Southern California: Winter 2019-20

Winter 2019-20: 1 Dec–29 Feb

Guy McCaskie

Kimball L. Garrett

Recommended citation:

McCaskie, G., and Garrett, K. L. 2021. Winter 2019-20: Southern California. <> North American Birds.

Following a significant cold storm on Thanksgiving, another cold and wet period began just after Christmas. Until then, rainfall totals for the season were well above average. However, January was dry and February was the driest on record for much of the region, so the winter’s overall precipitation ended up being a bit below normal.  A moderate mid-winter snowpack in the higher mountains fed streams late in the period when it began to melt.

Avian highlights during the winter were somewhat muted. There were amazing concentrations of waterbirds along the northeastern shore of the Salton Sea, with some rarities among them, including a Garganey among 600+ Blue-winged Teal, a Black-headed Gull among some 12,000 Bonaparte’s Gulls, and exceptional numbers of scoters including several Blacks. Two Emperor Geese in San Luis Obispo were the first in the region since 2002, and Inyo County hosted two Field Sparrows.

Continuing through the period was a trend of increases in southerly waterbirds, including boobies, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, and American Oystercatchers.

Contributors (sub-regional compilers in boldface):

Alex Abela, Paulette Ache, Chistopher Adler, Jim Aichele, Wayne C. Ball, Nicholas A. Barber, David Bell (DBe), Joel Barrett, Nick L. Belardes, Thomas A. Benson, Ari Boehm (ABo), Andy Brumbaugh (ABr), David Buettner (DBu), Steve Burkhalter, Ben Byerly, John B. Callender, Steven W. Cardiff, Jay C. Carroll, Jeff Chemnick (JCh), Nancy Christensen, Vereda Ciervo, Petra and Jack Clayton (P&JC), David M. Compton (Santa Barbara), Keith Condon, Daniel S. Cooper, Elizabeth A. Copper, Patrick Crooks, Greg Cross, Eric B. Culbertson

Contributors (cont.): Brian E. Daniels, Cynthia J. Daverin, John Deacon (JDe), Chris A. Dean, Alexander DeBarros, William R. Deppe, Jay Desgrosselier (JDes), Sherry Dorris, Adam Dudley, Joseph Dunn (JDu), Tom M. Edell (San Luis Obispo), Janet Ellis, Tom F. Fangrow, Martin and Dennis Fee (M&DF), Adele Fergusson, Jon L. Fisher, Thomas Ford-Hutchinson, Nathan French, Teale Friscoe, Wes T. Fritz, John F. Garrett, Karl Garrett, Kimball L. Garrett (Los Angeles), Frank and Susan Gilliland (F&SG), Mark A. Girardeau, Tito Gonzalez, Jesse Grantham, Aaron Gyllenhaal, Charity Hagen, Robert A. Hamilton, Jeff Hanson, Erin Hart, Gjon C. Hazard, Tom & Jo Heindel (Inyo), Kelli K. Heindel (Kern), Paul and Tristan Herwood (P&TH), Alison Hiers, Zachary Hirst, Don R. Hoechlin, Mark A. Holmgren, Chris and Rosie Howard (C&RH), Y. Mike Huang, Terry Hurst, Christine Irwin, Kenneth Isaacson, Adam Jackson (AJa), Dan Jehl, Adam Johnson (AJo), Nancy A. Kappelmann, Anitra Kaye, Barbara J. Kelley, Charlie Kerr, Russell D. Kokx, Alexander E. Koonce (San Bernardino), Ken and Brenda Kyle (K&BK), Alex Lamoreaux, Kevin Lapp, Paul E. Lehman, Joan E. Lentz, Tim T. Lenz, Mike Lesnik, Nick A. Lethaby, Kerry M. Lozito, Payton Lykins, Curtis A. Marantz, Mariela Martinez (MMar), Bruce Mast, Michael Mavrovouniootis (MMav), Daniel Maxwell, Guy McCaskie (San Diego and Imperial), Chet McGaugh (Riverside), Robert McKernan, Jimmy McMorran, Jim A. Mentgen, Wendy Miller, Carla Mingione, Andre Moncrief, Malcom Moniz (MMon), James R. Morris, Steve G. Morris, Larry Moskovitz, Brennan Mulrooney, Stephen J. Myers, Sara Ngo, Cathy Nichols, Patti Nisbet, Robert T. Patton, David Pereksta, Rita M. Phillips, James E. Pike, Norman H. Pillsbury, Ryan Pottinger, Rafa Ramirez (RRa), Hugh P. Ranson, Sandra L. Remley, Casey Richart (CRi), Rick Ridgeway (RRi), Jim Roberts, William Rockey, Kerry Ross, Martin Ruane (MRua), Mark Rubke (MRub), Lisa Ruby, Casey Ryan (CRy), Matt Sadowski (MaS), Mike Sanders (MiS), Jose L. Sandoval, Brian Sandstrom (BSa), Larry Sansone (LSa), Naresh Satyan, Bob A. Schallmann, Mark and Janet Scheel (M&JS), Larry Schmahl (LSc), Matthew Schmahl (MSc), Gaelen Schnare (GSc), Peter T. Schneekloth, Roger A. Schoedl, Adam J. Searcy (Ventura), Ryan J. Seppala, Bill Shanbrom (BSh), Dessi E. Sieburth, Brad C. Singer, Greg Slak (GSl), Jenny Slaughter (JSl), Robert O. Snowden, Justyn T. Stahl (San Clemente Island), C. K. Staurovsky, Susan L. Steele, John T. Sterling, Mike D. Stiles, Karen Suarez, Maury L. Swoveland, Julie Szabo (JSz), Ryan S. Terrill, Robert Thoren, Luke Tiller, Steve and Janny Tillmann (S&JT), Eric Tipton, Bobby Trusela (BTr), Becky Turley (BTu), Sharif Uddin, David Vander Pluym, Todd J. Vogel, Kenneth Weaver, Noreen Weeden, Eric Wier, Jan S. Wilson, Ryan S. Winkleman (Orange). Many additional observers who could not be individually acknowledged submitted reports – all have our thanks.

Abbreviations: FCR (Furnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley National Park, Inyo); GHP (Galileo Hill Park in extreme e. Kern); NESS (north end of the Salton Sea, Riverside); PMNAS. (Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station, Ventura); SESS (south end of the Salton Sea, Imperial); SJWA (San Jacinto Wildlife Area near Lakeview, Riverside); VCGP (Ventura County Game Preserve near Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station, Ventura). 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.


Two Emperor Geese at Piedras Blancas, San Luis Obispo 9 Jan (JAM) and 11–15 Mar (P & JC) with one remaining to 17 Mar were the first in Southern California for more than a decade; the last record was one at Santa Rosa Island 16 Jan–6 Mar 2002. Two Trumpeter Swans were in Pico Rivera, Los Angeles 27 Dec–9 Jan (F&SG), and what may well have been the same two were at the Mojave Narrows Regional Park 27 Jan (WRD); the latter established the 1st record for San Bernardino. Another Trumpeter Swan in Bishop, Inyo 5 Dec–10 Mar (TJV) was the same bird present here during the past two winters. Up to three Tundra Swans at SJWA 17 Nov–27 Feb (CMcG) and an adult at SESS (Unit 1) 14 Jan–3 Mar (P & TH) were the southernmost of the few reported in this region. The female Garganey found at NESS (Salton Sea SRA) 10 Nov (BSa) remained through 30 Mar. The remarkable number of Blue-winged Teal at NESS peaked over 600 in January (RMcK). At least 35 Eurasian Wigeon were reported, with most along the coast as expected. The only Eurasian Green-winged Teal identified was a male in Chula Vista, San Diego 14 Feb–5 Mar (DJ). A Tufted Duck in Goleta/Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara 25 Dec–6 Mar (BB) was the same male present the past 6 winters. The long-staying Harlequin Ducks at Port San Luis Obispo and Estero Bluffs State Park, San Luis Obispo remained through the winter (TME).

Wintering Surf Scoter numbers at NESS peaked at an exceptional 21 during January, with 13 of these at the Salton Sea SRA (RMcK). Twenty-five Black Scoters at Senator Wash Reservoir, Imperial 1–2 Feb (ML)—dwindling to two by 15 Mar (CRy)—was by far the largest flock ever in the interior of southern California, and 7 together at NESS (North Shore) 25 Feb (CMcG) was the largest flock ever on the Salton Sea. One of these had remained from the fall at the Salton Sea SRA through 26 Feb (RMcK). A Long-tailed Duck on the Salton Sea at Salt Creek Beach, Riverside 11 Dec–8 Jan (RMcK, CMcG) was notably inland; three in coastal San Luis Obispo and one in La Jolla, San Diego 27 Dec (DJ) were the only four reported from the coast. The only Barrow’s Goldeneyes reported were one on the Kern River near Hart Park, Kern 14 Dec–3 Feb (K&BK) and two in Littlerock, Los Angeles 8–26 Jan; one of these remained through 29 Jan (AL). Single Red-necked Grebes were along the coast at San Simeon, San Luis Obispo 16 Feb–20 Mar (TME), Gaviota, Santa Barbara 12 Feb (NAL), PMNAS 15 Oct–29 Feb (AJS), Cabrillo Beach, Los Angeles 1 Dec–25 Jan (RST) and Playa del Rey, Los Angeles 29 Feb (TAB), and another was a short distance inland on Castaic Lagoon, Los Angeles 19 Feb (ZH). A Common Ground Dove between McFarland and Delano, Kern 17 Jan (CM) was at the extreme northern limit of the species’ range. At least 13 White-winged Doves found in the coastal lowlands from San Diego to as far north as near Goleta (one 23 Dec; VC) was about average. Over 100 Vaux’s Swifts at Bonelli RP, Los Angeles 22 Jan (KC) and up to 26 over Balboa Park in San Diego 29 Dec–6 Jan (TF-H) were believed to be wintering locally.

A male Broad-tailed Hummingbird in Chula Vista, San Diego 17 Sep–9 Apr (EH) was the same bird present last winter. Single Rufous Hummingbirds in Big Pine, Inyo on 18 and 24 Feb (T & JH) were exceptionally early spring migrants. The presence of a displaying Allen’s Hummingbird in Victorville, San Bernardino on 28 Dec (SJM) provides the first evidence that this species is expanding its range northeastward into the high desert. Five Sandhill Cranes near Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara 13–24 Dec (JEL) were unexpected. As many as 10 different American Oystercatchers believed present on the coast between Los Angeles Harbor and Malibu is far more than previously reported anywhere in southern California. Pacific Golden-Plovers were at traditional wintering locations on the coast at Point Sierra Nevada, San Luis Obispo Dec–Feb (TME), Guadalupe, Santa Barbara 29 Aug–5 Feb (WTF), Goleta 12 Dec (MAH), near Oxnard, Ventura 17–20 Jan (DM), Ormond Beach, Ventura 29 Feb (BM), Playa del Rey, Los Angeles 30 Aug–21 Mar (KL), Seal Beach, Orange all winter (BAS), near Imperial Beach, San Diego Aug–9 Apr (RTP) and on San Clemente Island 21 Dec (JTS); one inland near Westmorland, Imperial 2 Mar (DJ) had probably wintered locally. Up to 110 Mountain Plovers near Soda Lake on the Carrizo Plain, San Luis Obispo 1 Jan-6 Mar (NHP), up to 22 in the Antelope Valley, Los Angeles 6–18 Jan (BTu), up to 70 near Calipatria, Imperial 30 Jan–1 Feb (BM) and up to 120 near Westmorland 23 Feb–6 Mar (GMcC) were far fewer than ten years ago at these known wintering locations; one at Huntington Beach, Orange 6 Dec–12 Mar (WCB) was on the coast where the species is now exceptional.

Four Red Knots at Salt Creek Beach, Imperial 19 Feb (RMcK) were early spring migrants. A Ruff at the VCGP 15 Sep–17 Feb (LSa) was the only one on the coast, but inland, two were at SJWA 17–22 Dec (SU) with one remaining through 12 Feb (GC) and one at SESS (Unit 1) remained through 27 Mar (GMcC). A Stilt Sandpiper at the VCGP 15 Sep–30 Jan (LSa) was the only one reported away from SESS. A Baird’s Sandpiper at Owens Lake, Inyo 13 Jan (C&RH) provides one of a very few records in winter. Single Solitary Sandpipers, unexpected in winter, were at Carpinteria, Santa Barbara 19 Nov–15 Mar (JBC), the South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes 29 Dec–9 Jan (JLF), and in Irvine, Orange 17 Dec (MMav). A Wilson’s Phalarope at South San Diego Bay 20–27 Feb (PEL) and another at SESS (Unit 1) 15-25 Feb (SN) were undoubtedly wintering locally, as was a Red-necked Phalarope at NESS (North Shore) 23 Jan (NW). An impressive number of Bonaparte’s Gulls wintered at NESS with close to 12,000 there in January (RMcK). A Black-headed Gull at NESS (Salton Sea S.R.A.) 2 Jan–3 Mar (AH) was believed to be the same bird present around NESS during the past six winters. A 1st-winter Little Gull was at NESS (Salton Sea SRA) 30 Dec–1 Jan (CH). A Laughing Gull, rare at the Salton Sink in winter, was at Oasis, Riverside on 9 Jan–6 Feb (RMcK, CMcG), and single birds were on the coast at Newport Beach 2 Dec (WCB) and in Irvine 27 Dec–4 Feb (YMH). A Franklin’s Gull at Oasis 15 Jan (RMcK) provides the 2nd record in January–February at the Salton Sink. Single Mew Gulls, rare far inland, were in Colton, San Bernardino 21 Dec (SWC) and Calipatria 30 Nov–19 Jan (GMcC). Away from the Salton Sink, where only three Lesser Black-backed Gulls were reported, four were along the coast around San Diego through 2 Mar (AG, PEL, MaS) and another was at Bolsa Chica, Orange 21–22 Dec (RAS); in the coastal lowlands, single birds were at Pico Rivera, Los Angeles 2–3 Feb (DBe) and Lake Norconian, Riverside 17 Dec (SJM); one far inland, on the California side of Lake Havasu 4 Jan (DVanP), was the 4th ever in San Bernardino. Glaucous Gulls at Point Piedras Blancas 9 Jan–24 Feb (TME) and Arroyo Laguna 23 Feb (TME), were the only two reported.


An Elegant Tern, exceptionally rare in winter, remained in Carpinteria 22 Dec–14 Jan (JBC). A Common Tern photographed at NESS (Salton Sea SRA) 26 Feb (RMcK) provides the 1st record for winter at the Salton Sink. A Red-billed Tropicbird 2 km off Dana Point, Orange 18 Feb (SB) was not only exceptionally close to shore, but notable also in winter. A dead Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, rare in Southern California waters, was on the beach at Morro Bay 18 Feb (MDS); another, also dead on the beach, was at Oceano 2 Mar (MMar), and a 3rd was near the east end Santa Cruz Island 9 Feb (JB). A Cookilaria 280 km southwest of Point Piedras Blancas 20 Jan (JFG) that could not be identified to species was the only Pterodroma reported. A Buller’s Shearwater, rare in southern California in winter, was off Orange 11 Jan (TAB). Short-tailed Shearwaters were exceptionally scarce off southern California, with single birds off Morro Bay 18 Jan (CAM), off Redondo Beach Los Angeles 8 Feb (TAB), and at La Jolla 19 Jan (MaS) being the only reported. Single Masked Boobies were on the beach at Huntington Beach 18 Dec (Wildlife Care Center) and Encinitas 30–31 Dec (JMcM—believed to be a released rehab bird), in flight off Pt. Loma 18 Jan (PN), frequenting the breakwater in Playa del Rey 8–24 Feb (RST), and at the United States/Mexican border southwest of Point Loma 28 Feb (GSc). A Blue-footed Booby was on Sutil Rock at Santa Barbara Island 24–27 Feb (AJS). A count of 74 Brown Boobies at Sutil Rock 27 Feb (AJS) demonstrates the recent abundance of this species in southern California oceanic waters. The only Red-footed Booby frequented the jetty in Corona del Mar, Orange 16 Nov–17 Dec (MAG).

A Neotropic Cormorant in San Diego 7 Dec–3 Feb (PEL) and another at Westlake, Los Angeles 15–25 Dec (M & JS) were the only two reported in the coastal lowlands, and one in Borrego Springs 28 Feb–2 Mar (NC) was the first at that location. The Little Blue Heron found in Costa Mesa on 1 Nov remained through 24 Jan, and another found on Upper Newport Bay on 24 Nov was still present 18 Jan. Three Tricolored Herons were along the coast: on south San Diego Bay 30 Oct–21 Dec (KR), another at Newport Bay 10 Nov–14 Mar (NAK), and the 3rd at PMNAS 4 Nov–24 Feb (MRua). At least three (3 on 7 Feb) Reddish Egrets were inland at NESS (CMcG), and another was at Bombay Beach, Imperial 25 Jan (MMon). Yellow-crowned Night-Herons are now resident along much of the coast, with a high count of 63 at PMNAS 22 Dec (AJS); the up to four on Morro Bay remaining into March (TME) were the northernmost. A Black Vulture in Bishop 11 Dec–21 Feb (C & RH) was the same bird present last winter. Two Harris’s Hawks at Castle Mountains National Monument, San Bernardino 6 Feb (JE), were far from populated areas where escaped falconry birds are sometimes noted. An immature Broad-winged Hawk, formerly very rare in winter, but in recent years unrecorded at that season, was in Orange, Orange 31 Dec (DRH), and an adult was over Balboa Park in San Diego 3 Jan (NF). One or two Swainson’s Hawks regularly linger into December, but single birds at PMNAS 22 Dec–29 Feb and 10 Jan–29 Feb (DP), in the Antelope Valley 7 Jan (JDu), and at SJWA 28 Jan–4 Apr (GC) were believed to be wintering locally; a flock of 27 over Burbank, Los Angeles 23 Jan (ADeB) were clearly spring migrants.

Single Zone-tailed Hawks in Monrovia, Los Angeles 13–23 Feb (KS), over Prado Regional Park, San Bernardino 25 Dec (AM), in Ojai, Ventura 27 Oct–8 Feb (BSh), Fillmore, Ventura 16 Jan (Ojai Raptor Center—died), and Santa Barbara 6 Jan (CRi) were the only individuals reported north of San Diego and Orange, where small numbers are present every winter. The only Rough-legged Hawks were single birds in the northern part of the Owens Valley, Inyo on 13 Dec (C & RH), 26 Jan (KKH) and 6 Feb (T & JH), one on the Carrizo Plain 28 Dec–7 Mar (EW), and the southernmost at French Valley WA, Riverside 28 Jan–18 Feb (WM, GC). An impressive number of Short-eared Owls were on San Clemente Island, evidently attracted by an elevated mouse population: 13 owls were counted on 15 Dec (JTS). At least 22 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were found in the region during the season. A Williamson’s Sapsucker at Veterans Park in Sylmar, Los Angeles was the only reported in the coastal lowlands. Ash-throated Flycatchers were at Madrona Marsh in Torrance, Los Angeles from late Oct–15 Mar (AJo, MRub), Whittier Narrows near El Monte, Los Angeles 19 Nov–3 Jan (SGM, NS), Orange, Orange 19 Oct–2 Feb (SLR), Irvine Lake, Orange 28 Dec (JSW), San Diego 15–28 Dec (CJD), and Lake Perris, Riverside 27 Dec (CMcG); one at Ramer Lake, SESS 11 Jan (MiS) was at a more typical low desert winter site. A Brown-crested Flycatcher at South Coast Botanic Garden on the Palos Verdes Peninsula 13 Dec–8 Mar (RRa) was only the 3rd ever in Los Angeles; another at Mission Viejo, Orange 27 Dec–25 Jan (TFF), was also a county 3rd. It is of note that the Los Angeles bird appeared smaller-billed than is expected in the southwestern USA ssp. magister and may have represented instead the more easterly ssp. cooperi.

Coastal southern California is certainly within the regular winter range of Tropical Kingbirds, with 23 birds reported this year during the period; some of these returned from previous winters. A Cassin’s Kingbird at Jacumba, San Diego 12 Feb (CKS) was unexpected at that location in winter. Returning Thick-billed Kingbirds were at Poggi Creek Greenbelt in Chula Vista, San Diego 31 Oct–7 Mar (DJ)—for its 10th winter—and Horsethief Canyon Park, San Dimas, Los Angeles 7 Jan–28 Mar (KC) for its 7th winter (though this bird was unrecorded the last two winters). Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were at Camarillo, Ventura 14–24 Dec (DBu) and Chula Vista 6 Nov–1 Mar (TF), with additional returning birds in San Diego at San Ysidro 19 Nov (refound nearby in the Tijuana River Valley 24 Nov–30 Mar, CZ), and at Coronado/North Island NAS 14 Dec–15 Apr (CBC/eBird). The returning Greater Pewee in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles continued from 25 Oct–1 Mar (CAD), and one in Fountain Valley, Orange continued from 21 Nov–16 Dec (RMP). One at Balboa Park in San Diego 25 Nov–19 Feb (NF) wintered there two years ago, but was missed last winter. Five Hammond’s Flycatchers were in coastal Los Angeles during the period, with another at Lake Ming in Bakersfield, Kern 16 Dec–13 Jan (WR). At least 18 Gray Flycatchers were on the coastal slope through the period, with 5 more in the deserts. A Dusky Flycatcher, casual in winter, was at Matilija Creek, Ventura 22 Nov–12 Jan (JG, RRi), and another was in Culver City, Los Angeles 5 Jan (DSC). About 16 “Western Flycatchers” (most or all likely Pacific-slope) were in coastal areas through the period, not counting the earliest spring arrivals at the end of February.


A good showing of 10 Eastern Phoebes included 6 on the coastal slope at Santa Maria, Santa Barbara 7–11 Feb (JDe). Single birds were at Los Angeles River near Griffith Park in Los Angeles from fall –14 Mar (GSl); Sycamore Canyon in Whittier, Los Angeles 14 Dec (LSc); Irvine Lake, Orange 21 Dec–28 Feb (M&DF); Los Penasquitos Canyon Reserve, San Diego 17 Dec–7 Feb (RP); and Spring Valley, San Diego 26 Feb–21 Mar (CA). More interior Eastern Phoebes were at Apollo Lake near Lancaster, Los Angeles 29 Nov–12 Jan (returning winterer; NS), Lake Arrowhead, San Bernardino from fall –2 Dec (AJa), Kern Water Bank southwest of Bakersfield, Kern 2 Dec (JTS), and northwestern Bishop, Inyo 12 Dec–6 Mar (returning for 3rd winter; KML). Vermilion Flycatchers were widespread on the coastal slope; in the far northern interior, one at Lone Pine, Inyo 27 Feb (RDK) was presumably an early spring arrival at a site where the species has bred. A Bell’s Vireo wintering at NESS (81st Ave) was apparently a returning bird and thought to represent the ssp. arizonae (RMcK). Sixteen Cassin’s Vireos during the period were all on the coastal slope from Ventura south. Following a strong recent pattern, winter Plumbeous Vireos easily outnumbered Cassin’s, with 46 on the coastal slope (again from Ventura south), and two others in the western San Bernardino desert. A Blue-headed Vireo wintered at Ken Malloy Harbor RP near Wilmington, Los Angeles 2–22 Mar (BTr). A Warbling Vireo at Santa Barbara 4 Jan had presumably returned for its 7th winter, though it was not found last winter (HPR). The only Steller’s Jay notably away from breeding habitat was at Victor Valley College, San Bernardino 28 Dec (Shaun and RT Hawke).

A Northern Rough-winged Swallow at Atascadero 13 Feb was an early arrival for San Luis Obispo (S&JT); 4 near Goleta (Glen Annie Reservoir) 4 January (JH et al.), provided one of only about 6 midwinter records for Santa Barbara. A Bank Swallow at SJWA 7 Feb (CMcG) was exceptionally early. A notable flight of Tree Swallows in coastal San Diego on 20 Feb also brought at least five to Wilson Cove on San Clemente Island the same day (JTS). A Cliff Swallow at Cholame Creek 15 Feb (P&JC) was early for San Luis Obispo. A Chestnut-backed Chickadee at McGrath SB, Ventura 4 Jan (MRua) was apparently the southernmost ever recorded. Somewhat extralimital Verdins were at the San Diego Rivermouth 4 Oct–19 Feb (JRM) and at Wildomar, Riverside 12 Dec (JSz). Red-breasted Nuthatches were more numerous than average; they were considered “widespread” through winter throughout Santa Barbara, with a high count of 25 on 14 Dec in Summerland (JSl), and in Orange it was “clearly an invasion year” (RSW). Twenty-five Pygmy Nuthatches at Spring Valley Lake, San Bernardino 21 Jan (WRD) were in the western deserts well outside expected habitat. A Townsend’s Solitaire at Miguelito Park in Lompoc 9–15 Dec (JDe) was on the Santa Barbara coast, where casual; six in Silverado Canyon 1 Jan (RJS) was an exceptional count for Orange. Varied Thrush numbers were considered “moderate” in Santa Barbara through the winter, but relatively few were found south of there or in the deserts; one at Kern NWR 3 Dec (SLS) was at an unusual San Joaquin Valley locality. A Curve-billed Thrasher was in the town of Joshua Tree, San Bernardino 27 Nov (CI); another at Black Meadow Landing, San Bernardino around 30 Nov (fide CK) was at a locality with several recent records. A Brown Thrasher at Mission Viejo 2 Dec–15 Mar+ (MLS) was the first for Orange since 1993. A Sage Thrasher, casual in winter in Santa Barbara, was near Los Olivos from Nov–4 Mar (PTS); another in San Clemente, Orange continued from 19 Nov–29 Jan (TFF).

Gray Catbirds were at Lone Pine, Inyo 12 Dec–24 Feb (RDK, JLS), Big Morongo Canyon Reserve, San Bernardino 14 Dec+ (MSc), Walnut Creek Park in Covina, Los Angeles 18 Feb–11 Mar (KC), and Mission Bay, San Diego 28 Feb–7 Mar (AG).

Scaly-breasted Munias continue to penetrate desert regions, with up to 5 at Borrego Springs, San Diego 15 Dec–27 Feb (PA). Red Crossbills were present in moderate numbers in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara as well as in the major mountain ranges; up to 50 were present during the period in the Laguna Mountains, San Diego, with a juvenile seen 2 Feb (PL). Pine Siskins were widespread and in greater than average numbers through the coastal counties during the winter. A movement of Evening Grosbeaks that began in November continued during the winter; up to 50 were in the eastern San Gabriel Mountains, notably at the Grassy Hollow Visitors Center, 19 Jan–7 Mar (DBe, LT et al.). Up to 10 were still in the Laguna Mountains on 29 Feb (AD), and 3 were at Green Valley Campground, San Bernardino Mountains 1 Feb (BCS, ET). The 6 Clay-colored Sparrows during the period were all on the coastal slope from Ventura south to San Diego. Two Field Sparrows in Inyo were unexpected: one was in Bishop 18–29 Dec (BJK), and the other was at FCR 20 Dec (TTL); there are only five previous winter period records for the region.

Up to five Black-chinned Sparrows at the Starr Ranch Audubon Sanctuary in Trabuco Canyon, Orange 3–20 Feb was an unprecedented concentration for winter (ROS). Three singing Black-throated Sparrows in the Cuyama Valley (Deer Park Canyon), 19 Feb–1 Mar (MAH et al.), where 1 had been present since 20 January (JBC), were at a potential breeding location, but regardless established the 1st winter record for the Cuyama Valley—and only the 4th winter record for Santa Barbara. Another in Huntington Beach, Orange 1–5 Mar (ABo) was unexpected in urban habitat. A Grasshopper Sparrow in Balboa Park in San Diego 14–16 Dec (CA) was at an unexpected locality. The only Lark Buntings reported were at Las Virgenes Open Space in extreme southeastern Ventura 10 Jan–5 Feb (RT) and at Jacumba, San Diego 17 Dec–12 Feb (PEL). An American Tree Sparrow was at Ventura 18 Dec–9 Jan (DP). “Red” Fox Sparrows, very scarce winter visitors in the region, were at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo 28 Dec (P&JC) and Santa Maria, Santa Barbara 22 Dec (PTS). The 17 White-throated Sparrows found in Santa Barbara constituted nearly half of the 33 total reported in the region; all these were on the coastal slope. Single Harris’s Sparrows were on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Los Angeles 5 Dec–24 Apr (JA, CN) and at FCR 13 Dec (C&RH). The season’s five Swamp Sparrows were at Los Osos, San Luis Obispo 13–14 Dec (JCC), Hope Ranch in Santa Barbara 4 Jan (RAH), Mission Viejo, Orange 6 Dec–15 Mar+ (RSW), Huntington Beach 29 Dec (SGM), and Kern NWR 3 Dec (SLS).

A Rusty Blackbird at Ocean Beach, San Diego 30 Nov–1 Mar (KG) was the only reported.


Seventeen Orchard Orioles were found in coastal areas from Santa Barbara to San Diego through the period, nearly matching the number of Hooded Orioles—18—reported; migrant Hoodeds had arrived in San Diego by 23 Feb (LR) and at three sites in Santa Barbara by 28 Feb (DMC). Bullock’s proved to be the most numerous oriole during the winter by far, with at least 30 from Los Angeles north, and it was present good but untallied numbers in Orange and San Diego. The six Baltimore Orioles during the period included two in Santa Barbara and four in San Diego. A Scott’s Oriole in Santa Barbara 8 Jan–12 Mar (JCh) was the northernmost recorded. An Ovenbird returned for its 2nd winter in Huntington Beach 17 Nov–8 Mar (JEP). The only Northern Waterthrushes reported were at Carpinteria, Santa Barbara 21 Nov–2 Mar (EBC) and Walnut Creek Park in Covina, Los Angeles 18 Feb–9 Mar (KC). Thirty-seven Black-and-white Warblers were found on the coastal slope, 23 of them reflecting the amount of coverage in birder-rich Los Angeles and San Diego. Tennessee Warblers were at San Luis Obispo 9 Jan–5 Mar (NLB) and Tierrasanta, San Diego 4–5 Jan (NAB). Nashville Warblers are scarce but regular in winter; the 27 reported during the period, all on the coastal slope, surely represented an undercount (were there really ten more Black-and-white Warblers than Nashvilles?). Lucy’s Warblers were at Goleta 28 Dec–6 Jan (DMC), Calabasas, Los Angeles 4–17 Jan (M&JS), and Huntington Beach 23 Feb–2 Mar (BED). Two Common Yellowthroats on San Clemente Island at Wilson Cove 5 Dec–15 Jan (NJD, JTS) and at Lemon Tank 19–31 Dec (JTS) were noteworthy winter records for the island. The ten American Redstarts during the period were all on the coastal slope from Ventura and Riverside south to San Diego.

Northern Parulas, very rare but annual in winter, were at Peck Road Water Conservation Park in El Monte, Los Angeles 27–31 Dec (DES) and in San Diego at Agua Hedionda Lagoon 1–21 Dec (ABr), Santee 2 Dec–11 Apr (TH), and Balboa Park 7 Feb–12 Mar (JR). Casual in winter, a Black-throated Blue Warbler was at Picacho SRA, Imperial 11–15 Nov (GCH, CAM). A Pine Warbler at Santa Maria, Santa Barbara 25 Jan–23 Feb (JMC et al.) and one in Huntington Beach 10 Dec–22 Mar (JEP) were augmented by a returning bird at Coronado, San Diego 14–31 Dec (EAC). Palm Warblers were relatively scarce this winter, with nine on the coastal slope and another at NESS 27 Dec–18 Jan (KC). Two of the Grace’s Warblers noted in the Fall 2019 report remained through the winter, one at La Jolla SD 27 Sep–21 Mar (AA), and another at Encinitas SD 9 Nov–6 Mar (TG). A Black-throated Gray Warbler, very rare in winter in the Salton Sink, was at Niland 17 Dec (DJ). Over 80 Wilson’s Warblers were found on the coastal slope through the period. Five Painted Redstarts were found in coastal counties: at Carpinteria 14 Dec–16 Jan (PC), Arroyo Verde Park in Ventura 21 Nov–28 Feb (AF, SD), Inglewood, Los Angeles 26 Oct–9 Mar (KL), Mission Hills, San Diego 22 Nov–11 Mar (NF), and Tierrasanta, San Diego 25 Dec–20 Mar (PEL).

Hepatic Tanagers, casual in winter, were in San Diego at Del Mar 31 Dec–4 Jan (PEL) and Clairemont 1 Jan–14 Mar (JDes). Some 53 Summer Tanagers occurred during the period, all on the coastal slope, and 80% of them in Los Angeles and San Diego. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were at Guajome, San Diego 21 Dec (KW) and San Diego 24 Dec (AK); another was at SESS (Salton Sea NWR headquarters) 1 Dec (KI). An unseasonal Indigo Bunting was at Fallbrook, San Diego 5 Feb (LM). The only Dickcissel reported was on the desert slope at Montezuma Grade, Anza-Borrego SP 12 Feb (NC).

Report processed by Alison Világ, 10 Feb 2021.

Photos–Southern California: Winter 2019-20

Hover or click on each image to read the caption.