[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2016] – News broke mid afternoon 17 August 2016 of a reported Broad-tailed Hummingbird Selasphorus platycercus coming to feeders at a private residence near Lake Henshaw in northeast San Diego County. Calendar schedule and location seemed good for a wandering migrant and the observer noted the characteristic wing whistle of the male of this species. After discussions with the resident, Debbie Dobson, a plan was made to check out the feeders at dawn the next day. Sure enough, within minutes of our arrival at 6am on 18 August 2016, the wing whistle of a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird could be heard. It soon flew in very close to us and perched on the feeder not more than a few feet away. We watched the hummingbird for a few minutes as it made a couple of visits to a favored nectar feeder. A huge thank you to Debbie Dobson for her kind invitation to check out the hummingbird feeders at her home and observe her very rare discovery! It has been almost ten years since the last report of this species in San Diego County when one was seen in Ramona, September 2006.
[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2016] – An urgent telephone call from Tom Blackman this morning with news of a Magnificent Frigatebird sailing over his head while photographing birds at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve! He said it moved south down towards Scripps Pier in La Jolla Shores. In a bit of a scramble I quickly took off to La Jolla in the hope of crossing paths with this difficult to see species in San Diego County!
Parking was a disaster at La Jolla Cove and I ended up some ways south. This was not so bad as it turned out the frigatebird had gone about a mile offshore, over a fishing boat, and was in fact now located due west of my position. A text message from Jim Pawlicki alerted me from where he was searching at Scripps Pier that he could see it far offshore. As luck would have it the bird then came on a beeline obliquely towards me and eventually circled low over La Valencia Hotel in downtown La Jolla getting a ripping by the local Western Gulls.
This individual appears to be a juvenile with a white head and chest joined to a small white diamond-shaped belly patch. The paler bars on the upperwings are also noticeable. Other than the unique flock which came through La Jolla in 2012, hustled up here by a hurricane off Baja, seeing a Magnificent Frigatebird in San Diego County is a rather lucky affair. Odd singles seem to turn up a couple of times a year but are remarkably difficult to chase due to the mobility of this species.
[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2016] – I made a late morning venture down to Point La Jolla to do some seawatching today 09 January 2016 but found it very quiet with offshore winds. I was about to leave when an interesting looking second-cycle “white-winged” gull caught my eye flying out of the cove towards a small fishing vessel. Looking at surrounding gulls it was smaller than a Western Gull, maybe about the same size as a California Gull with a gentle looking relatively small rounded head. Photographs show a bicolored pink-black bill and overall pallid looking upperparts without strong contrasting markings. The mantle is a nice frosty gray color. In particular the primaries and secondaries seem to be quite pale and without strong contrasting markings. I don’t see any sign of a dark secondary bar or very dark edging pattern to the primaries which would be expected in second-cycle Thayer’s Gull. In fact I think this bird might show characters better aligned with Kumlien’s Gull L. glaucoides kumlieni looking at the only slight dark outer webs to the primaries and more even looking paler secondaries. It certainly looked much whiter overall than a first-cycle Thayer’s Gull also hanging around the fishing vessel. Perhaps closer more definitive photographs could be obtained if it is seen again. I waited around for some time hoping it would come closer but it took off further offshore following fishing boats. Comments welcome!
[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2015] – This first cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus was discovered by Jim Pawlicki at the J Street mudflats viewed from Bayfront Park, Chula Vista this morning 06 December 2015. By coincidence I had just arrived there and was busy scanning the assembled gulls from the west side. Jim had spotted the gull scanning from the east side of the mudflats! It was sitting out in the glare and eventually I relocated back to the west viewpoint and took some very distant photographs with the 1000mm lens setup on the Canon 1Dx. The lighting at least allowed the long black bill and plumage coloration to be seen better.
This appears to be the same bird first discovered by Matt Sadowski at the Tijuana River mouth, Imperial Beach back on November 24, 2015. On several occasions we watched it limping and unable to walk on its left leg matching Matt’s observations of the bird seen at the river mouth.
A slim profiled gull in between Ring-billed Gull and California Gull in size. The dusky blackish brown remiges project a long way accentuating the long slim looking profile. The sloped whitish head and prominent black quite long bill are characteristic. Viewed through a field scope the pale upper tail coverts were dark peppered and the tail and upperwings darkly colored.
[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2015] – I was shocked this morning when an adult male Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatus flew overhead between tall Mexican Fan Palms near the west terminus of North Mission Bay Drive in Pacific Beach. Really? A Hooded Oriole in late November?! I don’t think I have seen one here since early October and they are downright rare wintering in Southern California. Checking eBird reports the last sighting seems to be around October 13th in San Diego County this year. The oriole weirdness continued when a few minutes later I noticed movement in some tall weeds beside the road and an immature male Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius popped out right in front of me! It took off flying behind some small trees but I played some “chack” calls of this species and sure enough it came flying right back making the same call. I tracked after this oriole as it flew to a superb looking Cape Honeysuckle that was just smothered in flowers. Playing some more “chack” calls I pulled out a second small oriole, this time a female, which seemed to be loosely traveling with the first bird. The tail seems a bit on the short side for Hooded Oriole and the bill a bit straighter and weaker looking to my eye. I only heard “chack” calls coming out of the bush so it seems likely this is a second Orchard Oriole. The pack of orioles continued to grow bigger when I then noticed a slightly larger bird moving around and a brightly colored immature male Bullock’s Oriole Icterus bullockii came into view in the same bush. I will be keeping my eye on this spot, who knows what other orioles could be in the neighborhood!
[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2015] – Light westerly winds this Thanksgiving Day 26 Nov 2015 so I popped down to Point La Jolla in the morning to check for bird movement on the ocean. Large groups of Pacific Loon were moving south along with a few small flocks of Surf Scoter so I stuck around. About 9:41AM Matt Sadowski spotted a small dark-colored shearwater with snappy flight manner and quite dusky feathering on the underwing. That’s interesting! I watched and photographed it through the 1000mm lens setup capturing some distant photographs. It certainly looked to my eye to have more lightweight snappy flight action than a Sooty Shearwater, making some nice fast quick arcs, and also a more uniformly dusky looking underwing compared to this species. In addition the pale chin and throat area was noticeable, it also had a more dark capped appearance, and the secondaries looked paler on the upperwing sort of forming a panel (reflection of light off fresh feathers?). For a moment initially I thought it might be a dark Pterodroma gadfly petrel because the wings were held crooked much of the flight action, again unlike Sooty Shearwater in my experience. Putting together the field marks both Matt and I feel confident this is a Short-tailed Shearwater Ardenna tenuirostris which is rarely seen from shore here in San Diego County. In fact, checking eBird, there are no validated sightings of this species anywhere in Southern California this year. Nearest reports come from the currently active seawatching program at Point Pinos, Monterey, with a small number of sightings recently. Comparable photographs to the Point La Jolla bird can be found in Brian Sullivan’s eBird checklist.
[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2015] – A new arrival at Fiesta Island, Mission Bay, San Diego County this morning was a single Lapland Longspur Calcarius lapponicus in among the Horned Larks and American Pipits. It moved off with the mixed flock giving a typical rattle call in flight. Not very approachable in the very open habitat conditions in the southeast section of the dog park.
[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2015] – Seawatching got underway at Point La Jolla over the last few days with a cold front coming down from the north and strong onshore winds pushing birds on to the coast. Loon and seaduck migration underwent a definite uptick with some nice finds picked out in the Surf Scoter flocks passing by southbound. A few highlights below from Point La Jolla on 03-04 November 2015. All photography done with the 1000mm setup on the Canon 1Dx camera as birds pass the point. Best highlight was an adult female Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis tucked in with a band of Surf Scoter.
[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2015]