Southern California: Fall 2016

Fall 2016: 1 Sep–30 Nov

Guy McCaskie

Kimball L. Garrett

Recommended citation:

McCaskie, G., and K. Garrett. 2021. Fall 2016: Southern California. <> North American Birds.

Fairly typical warm temperatures and dry conditions prevailed in the region through the fall, with the first significant Pacific storms passing through in the latter half of Nov. Two Pacific hurricanes had slight impacts on the region—Newton’s remnants after 7 Sep were apparently responsible for the appearance of a flock of 13 Magnificent Frigatebirds at the south end of the Salton Sea on 11 Sep, and Paine’s remnants brought significant precipitation to some eastern and southern portions of the region on 19–21 Sep. The most significant wildfires, in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties in Aug and Sep, burned some 60,000 acres. Highlights included juveniles of both Red-necked and Little Stint at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area in Riverside Co, a Smith’s Longspur on San Clemente Island, a Dusky Warbler in Huntington Beach, Orange Co, a remarkable four Rufous-backed Robins on the deserts in October and November, and a Streak-backed Oriole at Desert Center, Riverside Co, in late October. There was a marked absence of irruptive species during the fall season.

Contributors (County coordinators in boldface):

Alex Abela, Jim Aichele, Bruce A. Aird Dorian Anderson, Richard Aracil, John Bailey (JoB), Larry R. Ballard (LRBa), Joel Barrett (JBa), Richard Barth, Tom Baxter, David Bell, Charles Baker (CBa), Chris Benesh (CBe), Thomas A. Benson,Louis R. Bevier (LRBe), Brian Bielfelt, Steve Bier (SBi), John Birsner (JBi), Bill A. Bouton, Steve Brad (SBr), Joyce Brady (JBr), Jeff M. Bray, Larry Cahill, Bin Cao, Jay C. Carroll, Phil Chaon, Chris Charlesworth, Kevin Clark,

Contributors (cont.)

Jack and Petra Clayton (J&PC), David M. Compton (Santa Barbara), Daniel S. Cooper, Louise Courtemanche, Steven Courtney, Eric Culbertson, Frank DeMartino, Bill Deppe, Nicole J. Desnoyers, Dean DiTommaso, Debbie Dobson (DeD), Darren Dowell (DaD), Kathy Duret,  Tom M. Edell (San Luis Obispo), Elias Elias, Herb D. Elliott, Jon S. Feenstra, Brian Flick, Rob Fowler, Mary Freeman, Peter A. Gaede, Kimball L. Garrett (Los Angeles), Neil Gilbert, Greg Gilson, Tito Gonzalez, David Goodward, Jesse Grantham (JGr), John F. Green, Matt M. Grube, Jonah Gula (JGu), Brad Hacker (BHa), Charity Hagen, Homer Hansen, Jan Hansen (JHa), Gjon C. Hazard, Tom & Jo Heindel (Inyo), Kelli Heindel (Kern), Bruce Henderson (BHe), Kasper Hendricks (KaH), Terry Hill, Don Hoechlin (DoH), Ken Hollinga, David Holway (DaH), Karen M. Hondrick, Deborah House (DeH), Chris and Rosie Howard (C&RH), Jim Howard (JHo), Andrew Howe, Vernon Howe, Mike Huang, Steve Jaggers, Logan Kahle, Eric G. Kallen, H. G. Karlsson, Dave Keeling, Eugene Keferl, Catherine Kelley, Karen Kersteter, Glen Kincaid, Howard B. King, Julie King, Jackie B. Knowlton, Will H. Knowlton, Alexander E. Koonce (San Bernardino), Russell D. Kokx, Ken and Brenda Kyle (K&BK), Ryan Lawler (RLa), Andrew K. Lee, Paul E. Lehman, Joan E. Lentz, Nick A. Lethaby, Rose Liebowitz (RLi), Scott Logan, Chris Lord, Barry Mantell (BMa), Curtis A. Marantz, Patrice and Kurt Marks (P&KM), John Martin, John McCallister, Guy McCaskie (San Diego and Imperial), Chet McGaugh (Riverside), Robert McKernan, Jimmy McMorran, Anthony Metcalf, Tim Miller, James R. Morris, John Mueller (JMu), Brennan Mulrooney (BMu), Gretchen Nell, Cathy Nichols, Richard Norgaard, Gary Nunn, Brittany O’Connor, Ron and Nancy Overholtz (R&NO), Robert T. Patton, Jim Pawlicki, David Pereksta (DPe), Kaaren L. Perry, James E. Pike, Robert L. Pitman, Aaron Polichar, Dave Povey (DPo), Kurt A. Radamaker, David Rankin (DRa), Hugh P. Ranson, Roy Rausch, Shirley Reynolds, Peter Roberts, David Roine (DRo), Kerry Ross, Jim S. Royer, Mark Rubke, Tuck Russell, Matt Sadowski (MSa), Brian Sandstrom (BSa), Larry Sansone (LSa), Rusty Scalf (RuS), Bob Schallmann (BSc), Mark and Janet Scheel (M&JS), Larry Schmahl (LSc), Peter T. Schneekloth, Roger Schoedl (RoS), Adam J. Searcy (Ventura), Luke Seitz (LSe), Jason Siemens (JSi), Patricia Simpson, Roger Sleeper (RSl), Eric Smith, Maggie L. Smith, Susan E. Smith, Jeffrey Sondheimer (JSo), Jeffrey Spaulding (JSp), Justyn T. Stahl (San Clemente Island), Jenna Stanek (JSt), Cuyler Stapelman, Susan L. Steele, Don Sterba, Mike D. Stiles, Mark Stratton (MSt), Julie Szabo (JSz), Ninad Thakoor, Robert Theriault (RTh), Ed Thomas, Millie and Peter Thomas (M&PT), Don Thornton, Joel A. Throckmorton, Luke Tiller (LTi), Yvonne Trahan, Laura Triner (LTr), Rich Trissel (RTr), Steve Tucker, Becky Turley, Thomas Turner, Philip Unitt, David Vander Pluym (DVanP), Matt Victoria, Lam-Son Vinh, Brad Waggoner, Kenneth Weaver, Cris Whetstone, Blythe and Fianna Wilde (B&FW), Josh Willems (JWi), Douglas R. Willick (Orange), Ryan Winkleman, Irwin Woldman, Justin Wood (JWo), Michael Woodruff, Jun Wu (JWu), Thomas E. Wurster, Callyn D. Yorke, Roger H. Zachary. Many additional observers who could not be individually acknowledged submitted reports—all have our thanks.

Abbreviations: NESS (north end of the Salton Sea, Riverside); SESS (south end of the Salton Sea, Imperial). Because most rarities in southern California are seen by multiple observers, only the observer(s) initially finding and/or identifying the bird are included. Documentation for species on the California Bird Records Committee (CBRC) review list (see is forwarded to the CBRC and archived at the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology in Camarillo.

Waterfowl through Hummingbirds

Single Brant far inland in Lancaster, Los Angeles 4-14 Sep (DB) and at SESS (Poe Rd) 14 Sep–20 Oct (GMcC) had no doubt summered locally, as the earliest of the fall migrants do not reach Southern California before the last week of Oct. Single Eurasian Wigeon at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach, Orange on 19 Sep (LSe) and in San Diego on 21 Sep (M & PT) were the earliest of seven reported along the coast, and one at San Jacinto Wildlife Area near Lakeview, Riverside 25 Nov (DA) was the only one found inland. A Tufted Duck on the Santa Ana River in Anaheim, Orange 19 Nov+ (MH) was the same bird present here last winter. Up to three Harlequin Ducks at Estero Bluffs State Park, San Luis Obispo after 27 Oct (TME) were the only ones known in Southern California. Seventeen Surf Scoters were reported from the interior, including a flock of seven at NESS (Ave 84) 16 Nov (RMcK) and one on North Lake at 2821 m. elevation, Inyo 23 Oct–2 Nov (SLS). A White-winged Scoter at NESS (Whitewater River mouth) 22 Nov (CAM) was the only one inland. On the coast a White-winged Scoter at San Simeon, San Luis Obispo 10 Nov (MLS) and a Black Scoter at Point Mugu, Ventura 22–27 Nov (DPe), along with four together off Dockweiler State Beach, Los Angeles 18–26 Nov (RB), were the only ones reported by the end of the month. A Long-tailed Duck at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve 24 Nov+ (LC), joined by a second 28 Nov+ (JEP), were the only two known in the region. An unexpectedly early Hooded Merganser was in Riverside 21 Sep (NT).

The only Red-necked Grebe reported was one at Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo 20 Oct–2 Nov (J&PC). Single Horned Grebes well inland on Klondike Lake, Inyo 12 Sep (T & JH) and at Harper Dry Lake near Lockhart in northwestern San Bernardino 26 Sep (BSa) were unusually early migrants, and one at SESS (Lack Rd) 23 Oct (KAR) establishes the earliest date for a fall migrant at the Salton Sink.

A Band-tailed Pigeon at Galileo Hill Park in extreme eastern Kern 3 Sep (TEW) was far from any location where it regularly appears. About 50 White-winged Doves along the coast and on the Channel Islands after 6 Aug was far more than expected. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo, casual at best away from known breeding localities, was at Matilija Lake, Ventura 11 Sep (JGr). A Broad-tailed Hummingbird at Rey River Ranch near Lake Henshaw 13–20 Aug (DeD) was the second known in San Diego, and another at Wilderness Glen Park in Mission Viejo 19 Aug–2 Sep (RW) was the first in Orange. A Broad-billed Hummingbird, a casual stray to California, was at Desert Center, Riverside 17 Sep (CAM) and another visited a feeder near El Cajon, San Diego 7 Nov (YT).

Plovers through Sandpipers

Single American Golden-Plovers, very rare fall migrants, were near San Simeon 24–26 Sep (TME), at the Santa Ynez River Estuary, Santa Barbara, 9–23 Oct (PTS), near Oxnard, Ventura 17 Sep (DPe) and 9–11 Oct (TEW), and on the Los Angeles River in Commerce, Los Angeles 30 Aug–5 Sep (RB). Presumed migrant Pacific Golden-Plovers were along the coast, where regular in small numbers, at Estero Bluffs SP 10 Nov (MLS), Oso Flaco, San Luis Obispo 31 Oct (JCC) and near Oxnard 2–23 Oct (DPe), but one at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area 27–29 Aug (AM) is one of only a few recorded inland away from the Salton Sink; up to three at Point Sierra Nevada, San Luis Obispo 21 Sep–11 Nov (BAB), six on San Clemente Island 18 Oct (BF) and one at the Tijuana River mouth near Imperial Beach, San Diego 25 Aug+ (RTP) were likely wintering locally. Single Mountain Plovers at Estero Bluffs SP 8–12 Oct (J&PC), Oceano, San Luis Obispo 22–29 Oct (JWi), near Oso Flaco Lake 27 Oct (PC) and in Malibu, Los Angeles 23 Oct (CL) were on the coast where most unusual, and one at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, extreme northeast Kern 16 Oct (SLS) was well away from any location of regular occurrence.

A Whimbrel, rare in fall anywhere east of the Sierra Nevada, was at Kramer Junction, San Bernardino 6–22 Aug (MW). A Ruddy Turnstone at Lake Elsinore, Riverside 3–11 Sep (JSz), and single Red Knots at Owens Lake 4 Sep (R&NO) and Piute Ponds on Edwards Air Force Base, northeast Los Angeles 4 Sep (DB) were the only ones found inland away from the Salton Sea. Reports of Ruffs include five at Ventura County Game Preserve near Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station, Ventura 26 Aug–18 Sep (DPe, LSa), one on the Santa Ana River in Anaheim 13 Aug–23 Sep (JMB) and at NESS (Ave 84) 20 Nov+ (CMcG). Single juvenile Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, rare on the coast of Southern California, were at Ventura County Game Preserve 16–23 Sep (LSa) and on the Los Angeles River in Long Beach 11–21 Nov (BSc), and inland, where casual at best, near Mecca, Riverside 24 Oct (RMcK and CMcG). Single Stilt Sandpipers at Santa Ynez River Estuary 28 Aug (NAL), Ventura County Game Preserve 17 and 23 Sep, with four there 18 Sep (LSa), and three at Sweetwater Reservoir, San Diego 27–29 Aug (MSa), were along the coast where rare; one at Piute Ponds 5–7 Aug (M & JS), four in Blythe 30–31 Aug (JMcM), one at San Jacinto Wildlife Area near Lakeview, Riverside 4–10 Oct (AM) and another on Lake Henshaw 28 Aug–3 Sep (GN) were inland, and away from SESS, where unexpected. A juvenile Red-necked Stint, only the third juvenile identified in California, was at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area 5–8 Sep (AM). Single Sanderlings at Owens Lake, Inyo 4 Sep (R & NO), China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, extreme northeast Kern 1–2 Oct (SLS) and Kramer Junction 28 Aug (DeH), along with up to two at Harper Dry Lake near Lockhart in northwestern San Bernardino 29 Aug–14 Sep (BSa) and one on Lake Elsinore 3 Sep (JSz) were inland and away from the Salton Sea. The earliest of the fall migrant Dunlin included one on San Clemente Island 14–19 Sep (JTS) and another at SESS (Obsidian Butte) 18 Sep (GMcC), establishing the earliest date for the Salton Sink. Over 200 Baird’s Sandpipers were reported, with most in August and September, but included 14 near Mecca on 24 Oct (RMcK & CMcG).

A juvenile Little Stint at San Jacinto Wildlife Area 9–15 Oct (AM) was about the 25th in California, but the first in Riverside. The only Buff-breasted Sandpipers were one on the coast near Port Hueneme, Ventura 8–11 Oct (MF) and another well inland at Harper Dry Lake 10–12 Oct (LK). It was a decidedly mediocre fall for Pectoral Sandpipers, with just over 100 reported between 4 Aug and 15 Nov, with most being juveniles in September and October, but including single adults on the Los Angeles River in Long Beach 4–11 Aug (JWu and BC) and 7–11 Aug (RB), and the latest being one at San Jacinto Wildlife Area 12–15 Nov (DoH). Semipalmated Sandpipers were noticeably scarcer than expected, with only 16 juveniles found along the coast, and five more inland between 3 Aug and 2 Sep; in addition, a juvenile at south San Diego Bay 2–16 Nov (MSa) establishes by far the latest date for this “peep” in California. Solitary Sandpipers were considered more numerous than expected, with at least 80 reported, most in August and September, and a late migrant at Baker, San Bernardino on 16 Oct (BD). An impressive 150 juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs were at the Ventura County Game Preserve 9 Sep (LSa). The only Red Phalaropes reported inland were one at Atascadero, San Luis Obispo 25 Oct (JBK) and another at Kramer Junction 28 Sep–1 Oct (DVanP).

Skuas through Storm-Petrels

The only South Polar Skuas reported were single birds near Santa Barbara Island 6 Aug (CS), Santa Cruz Island 6 Sep (DPe) and Santa Rosa Island 21 Sep (SC). Single Parasitic Jaegers at Salton City, Imperial 11 Sep (CAM) and NESS (Ave 84) 17 Sep (CMcG), at least four at SESS between 11 and 23 Sep (TT, GMcC, RF), and one exceptionally late individual at SESS (Obsidian Butte) 11–12 Nov (MV) were the only ones found inland.

A Marbled Murrelet off Oxnard 2 Nov (JBa) was a little south of this species’ normal range. Eight Craveri’s Murrelets off San Diego 9 Oct (DPo) and four there 19 Oct (DPo) were the latest of the birds present off Southern California in June and July.

A first-winter Black-legged Kittiwake in La Jolla, San Diego 20 Nov (GN) was the earliest of only four reported on the immediate coast, but about 15 were 19 km west-northwest of Santa Barbara Island 4–5 Nov (JBa), suggesting more were well offshore. At least 30 Sabine’s Gulls scattered throughout the interior between 14 Sep and 30 Oct was more than expected, and included up to four at Kramer Junction 5–16 Oct (VH). A hatch-year Little Gull was in Ventura 23 Nov (ST). A Laughing Gull on the coast in Goleta since 15 May remained through the period (GK), and another at San Jacinto Wildlife Area 19 Sep (CMcG) were the only two reported away from the Salton Sink. Franklin’s Gulls were far less numerous than usual, with only five reported from the interior, and single birds at the San Diego River mouth 29 Oct–25 Nov (PEL) and San Elijo Lagoon, San Diego 1 Nov (JMcM) being the only two on the coast. The only Heermann’s Gulls reported inland were single birds at NESS (State Rec Area) 5 Aug–1 Nov (RMcK), Salton City 11 Sep (CAM) and SESS (Poe Rd) 20 Sep (BMu). Numbers of wintering Lesser Black-backed Gulls around Lake Perris and on the Salton Sea are increasing, as evidenced by about 15 found there after mid-September. A Black Skimmer was far inland and away from the Salton Sink, at the Prado Regional Park, San Bernardino 2 Sep–8 Oct (BD).

Single Pacific Loons, rare inland, were on Klondike Lake 24 Oct (T & JH), Lake Sabrina (elevation 2784 m), Inyo 1–12 Nov (R & NO), Lake Perris 10 Oct (JSz) and Lake Skinner 16 Nov (CH). A Common Loon on the Salton Sea at the mouth of Salt Creek 12 Oct (RMcK) provided the earliest date for a fall migrant at the Salton Sink.

A Short-tailed Shearwater off La Jolla 27 Nov (GN) was the earliest reported this fall. Two Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, rare off Southern California, were over the Cortez Bank 8 Sep (DPe), along with one over the Los Angeles portion of the 30-Mile Bank 21 Oct (DPo) and a fourth over the 9-Mile Bank off San Diego 25 Sep (JP). At least 14 Townsend’s Storm-Petrels over the Cortez Bank 8 Sep (DPe) were near the known northern limit of this species’ pelagic range. An estimated 200 Least Storm-Petrels “rafting” on the 30-Mile Bank 21 Oct (DP) was by far the largest number encountered this year.

Storks through Owls

A Wood Stork in flight at Del Mar, San Diego 10 Aug (SES) was on the coast where unrecorded in recent years. Magnificent Frigatebirds were more numerous than in recent years, with single immatures along the coast over Bolsa Chica, Orange 2 Aug (L-SV) and 27 Sep (L-SV), and a short distance inland over Cypress, Orange 24 Aug (RR); another immature was at 2060 m. over Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino 27 Aug (LT); a remarkable 13 at SESS (Morton Bay/Obsidian Butte), including three adult males, 11 Sep (GN) were most likely associated with Hurricane Newton, and an unusually late bird, an adult male, was at NESS (North Shore) 24 Oct (RMcK).

A booby photographed 38 km southeast of Catalina Island 15 Sep (RLa) appears to have been an adult Nazca Booby. Numbers of Brown Boobies along the coast have declined in the past year, with the northernmost being one 19 km north of Santa Barbara Island 6 Aug (CS) and another on Santa Barbara Island 8 Oct (JSF); a recently dead Brown Booby at Cactus City, Riverside 13 Sep (JWo) was far inland. A Red-footed Booby, an irregular straggler to California, was 24 km south-southeast of San Clemente Island 6 Sep (RLP), and another landed on a sportfishing boat three km off Point Loma, San Diego 3 Oct (PS: rehabilitated at Sea World). Most of the Neotropic Cormorants present at the Salton Sink through the summer had departed by mid-October; two at the Prado Regional Park, San Bernardino 8 Oct (CDY) and one, returning for a third year, at Lake O’Neil on Camp Pendleton 16 Oct–8 Nov (SBr) were the only three reported away from the southeastern part of this region.

Single Reddish Egrets at Malibu 2 Aug (JSo) and 6 Sep (RLi), Point Mugu Naval Air Station, Ventura, 30 Aug-18 Nov (DPe), joined by a second 23 Sep–23 Oct (DPe), Carpinteria 11 Jul–17 Aug (JSi), Santa Ynez River Estuary 20 Aug–26 Sep (TM) and at Oso Flaco Lake 2 Aug–17 Sep (TME) were north of San Diego and Orange where they are now regular; single hatch-year birds at SESS 31 Jul–18 Sep (GMcC) and at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area  6–14 Sep (SR) were inland. A Little Blue Heron at Malibu 4 Aug (IW) was the only one reported away from coastal San Diego, where resident. Up to two Yellow-crowned Night-Herons at Bolsa Chica 21 Aug­–31 Oct (TH), another at the Ballona Freshwater Marsh, Los Angeles through 1 Nov (DS), and at least seven around Carpinteria from July to 5 Sep (LRBa) were away from the locations in San Diego and Ventura where they are established residents.

A Black Vulture near Lompoc, Santa Barbara 31 Oct–2 Nov (KH) was in an area where recorded off and on since 2013. Nearly 30 Broad-winged Hawks were reported, with most along the coast, including a flock of nine over the Montecito foothills, Santa Barbara on 1 Oct (EC), and six at scattered locations in Kern (4), San Bernardino (1) and Riverside (1). Zone-tailed Hawks were reported from throughout the region, with an immature found in Lone Pine, Inyo 2 Jul remaining through 5 Sep (RDK) that likely summered locally, and an adult near Cima, San Bernardino 4 Sep (TAB) near a known nesting locality. Single Zone-tailed Hawks at Warm Springs at the southwest end of Death Valley, Inyo 1 Sep (JEP), near Blythe 29 Aug (JSt), and 1 Nov (PEL), Jamul, San Diego 16 Aug (JM) and over the Tijuana River Valley, San Diego 14 (KR) were all probably migrants, while single birds in Ojai, Ventura 17 Oct+ (DRo), around Lake Forest, Orange 23 Aug+ (JMB) and around Escondido 22 Sep+ (KW) were clearly wintering locally. An early migrant Short-eared Owl at the Borrego Badlands in the Anza Borrego SP 8 Sep (SBi) was unexpected.

Woodpeckers through Vireos

An exceptionally early Williamson’s Sapsucker, very rare in the coastal lowlands, was in Malibu 24 Sep (* LACM). Eight Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were found at scattered locations throughout the region after 16 Oct. Surveys of the areas of dense Joshua Trees around Kessler Spring, about five miles north of Cima 6–10 Nov, revealed Gilded Flickers are more numerous in this area of the Mojave National Preserve than previously believed, as they were seen every day, including more than 12 on 8 Nov (PU).

A hatch-year Crested Caracara was near the Tijuana River mouth 16 Oct (P & KM). A Merlin at SESS 23 Aug (GMcC) establishes the earliest date for fall at the Salton Sink.

An Olive-sided Flycatcher near Niland, Imperial 23 Sep established the latest fall record for the Salton Sink (GMcC). The only Least Flycatcher reported was at Galileo Hill Park 17–18 Oct (TEW). An exceptionally early Hammond’s Flycatcher was in Huntington Beach, Orange 7 Sep (RoS). A very early Eastern Phoebe was at Palm Springs, Riverside 19 Sep (BMa), with another at Los Osos, San Luis Obispo 28 Sep+ (JSR); these were followed by nine additional birds on the coastal slope 22 Oct+ and five on the deserts 27 Oct+. An apparent Black Phoebe x Eastern Phoebe was well-described from Afton Canyon, San Bernardino 21 Oct (JEP). A Dusky-capped Flycatcher, an annual late fall and winter vagrant, was at Los Osos 1–3 Nov (B&FW). An Ash-throated Flycatcher northeast of Lancaster, Los Angeles 30 Oct (DB) was late for the northern deserts.  A Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher at Carpinteria, Santa Barbara 30 Sep (JEL) was only the 19th for California. The earliest Tropical Kingbirds were at Coronado, San Diego 16 Sep (BF) and Huntington Beach 17 Sep (RB); these were followed by 30 more on the coast 29 Sep+, a returning wintering bird at Prado Regional Park, San Bernardino 27 Nov+ (HBK), and a bird near Brawley, Imperial 20 Oct (GCH). Thick-billed Kingbirds returned for a seventh winter at Chula Vista, San Diego 16 Oct+ (RN) and a fourth winter in San Dimas, Los Angeles 31 Oct+ (ES). Coastal Eastern Kingbirds were at the Tijuana River Valley, San Diego 28 Aug (AP), Refugio State Beach, Santa Barbara 11 Sep (JHa), and Tecolote Canyon in San Diego 9 Sep (EK). On the deserts, Thick-billed Kingbirds were at Mojave Narrows Regional Park, San Bernardino 7–8 Aug (JMcC, MMG), Desert Center, Riverside 27 Aug (RA), SESS 1–3 Sep (CC), and near Rosamond, Kern 22 Sep (JSF). The only Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was at San Elijo Lagoon, San Diego 13–14 Nov (PR).

A White-eyed Vireo at Goleta, Santa Barbara 7 Sep (HPR) was only the eighth to be found in fall in the region (the great majority of records are from late spring and summer). A very late pusillus Bell’s Vireo was at Anaheim, Orange 27 Nov (DRW), and one at Huntington Beach 18 Sep+ had apparently returned for its sixth winter (RS). A Hutton’s Vireo on Santa Barbara  Island 19 Oct established the first record for that island (JHo); one at Zzyzx, San Bernardino 23 Sep (JGu) was well out of range. A Cassin’s Vireo in Niland 23 Aug was an early record for a fall migrant in the Salton Sink (GMcC). Blue-headed Vireos, annual fall vagrants in the region, were at Goleta 10 Sep (DT), Point Loma 18 Sep (GN) and Los Osos 29 Sep–1 Oct (WHK). Some 30 Plumbeous Vireos were reported in the coastal counties after 15 Sep, with the northernmost at San Luis Obispo 28 Sep (MDS) and on Santa Cruz Island 27–28 Sep (PAG); on the deserts, one was at Yaqui Well, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego 8 Oct (RTh). Philadelphia Vireos were at Point Loma 2 Oct (GN) and Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo 14 Oct (J&PC). A Warbling Vireo returned for its fourth winter in Santa Barbara 19 Nov+ (HPR). Red-eyed Vireos were at Oxnard, Ventura 3–12 Sep (BHe), on Santa Catalina Island 8 Sep (BB), and on the desert at Ridgecrest 17 Sep (RF). Once again, Yellow-green Vireos outnumbered Red-eyeds, with birds at Point Loma 9 Sep (M&PT) and 9 Oct (MSt), Oceano Campground, San Luis Obispo 15–17 Sep (RHZ), and Ventura 25 Sep (KK) and 6 Oct (FD).

Swallows through Pipits

A Purple Martin at Point Loma 26 Sep (TB) was rather late, and a Northern Rough-winged Swallow at Shoshone 22 Oct–8 Nov (MMG) was the second latest ever in Inyo. Other late swallows included a Bank and a Violet-green at NESS 28 Nov (RMcK), and a Cliff Swallow at Estero Bluffs, San Luis Obispo 19 Oct (KLP). A Cave Swallow at Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale 30 Nov–1 Dec (JSF) was only the second for Los Angeles.

A Verdin at Whites Point on the Palos Verdes Peninsula 16 Oct+ (JWu, BC) was the first to be documented along the coast of Los Angeles; also out of range was one at Balboa Park in San Diego 12 Sep (KC). It was clearly not an irruption year for Red-breasted Nuthatches; there were few lowland reports and in fact only one on the eastern Kern deserts all fall, at Ridgecrest 31 Oct (SLS). A Pacific Wren at Galileo Hill Park 27 Aug–22 Oct (TEW) was extremely early, and one at Matilija Lake, Ventura 14 Sep (JGr) was also on the early side. A Winter Wren at Crystal Spring 5–7 Nov (TAB) was detected in both Inyo and San Bernardino; another probable bird was at Galileo Hill Park 6 Oct (K&BK). A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher near Seeley 31 Jul (JTS) was the earliest ever recorded in fall in the Salton Sink. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Oceano Campground 9 Sep (HDE) was an early arrival.

In a fall rather lacking in Siberian vagrants, a Dusky Warbler at Huntington Central Park in Huntington Beach 8 Oct (RS, DA) was a standout, establishing the first record for Orange and only the fifth for the region. Mountain Bluebirds moved into Santa Barbara in relatively high numbers, with a high count of 38 near Santa Ynez 27 Nov (BHa); south coastal records of note included five in Pico Rivera, Los Angeles 25 Nov (five; LSc), nine on San Clemente Island 25 Nov (JTS), one at Mission Bay, San Diego 10 Nov (JRM) and 10 in the Tijuana River Valley 25 Nov (GMcC). An “Olive-backed” Swainson’s Thrush was near El Centro 24 Aug (KZK). Varied Thrushes were scarce in the region this fall; an early bird was at Zzyzx 24 Sep (MMG, CAM), but very few were reported thereafter. Unprecedented was the appearance of four Rufous-backed Robins during the period: at Chiriaco Summit, Riverside 13–17 Oct (RA), Cactus City Rest Area, Riverside 23 Oct (SJ), Shoshone, Inyo 8 Nov (SLS, CAM), and Desert Center 12 Nov–12 Dec (RA); the three Riverside sites are within 55 km of each other, but different birds were involved.

Six Gray Catbirds on the coastal slope 14 Oct+ included a returning wintering bird at Lakewood, Los Angeles 1 Nov+ (JBr, BT) and a window kill from Huntington Beach 16 Oct (Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center; *LACM); additional birds were on the deserts at Galileo Hill Park 22 Oct (AH) and Zzyzx 22–31 Oct (BO). Brown Thrashers were on Santa Catalina Island 10 Nov (JK) and on the deserts at Galileo Hill Park 10–13 Oct (K&BK), Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley National Park, Inyo 26 Oct (RSl), Chiriaco Summit 31 Oct (RA), and Picacho State Recreation Area, Imperial 13 Nov (GCH). A Cedar Waxwing at Santa Barbara 6 Aug (RuS) was an early record for Santa Barbara. Scaly-breasted Munia numbers continue to rise, as evidenced by a record count of 400 in Goleta 10 Sep (NAL); a molting juvenile on San Clemente Island 13 Oct (JTS) established the first record for that island, and one was on the desert at California City, Kern 29 Oct (TEW). Red-throated Pipits were at Oxnard 9–21 Oct (MF, BH), Avalon on Santa Catalina Island 11 Oct (CBe), San Clemente Island 1 and 14 Oct (JTS), Mission Bay 4 Oct (MSa), and the Tijuana River Valley 26 Oct (DPo) and 24 Nov (JP); on the desert, one was at Harper Dry Lake, San Bernardino 12 Oct (MW).

Longspurs through Orioles

At least 21 Lapland Longspurs were found in October and November, with the earliest on San Clemente Island 5 Oct (JTS); the seven Chestnut-collared Longspurs reported were fewer than normal. A Smith’s Longspur at Wilson Cove on San Clemente Island 23 Sep (JTS) was the first for the Channel Islands and also the first for Los Angeles. The only McCown’s Longspurs reported were up to four near Perris, Riverside 4–20 Nov (JSz).

A Spotted Towhee at Brawley 18 Sep (GMcC) was the earliest ever in fall for the Salton Sink. American Tree Sparrows appeared at Bolsa Chica 23–24 Nov (NG; only the third record for Orange) and Desert Center 18 Nov (BW). Clay-colored Sparrows staged a strong movement into the region, with at least 49 on the coastal slope 25 Aug–22 Nov, and five on the deserts 19 Aug–1 Nov. A Black-chinned Sparrow at Galileo Hill Park 2 Sep (JBi) was at a well-worked site with very few records. A juvenile Black-throated Sparrow on Santa Cruz Island 27 Sep (PAG) was only the second for that island, and at least eight others wandered to the coast and San Clemente Island 29 Aug–27 Oct; unexpected were up to 11 on the southern slope of Box Springs Mtn., Moreno Valley, Riverside 17 Sep–13 Oct (DRa). Only one “Large-billed” Savannah Sparrow was reported at SESS on 21 Aug (EE); until very recently, this was a common post-breeding visitor here. A Grasshopper Sparrow at Baker 27 Sep (DG) was the first found on the eastern Mojave Desert of San Bernardino in some 20 years. A Nelson’s Sparrow was at a regular winter site at Morro Bay 13–16 Nov (DK). Lark Buntings were at the Tijuana River Valley 14 Aug (PEL), Santa Cruz Island 18 Sep (KaH), Mission Bay 23–28 Oct (DaH), and Santa Fe Dam 25–27 Nov (JWu, BC). A Lincoln’s Sparrow at Doane Pond on Mt. Palomar, San Diego 5 Sep (GG) had either summered locally (as one did in 1986) or was a very early fall migrant. The earliest of nine Swamp Sparrows, all in coastal counties, was at Goleta 2–8 Oct (PAG). At least 38 White-throated Sparrows were on the coastal slope and nine on the deserts, the earliest being at Furnace Creek Ranch 30 Sep (C&RH). An early gambelii White-crowned Sparrow was at Cactus City 8 Sep (CMcG). Harris’s Sparrows were at Santa Cruz  Island 21 Oct–4 Nov (BH), Oceanside 2 Nov (KW), Rolling Hills Estates, Los Angeles 15 Nov (JA, CN), and Desert Center 16 Nov (BW).

Bobolinks were exceptionally scarce this fall, with only 11 reported, all in coastal areas from Santa Barbara to Orange 17 Sep–4 Nov. Orchard Orioles included a returning male in Fountain Valley, Orange 9 Sep+ (CW) and four in coastal San Diego 8 Sep–31 Oct, along with one at Shoshone 1–2 Oct (C&RH). A Streak-backed Oriole at Desert Center 23–24 Oct (RA) was the first to be found in Riverside. At least 14 Baltimore Orioles were in the coastal counties 10 Sep+, with others at Zzyzx 31 Aug (JEP) and Morongo Valley 19–20 Sep (HGK). A Scott’s Oriole at Zzyzx 24 Sep (DG) was late for the northern deserts.

Wood-Warblers through Dickcissel

Most “eastern” wood-warblers appeared in near-average numbers this fall, with the exception of Blackpoll Warbler (well below average) and Palm Warbler (well above average). All five Ovenbirds were inland, with desert sightings at Deep Springs, Inyo 3 Sep (R&NO), northeast of Lancaster 23 Sep (LTi), Baker 27–28 Sep (AKL), and Galileo Hill Park 1–7 Oct (BED), and inland on the coastal slope at San Jacinto Wildlife Area 10 Oct (MMG). Sixteen Northern Waterthrushes were on the coast 27 Aug–27 Nov, with another seven on the northern deserts 20 Aug–4 Oct. A Worm-eating Warbler, barely annual in the region, was at Oso Flaco Lake, San Luis Obispo 11 Aug (TAB). About 35 Black-and-white Warblers were on the coastal slope 28 Aug+, with only four noted on the deserts 15 Sep–5 Oct. Prothonotary Warblers were at San Clemente Island 29 Sep (NJD), Carpinteria 14–28 Oct (John Bailey), and Zzyzx 29 Oct (BD). Thirty-four Tennessee Warblers were on the coastal slope 22 Aug–30 Nov, but the only desert reports were at Zzyzx 5–6 Oct and Baker 26 Oct (both BD). Coastal Lucy’s Warblers were in Pasadena, Los Angeles 13–24 Aug (DaD), Huntington Beach 14 Aug (TEW), Long Beach 5 Nov (JWu, BC) and Carlsbad, San Diego 5–6 Nov (TG, AA); three more were on the San Bernardino deserts away from known breeding areas 10 Aug–3 Sep. Migrant Virginia’s Warbler numbers have been declining in the region since the 1980s, but this year’s 17 birds are right at the average for the current century; 12 were on the coastal slope 26 Aug–4 Oct, four were on the deserts 1–19 Sep, and one in Bakersfield 22 Sep (LC) was possibly the first for the San Joaquin Valley portion of Kern. A Mourning Warbler was at Galileo Hill Park 10–11 Sep (ET); another reported at Carpinteria 23–25 Oct (Marv Kwit) is under CBRC review. A Kentucky Warbler was at Oceano Dunes, San Luis Obispo 16 Sep (KMH).

A Hooded Warbler at Galileo Hill Park 29 Oct (TEW) was the only one of the fall, and very late. Thirty-three American Redstarts were on the coastal slope 1 Sep–11 Oct, with another nine on the deserts 24 Aug–13 Oct and a wintering bird near Niland 23 Sep+ (GMcC). There were nine Northern Parulas on the coastal slope 21 Aug–12 Nov, but only singles at Edwards Air Force Base, southeast Kern 22 Sep (JSF) and Desert Center 16 Nov (BW) on the deserts. All 11 Magnolia Warblers—eight on the coastal slope and three on the northern deserts—occurred between 20 Sep and 29 Oct. Bay-breasted Warblers, one of our scarcer boreal warblers, were at Oxnard 22–24 Oct (DPe) and La Mesa, San Diego 6–9 Nov (JP, TR). A somewhat higher than normal number of Blackburnian Warblers included a dozen along the coast 6 Sep–13 Nov and another at Desert Center 17 Sep (CAM). Fourteen Chestnut-sided Warblers were on the coastal slope 14 Sep–28 Nov, with others on the northern deserts at Lone Pine 23 Sep (RDK), Zzyzx 24–28 Sep (BD), and Galileo Hill Park 2–3 Oct (ET). Totals for Blackpoll Warbler—nine on the coast 4 Sep–13 Oct and three on the northern deserts 18 Sep–6 Oct—were just a third of the average for the past 15 years; the previous low this century was 21 in 2010, yet a total of 66 in 2012 shows how variable the numbers can be.

As always, Black-throated Blue Warblers skewed late in the season, with birds at La Canada Flintridge, Los Angeles 27 Oct–11 Nov (KD), Point Loma 5 Nov (PEL), Balboa Park in San Diego 25 Nov (SL), and Galileo Hill Park 15 Oct (female) and 4 Nov (male; both TEW). Palm Warbler numbers were well above average this fall, the 88 birds second this century only to 2012’s total of 98; 81 were on the coastal slope (most on the immediate coast) , but six were on the deserts and, astonishingly, another remained in the far northern interior at Bishop from 28 Nov through the winter (C&RH). Pine Warblers, typically late in fall, were in San Diego at Oceanside 11–13 Oct (GN, JSp), La Jolla 19 Oct (RTr, AA), and Nestor 11–13 Nov (PEL). The only Prairie Warbler was at Torrance, Los Angeles 3–10 Nov (MR). A Black-throated Gray Warbler at Lake Forest 31 Jul (BAA) was a record early fall migrant for Orange; one at NESS 22 Nov (CAM) was very late for the southeastern deserts. A Hermit Warbler near Niland 4 Aug (DSC) was the earliest ever in fall for the Salton Sink, and two at Cerro Alto Campground 5 Aug (JCC) were the earliest ever in fall in San Luis Obispo. A Black-throated Green Warbler at Greenwood Cemetery in San Diego 20 Oct+ returned for its fourth winter (DDiT); the only other sighting was east of Lancaster 30 Oct (DB). Canada Warblers were well represented, at Camarillo 5–6 Sep (JMu), Oxnard 8 Sep (JBa), Ramona, San Diego 9 Sep (Catherine Kelley), Lakewood 17–21 Sep (JWu, BC), San Clemente Island 26 Oct (JAT) and Nestor, San Diego 30 Oct (RN); on the eastern Mojave Desert, one was at Hole-In-The-Wall, San Bernardino 5 Oct (HH). An above-average eight Painted Redstarts were on the coastal slope after 22 Sep, with some remaining to winter, and others were on the deserts at Corn Spring, Riverside 19 Sep (JFG) and Galileo Hill Park 25 Sep (ET).

A Hepatic Tanager at Balboa Park in San Diego 4 Nov+ (TR) had returned for its sixth winter. Summer Tanagers were once again most prevalent in San Diego, where there were at least 19 birds in coastal areas and two on the deserts. Twenty-four Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were in the coastal counties 21 Aug–28 Nov, with another nine on the deserts 3 Sep–28 Nov. A Black-headed Grosbeak near Niland 10 Jul (HBK) was very early, perhaps having summered locally. A dozen Indigo Buntings (nine coastal and three on the deserts) were found 4 Aug–6 Oct. An adult male Painted Bunting in Irvine 25 Nov may well have been an escapee, as were three adult males in poor plumage condition in coastal San Diego 31 Aug–8 Oct (fide GMcC); however, the following green-plumaged birds were likely natural vagrants: at Refugio State Beach, Santa Barbara 12–13 Sep (GK), Tijuana River Valley 1 Aug (PEL), Jacumba, San Diego 9 Sep (EGK), Afton Canyon, San Bernardino 30–31 Aug (JEP), Primm Valley, San Bernardino 14 Sep (LRBe), and Shoshone 1 Oct (C&RH). A modest showing of six Dickcissels included birds at Santa Ana, Orange 30 Sep (CBa), San Clemente Island 3 Oct (JTS), Los Osos 8 Oct (JSR), and Lakewood 23–24 Oct (M&JS), as well as birds inland at Jacumba 30 Sep–1 Oct (EGK) and Zzyzx 19 Sep (BD).

Report processed by Randi Minetor 16 Mar 2021.

Photos–Southern California: Fall 2016

Click image to view fullscreen with caption.