Birder's Guide

OCT 2014

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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32 Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy | October 2014 San Diego County 2013 Big Year edged freshwater lagoons. A couple of the larger lakes and reservoirs some- times provide meager shorebird habitat. The county continues over the Laguna and Cuyamaca Mountains, where a few mountain peaks top 6,000 feet. The highest is Hot Springs Mountain, with an elevation of 6,535 feet. Continuing east takes one to the semi-desert and desert habitats at Jacumba and the Anza- Borrego Desert. 4 • Birding habitat continues westward and offshore via pelagic trips. Taking many boat trips is crucial, but some pelagic birds can be seen by doing sea- watches from La Jolla. 5 • Quick communication enables news of rarities to be disseminated rapidly through the use of the county-wide email list and a text messaging group. 6 • There is plenty of help and support given by many wonderful top-notch birders in this county (most important!). To these I added dedication and deter- mination. I birded almost every morning before work, sometimes pushing work to a later start from my usual 9 a.m. I birded during some lunch breaks and sometimes after work. I put 47,000 miles on my car alone, not counting the trips done in friends' cars. And we put in 773 statute miles (690 nautical miles) on one friend's boat, not including my other scheduled pelagic trips. To the best of my knowledge, I missed only 21 species that were seen by others in the county in 2013. At the start of my 2013 big year, San Diego was hosting a great number of win- tering rarities. I focused on seeing the Eastern vagrant warblers, which includ- ed Chestnut-sided, Pine, Bay-breasted, Black-and-white, Black-throated Blue, and Prairie. Pacifc Golden-Plover, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Thick-billed Kingbird, Painted Redstart, Hepatic Tanager, and Evening Grosbeak were also present. Sparrows included Swamp, Harris's, and Nelson's (high tides over six feet push these up so they can be seen). At the end of January, my total had reached 213 birds. Manx Shearwater was added on February 14, and was extra sweet since it was a new county bird for me. I made multiple February trips to Borrego Springs and the Anza-Borrego Desert for special "Sage" and Black-throated sparrows and Crissal and Le Conte's thrashers. The mountains were an- other priority at this time: a small, winter- ing fock of Cassin's Finches, plus singing Fox Sparrows and calling Mountain Quail. Some important returning breeders started showing up late in March, including Gray Vireo. March ended with 302 species. The spring turned out to be average, but looking for local breeders and migrants kept me busy. Beautiful Calliope Hummingbirds come through San Diego at this time of year. And I found a Franklin's Gull at Sweetwater Reservoir on the very sandbar Paul had suggested I check! With much ef- fort, I managed to see Least and American bitterns. Spotted Owls were seen, but alas, the Flammulated Owl had to be counted as heard only. A May trip to Borrego Springs for Brown-crested Flycatcher also turned up a rare Bronzed Cowbird, much to the joy of many county birders. Friends with a high-clearance vehicle birded the top of Hot Springs Mountain with me, helping me turn up Dusky Flycatcher and White- headed Woodpecker. A Pigeon Guillemot landed in front of me on my frst try for this locally rare species at La Jolla Cove. But even more amazing was the immature Masked/Nazca Booby which came back for a second day there. July is usually slow, but that year San Diego County put on an amazing show. Matt Sadowski (while working) found a Stilt Sandpiper, an exceptional adult Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (a new county bird for many, including me), and a frst-coun- ty-record Lesser Sand-Plover! Another friend found a Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel San Diego County. Map © Rad Smith After several lean years, Craveri's Murrelets were found in numbers in San Diego County waters during the autumn of 2013. Photo © Gary Nunn

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