Southern California: Spring 2023

The Spring 2023, Mar. 1–May 31

Guy McCaskie

Kimball L. Garrett

Recommended citation:

McCaskie, G., and K. L. Garrett. Spring 2023 Southern California <> North American Birds.

Following the winter’s higher-than-average precipitation much of the region sported a lush mantle of vegetation – a mixed blessing of healthy scrub and woodland growth but also a profusion of invasive annuals destined to dry out and fuel wildfires later in the year. Near-record snowfalls in some of the mountains formed a snowpack that lasted through the spring at higher elevations, and rivers and creeks experienced their highest flows in years. The coastal slope experienced a persistent marine layer through much of the late spring.

The spring was characterized by a generally lackluster movement of normal western migrants. Numbers of migrants recorded at heavily monitored morning-flight sites in Los Angeles, Kern, and San Diego Counties were well below those of 2022. Rarity highlights included the region’s second (and California’s sixth) Tundra Bean-Goose, an exceptionally southerly Parakeet Auklet, three Golden-winged Warblers, the first Wilson’s Plover in eight years, and two Hudsonian Godwits.

Some selected spring arrival dates by county this year include: Western Kingbird 4 Mar San Diego and 8 Mar Imperial; Olive-sided Flycatcher 11 Apr San Luis Obispo and 7 Apr San Diego; Western Wood-Pewee 15 Apr Imperial; Willow Flycatcher 7 May San Diego; Hammond’s Flycatcher 31 Mar Imperial and 11 Apr San Luis Obispo; Gray Flycatcher 15 Apr Santa Barbara; Western Flycatcher 13 Mar Imperial; Bell’s Vireo 22 Mar, San Diego; Gray Vireo 14 Mar San Diego; Cassin’s Vireo 30 Mar Imperial and 5 Apr San Luis Obispo; Warbling Vireo 4 Mar San Diego and 16 Mar Imperial; Swainson’s Thrush 19 Apr Los Angeles; Black-chinned Sparrow 15 Mar San Diego; Hooded Oriole 12 Feb San Diego and 9 Mar Imperial and San Luis Obispo; Bullock’s Oriole 6 Mar San Diego and 9 Mar Imperial; Nashville Warbler 1 Apr San Luis Obispo; Lucy’s Warbler 31 Mar San Diego; Yellow Warbler 29 Mar San Luis Obispo; Black-throated Gray Warbler 14 Mar San Diego and 29 Mar Imperial; Hermit Warbler 23 Mar San Diego and 28 Mar Orange; Wilson’s Warbler 15 Mar Imperial; Western Tanager 1 Apr San Luis Obispo; Black-headed Grosbeak 27 Mar San Luis Obispo and 29 Mar Imperial; Blue Grosbeak 7 Apr San Luis Obispo; and Lazuli Bunting 1 Apr Los Angeles and 6 Apr Imperial.

With sadness, we note the passing of Tom Heindel in July 2023; Tom and his wife Jo carefully documented the birds of the region’s iconic Inyo County for decades, serving as sub-regional editors for that county and having just completed a monumental treatise on that county’s avifauna, to be published by Western Field Ornithologists late this year. They were good friends to the birding community and unparalleled mentors to dozens of birders in their region. Our warmest thoughts go out to Jo and the family, which includes their daughter, Kern County sub-regional editor Kelli Heindel.

Sub-regional Compilers

David M. Compton (Santa Barbara), Sammy Cowell (Ventura), Tom M. Edell (San Luis Obispo), Kimball L. Garrett (Los Angeles), Kelli K. Heindel (Kern), Chris and Rosie Howard (Inyo), Alexander E. Koonce (San Bernardino), Guy McCaskie (San Diego and Imperial), David Rankin (Riverside), Larry Sansone (photo editor), Justyn T. Stahl (San Clemente Island), Ryan S. Winkleman (Orange).

Abbreviations: N.E.S.S. (north end of the Salton Sea, Riverside); S.E.S.S. (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 (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.

Waterfowl through Grebes

A Tundra Bean-Goose with a slightly injured wing but capable of strong flight was first seen at Piute Ponds, Los Angeles Co 6 Mar (Jon Feenstra), then at the adjacent Lancaster Water Reclamation Plant, and finally at nearby Apollo Park, where it remained through the end of the period with semi-domesticated waterfowl. Flocks of Brant migrating northward from wintering grounds in the Gulf of California included 35 at S.E.S.S.(Obsidian Butte) 12 Apr (Guy McCaskie), 10 in the Anza Borrego Desert at Borrego Springs, San Diego Co 21 Mar (David Trissell) and 52 in the San Diego Co mountains on Lake Henshaw 14 Apr (Kyle Fischer); one at Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley National Park 24–25 Mar (Jane Thomas) was far from any area where expected.

The latest of the wintering Eurasian Wigeon was an adult male photographed at Batiquitos Lagoon, San Diego Co 30 Apr (Patti Langen). An apparent Mexican Duck was in Inyokern, Kern Co 20 Mar–10 Apr (Deborah J. House). The wintering Harlequin Duck at Port San Luis, San Luis Obispo Co remained through 29 Apr (Eva Garcia-Gonzalez); an adult male photographed on Horton Creek near Bishop, Inyo Co 4 Apr (Dannique Aalbu) was the first ever inland in Southern California. Four Surf Scoters in Borrego Springs 21 Mar (David Armstrong), along with eight close to the coast on Lower Otay Reservoir, San Diego Co 23 Mar (Matt Sadowski) and a flock of 81 on nearby Sweetwater Reservoir, 21 Mar (Pete Famolaro) were all believed “grounded” by inclement weather while migrating northwestward from the Gulf of California to the Pacific coast. A White-winged Scoter at S.E.S.S. (Young Rd) 12 Apr–31 May+ (Guy McCaskie), had been present through the winter based on the condition of its worn and faded plumage.

More than the expected number of Long-tailed Ducks were known present along the coast with a wintering bird on San Diego’s Mission Bay last reported on 13 May (Derek Hameister), another Bolsa Chica State Beach/Newport Beach, Orange Co remaining to 20 May (Kelly Coles) and a third at Marina del Rey, Los Angeles Co remaining through 16 May (Joanne Bartkus); in addition, single birds were at the Channel Islands Harbor in Ventura 14 Apr (Sangeet Khalsa), at Santa Cruz Island 2 May (Ryan Carle) and at Port San Luis 4–29 Mar (Steve and Janny Tillmann) along with two together at Anacapa Island 4–22 Mar (David Pereksta); one inland, where much rarer, in Bishop since 17 Dec was last seen 17 May (NJO). A Barrow’s Goldeneye at the Prado Basin, Riverside Co 26 Mar–7 Apr (James E. Pike) was the only one known in this region. A Common Merganser at S.E.S.S. (Young Rd) 19 Apr–14 Jun (Reed Robinson) provides one of a very few records for the Salton Sink at this time of the year.

Along the coast, the wintering Red-necked Grebe remained on San Diego Bay through 11 Apr (Paul E. Lehman), another, or the same bird, was at nearby Torrey Pines State Beach 4–6 May (Dan King), the wintering bird in Ventura Harbor remained through 4 Apr (Linus Blomqvist), and up to two were off Point Dume, Los Angeles Co 2–22 Mar (Jon S. Feenstra); one on Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino Co 12–27 May (Scott Taylor) was inland where much rarer.

Doves through Cranes

An Inca Dove on Point Loma, San Diego Co 25 May–2 Jun (Michael Ray) was on the immediate coast where considered casual at best. At least 14 White-winged Doves along the coast between 23 Apr and 31 May were west of this species normal range.

A Common Nighthawk in Bishop 22 May (Chris & Rosie Howard) was the earliest this spring. A Mexican Whip-poor-will at the upper end of Nobel Canyon in the Laguna Mountains, San Diego Co 16–23 May (David Hogan) was likely the same bird here in May 2020, having gone undetected during the past two years.

Migrant Black Swifts were far scarcer than normal, with single birds over Piute Ponds 2 May (Mark Scheel) and Ventura 14 May (Marc Better) being the only ones reported. A Black-chinned Hummingbird near El Centro, Imperial Co 17 Mar (Kenneth Z. Kurland) was the earliest this spring. Exceptionally few migrant Calliope Hummingbirds passed through Southern California as evident by far fewer than expected in San Diego and Los Angeles Cos, only one reported in Orange Co, two in San Luis Obispo Co, one in Riverside Co, and none in Imperial Co. The wintering Broad-billed Hummingbird in Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo Co was last seen 6 Apr (Petra and Jack Clayton).

A Sandhill Crane, present since 29 Dec (Larry Schmahl), far from any known wintering location, remained in Pico Rivera, Los Angeles through the late date of 8 Apr.

Oystercatchers through Terns

An apparent “pure” American Oystercatcher was photographed on Anacapa Island 4 Mar (David Pereksta). The only American Golden-Plover known was one at Bolsa Chica, Orange Co 19 May (Doug M. Lithgow). Two wintering Pacific Golden-Plovers remained at the Tijuana River mouth through 6 May (Matt Sadowski), the one on south San Diego Bay was last seen on 5 May (Justyn T. Stahl); a migrant inland, where very rare, at Piute Ponds 28 Apr–2 May (Kimball L. Garrett) was only the second ever for this well-worked locality. A Wilson’s Plover at Border Field State Park, San Diego Co 20 Mar (Lea Squires and Matt Sadowski) was the first in California since 2015. Forty-five Mountain Plovers were still at the Carrizo Plain National Monument, San Luis Obispo Co 18 Mar (Jason Talbot). A Hudsonian Godwit, a casual spring migrant in California, at Lake Hodges 25 Apr–1 May (Steven Lima) and another at S.E.S.S. (Unit 1) 26–27 Apr (Guy McCaskie) were earlier than expected, since almost all recorded in spring are during May. About 30 Ruddy Turnstones were inland at the Salton Sea between 15 Apr and 5 May, with a high count of 15 at S.E.S.S. (north end of Lack Road) on 5 May (Chris Dean). A Black Turnstone, much rarer inland, was at S.E.S.S. (Young Rd) 5–6 May (Samuel Bressler) and two were there 9 May (Bobby Figarotta). The number of migrant Red Knots inland at the Salton Sea peaked at 492 on 3 May (Robert L. McKernan, Guy McCaskie). The number of northbound Sanderlings at the Salton Sea peaked at 156 on 3 May (Robert L. McKernan), and one at Owens Lake 25 Apr (Chris & Rosie Howard) was the only other reported inland. A Baird’s Sandpiper, very rare in spring, was at Piute Ponds, Los Angeles Co 21 May (Daniel Irons). The Little Stint that spent the past four winters on south San Diego Bay (Saltworks) was present to 19 Apr after having been refound last July (Matt Sadowski). The only Semipalmated Sandpipers known were one photographed on south San Diego Bay on the unexpectedly early date of 1 May (Matt Sadowski) and another inland at Piute Ponds 29 May (Daniel Irons). A Pectoral Sandpiper, rare in spring, at S.E.S.S. 22 Apr (Henry Detwiler) was the only one reported this spring.

Twenty-eight Solitary Sandpipers reported between 5 Apr and 9 May included five together in Baker San Bernardino Co on 25 Apr (Adam Panto). A Red Phalarope, very rare anywhere inland, was in Boron, Kern Co 26 May (Naresh Satyan).

A Pigeon Guillemot at La Jolla, San Diego Co 3–5 Apr (Paul E. Lehman) was earlier than expected, and at the southern extreme of the species’ range—most this far south occur between mid-May and early July. Four Craveri’s Murrelets at the 270 Bank in the San Pedro Channel 21 May (Naresh Satyan) and two at the 30-Mile Bank off San Diego 23 May (Paul E. Lehman) were the earliest ever of this regularly occurring post-breeding visitor to the waters off Southern California. An Ancient Murrelet in La Jolla 1 Mar (Matt Sadowski), two off Huntington Beach, Orange Co 2 Apr (Roger A. Schoedl), two more off the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Los Angeles Co 11 Mar (Chris Dean), two more over the San Pedro Channel 21 May (Naresh Satyan), and one in the Santa Barbara Channel 13 Mar (Patricia Cullen) were the only ones reported. Totally unexpected was a Parakeet Auklet well-photographed 20 km west southwest of Point Loma 19 Mar (Paul E. Lehman) providing the southernmost record for the species along the west coast of North America. A Tufted Puffin photographed 5 km off Mission Bay, San Diego Co 2 Apr (Bo Bockman and Natalie Shapiro) was at the southern limit of this species’ known range and four off San Luis Obispo Co 25 Apr (John Garrett) was a large number for Southern California ocean waters.

Three Sabine’s Gulls inland near Seeley, Imperial Co (Wendy Miller), one at Borrego Springs, San Diego Co (David Armstrong) and six more on Lake Murray, San Diego Co (Matt Sadowski), all on 21 Mar, along with one at Owens Lake, Inyo Co 24 Mar (Deborah J. House), were evidently part of an early northward movement of Sabine’s Gulls from the Gulf of California “grounded” by stormy conditions. A Laughing Gull well-photographed at Tecopa 14 Apr (Emma Cox) provides the first record for Inyo Co; single birds at S.E.S.S. (Obsidian Butte) 4 Mar (Guy McCaskie) and on the coast at the Point Mugu Naval Air Station, Ventura Co 18 Apr (Patricia Deventer) were the only others reported. Far fewer than the expected number of Franklin’s Gulls were present, with about 50 inland in Imperial, Riverside, eastern Los Angeles and Inyo Cos between 1 Apr and 31 May, and one at Refugio State Beach, Santa Barbara Co 25 Apr (Wes T. Fritz) and another at San Ynez River Estuary, Santa Barbara Co 26 May (Nick A. Lethaby) being the only two along the coast. Two Heermann’s Gulls associating with nesting California Gulls at S.E.S.S. (Rock Hill) 31 Mar–19 Apr (Chris Dean) were believed to be the same two present each of the past four years. A Short-billed Gull far inland in Bishop 27 Mar–10 Apr (Eric A. Smith Jr.) was only the fifth ever in Inyo Co. A Lesser Black-backed Gull at the Santa Ynez River Estuary, Santa Barbara Co 9–17 Mar (Alex Castelein) and another there 26 Apr (Nick A. Lethaby) were the northernmost on the Southern California coast.

A Least Tern was at the Tijuana River mouth on the record early date of 24 Mar (Lea Squires); inland, up to three were at S.E.S.S. (Morton Bay) 26–29 Apr (Guy McCaskie) and up to two more were at S.E.S.S. (Wister Unit) 26–30 May+ (Henry Detwiler). Four Gull-billed Terns at S.E.S.S. (Rock Hill) 19 Mar (Gary Longo) were the earliest this year. An Elegant Tern at Fig Lagoon near Seeley 2 Apr (Guy McCaskie) and two more there 19 Apr (Guy McCaskie) were far inland ware considered a casual vagrant.

Loons through Herons

A Pacific Loon on Fig Lagoon 19 Apr (Guy McCaskie) was the only one well inland. Nine Common Loons on Lake Henshaw 14 Apr (Kyle Fischer) were no doubt “grounded” by stormy weather when migrating northward from the Gulf of California.

Three Murphy’s Petrels were seen off Santa Barbara Co and five more off San Luis Obispo Co by observers on repositioning cruises from San Diego to Vancouver on 27 Apr (Matt Dulforth) and 3 May (Ron Thorn). A Hawaiian Petrel was 82 km west of Point Arguello, Santa Barbara Co and two more were off San Luis Obispo Co 25 Apr (Brian L. Sullivan). A Cook’s Petrel was over the 30-Mile Bank off San Diego 23 May (Paul E. Lehman). A Flesh-footed Shearwater, rare off Southern California, was over outer Estero Bay, San Luis Obispo Co 14 May (Russ A. Namitz). A Short-tailed Shearwater at Point La Jolla in La Jolla 1 Mar (Matt Sadowski) was the only one reported. Single Manx Shearwaters, rare over Southern California’s oceanic waters, were off the Palos Verdes Peninsula 11 Mar (Chris Dean) and San Diego 7 Mar (Hanyang Ye) along with up to two visible from shore in Del Mar, San Diego Co 9–10 Mar (Paul E. Lehman).

A Wood Stork at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park near Escondido, San Diego Co 20–23 Apr (Eric Lutomski) then at Lindo Lake 24–26 Apr (Alphonsus Deodatus) was believed to be the same bird that has been moving about Southern California during the past five years.

A sub-adult Masked Booby was photographed five miles off Ocean Beach, San Diego Co 18 Mar by persons on a whale watching boat. An adult Nazca Booby was photographed off San Diego 20 May (Brook Bembenek). Single Red-footed Boobies were 5.5 km off Point Loma, San Diego Co 15 Apr (Justine T. Stahl and Nicole Desnoyers), off Santa Catalina Island 23–30 Apr (Ted Cable and Mitchell Bailey), and southeast of San Clemente Island 24 Apr (Van Pierzalowski). A flock of seven Brown Pelicans at N.E.S.S. (North Shore) 24 May (Robert L. McKernan) were probably early post-breeding birds dispersing northward from the Gulf of California. A Neotropic Cormorant at the Ventura River Estuary 10 May (Sangeet Khalsa) was the northernmost on the coast; however, one at Apollo Lake in Lancaster 7–18 Mar (Chris Dean), and one in Bishop 27 Mar–5 Jun (Eric A. Smith Jr.), along with one remaining in Bakersfield, Kern Co to 16 Apr (John C. Wilson), one in Hesperia, San Bernardino Co  16 Apr (Bill Deppe), and another in Yucca Valley, San Bernardino Co 27–31 May+ (Matthew Grube) were the northernmost inland.

A Tricolored Heron on south San Diego Bay 13–15 May (Paul E. Lehman) was the only one reported. A Reddish Egret at the N.E.S.S. through 20 May (Robert L. McKernan) was the only one inland. The northernmost Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was one on Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo Co 9–17 May (Kathy Degner).

Hawks through Falcons

A Mississippi Kite, a very rare vagrant to California, was in Lone Pine, Inyo Co 25 May–22 Jul (Russell D. Kokx). A Common Black Hawk at the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve, Riverside Co 16–28 Apr (Jason St. Pierre) was at a location where this hawk may nest. A pair of Harris’s Hawks at Shelter Valley in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park and another pair in Jacumba, San Diego Co were both attending nests at the end of May (Paul E. Lehman); in addition, one was photographed in flight farther to the north over San Timoteo Creek, Riverside Co 26 Mar (Matt Grube). Seven migrant Broad-winged Hawks were reported with single birds in the Tijuana River Valley, San Diego Co 17 Mar (Edward Raynor), over Bear Divide near Santa Clarita, Los Angeles Co 14 May (Raphael Nussbaumer), near the Tejon Pass, Los Angeles Co 20 Apr (Daniel Irons), along the Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara Co 14 May (David M. Compton), at the Kern National Wildlife Refuge 3 May (Susan Steele), south of Tecopa, Inyo Co 24 Apr (Nora Livingston), and at Piute Springs, San Bernardino Co. 27 May (Todd Easterla). An impressive 16,181 Swainson’s Hawks were counted passing northward over Borrego Springs, San Diego Co between 1 Mar and 30 Apr (Hal Cohen) with a high count of 2,546 on 31 Mar (Hal Cohen); in addition, about 7,000 were counted moving northward through Los Angeles Co, during the period, with the great majority along the southern foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and the Tejon Pass (Lance Benner). Wintering Zone-tailed Hawks lingered in the coastal lowlands to 5 Apr near Ramona, San Diego Co (Brennan Mulrooney), 10 Apr in Ojai, Ventura Co (Jerry Maryniuk), and 7 May at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park near Escondido, San Diego Co (Kiandra Mitchell); one at Morongo Valley, San Bernardino Co 28 Mar (Eric Wier) and another at the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve, Riverside Co 21 May (Jason St. Pierre) were at locations where previously reported. A Zone-tailed Hawk at Borrego Springs 21 Mar (Robert Theriault) was with migrant Swainson’s Hawks, one was in the mountains at Lake Arrowhead, San Bernardino Co. 29 Apr (Brock Dolman), another in the Laguna Mountains, San Diego Co 6 Apr (Marti Horman) was in an area where nesting is possible, and one at Furnace Creek Ranch 4 Apr (Nancy Bruce) was the northernmost.

An apparent hybrid Ladder-backed x Hairy Woodpecker was photographed at Holiday Lake, Los Angeles Co 22 Mar–13 Apr (Jack Robert Scrimger and Naresh Satyan). A White-headed Woodpecker at Wilkerson, south of Bishop 16 Apr (DR) was unexpected. An exceptionally late migrant Merlin was at the Tejon Pass on 7 May (Daniel Irons).

Flycatchers through Swallows

The wintering Dusky-capped Flycatcher at Peck Park in San Pedro, Los Angeles Co was last seen on 4 May (Kevin Fistanic), and the wintering bird at the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve, Riverside Co was present to 7 Apr (Eric Heisey). Late-staying wintering Tropical Kingbirds were recorded to 26 May at Coronado, San Diego Co (Paul E. Lehman, Brian Flick) and 1 Jun at Bolsa Chica Reserve, Orange Co (Brian E. Daniels); casual as a spring vagrant in the interior, one was at Shoshone, Inyo Co 25–26 May (John Sterling). The only Eastern Kingbird reported was at Furnace Creek Ranch, Inyo Co 30 May (Scott B. Terrill). A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was at Hollister Ranch near Gaviota, Santa Barbara Co 30 Apr (Rob Lindsay). Casual in spring, a Least Flycatcher was photographed at Piute Ponds, Los Angeles Co 22 May (William Tyrer).

Three White-eyed Vireos were found late in the period (followed by others in the early summer); singles were at Palo Verde Ecological Reserve, Riverside Co 20 May (Jason St. Pierre),

Lake Murray in La Mesa, San Diego Co 27–31 May+ (Matt Sadowski), and Chollas Creek in City Heights, San Diego Co 27–31 May+ (Lesley Handa). Yellow-throated Vireos were at Loma Portal, San Diego Co 8–10 May (Michelle Haglund), and Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa near Newbury Park, Ventura Co 14 May (Ryan Burnett). A Blue-headed Vireo at the Rolling Hills Landfill and Chandler Park, Los Angeles Co 21–25 Apr (Bobby Trusela) was likely a spring vagrant, as this area was well-covered through the winter. The only Red-eyed Vireo found during the period was in Santa Barbara 28 May (Jim Hodgson).

In the wandering corvid department, three Pinyon Jays were in the Old Woman Mts., San Bernardino Co 6 Mar (Reina Galvin), a Steller’s Jay was at an unusual desert locality at Vallecito, San Diego Co 4–9 Mar (Britta Lee Shane), and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays included one at the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve 20 Mar (Tim Rodenkirk), three along the Randsburg-Barstow Rd., San Bernardino Co 9 Mar (Jim Tietz), and one between Barstow and Ft. Irwin, San Bernardino Co 9 May (Aaron Keller).

Bank Swallows are generally scarce migrants through the region; notable high counts this spring included a Ventura Co record total of seven on 3 May at the Ventura Settling Ponds (Kirill Shtengel), and an impressive 20 near Gorman, Los Angeles Co 7 May (Daniel Irons). A Purple Martin at Lake Murray 15 Mar (Matt Sadowski) established the earliest ever spring record for San Diego Co, and an amazing concentration of 95+ at Lake Cuyamaca, San Diego Co 1 May (Matthew Fedler) was probably the largest flock found in the region in decades.

Kinglets through Finches

A late Ruby-crowned Kinglet was at Piute Ponds 21 May (Daniel Irons) and wandering Golden-crowned Kinglets were on the desert at Pearblossom, Los Angeles Co 9–11 Apr (Mark and Janet Scheel) and in creosote scrub 10 mi. east of Essex, San Bernardino Co 24 May (John Green). Recorded vocalizations of a Winter Wren at the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve 7 Apr (Eric Heisey) would appear to confirm it as that species.

An exceptional spring showing of Gray Catbirds involved 11 birds; on the coastal slope birds were at Santa Barbara City College 19–20 Apr (Cameron Egan), Willow Springs Park in Long Beach 16 May (Merryl Edelstein), Grand Terrace, San Bernardino Co 27 May (Anthony Lott), Seal Beach, Orange Co 29 May–1 Jun (Brian E. Daniels), and Wilson Cove, San Clemente I. 31 May (Nicole J. Desnoyers); others were on the deserts at Palm Desert, Riverside Co 14 Mar (eBird; possibly wintering locally), Agua Caliente County Park, San Diego Co 10 May (Nancy Christensen), Piute Ponds 21 May (Daniel Irons) and another 8 Jun (Chris Dean), Shoshone, Inyo Co 25–26 May (John Sterling), and China Ranch, Inyo Co 26 May (Lucas Corneliussen). A Brown Thrasher at Sorrento Valley, San Diego Co 7 Mar (Kyle Fischer) was early for a spring vagrant and likely wintering locally; others were at El Centro 27 Apr–31 May+ (Kenneth Z. Kurland), Desert Center, Riverside Co 27 May (Curtis Marantz), and Harmony Headland S. P., San Luis Obispo Co 28 May (Van Pierszalowski).

Townsend’s Solitaires lingered from the fall/winter incursion into April, with later birds on San Clemente I. 3–5 May (Nicole J. Desnoyers, Ben C. Stalheim) and at Laguna Beach, Orange Co 13 May (Doug M. Lithgow, Bettina E. Eastman). Three nesting pairs of Mountain Bluebirds were found in the Cima Dome area of the eastern Mojave Desert, San Bernardino Co 11–21 May (Jim Tietz).

A male Evening Grosbeak remained in Beaumont, Riverside Co from Feb to 13 Mar (Steve Edelman), and another was in the Santa Ynez Mtns., Santa Barbara Co 23 Mar (Hugh P Ranson). Twenty-four Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches found during a major snow event on 1 Mar in Panamint Mtns. established one of the few reports from this range (Jake Schas). Casual in Inyo Co., a Purple Finch was at Shoshone 7 Apr (Forrest English). Away from expected areas of occurrence, up to 7 Cassin’s Finches were in the Santa Ynez Mtns., Santa Barbara Co 23–27 Mar (Hugh P. Ranson) and up to three were on the coast at Carlsbad, San Diego Co 10–28 Mar (Jane Mygatt). A European Greenfinch in Orange Co first found at Seal Beach 23 Jan was later at the adjacent Los Alamitos Retarding Basin 12–30 May, and what was almost certainly the same bird was at Huntington Central Park 4 Apr since all sightings were of a bird with a red band on the right leg; although obviously an escapee, this adds a data point for interpreting records of Palearctic finches in the region. Itinerant “Type 2” Red Crossbills bred successfully in planted pines in the Antelope Valley, Los Angeles Co; at Apollo Park nest-building was noted on 9 and 12 Mar (Jill Dale, et al.) and fledglings were first noted 2 May (Daniel Irons), and nearby at the Rancho Sierra Golf Course a fledgling was seen 21 May (Jon L. Fisher). Up to seven crossbills were at Cuyamaca Rancho in the San Diego Co mountains through the period; in Kern Co up to three were at California City 18–26 May (Sergey Pavlov et al.) and singles were at Ridgecrest 31 Mar–1 Apr (Rick Brown) and Inyokern 3 Apr, 2 May, and 21 May (Bob and Susan Steele).

Longspurs through Icterids

A lingering coastal Lapland Longspur was at Ocean Beach, San Diego Co 12–13 Mar (Melinda Morang). Lush annual growth following heavy winter rains proved attractive to Cassin’s Sparrows, with five reported at three locations in the Carrizo Plain National Monument 9–21 May (R. J. Baltierra, Tom M. Edell, Curtis A Marantz, Kevin J. Zimmer); one at the Ventura Settling Ponds 26–27 Apr (Sammy Cowell) established the first Ventura Co record.

Clay-colored Sparrows not noted in the winter report but some of which may have wintered locally were at Colorado Lagoon in Long Beach 9 Mar–16 Apr (Robert A. Hamilton), nw. Goleta 7 Apr (Dar Roberts), Lakewood, Los Angeles Co 9 Apr (Christine Jacobs), Santa Barbara City College 12–14 Apr (Cameron Egan), Lake Murray, San Diego Co 16 Apr (Matt Sadowski), and the Los Angeles River in Long Beach 18 Apr (Richard Barth); later birds were at North Island (Coronado), San Diego Co 7 May (Brian Flick) and Furnace Creek Inn, Inyo Co 17 May (Sergey Pavlov). A Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco at Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego Co 13 May (Marcie Mason) was quite late for that boreal/eastern taxon. A scattering of White-throated Sparrows were noted through April, with later birds found at Point Loma 6 May (Paul E. Lehman), Tejon Pass near Gorman, Los Angeles Co 7 May (Daniel Irons), Huntington Beach 13 May (Raphael Nussbaumer), Los Osos, San Luis Obispo Co 17 May (Jim S. Royer), and San Clemente I. 17 May (Ben C. Stalheim). A Harris’s Sparrow was in the Cheviot Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles 11–27 Apr (Nicholas Maricich). Overwintering Nelson’s Sparrows at the Santa Ynez R. Estuary, Santa Barbara Co increased to four on 11 Mar (Brad K. Hines), with up to two present as late as 6 May (Lisa Walker-Roseman); in San Diego Co up to two were singing at San Elijo Lagoon 26 Apr–8 May (Jimmy McMorran). Swamp Sparrows not found earlier in the winter were at Scorpion Campground, Santa Cruz I. 13 Mar (Logan Kahle), Santa Barbara (Andre Clark Bird Refuge) 25 Mar–9 Apr (Mark A Holmgren), Rancho Mission Viejo, Orange Co 1–17 Apr (Thomas E. Wurster), Santee, San Diego Co 4 Apr (Brennan Mulrooney), Butterbredt Spring, Kern Co 27–28 Apr (Jonathan Eckerson), and Gorman 14 May (Daniel Irons).

An adult male Bobolink at Butterbredt Spring 21 May (Annie Meyer) was the only one reported this spring. Orchard Orioles reported during the period were at Mission Oaks Park, Camarillo, Ventura Co 20 Feb–13 Mar (Marc Better), Carpinteria, Santa Barbara Co 20 Mar (Mario Borunda), Behringer Park in La Mirada, Los Angeles Co 20–27 Mar (Jonathan Rowley), Lone Pine 10 Apr (Russell D. Kokx), and Desert Center, Riverside Co 18 May (Dave Goodward).

An adult male Hooded Oriole at Piute Ponds 2 Mar (Kimball L. Garrett) was exceptionally early for the desert portion of Los Angeles Co. The Streak-backed Oriole that wintered in Lone Pine, Inyo Co remained to 19 Apr (Russell D. Kokx). Apparently wintering Baltimore Orioles were at Satellite Park in Cerritos, Los Angeles Co 9–11 Apr (Thomas Lopez) and at Dana Point , Orange Co 7 Apr (Sue Henry); spring vagrants were found coastally at Signal Hill, Long Beach 26 Apr (Keith Quinlivan), Wilson Cove, San Clemente I. 19 May (Nicole J. Desnoyers), Carlsbad 20–21 May (Tito Gonzalez), La Jolla 23 May (Tim Swain), Point Loma 25 May (Michael Ray), and Arroyo Verde Park, Ventura Co 26 May (David Pereksta), while others on the deserts were at S.E.S.S. (Salton Sea NWR headquarters) 26 Apr (Guy McCaskie) and Sandy Valley on the Nevada border, San Bernardino Co 26 May (Todd Easterla, John Sterling). A breeding colony of the rapidly declining Tricolored Blackbird at Quail Lake, Los Angeles Co had some 600-700 birds on 23–28 Apr (Van Pierszalowski, Naresh Satyan); an adult male at Desert Center, Riverside Co 18–27 May (David Goodward) was a bit out of range. A Bronzed Cowbird at La Quinta, Riverside Co 12 May, with two there 14 May, were present for a third consecutive spring (Anne Cheung); another was at Baker, San Bernardino Co 2–14 Jun (Jim Pike).


Spring vagrant Ovenbirds were in San Diego Co at Coronado 15 May (Elizabeth Copper) and Point Loma 16–22 May (Paul E. Lehman). A Northern Waterthrush at Tecolote Canyon in San Diego 23 Mar (Randy Walker) was likely wintering locally, but birds at Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park near San Pedro, Los Angeles Co 5 May (Bobby Trusela), the San Diego Zoo grounds 11 May (Trent R. Stanley), Agua Caliente County Park on the San Diego Co desert 14 May (Beth Pearson), and Deep Springs College, Inyo Co 18 May (Dessi E. Sieburth) were spring migrants. Less than annual in the region, three Golden-winged Warblers were found this spring: one at El Centro 17 May (Chris Dean, Guy McCaskie) established the first record for Imperial Co and others were at Butterbredt Spring, Kern Co 17 May (Bob and Susan Steele) and Coronado 20 May (Paul E. Lehman). Fourteen Black-and-white Warblers on the coastal slope and islands 7 Mar–30 May were mostly spring vagrants, though some March and early April birds were likely wintering; a male was at Palo Verde Ecological Reserve, Riverside Co 12 Mar–14 May (Jason St. Pierre), with female there 7 Apr (Eric Heisey), and later migrants included four at Butterbredt Spring 6–14 May and singles at Birchim Canyon, Inyo Co 12 May (Karen Ferrell) and Goodale Creek Campground north of Independence, Inyo Co 15 May (Alan Bade). Tennessee Warblers at Laguna Niguel Regional Park, Orange Co 12 Mar–20 Apr (Beth A Fife, Becky Turley), Mission Viejo 19 Mar (Thomas F. Fangrow), Griffith Park (Old Zoo grounds), Los Angeles Co 7–24 Apr (Timothy Aaron), Mission Valley, San Diego Co 16 Apr (Ian Swirka), and Signal Hill near Long Beach 23 Apr (Christine Jacobs, Kim Moore, Becky Turley) were likely local winterers, though some may have been early migrants; nine spring vagrants were on the coastal slope and islands 13–28 May along with individuals at El Centro 20 May (Kenenth Z. Kurland) and 27 May (Guy McCaskie). Lucy’s Warblers were found coastally at Coronado 4 Mar (Paul E. Lehman) and Irvine 7 Apr (Alan Barbour).

Hooded Warblers were at Signal Hill in Long Beach 23–24 Apr (Mark Scheel), two different sites on Point Loma 24 Apr–4 May (Paul E. Lehman) and 21 May (Joe Alsadi), Wilson Cove on San Clemente I. 27 Apr (Melissa A. Booker), and Butterbredt Spring 29 May (Abraham Fleischman). The latest lingering wintering American Redstart was an adult male at Huntington Central Park, Orange Co which remained as late as 10 May (Kelly Coles); migrants included one at Del Mar, San Diego Co 21 May (David Trissel), nine on the deserts 28 Apr–29 May, and one at Pismo State Beach (Oceano Campground) 8 May–16 Jun (Kevin J. Zimmer) that may have been a returning summering bird. Casual in the region, a Cape May Warbler was at Eisenhower Park in Orange, Orange Co 18–19 May (Sean Crockett). There was a strong showing of Northern Parulas this spring, totaling nearly 50 birds, with four in San Luis Obispo Co 8 May–9 Jun, four in Santa Barbara Co 9–28 May, two in Ventura Co 27 Apr–17 May, seven on the coastal slope of Los Angeles Co 3–25 May, 14 in San Diego Co 28 Apr–30 May, up to two on San Clemente I. 18–19 May, one in Redlands, San Bernardino Co 13 May, and 15 on the deserts 27 Mar–29 May. A Magnolia Warbler was seen from a research vessel off Pt. Diablo, San Luis Obispo Co 27 May (Michael Force), and others were at Frazier Park, Kern Co 25 May (Daniel Irons) and South Haiwee Reservoir, Inyo Co 26 May (Jeremy Cowan). A Bay-breasted Warbler at Gum Grove Park in Seal Beach, Orange Co 8–22 Apr (Brad D. Dawson) may have wintered locally; a spring vagrant was at Lone Pine, Inyo Co 17 May (Russell D. Kokx). Also likely wintering locally was a Blackburnian Warbler at West Coyote Hills Tree Park in Fullerton, Orange Co 8–19 Mar (Jonathan Rowley) and a Chestnut-sided Warbler at Fashion Valley in San Diego, San Diego Co 8–28 Apr (Cindy P.); a spring vagrant of the latter species was at California City, Kern Co 26 May (Sam Baxter-Bray). A Blackpoll Warbler at Cottonwood Spring in Death Valley N. P., Inyo Co 7 May (Chris and Rosie Howard) was one of earliest spring arrivals ever in California. Always scarcer in spring than fall, a single Black-throated Blue Warbler was at Baker, San Bernardino Co 27 May (Todd Easterla). Since wintering Palm Warblers can remain into April and even early May, and spring vagrants skew relatively early for an “eastern” warbler, it’s hard to categorize records this spring from San Elijo Lagoon, San Diego Co 24 Mar (Candace Larson), Seaside Park in Long Beach 6 Apr (Manuel Duran), Ralph Dills Park in Paramount, Los Angeles Co 24 Apr (Joyce Brady), Sepulveda Basin, Los Angeles Co 29 Apr–3 May (Gjon Hazard), the lower Los Angeles River in Long Beach 2 May (Richard Barth), and the Tijuana River Valley at Dairy Mart Pond 16 Apr (Amy Rangel) and Spooners Mesa 22 Apr (Dory Owen); some of these may have been wintering. Yellow-throated Warblers were at Furnace Creek Ranch 19 May (Dessi E. Sieburth) and the Shandin Hills neighborhood of San Bernardino 22 May (Sharif Uddin). The spring’s lone Prairie Warbler was at Proctor Valley, San Diego Co 23 May (Paul Marvin). A

Black-throated Green Warbler at Chollas Reservoir, San Diego Co 2–16 Apr (Barbara Wise) was likely wintering locally, but spring vagrants were at Refugio Creek Canyon, Santa Barbara Co 8 May (Nick A. Lethaby), Point Loma (Nazarene University) 21–23 May (Joe Alsadi), and Point Loma (Rosecroft) 24–26 May (Paul E. Lehman). Sixteen migrant Hermit Warblers in morning flight at North Shore, Riverside Co 10 May (Robert McKernan) may be highest total ever reported in Salton Sink. A Painted Redstart at Shoshone 9 Apr (Molly Hansen) established the eighth record for Inyo Co.


A Hepatic Tanager, a species with a tiny breeding population in California, was at Caruthers Canyon in the New York Mtns., San Bernardino Co 13 May (Gary McLarty), although much of the habitat here burned late in the summer in the massive York Fire; no Hepatics were found in traditional breeding locations in the San Bernardino Mts. this spring. Some 80 Summer Tanagers were scattered throughout the region, including three spring vagrants on San Clemente I. 17–24 May and 16 in Inyo Co 3–31 May. A male Western Tanager at Vallecito County Park 19–27 Mar (Deborah Cipolla-Dennis) was the earliest ever spring arrival in San Diego Co. Nearly annual in very late spring, a Scarlet Tanager was at Point Loma 28–31 May (Mike Ray). Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were off the charts this spring; excluding two early March birds that were undoubtedly wintering, there were at least 33 birds on the coastal slope and islands 26 Apr–4 Jun, another 14 on the deserts 7–28 May, along with a pair at Big Bear City in the San Bernardino Mtns. 4 Jun (Robin Eliason). A Black-headed Grosbeak at La Jolla, San Diego Co 8 Mar (Bridget Spencer) had likely wintered locally as spring migrants are not normally expected until the last week of March.

A Lazuli Bunting at Vallecito 20 Mar (Britta Lee Shane) was earliest ever spring arrival in San Diego Co. Ten Indigo Buntings were on the coastal slope and islands 22 Apr–5 Jun, plus a likely wintering bird in Montecito, Santa Barbara Co 12–18 Mar (Adrian O’Loghlen), and another 14 on the deserts 14 May–3 Jun. A male Painted Bunting at Wilson Cove 18–20 May (Nicole J. Desnoyers) was the eighth for San Clemente I.; another male was at French Springs in the Inyo Mtns. 30 Apr (Russell D. Kokx). The spring’s lone Dickcissel was at Borrego Springs, San Diego Co 3 May (Nancy Christensen).

Report processed by Eric DeFonso, 27 Dec 2023.

Photos–Southern California: Spring 2023

This Yellow-throated Warbler at Shandin Hills in San Bernardino, San Bernardino Co on 22 May 2023, was one of only two found in Southern California this spring. Photo © Sharif Uddin.

This male Cape May Warbler in brightly colored summer dress, photographed in Eisenhower Park in Orange, Orange Co, on 19 May 2023, was present 18-19 May, and the only spring vagrant Cape May Warbler found in Southern California this year. Photo © Curtis A. Marantz.

This female Golden-winged Warbler, one of three known in Southern California in late May, was in Coronado, San Diego Co on 20 May 2023. Photo © Barbara Wise.

This singing Cassin’s Sparrow at the Carrizo Plain National Monument in San Luis Obispo Co California on 13 May 2023, was one of at least five in the area 9-21 May. These birds were likely responding to a profusion of annual plants following higher-than-average winter rains. Photo © Curtis A. Marantz.

This singing White-eyed Vireo, one of three known in Southern California in May, photographed at Lake Murray in La Mesa, San Diego Co, on the day it was found, remained from 27 May 2023 into the summer. Photo © Patti Langen.

An adult Mississippi Kite, photographed on 26 May 2023, was present at Edwards Field in Lone Pine, Inyo Co California, 25-26 May 2023. Photo © Russell Kokx.

This Parakeet Auklet in basic plumage 20 km off Point Loma in San Diego Co California ocean waters on 19 Mar 2023 establishes the southernmost record on the Pacific Ocean coast of North America. Photo © Barbara Wise.

This female Hudsonian Godwit, one of two present in Southern California in April, photographed on 26 Apr 2023, was on Lake Hodges, San Diego Co 25 Apr through 1 May 2023. Photo © Tsaiwei Olee.

This Wilson’s Plover associating with Snowy Plovers at Border Field State Park in San Diego Co on 20 Mar 2023 was the first in California since 2015. Photo © Matt Sadowski.

The Tundra Bean-Goose, present in the area around Lancaster, Los Angeles Co California since 6 Mar 2023, photographed at the Lancaster Water Reclamation Plant on 8 Mar 2023. Note the yellow-orange band along with the “grinning patch” on the short bill, which differentiates the Tundra from the very similar Taiga Bean-Goose. Photo © Thomas Ford-Hutchinson.