Also see the PHOTO GALLERY
following the summaries of the 2016 and 2013 MBWeeks.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MBWEEK SUMMARY
January 16 - 24, 2016
Despite our various ailments – Bernice’s bad back, Suzanne’s bum leg, my injured hand, and even Pete’s defective tripod head – we managed to come up with a most successful California trip. Of course, it was easy enough to forget our aches and pains with such pleasant weather while we were there, as the highs ranged between the mid-60s and low 70s each day. And consider all those birds we came up with as we had our highest species number ever for this MBWeek: a grand total of 204 officially, plus 2 “non-countable” parrots, Around 80 of these were non-Minnesota birds (i.e., absent, accidental, or casual in the state), and everyone (except me) had at least one lifer or two – more typically a dozen or two.
Of course, the Streak-backed Oriole in Yuma was the most significant rarity we saw, but there were numerous other highlights. Some of my favorites: the concentration of 450 Black-vented Shearwaters swimming offshore in La Jolla as 2 Brown Boobies roosted on a nearby cliff, with one of these especially photogenic….that handsome dark-morph Ferruginous Hawk sharing a hillside with a Golden Eagle at San Jacinto Wildlife Area….a Black Oystercatcher and Surfbird on the same jetty at the mouth of the San Diego River ….the Mountain Plovers spotted in the distance along with many dozens of closer Long-billed Curlews in the fields by the Salton Sea….our successful day in the San Jacinto Mountains, with both Williamson’s and Red-breasted sapsuckers plus a White-headed Woodpecker….my tips from Brennan and Paul leading us to the pair of California Gnatcatchers by the Malcolm X Library and the Scaly-breasted Munia mania by the Fashion Valley Mall….our studies of both “Sage” Sparrow species near Borrego Springs and at Obsidean Butte….and the hordes of Lawrence’s Goldfinches waiting for us at the ballfields back in Imperial Beach.
January 16 – Arrival & meet in San Diego around noon; Tecolote Nature Center and Marsden House; first of 3 nights in San Diego, first of 3 dinners at Junk House.
January 17 – Navarro Canyon, Lake Murray, Malcolm X Library gnatcatchers, Chula Vista Bayfront Park, Otay Valley Rd greenbelt, Dairy Mart Pond, Tijuana Slough visitors center, and Imperial Beach Sports Park.
January 18 – La Jolla, Rimini Road in Del Mar, San Diegito River mouth, San Elijo Lagoon visitors center, back roads to Fairbanks Ranch, Lindo Lake, and Shelter Island.
January 19 – Munia search along San Diego River by post office and Town & Country Hotel, Robb Field/Dog Park/south jetty, Peace Rock cormorants, Shelter Island, and Marsden House; travel to Hemet via Mountain View Park in Escondido and Live Oak Park in Fallbrook; first of 2 nights in Hemet, dinner at Sweet Baby Jane’s.
January 20 – McCall Park, Idyllwild Nature Center, Idyllwild Co Park, and Hurkey Cr campground in San Jacinto Mts; Bridge Street, San Jacinto Wildlife Area, and Dunlap Street; split up for dinner.
January 21 – Travel to El Centro via Borrego Springs area (visitors center, alleged thrasher sites by the WTP, Old Springs Road, and Rockhouse Road), and Poe & Vendel Roads at south end of Salton Sea; first of 2 nights in El Centro, dinner at Kennedy’s.
January 22 – Salton Sea & vicinity: New River at Carter Road, sea wall access points via Lack Road, Obsidean Butte, Sonny Bono NWR visitors center & Rock Hill Trail; plover search along Kalin Road & vicinity, and Willard Road feeders in Brawley; dinner at Johnny Carino’s / Famous Dave’s.
January 23 – Riverside Park and West Wetlands Park in Yuma; return to San Diego via Fig Lagoon, Sunset Avenue ballfields, and Sweetwater River; final night in Chula Vista, dinner at Black Angus / La Quinta.
January 24 – Those with afternoon flights home to Chula Vista Bayfront Park, 7th Street mudflats, Tijuana Slough visitors center, and Cabrillo National Monument.
Bird List (boldface species = a subjective list of sought-after specialties, rarities, and other
Greater White-fronted Goose (Lindo Lake)
Brant (best Sunday morning at 7th Street)
Eurasian Wigeon (in fading light after a long walk on our last afternoon)
California Quail (McCall Park)
Ring-necked Pheasant (heard-only)
Clark's Grebe (Fig Lagoon; also at 7th Street Sunday morning)
Black-vented Shearwater (450 counted by 10s at La Jolla)
Brown Booby (2 roosting with cormorants at La Jolla)
Brandt's Cormorant (some displaying their electric-blue throat pouches)
Neotropic Cormorant (Fig Lagoon)
Pelagic Cormorant (4 at Peace Rock along Sunset Cliffs Blvd)
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Reddish Egret (stake-out at Chula Vista Bayfront Park)
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (still roosting in those pines in Imperial Beach)
White-tailed Kite (especially cooperative near Fairbanks Ranch)
Ferruginous Hawk (incl a beautiful dark-morph at San Jacinto Wildlife Area)
Golden Eagle (also at San Jacinto Wildlife Area)
Ridgway’s Rail (best at Chula Vista and San Elijo Lagoon)
Black Oystercatcher (a nice surprise seen from Dog Park)
Mountain Plover (6 or so distantly near Kalin Rd)
Wandering Tattler (La Jolla)
Long-billed Curlew (impressive numbers near Salton Sea)
Black Turnstone (best at La Jolla)
Surfbird (also seen from Dog Park on the jetty)
jaeger, sp. (mostly leader-only at La Jolla)
Laughing Gull (also staked-out at Chula Vista)
Thayer's Gull (first-winter bird along the Salton Sea seawall)
Band-tailed Pigeon (especially at Live Oak Park)
Burrowing Owl (we couldn’t stop taking photos)
Costa's Hummingbird (still reliable at 467 Willard)
Allen's Hummingbird (easier to find than usual)
Williamson's Sapsucker (female at Hurkey Creek; also seen here in 2013)
Red-breasted Sapsucker (Idyllwild Co Park)
Ladder-backed Woodpecker (mostly leader-only in Yuma)
White-headed Woodpecker (again at Idyllwild Nature Center)
Peregrine Falcon (finally at Cabrillo Sunday morning)
Prairie Falcon (Mountain View Park)
(Yellow-headed Parrot / not “countable” at Imperial Beach Sports Park)
(Lilac-crowned Parrot / Lindo Lake; also “non-countable”)
Vermilion Flycatcher (with the Lawrence’s Goldfinches)
Thick-billed Kingbird (back again in Chula Vista)
Oak Titmouse (especially at Live Oak Park)
Pygmy Nuthatch (lots in the San Jacinto Mts)
Marsh Wren (the Western form - soon to be split?)
Bewick's Wren (also at Cabrillo Sunday morning, finally)
California Gnatcatcher (thanks to a tip from Brennan Mulrooney)
Wrentit (best at Tecolote)
Mountain Bluebird (San Jacinto Wildlife Area)
California Thrasher (best at Tecolote and Cabrillo)
Phainopepla (especially around Borrego Springs)
Hermit Warbler (stake-out in Del Mar)
Green-tailed Towhee (2 at Tijuana Slough Sunday morning)
California Towhee (widespread)
Abert's Towhee (Salton Sea & vicinity)
Sagebrush Sparrow (all seemed to be Sagebrush around Borrego Springs)
Bell's Sparrow (nicely teed up for some at Obsidean Butte)
Summer Tanager (in the Hermit Warbler area)
Tricolored Blackbird (especially at Lindo Lake)
Streak-backed Oriole (certainly worth the side trip to Yuma)
Lawrence's Goldfinch (probably the most I’ve ever seen at one time)
Scaly-breasted Munia (thanks to a tip from Paul Lehman)
* * *
2013 CALIFORNIA MBWEEK
JANUARY 29 - FEBRUARY 3, 2013
It's hard to know where to begin listing the highlights among all the places we visited and the birds we saw during this MBW's winter escape from Minnesota weather. While things started out on the cool side in San Diego with temperatures "only" around 60, towards the end of the week it was around 70 or better, and there were just light winds most of the time. Even the infamous California freeways were as cooperative as the weather and presented no real traffic difficulties.
Given these generally favorable conditions, we accordingly found nearly 200 species – 197 to be exact, plus 2 other "non-countables" (i.e., Mandarin Duck and Red-masked Parakeet). Of these, no fewer than 75 were "non-Minnesota" species, so to single out just a few highlights among so many birds presents a daunting task. But the rarest of them all had to be that Curlew Sandpiper, a species I'd seen only twice before anywhere. True, not all of us got to see it, but it was somewhat remarkable any of us did at all, considering how difficult it was to find among so many other shorebirds on those extensive mudflats, and that many other birders missed it entirely.
Some of our other nice finds during our first few days in San Diego and vicinity included such local and easy-to-miss specialties as California Gnatcatchers (as well as Allen's Hummingbirds) at San Elijo Lagoon, very shy Wrentits finally seen well at a few places, and Tricolored Blackbirds at Lindo Lake. And our seawatch at La Jolla was rewarded by lots of relatively close Black-vented Shearwaters, Brandt's Cormorants sporting electric-blue throat pouches, and a close pair of Wandering Tattlers (along with Black Turnstones).
The San Jacinto Mountains above our base in Hemet was especially productive for woodpeckers, as we turned up a pair of White-headed Woodpeckers plus an unexpected Williamson's Sapsucker – and note that both species tend to be hard to find anywhere. We also came up with Red-breasted Sapsuckers, Pygmy Nuthatches, and other montane birds there, and it didn't take long the next day to find two cooperative Lewis's Woodpeckers in the foothills near Julian.
Farther east in the lowlands of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park those two elusive Le Conte's Thrashers we tracked down certainly provided our best find of the day, considering both MBW searches there in previous years came up empty. We found Sage and Black-throated sparrows there as well, and especially memorable were those unique sculptures near Borrego Springs.
Locating that one lone Yellow-footed Gull at the Salton Sea proved too much of a needle-in-the-haystack proposition, but it was unexpected we were able to find both Glaucous and Glaucous-winged gulls there. We also turned up a flock of 100+ Mountain Plovers in the area, several Burrowing Owls and a sleeping Barn Owl, and a nicely posing Sage Thrasher in an alleged Crissal area.
A stop at Jacumba en route back to San Diego provided a Harris's Hawk and another Tricolored Blackbird sighting, and there was time the next morning before returning the rental vehicles to finally find a Eurasian Wigeon in the Sweetwater River and two Lawrence's Goldfinch by the ballfields on Sunset Road.
January 26 – Afternoon birding option at 7th Street mudflats and Tijuana Slough NWR; first of 3 nights in San Diego at Old Town Inn.
January 27 – Sweetwater River, Rohr Park, Otay Valley Road kingbird site, return to 7th Street and Tijuana Slough, Lindo Lake, and Mission Hills Regional Park.
January 28 – La Jolla, San Elijo Lagoon and visitors center, San Dieguito River, Crown Point Park/Mission Bay, north jetty, Robb Field.
January 29 – Return to north jetty, Dog Beach, Sunset Cliffs Blvd, Cabrillo National Monument, return to plover-less San Dieguito River, and drive to Hemet for first of 2 nights at Quality Inn.
January 30 – San Jacinto Mts: McCall Park, Idyllwild Nature Center and County Park, Hurkey Creek campground, and Highway 74/Hemet Lake; former park along San Jacinto River.
January 31 – Morning drive from Hemet to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park via Santa Ysabel Mission and the Julian woodpecker site; Anza-Borrego's Tamarisk Grove campground, visitors center, Borrego Springs Rd sculptures (!), and thrasher site; afternoon drive via Salton Sea's Unit One to Brawley for first of 2 nights at Brawley Inn.
February 1 – Salton Sea and vicinity: Finney Lake, Highway 111 plovers site, Sinclair Road, Sonny Bono NWR visitors center, Bowles Road, and "Seawall" from Young Road to Obsidean Butte.
February 2 – Willard Street hummingbirds, Carter Road/New River area, return to Seawall and NWR visitors center; afternoon return to San Diego via Jacumba and final night at Old Town Inn.
February 3 – Morning birding option at Pantoja Park, Sweetwater River, Sunset Road goldfinch site, Leon Street, and Dairy Mart Road pond.
Bird List (boldfaced species = non-Minnesota birds: absent, accidental, or casual in MN
Greater White-fronted Goose (Lindo Lake)
Ross's Goose (east of NWR visitors center on Sinclair)
Brant (closest looks at Mission Bay)
Eurasian Wigeon (Sweetwater River on our second try)
Cinnamon Teal (several sites)
Surf Scoter (San Dieguito R)
Common Goldeneye (Salton Sea)
California Quail (especially McCall Park)
Gambel's Quail (especially NWR visitors center)
Ring-necked Pheasant (of dubious origin)
Red-throated Loon (exceptionally close views at north jetty)
Pacific Loon (fly-bys only at La Jolla)
Clark's Grebe (best at Crown Point Park)
Black-vented Shearwater (closer than usual at La Jolla!)
Brandt's Cormorant (especially at La Jolla)
Pelagic Cormorant (Sunset Cliffs Blvd)
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Reddish Egret (7th Street mudflats)
White-tailed Kite (several sites)
Harris's Hawk (Jacumba)
Ferruginous Hawk (Santa Ysabel Mission)
Clapper Rail (seen at Tijuana Slough and heard at Unit One)
Snowy Plover (Robb Field)
Mountain Plover (relatively close along Highway 111)
Wandering Tattler (best at La Jolla)
Red Knot (7th St mudflats)
Curlew Sandpiper (that elusive 7th St rarity seen by most of us)
Glaucous-winged Gull (adult at Obsidean Butte; relatively rare here)
Glaucous Gull (first-winter bird at Young Rd; also rare in S California)
Common Ground-Dove (best at NWR visitors center)
Barn Owl (sleeping in a palm by the NWR visitors center)
Great Horned Owl (brief silhouette at dusk)
Burrowing Owl (several)
Anna's Hummingbird (almost everywhere)
Costa's Hummingbird (Borrego Springs and Willard St)
Allen's Hummingbird (again at San Elijo Lagoon)
Lewis's Woodpecker (2 cooperative birds near Julian)
Williamson's Sapsucker (unexpected at Hurkey Creek campground!)
Red-breasted Sapsucker (San Jacinto Mts)
White-headed Woodpecker (again at Idyllwild Nature Center)
Black Phoebe (almost everywhere)
Say's Phoebe (ditto)
Vermilion Flycatcher (Crown Point and Sunset Ave parks)
Thick-billed Kingbird (staked-out rarity along Otay Valley Rd)
Steller's Jay (San Jacinto Mts)
Mountain Chickadee (common in the San Jacintos)
Oak Titmouse (best at McCall Park)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (unexpected at Cabrillo Monument)
Pygmy Nuthatch (best at Idyllwild Nature Center)
Marsh Wren (the western form and a potential split?)
Cactus Wren (only at Borrego Springs)
California Gnatcatcher (close pair at San Elijo Lagoon)
Wrentit (best looks at San Elijo and Cabrillo)
Sage Thrasher (nice consolation along Crissal-less Carter Rd)
Le Conte's Thrasher (secretive pair at Anza-Borrego's thrasher site!)
Phainopepla (probably still whistling for their dogs)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (staked-out rarity at Pantoja Park)
Townsend's Warbler (seen by a few on Leon St)
Rufous-crowned Sparrow (San Elijo Lagoon)
California Towhee (common)
Abert's Towhee (best views at NWR visitors center)
Sage Sparrow (Anza-Borrego)
Golden-crowned Sparrow (best at Cabrillo)
Tricolored Blackbird (Lindo Lake and Jacumba)
Bullock's Oriole (brief views on Leon St)
Lawrence's Goldfinch (cooperative stake-outs the last morning)
* * *
Eurasian Wigeon, Sweetwater River, 2014
California Quail, McCall Park, 2016
Blue-footed Booby, Lake Skinner, 2014
Brown Booby, La Jolla, 2016
Brandt's Cormorants, La Jolla, 2013
Heermann's Gull with Brandt's Cormorant, La Jolla, 2014
Anna's Hummingbird, La Jolla, 2014
Burrowing Owls, near Salton Sea, 2016
Yellow-footed Gull, Rock Hill Trail, 2010
Surfbird, San Diego River north jetty, 2014
Barn Owl, Sonny Bono NWR Visitors Center, 2014
Nuttall's Woodpecker, San Diego, 2011
Ridgway's (Clapper) Rails, Tijuana Slough, 2014
Mountain Plover, near Salton Sea, 2013
Williamson's Sapsucker, Hurkey Creek Campground, 2016 (Jeff Stephenson photo)
Allen's Hummingbird, San Elijo Lagoon, 2011
Costa's Hummingbird, Brawley, 2016 (Laura Erickson photo)
White-headed Woodpecker, Idyllwild Nature Center, 2016 (Jeff Stephenson photo)
Sagebrush Sparrow, near Borrego Springs, 2016 (Laura Erickson photo)
Phainopepla, Anza-Borrego State Park, 2011
Thick-billed Kingbird, Chula Vista, 2014
California Gnatcatcher, San Diego, 2016 (Jeff Stephenson photo)
Wrentit, Cabrillo National Monument, 2011
California Thrasher, Cabrillo National Monument, 2011
Sage Thrasher, Carter Rd. along New River, 2013
Red-throated Pipit, Imperial Beach, 2010
Lawrence's Goldfinches, Imperial Beach, 2016 (Laura Erickson photo)
Streak-backed Oriole, Yuma AZ, 2016 (Laura Erickson photo)
Tricolored Blackbird (top) with Red-winged, Lindo Lake, 2014
Scarlet-breasted Munia (Nutmeg Mannikin), Tecolote Nature Center, 2014