This morning (8-21-14) I stumbled across a rare and very early Fall migrant – a Magnolia Warbler. The previous earliest date for this bird in San Diego is September 5. This is an eastern warbler which is considered a vagrant in Southern California.
A fall migrant chipping sparrow showed up at my feeders on 8-16-14. The first migrant sparrow of the Fall.
Other recent sightings follow.
This species, and other Empidonax flycatchers are difficult to distinguish. This might be a more-common Western-wood Pewee, but the color and primary projection look more like a Willow fly.
Fall migration is well under way, with all the expected birds showing up when expected. Above, a willow flycatcher.
Wilson’s warbler, warbling vireo, orange-crowned warbler, lazuli bunting, Nashville warbler, western tanager and black-chinned hummingbird have all shown up. The next few weeks should herald the rest of our western warblers: Townsends, black-throated gray, MacGillvirays, yellow-rumped and hermit. Yellow warblers have been present all summer, likely raised a brood.
Some of our summer birds will linger for a while. Scott’s and Bullock’s orioles are getting scarce, and adult males seem to have all left. Few, if any adult male hooded orioles remain, while female and juvenile birds are still common. There are still male and female black-headed grosbeaks and blue grosbeaks.
The little parakeet showed up on August 2. There is a budgie breeder in town, and this is the third apparent escapee I’ve had at my feeder. The bird seems well integrated into the local flock of house sparrows.
Sunday afternoon, after the monsoon had blown out of town, I noticed an odd looking vulture overhead. I grabbed my binoculars and then my camera and got some crappy photos. But they were enough for me to ID a very rare (in San Diego County) black vulture. This species is a close relative of the common turkey vulture, the red-headed brown bird that is often seen sunning itself on utility poles in the early morning.
The main difference between turkey vultures (TVs) and Black vultures (BVs), are that TVs have red heads and a two-toned underwing pattern. BVs have black heads and lack the two-toned appearance. Also, the “fingers” at the ends of the wings on BVs are white or silver.
Alas, the black vulture flew off to the northwest, unlikely to be seen again. But who knows?
Watch the sky.
Also seen recently……
An early migrant flycatcher at the swamp.
An adult male Lazuli Bunting seen in the “sunflower lot” on the north side of Seely Ave. Another early migrant.
The ash-throated fly is a common summer resident and breeding species.
A common fall migrant at the swamp, usually seen in pairs or small flocks.
My trusty Nikon D7000 was getting a bit long of tooth. The truth be told, I dropped it a couple of times and the focusing mechanism was shaky. So I picked up a newer camera body, the D7100. Many technical improvements.
The last time I saw a western tanager in Jacumba was May 31, 2014 at the tail end of the Spring migtration. This morning as I was looking for the continuing indigo bunting I spied three tanagers. My first of the Fall migration. Just a bit early for this species.
This is a bird that’s been on my radar for a long time. The Indigo Bunting is a close relative of the common Lazuli Bunting which shares the same habitat requirements. Where their ranges overlap they are often seen together. They are rare west of the Colorado River. I’ve seen Indigos at Fort Rosecrans Cemetery on Point Loma, a well-known rare bird trap, San Felipe Valley between Julian and Borrego Springs, and in Madera Canyon in SE Arizona. The local habitat, the edges of our cottonwood-riparian woodland in Jacumba, is perfect for breeding of this species.
This morning about 6:50 I was birding with Trent Stanley when we heard a faint song that sounded like a yellow warbler, which we know to be in the area. Trent scanned the cottonwoods in the distance and announced that he had an Indigo Bunting. I looked at the bird through my binoculars but could not make out the color, as it was at too great a distance. We worked our way around to the cottonwoods and finally got some good looks at what indeed is an adult male Indigo Bunting. He is a rather shy bird and would not allow close-up photos except when he was directly between us and the sun. I managed to get a few crummy photographs.
As I noted above, I’ve been looking for this bird for a long time, and it was a great thrill to finally see one. My 165th Jacumba bird.
Also seen today were a pair of (M&F) Lazuli Buntings – early migrants or birds on their post-breeding dispersal from local nesting grounds in the Lagunas. Additionally, the green herons at the lake have three fledglings. We also saw an adult male yellow warbler and an immature male blue grosbeak at the swamp.
In my yard I’ve been seeing migrant rufous and Allen’s hummers as well as Scott’s, hooded and Bullock’s Orioles. Tricolored Blackbird numbers are decreasing as the birds fledge their chicks and go on their odyssey.
In my last post (6-17-14) I said that although summer was the slow season for birding, there is faint hope for unusual vagrants. And on the 20th a scissor-tailed flycatcher showed up in my yard. It spent only enough time for me to get some crummy photos in the fading light. I’ve checked out the likely spots for it to hangout, but it seems to have been a one-day-wonder. This bird is a true vagrant, a wanderer. Easily the best bird I’ve found since last September’s Inca dove.
Below are some photos of scissor-tailed flycatchers that I’ve taken over the last several years in San Diego and at Twenty-nine Palms.
A Summer Tanager showed up in mid-May looking for a mate and is still hanging around town singing his heart out. The adult male sings from perches ranging from the Jacumba CSD well west of town all the way to the north side of Seely Ave. just west of Campo St. Its usually found around the lake and swamp. Poor thing sings non-stop. Its getting a bit late to breed, so he’ll just have to wait until next year. I could not get any decent photos of this bird, but I’ve included two which I took in San Diego and Arizona. In 2006 summer tanagers nested here and fledged three chicks. I found one adult male at the swamp in October 2013. Their range seems to be expanding and we very likely will have more of them back again.
I found two blue grosbeaks, both immature birds, perhaps siblings, at the swamp several days ago. This immature male is just beginning to get some blue feathers.
Just as summer arrives, our first fall migrants have arrived. Yesterday I found a female Rufous or Allen’s hummingbird at one of my feeders. Females and immature males of these two species cannot be told apart in the field. Today I had two male Allen’s at my feeders. Again, I’ve attached photos of Allen’s hummingbirds that I took several years past in San Diego.
Coast Horned Lizard residing in my yard, eating its way through the harvester and tree ants since March.
June 17, 2014
Yes friends, the birding is painfully slow in Summer. Birds that can be seen are the usual summer suspects; Nesting Orioles, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Vermilion Flycatchers, Tricolored Blackbirds, Green Herons, Ash-throated Flycatchers, Western Kingbirds and the common year-round residents such as California Quail, California Thrashers and California Towhees. Black-throated Sparrows can be found east of town on Old US 80 between Carrizo Gorge Road and In-Koh-Pah.
This time of year does, however, offer a faint hope for unusual vagrants and wanderers such as Common Ground-dove, Ruddy Ground-dove, Inca Dove, and Bronzed Cowbird, all from the Imperial Valley.
Yellow Warblers may be nesting at the lake in the willow-riparian habitat.
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are also a possibility in June.
And who knows what amazing bird might just drop by for a rest.
Western Tanagers have left and gone away. They’ll be back, in their drab winter feather, in September.
My first gull species in Jacumba, a wandering ring-billed gull appeared on June 1. These birds are a plague in most places, but here they rarely stop. I don’t know whether we should be insulted or thankful.
Take heart! Soon the fall migration will begin, and about the end of July we should begin to see some Rufous and Black-chinned hummers. Last year Lazuli Buntings arrived at the end of July, and were followed by many of the same birds that we saw in April and May.
Watch the skies!
We had a very mild winter and now a warm, windy, even hot Spring. The numbers of warblers, vireos and buntings is waning, but a few new birds are lingering. The Swainson’s thrush is a relatively common migrant and unusual breeding species in San Diego County. Large numbers (200+) were noted at Point Loma on one particularly active morning.
Grosbeak numbers have declined, but are still seen in multiples. Western tanagers are still plentiful. Black-chinned hummers are scarce while Costa’s are in my yard most of the day. The last selasphorus hummer was a Rufous on 5-8-14.
Orioles, especially, are still around in good numbers. As quickly as I refill the jelly feeder, all three species of our orioles descend. The Scott’s seem to be on the top of the pecking order. Scott’s, Bullock’s and hooded orioles are local breeding species, and they should be around all Summer. Some of the Scott’s are year-round residents in that they can be found year-round in Jacumba. Whether we’re seeing the same exact bird in January as in August I don’t know. Jacumba is not far north of the Scott’s orioles wintering range, and they also winter in Borrego.
On the 17th I I found a dark-lored white-crowned sparrow in my yard, a very striking bird. We have hoards of the more common white-lored version of the species from late September until the beginnings of May. The later migrants are usually the dark-lored version.
New birds seen around Jacumba. The chick being fed by the adult tricolored blackbird might be a cowbird chick. But I think not.
I’m always pleased to see MacGillivray’s warbler.