairly regular migrants through southern California, but perhaps not found as frequently in recent years as in the 1980's and 90's.

The bird had disappeared soon after Tito found it. It took a good while to relocate the sluggishly moving bird in a dense California pepper tree (Peruvian peppertree Schinus molle). And it wouldn't come out, so I sat under the tree on the grass and shot up against the strongly backlit sky. Thus these photos are less than ideal. Nevertheless, you can clearly see the diagnostic black lateral crown stripe that separates the white eyebrow from the pale gray crown. The eye is more brownish than red, indicating an immature bird perhaps only 3 months old.

Red-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo. Oceanside, California. September 16, 2018.
Anyway, this was my first Red-eyed Vireo for California, and my first Red-eyed Vireo in over a dozen years. So I was very happy to refind it. And many other people came to see this bird after Tito got the message out.

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

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