Black Vulture – Second County Record

Black Vulture 8-3-14.  This is only the second record for this species in the county.

Black Vulture 8-3-14. This is only the second record for this species in the county.

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.

Black Vulture 8-3-14

Black Vulture 8-3-14

Also seen recently……

Pacific-slope Flycatcher 8-4-14

Pacific-slope Flycatcher 8-4-14

An early migrant flycatcher at the swamp.

Lazuli Bunting 8-4-14

Lazuli Bunting 8-4-14

An adult male Lazuli Bunting seen in the “sunflower lot” on the  north side of Seely Ave.  Another early migrant.

Ash-throated Flycatcher 8-4-14

Ash-throated Flycatcher 8-4-14

The ash-throated fly is a common summer resident and breeding species.

Warbling Vireo

Warbling Vireo

A common fall migrant at the swamp, usually seen in pairs or small flocks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Light on new Camera 7-19-14

Female Bullock's Oriole feeding jelly to chick

Female Bullock’s Oriole feeding jelly to chick

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.

Indigo Bunting (left) and Western Tanager

Indigo Bunting (left) and Western Tanager

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.

Juvenile Scott's Oriole

Juvenile Scott’s Oriole

Adult Male Hooded Oriole

Adult Male Hooded Oriole

 

Juvenile Scott's Oriole

Juvenile Scott’s Oriole

 

 

 

Indigo Bunting 7-4-14

 

Indigo Bunting, adult male

Indigo Bunting, adult male

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.

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

 

 

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

 

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.

Poor Wandering One

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 6-20-14

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 6-20-14

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.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 4-10-08 at 29 Palms

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 4-10-08 at 29 Palms

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Mission Bay Park

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Mission Bay Park

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.

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager, Balboa Park

Summer Tanager, Madera Canyon, Arizona

Summer Tanager, Madera Canyon, Arizona

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.

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

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.

Allen's Hummingbird, male

Allen’s Hummingbird, male

Selasphorus Hummingbird, female, either Allen's or Rufous.

Selasphorus Hummingbird, female, either Allen’s or Rufous.

Coast Horned Lizard

Coast Horned Lizard

Coast Horned Lizard residing in my yard, eating its way through the harvester and tree ants since March.

 

 

 

 

Summertime, and the Birdin’ is Lazy

 

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 Squabble over the Jelly Feeder

Western Tanagers Squabble over the Jelly Feeder while a Hooded Oriole waits for her chance.

Western Tanagers have left and gone away. They’ll be back, in their drab winter feather, in September.

Ring-billed Gull.  A trash bird anywhere else

Ring-billed Gull. A trash bird anywhere else.

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.

1948 De Soto Club Coupe slowly disintegrates in the Jacumba Sun

1948 De Soto Club Coupe slowly disintegrates in the Jacumba Sun

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!

 

 

Late Spring Migration 5-19-2014

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson’s Thrush

 

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.

Black-headed grosbeak, Western Tanager and Bullock's Oriole share the jelly feeder

Black-headed grosbeak, Western Tanager and Bullock’s Oriole share the jelly feeder

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.

Scott's Oriole

Scott’s Oriole

Scott's Oriole and Western Tanager

Scott’s Oriole and Western Tanager

 

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.

Dark-lored White-crowned Sparrow

Dark-lored White-crowned Sparrow

New great horned owls. at the old bath house

New great horned owls at the old bath house

Lawrence's Goldfinch

Lawrence’s Goldfinch 5-12-14

Jacumba wind storm – tumbling tumbleweeds 5-1-14

 

 

 

Spring Rush 4-28-14

Virginia RailChick 4-28-14

Virginia Rail Chick 4-28-14

 

Killdeer Chick 4-28-14

Killdeer Chick 4-28-14

 

Tricolored Blackbird feeding Chick

Tricolored Blackbird feeding Chick

New birds seen around Jacumba.  The chick being fed by the adult tricolored blackbird might be a cowbird chick.  But I think not.

MacGillivray's Warbler 4-28-14

MacGillivray’s Warbler 4-28-14

I’m always pleased to see MacGillivray’s warbler.

Olive-sided Flycatcher 4-28-14

Olive-sided Flycatcher 4-28-14

Western-wood Pewee

Western-wood Pewee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Arrivals, Old Friends ~ 4-18-4

Costa's Hummingbird

Costa’s Hummingbird

The spring migration is now in full bloom.  Almost all of the usual migrants have shown up, many at my feeders and the rest around the swamp and pond.  This last week saw the first  of season Ash-throated Flycatcher, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Western-wood Pewee, Swainson’s Thrush and Lazuli Bunting arrive in Jacumba.  These photos are of spring migrants seen in April 2014.  See earlier posts for additional spring migrant pics.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Blue Grosbeak, female

Blue Grosbeak, female

Warbling Vireo

Warbling Vireo

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zone-tailed Hawk 4-3-14

This afternoon about 3 p.m. an odd looking raptor flew directly over my backyard.  I took a good look at in through my binoculars and was satisfied that is was a zone-tailed hawk, a bird usually seen in southeast Arizona and down into Mexico.  I’ve seen them several times in the vicinity of the Wild Animal Park in San Pasqual Valley – which is where these two photos were taken.  The two or three birds that are sometimes seen there also roam to the Ramona Grasslands, Santee Lakes, Lake Hodges,  and Escondido.

Zone-tailed Hawk -  January 1, 2010 at the San Diego Wild Animal Park

Zone-tailed Hawk – January 1, 2010 at the San Diego Wild Animal Park

These hawks mimic turkey vultures in appearance and often fly with kettles of vultures.

Zone-tailed Hawk - January 1, 2010 San Diego Wild Animal Park

Zone-tailed Hawk – January 1, 2010 San Diego Wild Animal Park

Zone-tailed Hawks are also occasionally seen around El Centro and Yuma.  So it not such a big deal that a zone-tailed would be seen in Jacumba and I suspect that zone-taileds are relatively common here.  It just takes someone who can distinguish this hawk from a vulture to be at the right place a the right time.

Calliope Hummingjbird 4-3-14

Calliope Hummingjbird 4-3-14

THis bright male calliope hummingbird appeared on the evening of the 3rd, after the storm and winds.  He showed up the next morning for his close-ups.

Cassin's Vireo 3-31-14

Cassin’s Vireo 3-31-14

Cassin’s vireos used to be lumped together with two other vireos, the blue-headed and plumbeous.  Together they were one species, the solitary vireo.

Bunny Hunt gone bad!

Bunny Hunt gone bad!

This poor silly wabbit lost an ear to a poor marksman at the annual Jacumba Easter Bunny Shoot. Won’t you donate to the rehabilitation of this wretched beast?

The new public bathtub

The new public bathtub

This rock bathtub was pieced together recently.  Last year, and before, there were a series of bathtubs hooked up to the Spa’s open hot water tap.  This pool is supplied with an ample supply of warm water.  A frog lives in it!  The plastic soap bottle, barely visible, is a nice touch.

 


 

Swainson’s Hawk 3-28-14

Swainson's Hawk over Jacumba 3-29-14

Swainson’s Hawk over Jacumba 3-29-14

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

This raptor, Swainson’s Hawk, migrates each year from its summering and breeding grounds in  northern British Columbia and central Alberta to Brazil and Argentina – a migration of up to 12,000-14,000 miles.  They accomplish this long migration twice a year by riding air currents up to a high elevation and then gliding as far as they can.  The ride up is practically free, the ride down is free.  So they roost at night and rise in the morning with the first thermals – often grouping up with turkey vultures – and taking an elevator ride up.

These birds stream through San Diego County in large numbers – up to 600 or more being seen in Borrego Springs in one day.  Borrego Springs has the highest number of Swainson’s hawk sightings in the US. The flight path that takes them to Borrego is not entirely understood, but its likely that Jacumba is in their general flight path. I suspect that this species is a regular visitor that arrives silently in small numbers in the late afternoon/early evening and has just not been noticed. I do not know if there are any older records for Jacumba, but I found none in a quick search.

Swainson’s once were considered a common breeding species in San Diego County. There are records of breeding (summer residents) from 1877 and up to the early 20th century.

Trent Stanley noticed this bird flying low over my backyard at 7:15 pm on the 28th.  The last bit of twilight was all that lit up the hawk, but the view through binoculars said Swainson’s hawk.  We searched a bit for it, but it was too dark to see much.

The next morning at 9:00 we saw the hawk join the kettle of turkey vultures and take a free elevator ride up to gliding altitude.

 

Also……

Black-chinned Hummingbird 3-24-14

Black-chinned Hummingbird 3-24-14

Black-chinned Hummingbird 3-24-14

Black-chinned Hummingbird 3-24-14

Here we have an odd-looking black-chinned hummingbird.  The white outer tail feathers and white secondaries are unusual.