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Friday, April 19, 2013
Tonight Iím in Brawley, California, which is in the Imperial Valley, east of San Diego and just south of the Salton Sea.† Iíve been in the San Diego area for a few days, helping my sister, Kathy, with estate issues.† Her husband, Jim, died at Christmas time.† We got enough done on Wednesday and Thursday that I decided I could take a couple of days and come out here to the Salton Sea area and do some birding.
My first stop this morning was Kitchen Creek Road, off I-8, east of San Diego.† I had one particular target bird there, but many other interesting species have been reported from there in the last couple of weeks.† I got there about 9:30 am, and my first stop was where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses Kitchen Creek Road.† The PCT is a trail that runs up the Sierras and Cascades, from Mexico to Canada.† My first birding this morning was along a short stretch of that trail.† Before I even got to the trail, though, I picked up WESTERN KINGBIRD for my year list, from the car.† Iíll see a lot of them later this year, no doubt, but the two this morning were the first of the year.
Just a few hundred yards along the trail, I caught up with a young couple who were birding, and they asked me if I had seen the oriole that was singing.† I had not, and although I had heard the bird song, I didnít know it was an oriole.† They moved on, and I stuck around and got good views of a male SCOTTíS ORIOLE, an excellent one for my year list, as they donít live anywhere in the north.† Here is a picture of him.
I saw the female, too, but I wasnít quick enough with my camera to capture her.
Here is a picture of the Pacific Crest Trail in that area, to give you an idea of the habitat I was birding in.
One of the specialty birds in this particular area is Gray Vireo, which I have never seen.† I heard them a lot this morning, at least 3 or 4 of them, and probably more, but I never could get a look at one.† At one point, I came upon another couple of birders, and they were looking at one, which I could hear singing.† It flew down just as I got there, and I never did see it, although I stuck around for another 10 or 15 minutes, and heard it several times.† I guess Iíll have to go back someday.
I spotted another little bird at some distance, and the young couple helped me identify it as a GRAY FLYCATCHER.† I have some poor pictures, and this is the best of them.
The main point of identification was the way the bird bobbed its tail up and down all the time.† Gray Flycatcher is the only species out of some similar looking species that does that.
I also saw several gnatcatchers, and after consulting my field guide, I decided they were BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS.† I wish I had some pictures, but they donít sit still for long at all, and I was concentrating on getting good binocular views of them, so I could tell which species they were.
I did manage to see the species I was looking for there, though, BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW.† They are pretty common in that area, and I saw 3 or 4 of them altogether.† Here are a couple of pictures of one of them.
After a while I returned to my car and stopped a couple more places along the road.† At one stop there were quite a few birds, but I didnít need most of them, like Yellow-rumped Warbler, House Wren, and Western Bluebird.† I did pick up my first WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE of the year there, though.† That is another one I will see a lot of, but this one goes on the list, as it was the first of the year.
It was getting on for lunch time by then, so I stopped at Cibbets Flat campground and had my humble lunch.† I had brought ham, cheese, mini-peppers, sugar snap peas, and grape tomatoes, and I enjoyed eating them at a nice picnic table in the campground.† Just as I started lunch, I saw a BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, my first of the year, and later, while I was eating, a male BULLOCKíS ORIOLE flew through and foraged for a couple of minutes at the top of some trees.† I tried for a picture, but it moved on too fast.
After I finished eating, I walked around and saw more birds.† The only new one for my year list was an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, and I managed to get a picture of that guy.
I had Western Scrub-jay, Stellerís Jay, Acorn Woodpecker, and White-breasted Nuthatch as well, walking around.† I also got a picture of a very vocal Oak Titmouse who had something in his mouth.† Iím not sure if it was an insect or nesting material, but whatever it was, it didnít keep him from calling very loudly.† Here he is.
Isnít his little crest cute?
I stopped at a couple of other places on my way down the canyon, and at one of them, there was a flycatcher catching flies.† I got long, good looks at it, but it was too far away for decent pictures.† I eventually decided it was a PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER, which is actually the most common flycatcher in that area at this time of year.
So, after spending about four hours in Kitchen Creek canyon, I moved on to the Imperial Valley, which was my real objective anyway.† I had gotten the Black-chinned Sparrow, which was my original reason for stopping there, although I hadnít managed to see the lifer Gray Vireo, which would have been a wonderful bonus.† I added 10 species to my year list, though, which was much better than I would have expected.† I was surprised that I had spent a full four hours there.
Kitchen Creek Road had been at an elevation of about 4000 feet, and next I descended into the Imperial Valley, which is below sea level.† From the car, at 70 MPH, I managed to add CATTLE EGRET to my year list, a bird I had fully expected to see out here, as they are very common in the valley.
I checked into my motel here in Brawley, and I headed over to Cattle Call Park, which is only a mile or so from the motel.† It was in the heat of the day, so I wasnít expecting much, but I stopped at the picnic area, where there are nice shade trees, and spent some time listening and looking at the birds.† Northern Mockingbirds were singing constantly.† They have the most amazing repertoire of songs; they go on and on, never seeming to repeat themselves.† They are extremely common out here in the valley, and they were singing constantly this afternoon.
I played the song of a woodpecker that I had seen in that spot before, and I did get a couple of them flying in.† They were pretty shy this afternoon, but I got this picture of my first GILA WOODPECKER of the year.
At one point, I saw a couple of small birds feeding in a tree.† One was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, which I have seen before this year, but the other one was a warbler of some kind, and I watched and watched, as it flitted around, feeding.† I thought at the time that it was a Black-and-white Warbler, and that would have been really rare for this area.† I took some pictures, but none of them was really very definitive with respect to the identification of the species.† This was my best one.
After consulting my field guide, I decided it was a female BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER, a good bird for me to get, but not nearly as rare here as the Black-and-white Warbler I first thought it was.
While I was following that warbler as it foraged around, I did notice a couple of other birds on the ground, and they were new for my year list, too Ė a couple of ABERTíS TOWHEES.† I would have liked to have gotten pictures of them, but I wasnít willing to leave the warbler long enough to do that.† Maybe tomorrow.
It was getting late by then, so I head for the motel, but I did stop at one more spot where I had seen several species last October.† I didnít see anything today, though in the heat of the afternoon.† Iíll try again in the morning.† I did see a COMMON GROUND-DOVE, though, while driving out of the park.† Here is a picture of that bird.
On my way back to the motel, while driving through the residential neighborhoods, I picked up WHITE-WINGED DOVE as well, another common bird out here, but another one I wonít see anywhere else this year.† I also got this picture of a male Great-tailed Grackle.
There were a lot of that species around, both males and females.
So, it was a very successful day of birding.† I added 16 species to my year list, which is way more than I would have expected today.† Iím now at 248 species for the year, of which 6 are lifers.† Weíll see if I can add some more out here in the Imperial Valley tomorrow.† I donít plan to head back to my sisterís house until Sunday, so we will see.
Saturday, April 20
Big report today, with lots of pictures.
I was up at 6:15 this morning and was at Cattle Call Park by 7:35, which is the crack of dawn for this old dilettante night-person birder.† I noticed there were quite a few people around, but a lot of people walk or run around the park, and I didnít pay much attention.† I stopped at the place near the entrance where I got Cactus Wren last October, but I couldnít call one up today with my phone app.
I moved on into the park, and I discovered that there was some kind of run or walk or something that was getting ready to start.† Lots of people, lots of cars Ė time for me to boogie on down the road.† So, I went to the cemetery in Brawley, where people had reported a couple of birds I needed for my year list.† I drove around a little, and when I stopped near one edge of the cemetery, the first thing I noticed was a Killdeer that was trying to lead me away from the area.† Then I noticed that there were two little Killdeer chicks.† Here is a picture of the parent and one of the chicks.
Hereís one that shows both chicks and the parent, if you look carefully.
And here is one of the chicks on its own.† Is that cute, or what?
Its legs seem to be ahead of the rest of it, in terms of growth.† Iíve seen Killdeer many times, but I donít think Iíve seen Killdeer chicks before.
Here is a picture of one of the ubiquitous Northern Mockingbirds that are everywhere out here.
Yesterday I counted Abertís Towhee, but couldnít get a picture because I was chasing a warbler at the time.† Today I saw Abertís Towhees a number of times, and here is a picture of one of them.
They are a plain gray-brown bird, with some black around the bill and a cinnamon color under the tail.† You usually see them on the ground.† They look very much like California Towhee, except with the black around the face, but the California Towhee doesnít live out here in the Imperial Valley, so there isnít an identification problem.
When I got tired of walking around the cemetery, I stopped by my room and picked up my lunch, then headed out for the day. †I headed north, through the town of Westmorland to the Salton Sea.† Almost right away I saw a cute little Burrowing Owl posing on the side of the road.† The light was pretty good, so I backed up and got this picture.
I think they are very photogenic. †I ended up seeing four of them today.
I got to the Salton Sea at the corner of Lack Road and Lindsey Road, and there were lots of birds.† I picked up BARN SWALLOW for my year list.† That was a bird I was bound to get eventually this year, and this was the day.† While I was out of the car looking at some birds in a pond, some terns flew overhead, and they turned out to be my first GULL-BILLED TERNS of the day, as well as my first ones of the year.† Later I got this distant picture of a couple of them.
The road runs along a sea wall north from that intersection, and I looked at many birds along the way.† At one point I was quite pleased because I thought I had added Laughing Gull to my year list.† I got pictures, fortunately, and later when I looked at them here in my room, I noticed that the birds were actually Bonaparteís Gulls, not Laughing Gulls.† Iím glad I discovered my own mistake, at least.† Later in the day I encountered three other birders, and I told them of seeing Laughing Gulls, and they were going to go look for them.† They probably know the difference between Laughing Gulls and Bonaparteís Gulls, and I wonder if they realized I had made the mistake.† Here is a picture of a couple of Bonaparteís Gulls.† The one with the black hood is in summer or breeding plumage, and the one on the right is in winter plumage.
Laughing Gull in breeding plumage (which is the only plumage I have ever seen them in, down in Texas last year in April and May) looks very much like the Bonaparteís Gull, except that the black hood goes all the way down the back of the neck.† There is also a size difference, but at a distance, there is no way to determine that.† The non-breeding (winter) plumage is more different between the species, and I should have recognized the winter plumaged bird on the right, as I see Bonaparteís Gulls in the winter, not the summer.† Okay, so that is far more than anyone wants to know about gulls.† They are all just ďseagullsĒ to most people.
Moving on, there were lots of Black-necked Stilts today.† I find them to be very striking birds, and I canít resist showing a picture of one.
The same is true of American Avocet.† Very attractive and I saw lots of them today.† Here is one, with the light in the wrong place, but I still like the picture.
What do you suppose it does with its other leg when it stands on one leg like that?† I guess it must fold it up and retract it into its feathers, but it doesnít seem like there would be room for it, it is so long.
At one point along the sea wall, there were four little shorebirds foraging on the rocks below.† I couldnít figure out what they were at first, but eventually decided they must be Least Sandpipers in summer (breeding) plumage.† I normally see them only in the winter, when they are less colorful, and so it was hard to recognize them.† Their yellow legs are the key ID point.† Here is one of the more colorful ones.
At one point, I saw a new bird for the year, WILSONíS PHALAROPE.† Phalaropes are shorebirds, technically, but they donít really spend much of their lives on shores.† These are presumably just migrating through here, to breed somewhere north, like at Mono Lake, where we see them in June.† They spend our winter months in Argentina, as I remember, so they spend a lot of time flying.† The light was wrong again, but here is the best I could do of three of them, as they busily swam around feeding.
I was interested to see that Great Blue Herons were nesting on dead trees out in the sea itself.† I guess the sea was lower at some point in the past, and these trees are now 50 or 100 yards offshore.† Here is a Great Blue Heron sitting on a nest.
Here is a different tree with several nests in it, and birds on several of the nests.
I was looking for Yellow-footed Gull, which I had seen out here last October, but I never saw one today.† The best place to see them is Obsidian Butte, but there was a sign at the entrance to that area that said it was closed from March 15 to July 15 while birds breed out there.† The barrier was down, but I complied with the sign and turned back.
My next stop was the visitor center for the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Area.† I forget the story on how he got his name on a National Wildlife area, but I think he might have been a US congressperson at some point, after his music career, so it is probably connected to that.† Anyway, at the visitor center, I found a parking place in the shade (wonder of wonders) and took my humble lunch to a nice picnic table in the shade where I could eat and watch birds coming to a feeder.† There werenít any interesting birds, but it was a nice place to eat my ham, cheese, peppers, sugar snap peas, and grape tomatoes, and I enjoyed it all.
While I was eating, a couple of vans pulled in and a group of young people piled out and went off into the reserve.† When I finished eating, I walked around, and I noticed several of the young people from the vans looking up into a palm tree and taking pictures (with their cell phones, of course), so I went on over and asked what they were looking at.† It turned out to be a roosting BARN OWL, my first of the year.† Here is a picture of that little cutie.
It turned out that the woman who was working at the visitor center (which was open on a Saturday, to my surprise, since it had been closed on a Saturday in October when I was here last) had shown them the bird.† A little later I went into the visitor center, and the woman asked me if I wanted to see a Great Horned Owl, and I said sure, although I didnít need it for my year list at this point.† We couldnít locate the Great Horned Owl, even though she had seen it this morning, but on the way to look for it, she pointed out what I have decided was the Bird of the Day for me, a LESSER NIGHTHAWK.† I saw them in Arizona in 2011 and in Texas in 2012, but I hadnít expected to see one this year, as they spend their winters in Mexico and their summers in the extreme southern parts of the US.† Here are a couple of pictures of that beauty.
Those are my first pictures of that species, so that helped make it the Bird of the Day.† They are active at night, as their name implies, and they usually roost all day long.† This one was roosting right over the driveway into the parking lot at the visitor center.
The visitor center lady also showed me a nest of another species I was looking for, and I watched the nest for 5 minutes or so, but the bird didnít come around.† It turned out that a little while later I did see a VERDIN near the nest, but I couldnít get a picture.
I had been hearing quail call, so I walked out on the trail to the sea a little distance, and I found a calling male GAMBELíS QUAIL, the only quail species that lives out here.† Here is a picture of that guy.
In that same area, I saw a little bird, and it turned out to be a beautiful little BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER.† The males get a black cap in the summer, and this one had its cap, which made it easy to distinguish it from the other gnatcatcher species out here.† The visitor center had turned out to be very productive for me, as well as being a great place to eat my lunch.
Next I went to Red Hill Marina.† Thatís where I ran into the other birders who I told I had seen Laughing Gull.† They had spotting scopes and while I was talking to them, I noticed a little shorebird that seemed different.† We got great looks at it, but it was hard to identify.† Eventually we decided it was a male Snowy Plover, which is a good bird to see out here.† They do breed here, but are not very common.† This one looked somewhat different from the ones I see on the coast near Monterey.† I got some extremely distant pictures, good enough to ID the bird, but not good enough so show here, since I have had great close up pictures of Snowy Plovers from Monterey.
Those birders told me about a route I could take north from there, and I took it.† They were going south, and I was going north, at that point.† I saw more birds, but nothing new and nothing I took pictures of.† I ended up at the Wister Unit of the NWR, but it was a total loss, and I headed back to Brawley on the main highway.
Back in Brawley, I planned to hit Cattle Call Park, figuring that the run or walk this morning would have ended.† Well, it was indeed over, but there was a whole new event starting up.† There was a car show, a concert, and some other stuff, and they wanted 5 bucks to park.† It was packed with people, of course, so I gave it a pass.† I was glad I had stopped at the park yesterday to get Gila Woodpecker, and I might stop there tomorrow morning on my way out of town, to try for Cactus Wren one more time.
This afternoon it was too early to quit, though, so I headed out to a place near town that is referred to as Carter and Fites, after a couple of roads there.† I had been there in October, and I didnít like it much, but the same birds I could see at Cattle Call Park are supposedly found there, so I gave it a try.† As in October, I saw almost nothing.† I did get a fleeting look at a Verdin, but it didnít stick around for pictures.
It was getting on toward 4 oíclock by then, so I headed back to town.† There were still a couple of species I needed, though, and I thought I might see something in the residential neighborhoods near my motel.† Sure enough, as I drove down one street, there were a couple of small doves, and I backed up to check them out.† One of them was a Common Ground-Dove, which I have seen many times in the last couple of days, but one was an INCA DOVE, the one I wanted.† I got some pictures of that one, but a little later I got better pictures of another one in an alley I drove down.† Here is an Inca Dove.
So, that truly was it for the day, and I stopped at Vons and got some stuff for dinner and came back to my room to start working on my pictures and this report.
I ended up getting 9 more species today for my year list, which is outstanding.† I have 27 for the trip now, and I had only expected maybe 15 or 20 species for the whole trip.† I could get a couple more tomorrow, too, on the way back to my sisterís house.† I plan to stop at a couple of places in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and I might try for Cactus Wren here in Brawley as well.† Iím now at 257 species for the year, of which 6 are lifers.
Today it seemed kind of crazy, or at least weird, to be tooling around in the 95 degree heat, looking for birds, but that is one of my hobbies, so that is what I do.† Iím really looking forward to my sixth trip to Australia, later this year, so I can feel crazy or weird Down Under again.† What a life!
Sunday, April 21
I was a little more leisurely getting going this morning, but I was still out at Cattle Call Park by about 7:45 or 8.† I stopped at my Cactus Wren site near the entrance, but wasnít able to attract one with the song, which sounds like a Model T car trying to start.† I did attract a Verdin, though, but couldnít get a picture.† They are very flighty little birds, and it is hard to get one to stay still long enough to get a picture.
A hummingbird flew in, though.† It was a female, and females are much harder to identify than males.† I got some pictures, and I also got a good light reflection off the small patch on its throat, and the color told me it was a female COSTAíS HUMMINGBIRD.† I had only seen Costaís Hummingbird once before, and that was a male.† Here is the best picture I got of her.
You canít tell in that picture, but the throat patch is the characteristic purple of Costaís Hummingbird.† Here is a picture that shows the purple better.
I was really pleased to have gotten Costaís Hummingbird for the second time in my life.
Moving on into the park, I saw four or five birders by the side of the road, looking up into a tree with binoculars.† Of course, I pulled in and asked them what they were seeing.† It turned out to be another great bird, NASHVILLE WARBLER, and I eventually got onto it and got a good enough look to satisfy me.† It was high in the tree, and there was no chance for a picture.† I guess I have seen Nashville Warbler before, although I canít remember when.† I only had it at a 20% probability for the year, though, so it was a great one to get.† I never would have seen it if it werenít for the other birders who had found it and pointed it out to me.
It turned out that two of the birders were the ones I had seen yesterday Ė the ones I had told that I had seen Laughing Gull (which I realized later was actually Bonaparteís Gull).† So, I corrected myself today, and they said they had seen lots of Bonaparteís Gulls, but no Laughing Gulls.† I mentioned that I was looking for Cactus Wren, and they said they had seen a couple of them in the park, just a few dozen yards away.
So, I left the Nashville Warbler a little prematurely, as soon as I got a good enough look to satisfy me, and sure enough, there were a couple of CACTUS WRENS sitting on the roof the rest rooms in the park.† Here is the pair of them.
Later I got pictures of each of them in more natural settings, which I always like.† It is interesting how different they can look, when they are in different positions or you shoot them from different angles.† Here are the two cactus wrens, in trees.
You can see the difference in the markings on the breast, which distinguishes each of the birds, in this case.
I wandered around the park after that, and I picked up a WILSONíS WARBLER, which is one of the species the other birders had told me they had seen there.† No chance for pictures, though.† I got this picture of a cowbird at the top of a tree.
I wanted to make it into a Bronzed Cowbird, which I wonít see anywhere else this year, but I guess it was only a male Brown-headed Cowbird.† A bronzed Cowbird would have a red eye, and would have a little different coloring, I guess.
So, that was it for Cattle Call Park this morning.† I had seen the other species I look for there, so I moved on back to the motel, to get on with my day.† The birders at the park had told me about a house nearby that has a couple of hummingbird feeders, though, and it was right on my way back to the motel.† I ended up spending 20 minutes or so in my car, looking at hummingbirds and taking distant pictures of them.† I managed to identify the other common hummingbird species out there, BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD, and I think this is a picture of a male.
So, with five new year species for the day under my belt, I went back to the motel and packed up and checked out.
My route back to the San Diego area was through the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and I stopped several places to look for birds on the way.† My first stop was Mesquite Bosque, also called The Sink.† The big attraction there is Lucyís Warbler, a rare bird in California, and one I certainly wonít see anywhere else this year.† I parked where the book said, and I walked out onto the sandy road into the desert.† I played the Lucyís Warbler song, as well as the Black-throated Sparrow song, but I never saw any bird at all or heard anything, in 20 minutes.† It was hot, and completely birdless.† Here is a picture of Mesquite Bosque.
I could have driven the road I was walking on, and maybe there are particular places where you stop to see Lucyís Warbler, but I saw nothing, and it was hot and dry.
So, I drove back toward the main highway and stopped and took a couple of pictures of the interesting plants in the area.† They are called Ocotillo, and I guess they might be a type of cactus.† Here is a picture of one of them, with flowers on it.
Here is a close-up of one of the flowers.† You can see the little green leaves on the stalks, too.
I stopped at Tamarisk Grove Campground next.† I parked outside of the park in the shade, and walked in.† I talked to the park employee about a woodpecker that had been reported there, but he said it wasnít around any more.† I wandered around, but it was pretty damn birdless.† I did see a male Lesser Goldfinch at the top of a tree, and there were House Finches around but not much else.† I spent an hour or more there, but didnít see anything of interest except some hummingbirds.† I got this picture of a female hummingbird that I think is a Costaís.
I walked across the road at one point, and got this picture of a Western Kingbird, a bird I had added to my year list on Friday at Kitchen Creek Road.
Another bird I saw there was Phainopepla.† Here is a picture of a pair of them.† The female is the gray bird, and the male is the black one.
Here is a picture of the male on his own.† A handsome bird.
There was also a male Costaís Hummingbird, and I took a number of pictures of him.† In most of them, the distinctive purple color of his gorget doesnít show, because the light wasnít hitting it quite right.† I got one with the perfect light, but my damn camera focused on the branches in the background, rather than on the bird in the center of the picture, like it should have.† This camera has been really annoying me with that problem lately.† It seems like the autofocus doesnít work as well as it used to.† Sony has a new camera this year, and I plan to buy one when I get home.† One of the things that is supposed to be improved is the autofocus.† Anyway, here is the purple gorget of the male Costaís Hummingbird, even if the bird itself is out of focus.
The camera was set for center focus.† That means it is supposed to focus on what is in the center of the picture.† In this case, it obviously did not do that.† This is a crop from the original picture, but the bird was in the center of the original picture, too, and the camera focused on the branches that are not in the center.† It pisses me off.
Next I drove up the dirt road to Yaqui Well.† Again, it was hot and dry, and no sign of any birds.† As I approached Yanqui Well, about a mile up this sandy dirt road, a GREATER ROADRUNNER was running up the road in front of me, and I got a quick but sufficient look at it as it cut off into the bush.† I had just been thinking that today was my last chance to see a roadrunner this year.† I wonít be anywhere else this year where they live.† Then within minutes, here was one showing itself to me.† Amazing.
At Yanqui Well, it is supposedly a ďshort walkĒ to the actual water, and there could have been birds there.† It was hot, though, and I didnít feel like leaving my car in the middle of the desert with all my stuff in it, so I just walked around the area a little.† I played the song of the Black-throated Sparrow, as I did all day long, but I had no response, just like the rest of the day.† A Verdin did fly in, though, so I played his song, and he hung around and I attempted to get a picture.† I got one that is decent, although the bird is out of focus, due to the branches in the foreground.† I canít blame the camera for this one, as the branches are in front of the bird itself.† Still, the picture does show the bird.
After that, it was about noon, and time to eat.† I went back to the little park at Tamarisk Grove and paid my 4 bucks for day use (senior rate), and sat at one of their tables in the shade and ate my humble lunch.† Same as the last two days Ė ham, cheese, peppers, grape tomatoes, and sugar snap peas.† Yum.† If it was good yesterday, why wouldnít it be good today?† Later I ate an apple as well, as I drove.
It was time to head for my sisterís house by then.† I was hot, and there were damn few birds in the middle of the day in the desert.† But, my route took me up Sentenac Canyon, and there is a species that lives there that I certainly will not see anywhere else this year (except maybe here in the San Diego area on Tuesday Ė maybe).† I stopped at a pullout along the road and played the song, not expecting anything.† But, much to my surprise, I heard a response, and a bird was singing away, repeating the exact same song I had been playing.† I was up on the road, looking down into a canyon, and the bird was down at the bottom, in a big tree.† I looked and looked, and it just kept singing.† Finally I spotted it, and I watched it with my binoculars as it sang its song. †The bird, a BELLíS VIREO, is very plain, and I might have had a hard time identifying it, except it was singing the Bellís Vireo song with all its little heart.† It was still singing away as I pulled out a few minutes later.† Here is a picture of Sentenac Canyon at that point.
The bird was in the large tree on the left of that picture.
So, finally that was the end of the birding for the day.† I found my way across the mountains and across the hills, and got back to my sisterís house about 4 oíclock.† It was a great birding interlude, and I picked up 32 species for my year list.† I had expected about 15 and was hoping for 20, so it was obviously very successful.† My arms are somewhat sunburned, as is my face, although I wore my hat when I was in the sun.† I wore shorts, so my lower legs got some color, too.† Iím now at 264 species for the year, of which 6 are lifers.† I hope to do one more day of birding here in the San Diego area, but I donít expect to get more than 2 or 3 more species, if that.† Of course, I usually seem to do better than what I expect, so we will see.† That day of birding will probably be Tuesday, so donít give up on me if you donít get a report tomorrow.
Tuesday, April 23
Today was my last day in the San Diego area, and I spent it birding.† My friend Dan from Bellevue happens to be here in town visiting his mother-in-law, and I picked him up at 9:30 and we went birding.
Our first stop was the Dairy Mart ponds, almost down to the border, in the Tijuana River Valley.† There was a lot of bird song, but I couldnít identify anything, of course.† I did see a YELLOW WARBLER, a bird Iíll see next month in Eastern Oregon, but today was the first one of the year.
We moved on to the Bird and Butterfly Park, and it was very quiet there.† We talked to a woman from Arizona who was also birding, but she hadnít seen much either.† She gave me some tips on looking for a bird I was looking for, though.
From there we moved up into Imperial Beach and stopped at a Subway to get sandwiches for later.† Our first birding stop in Imperial Beach was the Sports Park there.† There are always Night-Herons roosting there, and I got this picture of a Black-crowned Night-Heron up in his tree.
A little later Dan spotted another night-heron species sitting out in the sun.† Here is a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, an uncommon species, but one that is well known at this particular site.† I had seen them there in February, but I got better pictures today.
Here is another picture that shows the plumes it gets on the back of its head during breeding season.
Another well-known bird is seen there all the time, too, a Hepatic Tanager, a pretty rare bird in California.† I had seen it in February, but we didnít see it today.† Instead, we saw another tanager that has been reported in the same tree, a female Summer Tanager.† That is also a rare bird in California, but I had happened to see a male Summer Tanager in Seattle earlier this year, where it is even rarer.† Here are a couple of pictures of the female Summer Tanager.
The male is all red.
Next we moved next door to the visitorís center at the Tijuana River Valley NWR.† I was looking for a secretive bird that I had seen there before, but I didnít really expect to see one.† We walked around a bit, and at one point I played the call of the bird (something you arenít supposed to do in a National Wildlife Refuge, and especially not for an endangered bird, like this species), and got a response from some pickleweed nearby.† In a minute or so, a CLAPPER RAIL walked out and then walked along the tidal stream there.† I have never seen or heard of any rail species being so brazen.† Here is a picture of that bird.
Here is a close-up of the same bird.
I also got a picture of an attractive male Blue-winged Teal there.
We ate our Subway sandwiches there at a picnic table in the sun, and then moved on up the east side of San Diego Bay to the J Street Marina in Chula Vista.† I was looking for a particular tern species, and there were some terns there.† We walked out onto the sand to get closer to them, but they were still too far away for me to be sure of the identification, so I took some pictures and looked at them later.† After studying the pictures, I decided that it was a mixed group of two species, Royal Tern (which I had seen in February) and ELEGANT TERN, the one I needed.† They look very much alike, and the two main differences are the size, shape and color of the bill, and the fact that the black feathers on the crown of the head extend down the back of the head on the Elegant Tern, but not on the Royal.† Here is a picture that shows both species I think.
The bird just to the right of the center in the front seems to have a thicker bill and the black on its head doesnít go down the nape.† The bird in the middle in the back, on the other hand, seems to have a thinner and more curved bill, and the black on the head extends down the nape.† Maybe Iím all wet, but that is how it looks to me.† Here are some other Elegant Terns, I think.
Iím especially thinking of the two towards the back who seem to have black feathers well down their napes, and the bills seem thin and curved, too.† Iím saying I saw Elegant Tern today.
Here are some other terns I saw later that I think are Royal Terns, for comparison.† Of course, maybe these second ones are actually Caspian Terns.
These next ones are definitely Caspian Terns, in my opinion.
Caspian Terns have thicker, stouter bills than the Royal Terns, and their bills are a bright red-orange.
OK, thatís enough with the three similar tern species.† Here is a picture that shows another member of the tern family that looks quite different, BLACK SKIMMER.
I was pleased to find them today, as I certainly wonít see them anywhere else this year.† They were at the mouth of the San Diego River.† Here is a Long-billed Curlew that was in the same place.
So, having seen the Black Skimmers at the river, we headed up to Point Loma, to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.† I was looking for a hummingbird that had been reported there last week.† I had very specific directions to the place this hummingbird was seen, and we found the flowers they had been feeding on.† There werenít any hummingbirds around at first, but then we saw a male Annaís Hummingbird.† A little later, there was a female hummingbird of an undetermined species, and it was chased away by a male Annaís, which are very aggressive about chasing other hummers away from the flowers.† But, as those two flew off, another bird moved in, and it turned out to be the very species I was looking for, a male CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD.† I managed to get one picture of him, and while it doesnít show the red color of his gorget, it does show the shape of it, which defines the species.
Also at the cemetery was this nice male Western Bluebird, sitting in the sun.
Over on the western side of the road, I was looking for a sparrow that I have seen there before.† I got lucky again, and there were a couple of CHIPPING SPARROWS feeding on the ground.† I got a lot of pictures of one of them, and here is the one I like the best.
It was getting late by then, but I had one more tern species I wanted to see, if I could† This species migrates to Central America in the winter, and I had read that the first of the returning birds had been seen in the last week, so I wanted to look.† We went back down to the San Diego River, across the road from Sea World, which is where this tern species nests, a little later in the year.† I got this picture of a Little Blue Heron there.
Also this Snowy Egret.
Finally, down near the end of the road along the river, there was a group of roosting terns.† Most of them were Caspian Terns, with maybe some Royal Terns as well.† But, there was one tiny tern, which was the species I was looking for, LEAST TERN.† Caspian Terns are about 21 inches long, and Least Tern is only 9 inches long.† Here are a couple of Caspian Terns with what I believe was a Least Tern in the background behind them.† You can see how much smaller the one in the back is.
So, that was the end of our birding day.† I wanted to try to beat the traffic on I-5, so we headed for home.† I dropped Dan off at his mother-in-lawís house in Clairemont, and got back to my sisterís house about 4:45.† The traffic was great in my direction, and I had no problems with it.
It seemed like the birding had been pretty slow all day long, but I ended up adding 7 more species to my year list, which is outstanding at this point.† I had expected maybe 2 or 3 species today, hoping for maybe 5.† I missed a couple I hoped to get, but got several others that I thought were low percentage ones.† I also got some pictures that I like.
So, that puts me at 39 new species for the trip, which is about twice what I had hoped for.† Iím now at 271 species for the year, of which 6 are lifers.† Tomorrow I head for home, so no more reports for a while.† I have a trip to Eastern Oregon planned for May, and I might make a short two or three day trip in Washington before that.† Iím really doing much better than I had expected for the year.
Correction to the entry above:
I realized when I updated my spreadsheet for the year that I had not seen Summer Tanager this year, as I had thought.† It must have been in December of 2012, and I simply remembered it wrong.† So, the female Summer Tanager pictured in the April 23 report was actually a new bird for my year list, and a really good one, since I certainly wonít see one anywhere else this year.
That makes my totals 272 species for the year, of which 6 are lifers.