Merlin – Falco Columbarius
Winter birds continue to arrive. This beautiful Merlin – the “Pigeon Hawk” – showed up today in the border between the residential area and the old ag fields. Philip Unitt, in the standard reference work “The Birds of San Diego County” (1984) states that Merlins are rare visitors to the County and are usually seen along the coast. As of 1984 there was only one record for this bird in the Anza-Borrego desert.
This falcon is small, about the size of a pigeon- from which the old name of pigeon hawk derives. They are incredible fliers, capable of amazing high-speed acrobatics.
Another winter resident, the red-breasted sapsucker, a large woodpecker.
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Here we have a late migrant or wintering warbler.
Juvenile Golden Eagle
Juvenile Golden Eagle
This morning (10-21-13) as was watching the birds at my feeders I noticed a large raptor flying out of sight over the horizon. A few minutes later it returned and flew relatively low over town. A very nice juvenile Golden Eagle.
This great egret flew east over town this morning. Probably going to the Salton Sea.
Red-naped Sapsucker 10-20-13
Both red-naped and red-breasted sapsuckers have arrived. These guys often winter here.
On the 17th I found this late migrant in the shrubs along the east end of town. The early morning light was perfect. This species is a notoriously shy skulker, who stays close to the ground. Some gentle “pishing” piqued its curiosity and he posed for a few pics. Considered a “common western migrant,” this bird is still hard to find.
A common migrant. I found 3 to 5 of these guys at west end of town by the big temporary water tank.
A stunning adult green-tailed towhee was found by Jay Keller on the 11th. I found a shy one on September 23 at the swamp but was unable to photograph it. These birds winter in the vicinity, preferring dense brush. The bird pictured was found in the brushy area at the northeast corner of town next to the old ag fields.
Towhees have the habit of feeding on the ground, using their large feet to shuffle through leaf litter and debris looking for tasty morsels.
I took this photo on the 12th and later the same morning found another one back at the swamp. Perhaps the same bird I saw in September.
Vermilion Flycatcher sub-adult male
This little flycatcher was found by Trent Stanley on the 11th in the area of the northeast corner of town. Adult males have extensive red on the chest and face and dark backs and a black mask through the eye. This is a first-year bird and has yet to get his full color. He was accompanied by a female, who is less colorful but still an interesting bird. These birds may be wintering locally. We will see.
Vermilion flycatchers have been nesting in the area for at least two years, notably the area around the two old houses on the south side of Old highway 80 across from the ag fields. I’ve also seen them at the pond.
- Western-wood pewee
Western-wood pewees are members of a group (including the vermilion flycatcher) called Tyrant Flycatchers for their habit of perching conspicuously on tree branches and hawking for bugs, usually on the fly. Other tyrant flycatchers we have around Jacumba include the very common black phoebe, less common Say’s phoebe, Western kingbirds, migrating Pacific-slope flycatchers and migrating willow flycatchers.
Summer Tanager Adult Male
The Fall migration continues, and some of the best birds are being seen along the coast. On Saturday in the Tijuana River Valley a friend found a juvenile/female type Summer Tanager. These guys are becoming more common along the coast in Fall and Winter. I’d not seen one in Jacumba since 2006 when I found a nesting pair with chicks at the park-like area next to the remains of the bathhouse in June. A rare breeding record for this bird in the county.
This morning while birding in the same spot as in 2006 I thought I heard the pit-tuk call of the tanager, and after a few minutes I stumbled into this incandescent beauty. Females and juveniles are yellowish. In the Spring the sub-adult males begin to get their full adult color and appear a blotchy yellow and red.
It is common for Summer Tanagers to spend the winter in coastal San Diego. Maybe this guy will hang around until the Spring. This species eats berries and bugs, especially bees. In some parts of the country it is called the “bee bird.”
Also seen today were both of our common sapsuckers, the Red-breasted and a first-of-season Red-naped, a pair of Warbling vireos, about 6 Wilson’s warblers, 4 Yellow warblers and 2 Pacific-slope flycatchers.
A pair of Harris’s hawks were roosting in the trees across from the glider port. I had not seen any of this family since September 21.
A relatively tame White-breasted Nuthatch has been visiting my feeders and caching seeds in the cracks in the bark of my cottonwood tree.