Southern California: Spring 2017

Spring 2017: 1 Mar–31 May

Guy McCaskie

Kimball L. Garrett

Recommended citation:

McCaskie, G, and K. L. Garrett. 2021. Spring 2017: Southern California. <> North American Birds.

The spring period was relatively warm and dry following a winter of somewhat above-average precipitation in the region. Strong Santa Ana wind conditions 27–29 April resulted in some major movements of land bird migrants at coastal localities; San Clemente Island experienced a large passage 28–29 April and again 4 May, with the offshore winds best explaining the passage on the earlier dates. R. McKernan and C. McGaugh described a passage of songbirds (mainly wood-warblers) moving north-northeast past the north end of the Salton Sea on 17 May, extrapolating passage rates as high as 800-1000 birds per hour.

Although the spring season saw no ultra-rarities, highlights included a Wood Thrush in the Coachella Valley at the end of the period, a White Wagtail in coastal San Diego County, a Black Vulture in San Luis Obispo County, and Ventura County’s first Mississippi Kite. A monumental passage of Swainson’s Hawks was well-documented in Borrego Springs on the eastern San Diego County desert, including a daily high count of 3700 on 18 March.

Some representative early arrival dates included:  Black-chinned Hummingbird 8 Mar (San Bernardino); Willow Flycatcher 4 May (San Clemente Island) and 6 May (Imperial); Hammond’s Flycatcher 20 Mar (San Bernardino); Dusky Flycatcher 11 Apr (San Bernardino); Pacific-slope Flycatcher 10 Mar (San Bernardino) and 11 Mar (San Diego); Ash-throated Flycatcher 10 Mar (Santa Barbara); Brown-crested Flycatcher 29 Apr (San Bernardino);

Western Kingbird 4 Mar (Riverside), 7 Mar (Imperial), 9 Mar (San Bernardino) and 20 Mar (Inyo); Bell’s Vireo 11 Mar (San Diego); Gray Vireo 20 Mar (San Diego); Cassin’s Vireo 14 Mar (San Bernardino; one on 2 Mar in Riverside may have wintered locally); Warbling Vireo 3 Mar (Los Angeles); Cliff Swallow 3 Feb (Los Angeles) and 4 Feb (San Diego); Swainson’s Thrush 13 Apr (San Luis Obispo); Yellow-breasted Chat 5 Apr (Los Angeles); Hooded Oriole 23 Feb (San Diego); Bullock’s Oriole 9 Mar (San Luis Obispo); Scott’s Oriole 7 Mar (Imperial); Bronzed Cowbird 14 Apr (Imperial); Nashville Warbler 19 Mar (San Diego); Lucy’s Warbler 19 Mar (San Bernardino); MacGillivray’s Warbler 6 Apr (San Diego); Townsend’s Warbler 9 Apr (Imperial); Hermit Warbler 9 Apr (San Diego); Wilson’s Warbler 11 Mar (San Diego and Imperial); Black-headed Grosbeak 18 Mar (San Luis Obispo); and Blue Grosbeak 2 Apr (San Diego).

Contributors (County coordinators in boldface): Joanne Aascen, Paulette Ache, Bruce A. Aird, Chris A. Allen, Bernardo Alps, Alexandra Anderson, Ryan Andrews, Shannon Arkinson, Larry R. Ballard, Kathy Banion, Richard Barth, Lance Benner, Thomas A. Benson, John Callender (JCa), Jay C. Carroll, Robert Chapman, Mark A. Chappell, Jamie M. Chavez, Paul Clark (PCl), Alex Coffey (ACo), Hal Cohen, Peter E. Colasanti, David M. Compton (Santa Barbara), Cindy Crawford, Alex Cruz (ACr), Jim Currie (JCu), Brad D. Dawson, Chris A. Dean, Frank Demartino, Bill Deppe, Nicole J. Desnoyers, Dean DiTomasso, Darren Dowell, Amelia DuVall, Mickey Dyke, Kim Eckert, Randy Ehler, Tom M. Edell (San Luis Obispo), Herb D. Elliott, Richard A. Erickson, Dan Fagundes, Jon S. Feenstra, Corey Finger, Jon L. Fisher, Brian Flick, Mary & Nick Freeman (M&NF), Michael Force, Nancy Frost, John F. Garrett (JFGa), Kimball L. Garrett (Los Angeles), Peter A. Ginsburg, John F. Green (JFGr), Matthew Grube, Trish Gussler, JoAnn Hackos (JHa), Steve C. Hampton, Tom & Jo Heindel (Inyo), Michael Hilchey, Mark A. Holmgren, Jon Houghton (JHo), Chris Howard, Rosie Howard, Terry Hurst (THu), Theresa Hyde (THy), Tom Johnson, Aaron Keller (AKe), Iris Kilpatrick, Howard B. King, Mike King, Russell D. Kokx, Alexander E. Koonce (San Bernardino), Alexa Kownacki (AKo), Karl Krause, Kenneth Z. Kurland, Walter Lamb, Andrew K. Lee, Paul E. Lehman, Joe Lepisto, Nick A. Lethaby, David Levasheff, Kelli K. Levinson (Kern), Jack Lindahl (JLi), James M. Maley, Curtis A. Marantz, Eve Martin, Sara B. Mayers, Guy McCaskie (San Diego and Imperial), Chet McGaugh (Riverside), Todd McGrath, Robert McKernan, Steve McLaughlin, Jimmy McMorran, Robert B. McNab,  Mendia, Tony Metcalf (TMe), Kenny Miller, Leo Miller, Tim Miller (TMi), Jess Miller-Camp, John Mueller (JMu), Sarah Ngo, Richard Norgaard (RNd),  Richard Norton (RNn), Gary Nunn, Brittany O’Connor, Ryan P. O’Donnell, Mark Osokow, Libby Patten, Jim Pawlicki (JPa), Jim Pea (JPe), Kaaren L. Perry, James E. Pike, Sandy Remley, Casey Richart, Jonathan Rowley, Matt Sadowski (MSa), Edana Salisbury (ESa), Brian Sandstrom (BSa), Larry Sansone (LSa), Michael J. San Miguel, Adam J. Searcy (Ventura), Christopher K. Smith, Eric Smith (ESm), Maggie L. Smith, Rachel Smith, Susan E. Smith, Karen Soltis, Hans Spiecker, Lea Squires (LSq), Justyn T. Stahl (San Clemente Island), Mark Stahl (MSt), Bob Steele (BSt), Susan L. Steele, Mike Stensvold (MiS), Don Sterba, John C. Sterling, Mike D. Stiles, Ed Stonick (ESt), Julie Szabo, Rick Taylor, Luke Tiller, Eric Tipton, David Trissel, Becky Turley, Philip Unitt, Pat and Ann Vaughan (P&AV), Matt Victoria, Patrick Walker, James Wapotich, Vincent L. Weather, Douglas R. Willick (Orange), N. Alex Wilson, Ryan S. Winkleman, Colin A. Woolley, Michael Woodruff, Roger Woodruff, Thomas E. Wurster, 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). Museum collections abbreviated in the text are: 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 (CBRC) review list (see is forwarded to the CBRC and archived at the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology in Camarillo.

Waterfowl through Hummingbirds

The presence of 6 Cackling Geese at Ramer Lake, Imperial 2 Apr (GMcC), 3 at SESS (Poe Rd) 3 Apr (GMcC) and 12 at Mojave Narrows RP San Bernardino 25 Mar (BD) suggests a movement of these birds from the south at this time. Every spring, Brant wintering in the Gulf of California migrate northward to the Pacific Coast—a flock of 230 on Fig Lagoon near Seeley, Imperial 24 Apr (KE) was “grounded” by adverse weather, as was one at Scissors Crossing in the Anza-Borrego Desert SP 1 Apr (NJD); 15 flying west over Banning, Riverside 28 Apr (KLG) and 65 flying west about 5 km east of the coast in Del Mar, San Diego 15 Apr (PEL) were also migrants from the Gulf of California; single birds at Quail Lake, Los Angeles 7 May (KLG) and Owens Lake, Inyo 20 May (KKH) were farther north than expected and likely failed to reach the Southern California coast. The latest wintering Eurasian Wigeon were two on Morro Bay 11 Apr (KLP) and one in Goleta, Santa Barbara 13 Apr (HS). A male Eurasian Green-winged Teal at SESS (Rock Hill) 26 Mar–2 Apr (ESt, GMcC) provides only the third record for the Salton Sink. The only scoters found inland this spring were five Surf Scoters around SESS between 11 and 21 Mar (GMcC), and five White-winged Scoters on the San Bernardino side of Lake Havasu 22 Mar (AKe). A Long-tailed Duck on Anaheim Bay, Orange 19 Apr–13 May (TG), a wintering individual found on Morro Bay 9 Mar that was still present 12 Jun (P&AV) and another found on San Diego Bay 17 Dec that was still present 4 Jun (SM) were on the coast, and a migrant was well inland on Owens Lake 24–30 Apr (CAA). The sudden arrival and departure of 900 Aechmophorus at NESS 3 May (RMcK), along with a major increase in the number of these large grebes elsewhere at the Salton Sink that same day (RMcK, GMcC), clearly documented a major movement of these birds at that time.

About 180 Lesser Nighthawks over Piute Ponds 15 May (JSF) was an exceptional concentration. Common Nighthawks near Bishop, Inyo 27 May (CH, RH) and east of Baldwin Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino 29 May (SR) were the earliest this spring. Two Mexican Whip-poor-wills at Green Canyon in the San Bernardino Mountains 22–31 May+ (TMi) were at a suspected breeding location. The earliest reports of migrant Black Swifts included one over San Jacinto Wildlife Area and six at Ventura County Game Preserve on 7 May (MAC, LSa), followed by one over Lake Elsinore, Riverside 9 May (JS). There was a steady movement of Calliope Hummingbirds at feeders near El Centro, Imperial between 14 Apr and 20 May, with peak numbers of up to six in a day in early May (KZK), illustrating the spring movement of this hummingbird through southeastern California.  A Broad-tailed Hummingbird in the New York Mts., San Bernardino 23–24 May (PEC) was in an area where this hummingbird may nest, but one at Quail Spring in the northern part of Joshua Tree NP 25 Apr (PU * SDMNH) was in an area where previously unrecorded, and another at Bishop 18 Apr (CH, RH) was in the Owens Valley where now rarely reported. A male Broad-billed Hummingbird, a rare straggler to California, was in the Blair Valley portion of the Anza-Borrego Desert SP San Diego 30 Mar (KS).

Cranes through Sandpipers

Three Sandhill Cranes over NESS (Ave 81) 4 Mar (TMcG) were somewhat late north-bound migrants. Two American Oystercatchers photographed on San Nicolas Island 24 May (AJS) were at a location where probably resident. More than the expected one or two American Golden-Plovers were reported, with up to two on south San Diego Bay 21–27 May (LSq, PEL), and single birds at Bataquitos Lagoon, San Diego 2 Jun (LSq) and Ventura County Game Preserve 3–8 May (LSa) on the coast, and one at San Jacinto Wildlife Area 1-4 Apr (TMe), another on adjacent Mystic Lake 6 May (CAM) and two together at SESS (Rock Hill) 7 May (CAM) inland. Single Pacific Golden-Plovers at Ventura County Game Preserve 22 Apr (LSa) and 23 Apr (LSa) appeared to be northbound migrants. A Mountain Plover at Piute Ponds 23 May (JSF) was exceptional, as most wintering in California have all normally moved north by mid-March.

Three Whimbrels at NESS (Oasis) 1 Mar (CMcG) were the earliest of the large numbers that migrate through the Salton Sink every spring. The only Ruddy Turnstone reported inland was one at the mouth of Salt Creek on the east shore of the Salton Sea, Riverside 26 Apr–3 May (CMcG). A Black Turnstone, rare inland, was at the mouth of Salt Creek 8–12 May (CMcG). The passage of Red Knots through the Salton Sink peaked in mid-April, with 620 at Salt Creek 13 Apr (RMcK), this being significantly less than the 1800 there in 2016. Single Ruffs were at Ventura County Game Preserve 11 Mar–23 Apr (LSa) and 27 Apr–10 May (LSa), at Malibu (Pt. Dume), Los Angeles 6 May (JMM) and in the Riverside portion of the Prado Basin 30 Mar–25 Apr (JEP). A Stilt Sandpiper at Ventura County Game Preserve 18–28 Apr (LSa) was the only one reported away from SESS. The number of migrant Sanderlings at the Salton Sea peaked around 120 at Salt Creek in late March and early April (RMcK), but one at Owens Lake 29 Apr (SLS), two at Kramer Junction, San Bernardino 9 Apr (TAB) and another there 29 Apr (AEK) were the only four reported elsewhere away from the coast. Two Baird’s Sandpipers, rare in spring, were inland at Kramer Junction 27 Apr (BSa), and two more were on the coast at the Santa Ynez River mouth, Santa Barbara 30 Apr (NAL). A late migrant Pectoral Sandpiper at Piute Ponds 2 Jun (JSF) was the only one reported this spring. Single Semipalmated Sandpipers at Santa Rosa Creek mouth, San Luis Obispo 28 Apr (JA), in Goleta 13 May (NAL) and at Ventura County Game Preserve 28 Apr–3 May (AJS, LSa) were the only three reported this spring. Solitary Sandpipers were far more numerous than usual after the first at San Timoteo Canyon, San Bernardino 27 Mar (RW), with 15 along the coast and more than 30 inland during April, including as many as 4 together at Galileo Hill Park 28 Apr (TEW).

Alcids through Loons

A Common Murre at Pt. La Jolla in La Jolla 14 May (GN) was late for this far south. A Marbled Murrelet at Point Piedras Blancas 20 Apr (BA) was a little south of the species’ known breeding range. A Guadalupe Murrelet at Cabrillo Beach, Los Angeles 26 May (BA) was most unusual, as this alcid is not expected in Southern California waters earlier than late July, and then only far offshore. Three Ancient Murrelets at Pt. La Jolla 24 Mar (PEL) were no doubt associated with the influx of this alcid into San Diego waters in the late winter of this year.

Although earlier than expected, six Laughing Gulls at SESS 27 May (GMcC) may have been the first of the post-breeding birds that move north annually from the Gulf of California into the Salton Sink. One near Oceano, San Luis Obispo 22 Mar (RC) and another in Oceanside, San Diego 5 May (LM) were on the coast where rare. After the earliest Franklin’s Gulls were found in Imperial and Orange on 28 March, no more than 85 were reported, with most of those at the Salton Sink in April as expected, but only three inland north of Los Angeles and half a dozen on the coast. The only Heermann’s Gull reported inland was one at SESS (Rock Hill/Obsidian Butte) 15 Mar–7 May (GMcC). A Mew Gull near Brawley 11 Mar (GMcC) was the only one found well inland. Three Lesser Black-backed Gulls at the mouth of Salt Creek 9 Mar (RMcK) were the latest of the wintering birds at the Salton Sea, and a first-cycle bird in the Riverside portion of the Prado Basin 6 Apr (JEP) provides the first record for that location. Three Glaucous Gulls on the coast of San Luis Obispo between 1 Mar and 13 Apr (DF, RHZ, TME) and one in Huntington Beach, Orange 16 Mar (JLi) were the only four known in this region this spring.

The earliest of the Least Terns were two at known nest sites in Chula Vista, San Diego, four at Huntington Beach and 10 at Venice Beach, Los Angeles on 11 Apr (fide NF), but up to three around SESS (unit 1 and Wister) 12–27 May (GMcC) were the only ones known inland. Two Gull-billed Terns at Ventura County Game Preserve 12 Apr (LSa) were well to the north of the only known coastal nesting site on south San Diego Bay. An Elegant Tern at Piute Ponds 2 May (DD) is the first ever well inland away from the Salton Sink.

Single Red-throated Loons, rare inland, were on Fig Lagoon near Seeley 24 Apr (KE) and 6 May (GMcC). Pacific Loons, slightly more numerous inland than are Red-throated Loons, were near Fillmore, Ventura 8 May (AJS), at Lake Cuyamaca, San Diego 13–27 May (CR, THu) and at Fig Lagoon 18 May (GMcC). A flock of 21 Common Loons on Fig Lagoon 24 Apr (KE) was a large number for the Salton Sink.

Albatrosses through Woodpeckers

A Laysan Albatross about 15 km inland in a field near Vista, San Diego 13 Apr (Sea World Rehabilitation) could well have been flying from the northern end of the Gulf of California to the coast. Three Murphy’s Petrels were 195–255 km off Point Buchon, San Luis Obispo 2 Apr (RT). Paul E. Lehman and others on a cruise ship traveling northward about 40 miles off the coast 23 Apr reported a Hawaiian Petrel off San Luis Obispo, eight Cook’s Petrels off Santa Barbara and 17 more off San Luis Obispo; in addition, one was 23 miles west of Point Buchon 12 May (MF), and another at the 30-Mile Bank 21 May (JMcM) was only the second to be found in San Diego waters. Four Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels off San Luis Obispo 23 Apr (PEL) and a decomposed one at Dockweiler Beach, Los Angeles 23 May (WL) were the only ones known to reach Southern California.

A female Magnificent Frigatebird at Point Piedras Blancas, San Luis Obispo 19 May (AKo), and what may have been the same bird at Long Beach, Los Angeles 27 May (ACr) and over Buena Vista Lagoon, San Diego 28 May (JPa) was not only earlier than expected, but also an adult, rather than a more expected white-headed immature. A Masked Booby was at Platform Ellen off Huntington Beach, Orange 10 Jun (TAB). Although less numerous that three years ago, Brown Boobies are still being found along the coast, with the largest concentration of 18 at Santa Barbara Island 22 Apr (ADuV), and one at Morro Rock, San Luis Obispo 8 Mar (RN) the northernmost. A Red-footed Booby at Pt. La Jolla in La Jolla 16–17 Apr (DDiT, CAM) and again six km off Imperial Beach 29 Apr (JPe) was only the second white-morph adult documented in California.

Two Neotropic Cormorants at Lower Otay Lake, San Diego 6 Mar (MSa), two in Upland, San Bernardino 1 Apr (PCl) and then in adjacent Ontario 21–27 Apr (MW), and up to two at Puddingstone Reservoir in San Dimas, Los Angeles 2 Apr–18 May (MJSanM), were all west of the mountains, and far from their now-expected range in the southeastern corner of California. Single Brown Pelicans in San Dimas 13 May (KM) on Lake Perris and Lake Elsinore, Riverside 28 May (JCS), and another at Puddingstone Reservoir may have been associated with an influx of these birds to the Salton Sink in early May (GMcC, RMcK).

At least two Yellow-crowned Night-Herons around El Dorado Park in Long Beach 19 Apr–30 May (CC) and one at the Ballona Freshwater Marsh in Marina Del Rey 6–19 May (RE), along with up to three in Carpinteria 15 Mar (JCa), were all away from known nesting locations.

A Black Vulture in the San Luis Obispo/Morro Bay 17–22 Mar (JMC, HDE, JCS) was believed to be the same bird present in this area off and on during the past four winters. A Mississippi Kite near Santa Paula 20 May (KK) is the first to be found in Ventura. At least 9500 migrant Swainson’s Hawks moved northward over Borrego Springs, San Diego between 21 Feb and early April, with an impressive 3700 on 18 Mar (HC); 70 over Bishop 8 May (CH, RH) was an exceptional number for Inyo. Single Zone-tailed Hawks near Big Pine, Inyo 28 Mar (ESm), at Cottonwood Spring, Inyo 20–21 Apr (CH, RH) and in Lone Pine 28 Apr (RDK), along with an immature Zone-tailed Hawk in California City, Kern 25 May–2 Jun (TJ) that was presumably the same bird at Galileo Hill Park in extreme east Kern 13 May (TEW), and another at Morongo Valley, San Bernardino 2 Apr (IK), were all at locations where unexpected. A Northern Pygmy-Owl near Big Bear in the San Bernardino Mountains 14 Apr (M&NF) was near the southern limit of this species range in California. A Flammulated Owl near Islip Saddle in the San Gabriel Mountains 21 Apr (LB) was the earliest this spring.

An Acorn Woodpecker on San Clemente Island 2 Mar (NAW) and another there 1 Apr (VLW) had crossed 100 km of open water. A Gila Woodpecker at the Salton Sea State Recreation Area, Riverside 21 Apr (JFGr) was only the fourth around NESS. A Merlin photographed at Border Field SP San Diego 11 May (MSt) was an unusually late wintering bird/migrant.

Flycatchers through Thrashers

In addition to the Dusky-capped Flycatchers noted in the winter report, one was at Bell Gardens, Los Angeles 10–15 Mar (JFGa). An Ash-throated Flycatcher in the Santa Ynez Mtns. 10 Mar (MAH) was record early for Santa Barbara by two days. Tropical Kingbirds found during the period, but likely wintering locally, were at Sepulveda Basin, Los Angeles 30 Mar (MiS) and near Winterhaven Imperial 11 Mar (MV). An Eastern Kingbird near El Centro 11 May (MV) was somewhat early, followed by others at Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley National Park, Inyo 25 May (PEC) and Harmony Headlands SP, San Luis Obispo 3 Jun (TME). A returning Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was at Rancho, San Diego 3–29 May (EM). Olive-sided Flycatchers arrived as expected in the latter half of April, with one at Brawley 14 Apr (GMcC) being the earliest spring arrival on record in the Salton Sink. A Least Flycatcher at Whittier Narrows Dam, El Monte, Los Angeles 17 Mar–15 Apr (JFGa) had undoubtedly wintered at or near this site. Similarly, a Dusky Flycatcher at San Timoteo Canyon, San Bernardino 12 Mar–2 Apr (MG) likely wintered locally. Vermilion Flycatchers are increasingly widespread in the region, but remain scarcest in the northwest, where one was at Santa Maria, Santa Barbara 30 May–10 Jun (SA).

A good showing of four White-eyed Vireos included one in the northern deserts at Deep Springs, Inyo 16 May (JLF) and coastal birds at Pt. Loma, San Diego 21–26 Jun (SES), Playa Vista, Los Angeles 30 May–6 Jun (DS), and Canyon Park in Costa Mesa, Orange 2–6 Jun (KB). Five Yellow-throated Vireos included birds at Rocky Oaks Park in the Santa Monica Mtns., Los Angeles 22–23 Apr (KLG), Sycamore Canyon in Whittier, Los Angeles 16 May (BO’C), Limestone Canyon near East Irvine, Orange 27 May (BAA, JCu), Costa Mesa 31 May–3 Jun (BDD), and Wilson Cove, San Clemente Island 2 Jun (NJD). A Plumbeous Vireo in Dead Horse Canyon 23 Apr (BS, SLS) was a very early arrival for Inyo. Red-eyed Vireos were at Newport Beach, Orange 22 May (RAE), Pt. Loma 23 May (NJD), Laguna Niguel, Orange 7 Jun (RBMcN), and Redlands, San Bernardino 12 Jun (MG). A pair of Common Ravens in Los Osos 12 Apr–23 May fledged three young for the first known nesting in the Morro Bay coastal region of San Luis Obispo (JCC).

Six early Purple Martins were at Atascadero, San Luis Obispo 18 Mar (MLS). A House Wren at Zzyzx 2 Jun was considered a very late migrant for the eastern Mojave portion of San Bernardino (BD). A rather late Pacific Wren at the Coachella Valley Preserve near Thousand Palms, Riverside 4 Apr (BT) was on the lower deserts where very scarce. A female Black-tailed Gnatcatcher on the south portion of Edwards Air Force Base, southeast Kern 23 Mar (JSF), was barely inside Los Angeles, establishing the second record for that county (the first being a 1938 specimen from Fairmont). Late Ruby-crowned Kinglets on the islands were on San Clemente Island 10 May (JTS) and Santa Rosa Island 19 May (MDS).

Townsend’s Solitaires on San Clemente Island 15 May (BF) and Pt. Loma 20 May (DT) were late for the coast, where they are always scarce. A Swainson’s Thrush of the expected “Russet-backed” group at Cerro Alto, San Luis Obispo 13 Apr was early (P&AV); one near El Centro 16 May (KZK) was an “Olive-backed” (swainsoni group) bird, rarely documented in the region. A singing Wood Thrush at the Coachella Valley Preserve near Thousand Palms 29 May–10 Jun (HBK) was the first ever to be found in California prior to June. A late Varied Thrush was at

Baker, San Bernardino 2–10 May (RW). A Gray Catbird at the Coachella Valley Preserve 1–4 Apr (MG) was very early if not wintering locally; more typical were late spring birds at Santa Barbara 18–20 May (DL; the fifth for Santa Barbara and only the second in spring), Galileo Hill Park 20 May (TEW), and Zzyzx 24 May (BD). The only Brown Thrasher was at Spring Valley, San Diego 14 Apr (RNd).

Wagtails through Buntings

A White Wagtail of the subspecies ocularis at Camp Pendleton, San Diego 19 Apr (RS) was followed by a second bird some 30 miles south at the San Diego River mouth in Ocean Beach 23–26 Apr (JHa, CKS). A male and two begging fledgling Lawrence’s Goldfinches on Santa Rosa Island 19 May (MDS) established the first confirmed breeding for the island. Clay-colored Sparrows not noted during the winter period were at Andulka Park in Riverside 12 Mar (JM-C), Santa Fe Dam, Los Angeles 26 Mar–17 Apr (LT), and Lakewood, Los Angeles 8 Apr (AKL). Singing Black-chinned Sparrows in San Diego at Alpine 22 Feb (DDiT) and Lakeside 25 Feb (THy) were exceptionally early. The only Lark Bunting reported was at Boulevard, San Diego 8 Apr (JPa). To the winter batch of White-throated Sparrow reports can be added sightings at Borrego Springs, San Diego 16 Mar (PA), Loma Linda, San Bernardino 16 Mar–5 Apr (MW), and Mission Viejo, Orange 17 Mar–19 Apr (RSW). A White-crowned Sparrow at the Carrizo Plain National Monument, San Luis Obispo 15 Apr showed characters of the eastern boreal nominate subspecies leucophrys (JW), but the possibility of an oriantha x gambelii intergrade must also be considered; a very late gambelii remained to 27 May in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara (LRB). The dramatic expansion of breeding Dark-eyed (Oregon) Juncos into the coastal lowlands continues at a rapid pace, and the breeding season has begun quite early as well, as exemplified by a juvenile at The Village Green, Los Angeles 17 Apr (RB), and a pair with chicks at Laguna Niguel, Orange 21 Apr (RBMcN).

A high coastal count of 70 migrant Yellow-headed Blackbirds was made at Playa del Rey, Los Angeles 29 Apr (DS). Orchard Orioles were in San Diego at Encinitas 3 Apr (SES) and North Island 12 May (BF), and on the eastern deserts at Baker, San Bernardino 21 May (JEP). A Baltimore Oriole at La Jolla 15 Mar (*SDNHM) had wintered locally, as perhaps did birds at La Mirada, Los Angeles 7–27 Apr (JR) and Elysian Park in Los Angeles 5 Apr (CAD); additional spring vagrants were at Irvine 3 May (AC) and Pt. Loma 15–16 May (SBM, RA). A Tricolored Blackbird at NESS 1 Mar (CMcG) was in an area with few records.

As usual, records of vagrant eastern/boreal wood-warblers were concentrated late in the spring season. Ovenbirds were at Seal Beach, Orange 31 May (MK) and Galileo Hill Park 18–19 May (MD). Less than annual in spring, a Worm-eating Warbler was at Butterbredt Spring at the southern end of the Sierra Nevada above Cantil, east Kern 27 May (RPO). A Northern Waterthrush near Niland, Imperial 14 Apr (SCH) was likely a local winterer; migrants were at Malibu Creek SP, Los Angeles 29 Apr (MO) and Piute Ponds 16 May (DD). A Blue-winged Warbler, less than annual in the region, was north of Bishop, Inyo 27–28 May (CH). Early spring Black-and-white Warblers that likely wintered locally were in Arcadia, Los Angeles 1 Apr (PW), Encinitas, San Diego 4 Apr (JHo), Los Angeles (Elysian Valley) 7 Apr (KLG), Newport Beach, Orange 8 Apr (CF), Oceanside, San Diego 15 Apr (PAG), and Paramount, Los Angeles 20 Apr (CAD); spring vagrants were northeast of Bishop 7 May (CH, RH), at Piute Ponds 18 May (JL), Goleta 24 May (LP), on San Clemente Island 30 May (male) and 6 Jun (female; BF), at Costa Mesa, Orange 1 Jun (AEK) and Lancaster 3 Jun (AKL). Tennessee Warblers were at Ventura 13–16 May (FD), Piute Ponds 14 May (KLG), Los Angeles (Exposition Park) 24 May (KLG), north of Bishop, Inyo 27 May (BSt, SLS), and San Clemente Island 2 Jun (NJD). A Lucy’s Warbler at Santa Maria 1 Apr (JMC) was only the second ever in spring for Santa Barbara; one at NESS (State Recreation Area) 26 Apr (RMcK) was near where the species formerly bred, and up to two in a small patch of mesquites at Edwards Air Force Base 24 Apr–15 May (JSF) were outside the known breeding range but in suitable habitat. The only Kentucky Warbler was at Butterbredt Spring 22 May (PEC). Common Yellowthroats have a prolonged migration through the region, but interestingly the only migrants found this spring on San Clemente Island were between 1 and 7 Jun (NJD).

Hooded Warblers, irregular in their spring vagrancy, were at Malibu 6 May (JMM), Edwards Air Force Base 15 May (JSF), Butterbredt Spring 20 May (ESa), Costa Mesa 5–6 Jun (AA), and Los Osos, San Luis Obispo 1–2 Jun (JSR; one there 16–17 Jun may have been a different individual).  Coastal slope American Redstarts were at Solana Beach, San Diego 26 May (DT) and The Village Green in Los Angeles 11 Jun (RE); four more were on the northern deserts in Inyo 27 May–2 Jun. A Cape May Warbler on San Clemente Island 21 Jun (NJD) established the second island record and first for spring. A singing male Northern Parula in Ventura, Ventura 7 Apr (JMu) was exceptionally early, if indeed a migrant; more expected were fifteen others on the coastal slope 27 Apr–16 Jun and three on the northern deserts 19 May–2 June. A Magnolia Warbler was on San Clemente Island 26 May (NJD) and the deserts hosted one at Shoshone 20 May (CAW) and another at California City, Kern 27–28 May (JCS). The early date and long stay of a Blackburnian Warbler at Mission Bay, San Diego 20 Mar–26 Apr (MH) suggests it was a local winterer. The only Chestnut-sided Warbler was in the San Gabriel Mtns. north of Big Pines, Los Angeles 2 Jun (TAB). A Blackpoll Warbler, casual in spring, was at the Sepulveda Basin 20 May (SN). The eight Palm Warblers found on the coastal slope 29 Mar–17 May show how early this eastern warbler can move through the region in spring, though some of these birds may have wintered locally.

Some 14 Summer Tanagers were found in widely scattered areas, with an especially lost bird at sea about 25 nautical miles west of Piedras Blancas, San Luis Obispo 12 May (MF). Twenty-three Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were found on the coast (including six on the Channel Islands) 18 Mar–6 Jun, with another five on the deserts and interior mountains 6 May–3 Jun. Six Indigo Buntings on the coast and islands 5 May–8 Jun were augmented by one at Birch Creek near Big Pine, Inyo 12 May (SMcL) and Arrastre Creek in the San Bernardino Mtns. 28 May–17 Jun (ET).

Report processed by Randi Minetor, 12 Mar 2021.

Photos–Southern California: Spring 2017

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