Southern California: Fall 2019

Fall 2019: 1 Aug–30 Nov

Guy McCaskie

Kimball L. Garrett

Recommended citation:

McCaskie, G. and K. Garrett. 2021. Fall 2019: Southern California. <> North American Birds.

The fall was generally warm and quite dry, with some monsoonal rains in the southeastern deserts in September and several dry offshore wind events in October; the season concluded with a strong, cold storm at the end of November that brought much snow to the Mtns. and deserts. Avian highlights included some excellent shorebirds, including the region’s first (and California’s third) Common Ringed Plover, the first Spotted Redshank in California since 1989, Imperial County’s first Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, and a returning wintering Little Stint. Other rarities included Garganey, Common Black Hawk, White Wagtail, and Connecticut Warbler. There was a moderate movement of Evening Grosbeak, Pine Siskin, and Red-breasted Nuthatch into the region, but many observers reported generally low numbers of common wintering species such as White-crowned Sparrow. In the head-scratcher department was an unprecedented appearance of thousands of Arctic Terns on beaches and inshore waters of San Luis Obispo Co in the first half of September, and a bizarre passerine that appeared to be a hybrid between a Yellow-breasted Chat and an oriole near Redlands, San Bernardino County in September.

Abbreviations: E.A.F.B. (Edwards Air Force Base, se. Kern); G.H.P. (Galileo Hill Park in extreme e. Kern); N.E.S.S. (north end of the Salton Sea, Riverside); P.M.N.A.S. (Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station, Ventura); P.P. (Piute Ponds on Edwards Air Force Base, ne. Los Angeles); S.E.S.S. (south end of the Salton Sea, Imperial); S.J.W.A. (San Jacinto Wildlife Area near Lakeview, Riverside); V.C.G.P. (Ventura County Game Preserve near Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station, Ventura).  Museum collections abbreviated in the text are: LACM (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County) and SDNHM (San Diego Natural History Museum). 

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 (C.B.R.C.) review list (see is forwarded to the C.B.R.C. and archived at the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology in Camarillo.

Cited observers (County coordinators in boldface): Alex Abela, Christopher Adler, John Allendorf, Noah Arthur, Gordan Atkins, James P. Bailey, Larry R. Ballard, Joel Barrett, Dan Baumann, Thomas A. Benson, Marc Better (MBe), Matthew Bins (MBi), Andrew Birch (ABi), Al Borodayko (ABo), Bill A. Bouton, Stevan Brad, Jeff M. Bray, Isabel Brofski, John B. Callender, Jocele Capaldo (JCa), Andrea M. Carpio, Tom Cassaro, Paul Chad (PCh), Craig Chaddock, Robert P. Chapman, Mark A. Chappell, Jamie M. Chavez, Donna Chinn, Nancy Christensen, Paul Clarke (PCl), Petra and Jack Clayton (P&JC), Cheri Cole, David M. Compton (Santa Barbara), Daniel S. Cooper, Mario Cordoba, Stephen P. Courtney, Jason Dain (JDa), Brian E. Daniels, Brad Dawson, John Deacon (JDea), Jay Desgrosellier (JDes), Chris A. Dean, William R. Deppe, Nicole J. Desnoyers, Dave Dewey, Tracy Drake, Jon L. Dunn, Mickey Dyke, Tom M. Edell (San Luis Obispo), Randy Ehler, Brian Elliott, Herb D. Elliott, David Ellsworth, Jon S. Feenstra, Anthony Fife, Brian C. Flick, Nathan French, Teale Fristoe, Wes T. Fritz, Peter A. Gaede (PAGa), Karl Garrett, Kimball L. Garrett (Los Angeles), Dina Gathe, Greg Gilson, Peter A. Ginsburg (PAGi), Mark A. Girardeau, Dika Golovatchoff, Tito Gonzalez (TGo), David A. Goodward, Jesse Grantham, Matthew A. Grube, Al N. Guarante, Timothy Guida (TGu), Aaron Gyllenhaal, Brad R. Hacker, Michelle Haglund, Robert A. Hamilton, Harry Hansen, Calvin H. Hardcastle, Erin Hart, Gjon C. Hazard, Tom & Jo Heindel (Inyo), Kelli K. Heindel (Kern), Louis Hoeniger, Mark A. Holmgren, David Holway, Debbie J. House, Chris and Rosie Howard (C&RH), Jim Howard, Andrew Howe (AHo), Y. Mike Huang, Anne Hughes (AHu), Christine Irwin, Adam K. Jackson, Christine S. Jacobs, Dan Jehl, C. Jones, Hanna Kallwass, Dave L. Keeling, James A. Kendall, Angela Kenny, Dan King, William H. Knowlton, Nicole Koeltzow, Alexander E. Koonce (San Bernardino), Ken and Brenda Kyle (K&BK), Paul E. Lehman, Mary Lee, Nick A. Lethaby, Chris Lindsey, Cheryl D. Lish, Robin C. Lowe, Kerry R. Lozito, Curtis A. Marantz, Bruce Mast, Dan Maxwell, Cathy McFadden, Guy McCaskie (San Diego and Imperial), Chet McGaugh (Riverside), Robert McKernan, Gary McLarty, Jimmy McMorran, Robert McMorran, Sue T. Meiman, Tony Metcalf, Mike Miller, Jake Mohlmann (JMo), David Moody, Chase Moore, John Mueller (JMu), Steven A. Muñoz, Gary Nunn, Ryan O’Donnell, Kurt Ongman, Jessica Oswald, Ron and Nancy Overholtz (R&NO), Bob Packard (BPa), Neil Paprocki, Jim and Debbie Parker (J&DP), Robert T. Patton, Jim Pawlicki (JPa), Dave Pereksta (DPe), Bob Perry (BPe), Cruz Phillips, Rita M. Phillips, James E. Pike, Dave Povey (DPo), David Rankin, Hugh P. Ranson, John Reeve, Rick Ridgeway, Maria A. Rodriguez, Kerry Ross, Jim S. Royer, Martin Ruane (MRua), Mark Rubke (MRub), Brad Rumble, Brian Sandstrom, Larry Sansone (LSa), Alejandro Santillana, Naresh Satyan, Bob A. Schallmann, Mark and Janet Scheel (M&JS), Roger A. Schoedl, Brad K. Schram, Adam J. Searcy (Ventura), Ryan Seppala (RSe), David Sexton (DSe), Britta Lee Shain, Bill Shanbrom, Eric Sibbald, Greg Slak (GSl), Daniel Sloan (DSl), Eric A. Smith, Rachel Smith (RSm), Susan E. Smith, Scott Somershoe (SSo), Bridget C. Spencer, Gavin Stacey (GSt), Justyn T. Stahl (San Clemente Is.), Cuyler Stapelmann, Robert J. Steele, Susan L. Steele, Mike Stensvold (MSt), Lucas Stephenson (LSt), John C. Sterling, Jeremiah Stock, Stephanie Stragier (SSt), Karen Suarez, Steven D. Summers, Scott Surner (SSu), Ryan S. Terrill, Steve and Janny Tillmann (S&JT), Eric Tipton, Bobby Trusela, Robert Turner, Tom L. Turner, Philip Unitt, David Vander Pluym, Javier Vazquez, Lan-Son Vinh, Todd J. Vogel, Emma Voigt, Jack Wickel, John C. Wilson, Ryan S. Winkleman (Orange), Casey Weissburg, Gary Woods, John Yerger, Callyn D. Yorke, Jim Zenor, Kevin J. Zimmer, Catherine Zinsky. Many additional observers who could not be individually acknowledged submitted reports – all have our thanks.

Waterfowl through Hummingbirds

Eleven Brant at Lake Henshaw, San Diego 20 Nov (KR) were inland where rarely reported in fall. The earliest Tundra Swans this fall included two at Baker, San Bernardino 31 Oct (JEP), two at S.J.W.A. 17 Nov (TM) and another at S.E.S.S. (Unit 1) 27 Nov (JR). A Garganey in Baker 20 Sep (JEP) and another at N.E.S.S. (Salton Sea S.R.A.) 10 Nov+ (BS) are the 11th and 12th to be found in this region. The number of Blue-winged Teal at N.E.S.S. built up to an exceptional 415 at the end of Nov (RMcK). The earliest of only seven wintering Eurasian Wigeons in the coastal lowlands was one in Ocean Beach, San Diego 23 Oct+ (PEL), with none reported inland. Only two Harlequin Ducks were reported in the region, both on the coast of San Luis Obispo, with one at Estero Bluffs SP 26 Oct+ (P&JC) and a second at Port San Luis 11 Nov+ (DM), both presumably returning birds from last winter. At least 22 Surf Scoters were found inland, with one at Kern NWR., Kern 13 Oct (CA) the earliest, and up to 10 at N.E.S.S. (Salton Sea S.R.A.) 9–31 Nov+ (RMcK) the most. Only 16 White-winged Scoters were reported from Santa Barbara to San Diego, while about 30 Black Scoters were seen along the same stretch of coast, suggesting the latter is becoming the commoner in this region. A Black Scoter on the San Bernardino portion of Lake Havasu 21 Oct (DVanP), and two at N.E.S.S. (Salton Sea S.R.A.) 20 Nov with one remaining through 31 Nov (RMcK) were inland. The only Long-tailed Ducks included one at La Jolla, San Diego 20 Nov (GN) and another inland at P.P. 12 Nov (MD).

Three Red-necked Grebes were reported, with one at P.M.N.A.S. 15 Oct+ (AJS), another at Cabrillo Beach, Los Angeles 18 Nov+ (AS) and the third inland at the S.J.W.A. 11 Nov (BPa).

An Inca Dove at North Is. N.A.S. San Diego 25–28 Oct (BCF) was on the immediate coast where unexpected. The only Ruddy Ground Dove was with Inca Doves at Oasis, Riverside 2 Oct (RMcK). At least 37 White-winged Doves along the coast and on the offshore Is.s 7 Aug–27 Nov was above average. A Greater Roadrunner photographed crossing Hill St. at First St. in downtown Los Angeles 3 Sep (MAR) was several miles from the nearest known population. Two Black Swifts, irregularly reported in fall, were over Goleta, Santa Barbara 6 Oct (TLT) and another was over the S.J.W.A. 29 Sep (MAC). A Broad-tailed Hummingbird, exceptionally rare away from the limited breeding locations in eastern California, in Chula Vista, San Diego 17 Sep+ was presumed to be the same male present much of last winter (EH). A juvenile male Black-chinned Hummingbird well photographed at a feeder in Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo 20–22 Nov (CDL) was exceptionally late since virtually all have migrated south by early September.

Cranes through Terns

A flock of 14 Sandhill Cranes near Los Olivos, Santa Barbara 5 Oct (SPC) and up to six near Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara 12 Nov–8 Dec (CP) in Santa Barbara, were considered casual; one at P.P. 8 Nov (JW) and two east of Lancaster, Los Angeles 16 Nov (M&JS) were well away from any location where expected.

Three seemingly “pure” American Oystercatchers remained in the area of the Palos Verdes Peninsula/Playa del Rey stretch of Los Angeles coast through the fall (DM, NS) and one was on Pt. Loma, San Diego 30 Aug (CC).

Five American Golden-Plovers, a rare migrant, were reported, with single birds at Oso Flaco Creek mouth, San Luis Obispo 30 Aug–3 Sep (RPC) and Oceano, San Luis Obispo 23 Sep (CAM) along the coast, and at P.P. 12 Oct (M&JS), the S.J.W.A. 28 Sep (CL) and S.E.S.S. (Rock Hill) 2 Oct (GMcC) inland. Up to three Pacific Golden-Plovers at Pt. Sierra Nevada, San Luis Obispo 12 Aug–30 Oct; two near Guadalupe, Santa Barbara 29 Aug+ (WTF); three near Port Hueneme, Ventura 6 Aug+ (AJS); one at Playa del Rey 30 Aug+ (RE); up to three around Seal Beach, Orange Oct+ (BAS); up to three around Imperial Beach, San Diego 1 Aug+ (RTP and DJ); and up to eight on San Clemente Is. 2 Sep+ (JTS) were all likely wintering locally, while one in Goleta, Santa Barbara 1–6 Sep (NAL) and single birds at the V.C.G.P. 23 Aug (LSa) and V.C.G.P. 25 Sep (LSa) were probably migrants. A Common Ringed Plover at S.J.W.A. 28 Aug–3 Sep (CHH) was the third to be identified in California and the first for the region. A Mountain Plover at Oceano, San Luis Obispo 8 Oct (ML) and in Santa Barbara 29 Oct (DG), two near Port Hueneme 2 Nov (NA), and single birds at Camp Pendleton, San Diego 23 Oct (RSm) and Mission Bay in San Diego 14 Oct (DH) were along the coast where now very rare; two at Owens Lake 29 Oct (DJH) were unexpected; single birds near Lancaster 16–17 Nov (M&JS) and Hemet 2 Nov (BPa) were in areas where numbers formerly wintered, and none were found in the wintering stronghold of the Imperial Valley, Imperial (GMcC).

An Upland Sandpiper, very rare in California, was at G.H.P. 6–7 Sep (KO) and another was heard calling in flight over Elings Park in Santa Barbara 8 Sep (PAGa). Six Ruffs were reported, including adults returning from previous years at the V.C.G.P. 21 Aug+ (LSa), Anaheim, Orange 3 Aug–29 Sep (YMH) and S.E.S.S. (Unit 1) 14 Aug–30 Oct (GMcC), along with juveniles at the V.C.G.P. 5–8 Sep (LSa), in Ontario, San Bernardino 20–21 Oct (TAB) and at S.E.S.S. (Lack Rd) 27 Jul (LSt). A juvenile Sharp-tailed Sandpiper near Westmorland 11 Oct (GMcC) was the first in Imperial. A juvenile Stilt Sandpiper at the V.C.G.P. 15–24 Sep (LSa) was the only one found away from S.E.S.S. Likewise, a Sanderling at Kramer Junction, San Bernardino 8 Oct (SB) was the only one reported away from the Salton Sea. Baird’s Sandpipers were believed scarcer than expected despite 70 reported between 2 Aug and 2 Oct, along with a late migrant at the Salton Sea (Salt Creek) 6 Nov (RMcK). A Little Stint at South San Diego Bay NWR 2 Aug–28 Nov (PEL) was believed to be one of the two present last winter. Pectoral Sandpipers were definitely scarcer than normal, with less than 50 reported between 19 Aug and 28 Oct, along with late migrants at South San Diego Bay NWR on 16 Nov (PEL) and at N.E.S.S. (Salton Sea S.R.A.) 25–30 Nov (RMcK). Semipalmated Sandpipers were also scarcer than normal, with only 10 reported between 5 and 27 Aug, and a late straggler at the V.C.G.P. 19-20 Sep (LSa). About 70 Solitary Sandpipers in Aug and Sep appears to be more than expected. Single birds at Lake Henshaw 6 Nov (NK), Carpinteria 16-20 Nov (JBC), and at the S.J.W.A. 17 Nov (TM) were late. A juvenile Spotted Redshank at V.C.G.P. 15–25 Sep (LSa) was the sixth to be found in California, with the most recent of the previous five in 1989.

The only jaegers found inland were a Parasitic Jaeger at Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino 7 Sep (ET), three around S.E.S.S.10 Aug–25 Sep, and an adult Long-tailed Jaeger photographed in flight near Palm Desert Riverside 13 Sep (IB).

The only Guadalupe Murrelets reported were two over the Cortez Bank 5 Sep (DPe). Impressive were 81 Craveri’s Murrelets counted on the waters off San Clemente Is. 17 Aug (TAB) and 32 counted on the deep waters off Ventura and Santa Barbara 5 Oct (DPe) were the latest.

A Sabine’s Gull at N.E.S.S. 7 Aug (RMcK) was followed by nine more at scattered inland locations from Kern south to Imperial between 20 Sep and 27 Oct, and a late migrant was along the coast in La Jolla 28 Nov (GN). A Bonaparte’s Gull at N.E.S.S. 25 Sep (RMcK) establishes the earliest date for a fall migrant at the Salton Sea. A juvenile Little Gull, a rare wanderer to California, was at Lake Palmdale, Los Angeles 10 Oct (CDY). Single Laughing Gulls were on the coast at Carpinteria 4–5 Nov (LRB), Cabrillo Beach, Los Angeles 9 Nov (DE), Encinitas 2 Nov (JMcM), south San Diego Bay 12 Oct (JS), and at the Tijuana River mouth 17 Sep (SSu). Twenty-three Franklin’s Gulls inland, and six more along the coast between 11 Aug and 21 Nov was less than expected. A Heermann’s Gull far inland at Littlerock, Los Angeles 27 Nov (KLG) was certainly unexpected. A juvenile Mew Gull at Oceano 3 Sep (RPC) was exceptionally early; one at N.E.S.S. (Salton Sea S.R.A.) 13 Nov (RMcK), two together at nearby Salt Creek 26 Nov (RMcK), and yet another in Calipatria, Imperial 30 Nov+ (GMcC) were inland where rare. At least six Lesser Black-backed Gull at the Salton Sea after 30 Oct (RMcK), while an adult in Oceano 6 Sep (RPC) and another in Coronado 23 Oct+ (NF) were on the coast.

Exceptionally late Gull-billed Terns were single birds at S.E.S.S. (Lack & Lindsey) 19–27 Oct (LH), at San Diego Bay NWR 17–24 Nov (DJ) and the Tijuana River mouth 12 Nov (SSo).

S.A. Since Arctic Tern is unexpected close to shore, rarely on the beach and casual inland, the sighting of an Arctic Tern on the beach in Oceano on 6 Sep (RPC) was noteworthy, but numbers quickly increased to an unprecedented 2500–3000 on 12 Sep (KJZ), evidently attracted to an abundant food-source, with the last reported on 15 Sep (WHK). Up to 300-1000 Sabine’s Gulls were feeding close to shore with the Arctic Terns 10–12 Sep (CAM and BKS), along with 40–60 pirating Parasitic Jaegers on 12 Sep (KJZ).

Tropicbirds through Spoonbill

Only three Red-billed Tropicbirds were reported, including single birds near the San Juan Seamount 4 Sep (DPe) and the Cortez Bank 5 Sep (DPe) where expected, along with one 15 mi. west of La Jolla 22 Sep (Nick Barber).

A Red-throated Loon salvaged at a solar farm west of Calexico, Imperial on 13 Nov (PU) probably died in October. A Pacific Loon was well inland on Quail Lake, Los Angeles 27 Oct–18 Nov (BR) and up to 4 were on Lake Perris (CMcG) through the fall.

Two Wilson’s Storm-Petrels were reported, with one over the San Juan Seamount south-southwest of San Miguel Is. 4 Sep (DPe) and the other at the mid-Santa Barbara Channel 2 Oct (SPC). Six Townsend’s Storm-Petrels south-southwest of San Miguel Is. 4 Sep (DPe) and 12 near the Cortez Bank 5 Sep (DPe) were at the northern limit of the species known pelagic range. The only Least Storm-Petrels known in California waters this year were two photographed at the 30-Mile Bank off San Diego 13 Oct (NC). Fourteen Cook’s Petrels over the San Juan Seamount 4 Sep (DPe) and 79 near the Cortez Bank 5 Sep (DPe) were well offshore where apparently expected. The only Buller’s Shearwaters reported were 12 well off Ventura 4-5 Sep (DPe) and three visible from San Clemente Is. 29 Sep (JTS). A Flesh-footed Shearwater, rare in Southern California waters, was off Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo 21 Sep (CAM) and 96 km west of Pt. Arguello SBA 3 Nov (PEL). Single Manx Shearwaters, also rare in Southern California waters, were seen in the Santa Barbara Channel 3 Sep (CW) and 24 Oct (JB).

Continuing reports of boobies included a Masked Booby photographed from Pt. Loma 31 Aug (DJ). At least twelve Nazca Boobies, with eight in San Diego waters between 18 Aug and 13 Oct, including three together at the entrance to San Diego Bay on 6 Sep (DPo), along with single birds at the Lausen Seamount off Orange 4 Oct (RCL), in the Los Angeles Harbor 17–19 Nov (NS), 7 km southeast of Ventura 3 Aug (JB), 109 km west-southwest of San Nicolas Is. 4 Sep (DPe), 4 km west-northwest of Santa Barbara Is. 3 Sep (DPe) and two together on Sutil Rock at Santa Barbara Is. 12 Oct–14 Nov (NAL), along with an unidentified Masked/Nazca Booby 5 km off Dana Pt., Orange on 23 Aug (RCL). Single Blue-footed Boobies were at the 30-Mile Bank off San Diego 17 Aug (TAB), near Pt. Mugu, Ventura 19 Sep (AJS), on Anacapa Is. 27 Sep–19 Oct (JH), and on Sutil Rock at Santa Barbara Is. 12 Oct (NAL). Seven Red-footed Boobies were reported with single birds at the 30-Mile Bank off San Diego 18 Aug (GMcC), Coronado 14 Sep (*SDNHM), 16 km west-southwest of La Jolla 20 Oct (fide NC), 8 km south-southwest of Dana Pt. 23 Sep (CM), 9 km southwest of Huntington Beach on 13 Aug (DC), at Newport Beach, Orange 16 Nov+ (MAG), and 17 km south of Goleta 26 Oct (BPe). A Brown Pelican near Bakersfield 8–9 Aug (JCS) was unexpected. Neotropic Cormorants continue to spread from southeastern California, with single birds west to Irvine, Orange 4 Oct–1 Nov (AMC), and northwest to Agoura, Los Angeles 30 Oct (DSC) and Lake Sherwood, Ventura 17–20 Oct (HH).

Single Little Blue Herons, rare away from coastal southern San Diego, were in Costa Mesa 1–11 Nov (L-SV), then on Upper Newport Bay 24–31 Nov+ (RSW), at the Madrona Marsh, Los Angeles 20 Aug–24 Sep (CAD), and Oceano/Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo 6–13 Nov (HDE). Five Tricolored Herons were reported, with single birds on South San Diego Bay 30 Oct-14 Nov (KR), at the S.J.W.S./Bolsa Chica 15–28 Oct, then at Bolsa Chica 26–28 Oct, and finally on Upper Newport Bay 10–31 Nov+ (JAK), joined by a second at Bolsa Chica 26–28 Oct (ABo), at Colorado Lagoon in Long Beach, Los Angeles 6 Oct (RAH) and the fifth at P.M.N.A.S. 4–25 Nov (MRua). An impressive nine Reddish Egrets at the V.C.G.P. 23 Aug (LSa) and two on Morro Bay 7–28 Aug (JSR) were the northern most on the coast, and 3–4 were inland at the Salton Sea 9 Sep+ (GMcC and RMcK). An unprecedented 60+ Yellow-crowned Night-Herons were at P.M.N.A.S. 22 Nov (DPe), and one in Seal Beach, San Luis Obispo 13 Sep (BAB) and up to three around Morro Bay 14 Sep+ (TME) were the northernmost. An adult at Prado Regional Park, San Bernardino 18–26 Aug (CC) was inland. An immature Roseate Spoonbill was at S.E.S.S. (Unit 1 of Salton Sea NWR) 11 Oct (GMcC).

Kites through Flycatchers

Two Mississippi Kites were reported, with one over Encinitas, San Diego 9 Sep (JMcM) and the other over University City, San Diego 14 Sep (PC). A Cooper’s Hawk on San Clemente Is. 10 Oct (JTS) was remarkably only the second known occurrence on the island. A Common Black Hawk photographed at Dos Palmas Preserve, Riverside 4 Sep (SSt) is the 11th found in Southern California. Twelve migrant Broad-winged Hawks were reported along the coast between 23 Sep and 19 Oct, along with late individuals on the Palos Verdes Peninsula 29 Nov (MM) and over Bonita, San Diego 16 Nov (MC); and inland, where rarer, single birds were at Baker 24 Sep (DAG), Twentynine Palms, San Bernardino 28 Sep (MAG), and at Desert Center, Riverside 25–26 Sep (BS). At least 9 Zone-tailed Hawks were in San Diego and Orange, where annual in small numbers, 31 Aug+; farther north single birds were in Chatsworth, Los Angeles 5 Sep (DG), Bonelli Regional Park, Los Angeles 20 Sep (KS), near Rincon, Ventura 6 Oct (MBe) and in Ojai, Ventura 27 Oct–17 Nov (BS). Single Rough-legged Hawks, now much scarcer in this region than 20 years ago, were in Bishop, Inyo 24–31 Oct (EAS), the Cholame Valley, San Luis Obispo 6–20 Nov (WHK) and on the immediate coast at Harmony Headlands SP, San Luis Obispo 25 Nov–1 Dec (DLK). Farther south, a “radio tagged” adult female Rough-legged Hawk that summered in northwestern Nunavut arrived in San Bernardino near Twentynine Palms on 30 Oct. It then moved south over Riverside and stayed overnight near Claremont, Los Angeles on 8 Nov, then returning to Twentynine Palms. In early December it started moving eastward, and on 25 Dec had crossed into Arizona near Blythe (NP).

A Williamson’s Sapsucker in Glen Helen Regional Park, San Bernardino 7 Nov (DAG) was in the lowlands. Eleven Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were found at scattered locations in the region after 2 Oct.

Dusky-capped Flycatchers in Orange at Fountain Valley 22 Nov (JEP) and Irvine 1 Dec (CSJ) did not remain into the winter. A Great Crested Flycatcher, less than annual in the region, was at Birchim Canyon, north of Bishop 21 Oct (R&NO) for Inyo’s second record. Casual on the coast, a Brown-crested Flycatcher was in the Tijuana River Valley, San Diego 22 Oct (PEL). At least 36 Tropical Kingbirds were along the coast after 13 Sep, with individuals farther inland at Mission Creek Preserve, Riverside 23 Sep (AK) and N.E.S.S. 18 Sep (RMcK). A Thick-billed Kingbird at Chula Vista, San Diego 31 Oct+ (DJ) had returned for a 10th winter. Only two Eastern Kingbirds were reported, both in Santa Barbara at Gaviota SP 6 Sep (JMC) and Santa Ynez 20 Sep (CJ). Returning wintering Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were at Chula Vista 6–30 Nov (TF) and San Ysidro/Tijuana River Valley 19 Nov+ (AF, CZ). A Greater Pewee at Fountain Valley 21 Nov+ (RMP) was the first for Orange since 1991; returning birds were in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles 25 Oct+ (CAD) and Balboa Park in San Diego 25 Nov+ (NF). Least Flycatchers were identified on or near the coast at Atwater Village, Los Angeles 9 Sep (ABi), Sycamore Canyon, Ventura 4 Oct (DPe) and Pt. Loma 28 Sep–5 Oct (GN) and on the northern deserts at Nine Mile Canyon, Inyo 4 Oct (RJS. SLS). Always scarce as a coastal migrant, a Dusky Flycatcher at Matilija Creek, Ventura 22–24 Nov (JG, RR) was also exceptionally late. Coastal Eastern Phoebes were near Burbank, Los Angeles 23 Nov+ (GSl) and Huntington Beach, Orange 27 Oct (BED); returning wintering birds in the interior were at Apollo Park, Lancaster 29 Nov+ (NS) and Bishop 22 Oct+ (KRL) and others were at Anza-Borrego Desert SP, San Diego 27–28 Oct (DSe) and in the mountains at Lake Arrowhead, San Bernardino 15 Nov–2 Dec (TD). The ever-expanding Vermilion Flycatcher was found north to Santa Maria, Santa Barbara 30 Sep–6 Oct (female) and 14 Oct–5 Dec (returning male; JDea), and Panamint Springs, Inyo 14 Oct (C&RH). This species is now almost routine in Los Angeles, being found at at least 23 sites (19 coastal slope, four in Antelope Valley) during the period plus San Clemente Is.’s fifth record on 30 Sep (STM).

Shrikes through Pipits

The season’s only Northern Shrike was at Bishop 30 Nov (N&RO, J&DP). A Gray Vireo at Elings Park in Santa Barbara 28 Sep (HPR) established the first mainland record for Santa Barbara. Plumbeous Vireos were concentrated on the coastal slope, where the 22 in Los Angeles and Orange outnumbered migrant and wintering Cassin’s 32 to 22. One at El Centro, Imperial 14 Oct (GCH) was in an area with few fall records. A Blue-headed Vireo was at Pt. Loma 28–29 Sep (AG). Red-eyed Vireos were at Los Osos, San Luis Obispo 26 Sep-5 Oct (RPC), Tijuana River Valley 2–6 Oct (ES), Goleta, Santa Barbara 6 Oct (DMC), and G.H.P. 6–17 Sep (KO, SDS). They were outnumbered by five Yellow-green Vireos, all in coastal San Diego; Camp Pendleton 12–13 Sep (PAGi), San Diego 15 Sep (*SDNHM), Pt. Loma 23 Sep (JA), Tijuana River Valley 27 Sep–2 Oct (JPa), and Coronado 27 Oct (AG).

A Violet-green Swallow at S.E.S.S. 11 Oct (JLD, GMcC) was in an area with few fall records. A Cliff Swallow near Westmorland, Imperial 21 Oct (GG) established the latest fall record for the Salton Sink.

Two Chestnut-backed Chickadees were at the far southern edge of the species’ range at Rincon Creek, Ventura/Santa Barbara through the period. A Verdin at San Timoteo Canyon near Redlands, San Bernardino 12 Oct (GSt) was west of the species’ expected range. Red-breasted Nuthatches moved into the region this fall, with the earliest 13 Aug near Carpinteria, Santa Barbara (JBC). They were considered “widespread and numerous” in San Luis Obispo (TME), and staged a “significant incursion in all districts” in Santa Barbara (DMC) and an “early fall invasion” on San Clemente Is., with 15+  birds 15 Sep–28 Oct (JTS). A Red-whiskered Bulbul in a residential area in Bakersfield, Kern 28 Aug+ (JCW) was more likely a local escapee than a wanderer from the Los Angeles region.

A Cactus Wren at Tijuana Slough NWR, San Diego 4 Aug (DSl) was on the immediate coast well away from any known current sites. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet at La Jolla, San Diego 7 Sep (SES) was a very early fall arrival. Western Bluebirds, rare and irregular on the deserts, were at G.H.P. 18 Nov (six birds; K&BK) and Niland, Imperial 6 Nov (5; GMcC). Fifteen Mountain Bluebirds at Guffy Campground in the San Gabriel Mtns. 3 Nov (M&JS) and another at Buckhorn Campground 26 Oct (JZ) were among the few ever recorded in the high Mtns. of Los Angeles, despite the species’ name. The first coastal slope arrivals in Los Angeles–where scarce and erratic–were at Griffith Park 20 Oct (ABi) and Chesebro Canyon in Agoura 23 Oct (DSC). Relatively few Varied Thrushes moved into the region this fall, as shown by county-wide totals such as 9 in San Luis Obispo, 5 in Los Angeles, and 5 in San Diego; the earliest was at Zzyzx, San Bernardino 22 Oct (JEP).

Up to two Gray Catbirds were at California City, Kern 13–19 Sep (KKH, GW), with another at nearby G.H.P. 21 Oct (KKH) and one at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, San Bearnardino 30 Nov+ (DB). A westward wandering Curve-billed Thrasher was in the town of Joshua Tree, San Bernardino 27 Nov (CI). The only Brown Thrasher reported was at Vallecito in the desert portion of San Diego 2 Nov (BLS). Every year a few oddly early Cedar Waxwings appear in the region, as exemplified by one at Morro Bay 1 Sep (S&JT). Far from areas with well-established populations were single Scaly-breasted Munias at Desert Center, Riverside 9 Oct (AJS) and Riverwalk Park in Bakersfield 27 Oct (AHu, the second for Kern), and two at Vallecito 14 Nov.

A White Wagtail was briefly seen just offshore of Santa Barbara Is. 13 Oct (CS), and what might have been the same individual, this time well-photographed and identified as ocularis, was at Lemon Tank on San Clemente Is. 15–17 Oct (NJD, JTS). An American Pipit of the eastern Asian subspecies japonicus was at Mission Bay, San Diego 21 Nov (JPa). Red-throated Pipits were relatively scarce this fall, with singles at Goleta 20 Oct (RSe), the Lower Los Angeles River in Long Beach 22 Oct (BT), Lemon Tank on San Clemente Is. 28–31 Oct (JTS, NJD), Port Hueneme, Ventura 29 Oct (JMu), and Lake Los Angeles in the eastern Antelope Valley, Los Angeles 3–5 Nov (KLG).

Finches through Icterids

A movement of Evening Grosbeaks into the region began in the high Mtns. of Inyo, with flocks of 25 at South Lake, west of Bishop 2 Oct (RJS, SLS) and 25–40 at nearby Lower Lamarck/Grass Lakes 4 Oct (TJV), and another was at Caruthers Canyon, in the eastern Mojave portion of San Bernardino 8 Oct (JY). To the west, 23 were in the eastern San Gabriel Mtns. at Icehouse Canyon, San Bernardino 21 Oct (“Type 1” by call; CMcF, PCl), up to 35 were in the Laguna Mtns., San Diego 14–26 Nov after one was found 5 Nov (MBi), and one was in flight over Eagle Rock, Los Angeles 29 Nov (RST, JO). A nominate purpureus Purple Finch was at Big Pine, Inyo 2 Nov (T&JH). This subspecies is probably overlooked in region.

Dozens of Red Crossbills (all recorded birds were “Type 2” by call) were in the high San Gabriel Mtns. through the period, as well as the Laguna Mtns., San Diego 18 Aug+. There were no lowland reports. Pine Siskins were more numerous this year than in the recent past; for example, 93 were tallied in San Luis Obispo after 1 Oct, compared to only three last fall (TME).

Some 15 Lapland Longspurs, all in the coastal counties, were detected 12 Oct-29 Nov. The eight Chestnut-collared Longspurs included an early bird at Costa Mesa 14–18 Sep (JPB) and the first record for Anacapa Is. 3–4 Nov (JH). McCown’s Longpurs were east of Palmdale, Los Angeles 20 Oct (M&JS), on San Clemente Is. 16 Nov (JTS), and at Owens Lake, Inyo 29 Oct (DJH).

Clay-colored Sparrows were widespread, with 35 on the coastal slope 3 Sep+ and another six on the deserts 23 Sep–26 Oct. Black-chinned Sparrows are poorly known away from breeding areas; one at Limestone Canyon 28 Sep (JMB et al.) was possibly the first fall migrant ever in Orange, and others, possibly wintering, were at Rancho Santa Margarita, Orange 12 Nov (TEW) and 26 Nov (AS), and Dulzura, San Diego 15 Nov (DPo). The only Lark Buntings were at Griffith Park in Los Angeles 5 Oct (ABi), Seal Beach, Orange 15 Oct (BAS), and Klipstein Canyon near Maricopa, Kern 16 Oct (JDa).

A number of observers commented on the general scarcity of White-crowned Sparrows this fall, and the species was noted as exceptionally scarce in Orange (RSW). Of the 24 White-throated Sparrows in the coastal counties, 18 were in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara; another four were on the northern deserts 18 Sep–2 Nov. The only Harris’s Sparrow was at Del Mar, San Diego 24 Oct (RT). A (Large-billed) Savannah Sparrow at Estero Bluffs SP 16 Sep (TME) was only the second for San Luis Obispo north of Morro Bay. Only three Swamp Sparrows were reported all fall, at Montana de Oro SP, San Luis Obispo 15 Nov (S&JT), Santa Margarita Lake, San Luis Obispo 16 Nov (MAH), and E.A.F.B. (Branch Pond) 19 Nov (JSF).

The most astonishing bird of the season was an odd passerine that appeared to by a hybrid between a Yellow-breasted Chat and an oriole (Icterus sp.) at San Timoteo Canyon in Redlands 10–14 Sep (MAG). Further details are to be published elsewhere. A Bobolink near Lompoc 11 Aug (NAL) was record early for Santa Barbara by four days, followed by a relatively poor regional showing of 15 additional birds on the coast 1 Sep–8 Nov, plus one at Baker, San Bernardino 2 Oct (JEP). Seven Orchard Orioles, some remaining to winter, were along the coast 13 Sep+, farther inland were birds at Yucaipa, San Bernardino 21–22 Sep (GMcL), G.H.P. 11 Oct (AHo), and Zzyzx, San Bernardino 31 Oct (TAB). A Baltimore Oriole was at Montana de Oro SP 5 Oct (P&JC), with three others in San Diego 2 Sep–1 Dec. A Scott’s Oriole on Santa Cruz Is. 25 Oct (TGu) was a rare migrant at that location. Rusty Blackbirds were at Carpinteria 5 Nov (RO’D), Santa Cruz Is. 21 Nov (DD), Sepulveda Basin, Los Angeles 21 Nov (MSt), San Clemente Is. 26 Nov (JTS), and Ocean Beach, San Diego 30 Nov (KG).

Warblers through Dickcissel

Five coastal slope Ovenbirds 2 Sep–27 Oct, a returning wintering bird at Huntington Beach 17 Nov+ (JEP), and desert sightings at G.H.P. 3 Oct (CAD) and Fenner, San Bernardino 15 Sep (BM) were about average. Also matching recent averages were 20 coastal slope Northern Waterthrushes 5 Sep+ and five more on the deserts 31 Aug–21 Sep. Two of our rarer wood-warblers were a Worm-eating Warbler at Goleta 5-12 Sep (NAL) and a Golden-winged Warbler at Dos Palmas Preserve near N.E.S.S. 11 Sep (SSt), only the second for Riverside. Black-and-white Warblers were found in higher-than-average numbers, with 56 on the coastal slope 15 Aug+ and another three on the deserts 21–28 Sep. The only Prothonotary Warblers were on the U. C. Santa Barbara campus 7 Oct (BRH) and at Baker 18 Sep (DAG). Twenty-six Tennessee Warblers, all on the coastal slope, 8 Sep–1 Nov, was about average. A good total of 14 Lucy’s Warblers wandered west to the coastal slope 19 Aug–15 Nov, and three migrants were at S.E.S.S. 1 Aug–30 Sep (GMcC). Virginia’s Warbler numbers were below average, with only six noted on the coast 10 Sep–11 Oct and additional interior birds at Lancaster, Los Angeles 15 Sep (KLG), Cuyamaca SP, San Diego 15 Sep (NC), and Baker 18 Sep (JEP). A Connecticut Warbler, only the 10th for the Region this century, was at Lila Keiser Park, Morro Bay 9 Sep (S&JT). A MacGillivray’s Warbler at El Sereno, Los Angeles 9 Nov (TC) was quite late. A Mourning Warbler, one of the scarcest vagrant parulids in the region, was at Huntington Central Park in Huntington Beach 21 Sep (RAS).

A Hooded Warbler at Pt. Loma, San Diego 22 Aug–11 Sep (MH) had possibly summered in the area, while another was at San Diego 19–21 Sep (NF). An American Redstart in Montecito 8–9 Aug (JEL) was record early for Santa Barbara by six days; subsequently 24 more were found on the coastal slope 12 Sep–1 Dec and another 15 were on the deserts 10 Sep–23 Oct. Only three Northern Parulas were found, at Matilija Lake, Ventura 9 Sep (JG), Dana Pt., Orange 23-26 Nov (BCS), and San Diego 11 Nov (PEL). Nine Magnolia Warblers were in coastal areas 28 Aug–8 Nov, and another was at Baker 1 Oct (BE). The season’s only Bay-breasted Warbler was found at Goleta 6 Oct (RSe). Blackburnian Warblers were at Matilija Lake 17–30 Sep (JG), Morro Bay 26 Sep (TME), Port Hueneme, Ventura 20 Oct (MBe), Pt. Loma 21–26 Oct (PEL), and Del Mar 29 Oct–3 Nov (AA), with another at Dos Palmas Preserve near N.E.S.S. 12 Sep (AHo). Average numbers of Chestnut-sided Warblers included 15 in coastal counties 12 Sep–13 Nov and three on the San Bernardino deserts 21 Sep–8 Oct. Once again Blackpoll Warbler numbers were below the recent 15-year average, with 30 in coastal regions 7 Sep–12 Oct along with birds at G.H.P. 6 Sep (KO) and Baker 9 Sep (AKJ). Black-throated Blue Warblers were at N.E.S.S. 11 Oct (GCH), Dos Palmas Preserve near N.E.S.S. 13 Oct (CAM), and Picacho S. R. A., Imperial 11–15 Nov (GCH, CAM), along with a coastal bird at San Diego 7 Nov (HK). Palm Warbler numbers fluctuate greatly from year-to-year, and this fall numbers were relatively low, with 23 in coastal regions 25 Sep+ and three on the deserts 1–15 Oct. Prairie Warblers were at Madrona Marsh in Torrance 27 Sep–3 Oct (MRub), Morro Bay 6 Oct 2019 (DLK), San Elijo Lagoon, San Diego 20 Oct (TGo), and La Jolla 22–24 Oct (JDes). A good total of six Grace’s Warblers included returning wintering birds in San Diego at La Jolla 27 Sep–16 Nov (AA), Encinitas 9 Nov+ (TGo), and Del Mar 24 Nov+ (DK); while additional migrants were at La Jolla 22-23 Oct (JPa), Pt. Loma 24 Oct (PEL), and Riverside’s first at Idyllwild Nature Center in the San Jacinto Mtns. 4 Nov (GA). Surprisingly, only one Black-throated Green Warbler was found, at Cuyamaca SP, San Diego 15 Sep (NC). The five Canada Warblers, about average, were on the coastal slope at Pt. Loma, San Diego 31 Aug (GN), Anaheim (Disneyland Resort), Orange 26 Sep (ANG), San Clemente Is. 27 Sep (JTS), S.J.W.A. 28 Sep (DAG), and Riverside 4 Oct (DR). Painted Redstarts continue to increase as late fall migrants and winterers. A total of 11, some remaining to winter, were found on the coastal slope from Ventura south 29 Sep+, and another was at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve 15–18 Oct (WRD).

Casual away from the few breeding sites in the region, a Hepatic Tanager was at Willow Springs Park in Long Beach 30 Nov–2 Dec (BD). Over 50 Summer Tanagers were scattered through the coastal slope during the period, with six more on the deserts 12 Sep–9 Oct. Few observers attempted to identify the subspecies involved, but most birds were well-documented with photos uploaded in eBird. A Western Tanager near Niland 5 Jul (CAM) was the earliest-ever fall migrant for Salton Sink. An exceptional 10 Scarlet Tanagers were found late in the fall, with singles at  Harbor Regional Park near San Pedro, Los Angeles 16–23 Oct (CAD), North Hollywood, Los Angeles 22 Oct (California Wildlife Center; *LACM), Madrona Marsh in Torrance 24 Oct (MRub), Pt. Loma 21 Oct (female; PEL), 2–4 Nov (different female; NF), and 8–9 Nov (male; JPaw), San Clemente Is. 18 Nov (SAM), and on the deserts at Desert Center 8 Oct (AJS), Dos Palmas Preserve near N.E.S.S. 12–13 Oct (BPa), and Big Morongo Canyon Preserve 26 Oct–3 Nov (fide Tom Mills). Fourteen Rose-breasted Grosbeaks on the coastal slope 21 Aug–30 Nov were augmented by four on the deserts 19 Sep–8 Nov. Very late Black-headed Grosbeaks were at San Luis Obispo 1–25 Nov (HDEt), Laguna Mtns. 18–19 Nov (NC), and Santa Barbara 28 Nov (EV). A rather sparse showing of Indigo Buntings included eight on the coast 4 Aug-17 Oct and three on the desert 24 Sep-15 Oct. Painted Buntings were at Pt. Loma 1 Sep (TGo), Ventura 10–12 Sep (RMcM), Anacapa Is. 15 Sep (RST, JO), Sorrento Valley, San Diego (a mummified bird found 18 Sep; JCa), and Madrona Marsh in Torrance 5–14 Nov (JV), and on the deserts at Dos Palmas Preserve near N.E.S.S. 12 Sep (AHo), Desert Center 25 Sep–9 Oct (BS), and Panamint Springs, Inyo 12 Oct (C&RH). A moderate Dickcissel flight included birds at Lompoc, Santa Barbara 21 Sep (NAL), Fillmore, Ventura 23 Sep (AJS), Santa Cruz Is. 14 Oct (NAL), nine in coastal San Diego 21 Sep–24 Oct, six on the San Bernardino deserts 4 Sep–9 Oct, and up to three at Desert Center 24 Sep–12 Oct (JMo).

Photos–Southern California: Fall 2019

Hover or click on each image to read the caption.