[All photographs copyright, Gary Nunn 2015] – Today 02 Oct 2015 I followed up on a reported Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus, discovered by David Holway the day before, on Fiesta Island in Mission Bay, San Diego. This is a rather unusual location for this species since most reports come from the Tijuana River Valley. In fact there are no records of this species for Fiesta Island in either the San Diego Bird Atlas or eBird although large American Pipit flocks occur here so the potential for their occurrence certainly exists.
I first heard this individual flying overhead giving its characteristic “sreeeh” call which is much finer sounding than American Pipit. It alighted some distance away so I hiked on over to it. However getting close to this bird proved very challenging. About fifty yards from the bird and off it would flush! All my photos were taken from some distance away! The streaked crown, darkly marked back with white mantle stripes, tooth shaped generous dark centers to median coverts, blackish tertials with standout whitish edges, and relatively shorter length tail can all be noted distinguishing this species from American Pipit. In addition one of the flight shots show the more brightly colored pink legs quite unlike the dark legs of American Pipit.
I followed the Red-throated Pipit around for some time as it moved from place to place accompanied by a second pipit. I should have looked at the second bird more critically since I think now it might actually have been a second Red-throated Pipit! I finally caught up with the two birds in a vegetated berm side and photographed them both in flight leaving the berm. The four photographs below show the first bird that left the berm in front of me. I heard a Red-throated Pipit call right as this bird took flight. However just five seconds later a second bird took off from the same location also giving the call. So it is not clear to me if the first bird was actually the origin of the call since they seemed to be coming from the same place. So far as I can tell from the photographs the first bird is also a Red-throated Pipit showing more darkish lores and a streaked crown, the generous dark tooth shaped centers to median coverts, as well as long blackish tertials with whitish edges, and a shorter looking tail. Both of the birds seem to show the yellowish lower mandible base.
The photograph below shows the second bird leaving the berm. This individual was definitely giving the call of a Red-throated Pipit as it took flight and continued calling as it went by me.
We’re a group from Mass Audubon who would love to track down the red-throated pipit if it’s still around. Can you email me more information – whether it’s still being seen and details on where? We will be in San Diego by tomorrow afternoon. Thank you.