Southern California: Winter 2021–2022

Winter 2021–2022: 1 Dec–28 Feb

Guy McCaskie

Kimball L. Garrett

Recommended citation:

McCaskie, G., and K. L. Garrett. 2022. Winter 2021–2022: Southern California. <>North American Birds.

Although precipitation totals were only slightly below average in many parts of the region, Southern California experienced yet another generally dry winter which exacerbated a widespread and severe drought; the limited snowpack in the higher mountains was largely gone below about 3000 m elevation by April. Any relationship between drought conditions and winter bird irruptions is tenuous at best, but the season saw low numbers of irruptive species, with Lewis’s Woodpecker the only species in greater than average numbers.

There was a good variety of rare wintering wood-warblers among the twenty-seven species recorded, and there were two remarkably late fall vagrant passerines (Great Crested Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo) whose presence extended, barely, into the new year. Gulls, likewise, made a good showing, highlighted by a Slaty-backed Gull in Los Angeles County, a returning Black-headed Gull at the north end of the Salton Sea in Riverside County, and at least twenty Lesser Black-backed Gulls. 

Sub-regional Compilers

David M. Compton (Santa Barbara), Tom M. Edell (San Luis Obispo), Kimball L. Garrett (Los Angeles), Chris and Rosie Howard (Inyo), Kelli K. Heindel (Kern), Alexander E. Koonce (San Bernardino), Guy McCaskie (San Diego and Imperial), David Rankin (Riverside) Larry Sansone (photo editor), Adam J. Searcy (Ventura), 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 Doves

A Trumpeter Swan was on Klondike Lake, Inyo Co 14 Feb (Trudie Millerburg) where now considered casual in winter. Two Tundra Swans at S.E.S.S. 2 Jan (iNaturalist) and three in the California portion of Cibola National Wildlife Refuge 10 Jan (Carter Urnes) were the southernmost of the small number reaching Southern California this winter. The number of Blue-winged Teal at N.E.S.S. peaked at 364 on 2 Feb (Robert L. McKernan), significantly less than the 850 there last winter. At least 13 Eurasion Wigeon in the coastal lowlands, along with ten more well inland, were known this winter. The Mexican Duck present in Huntington Beach, Orange Co last winter, returned 20 Nov and remained through February (Derek J. Hameister). A male Eurasian Green-winged Teal, rare in Southern California, was in Pico Rivera, Los Angeles Co 13 Dec (Jon Fisher) and another was on south San Diego Bay 9 Jan–7 Mar (Dean DiTommaso). A Surf Scoter far inland at Newberry Springs, San Bernardino County 4 Dec (Eugene A. Cardiff) was likely a late fall migrant, but two together on the Colorado River north of Blythe, Riverside Co 16 Jan (Nurit Katz) were believed to be wintering locally as were up to eleven at N.E.S.S. through the winter (Robert L. McKernan), and up to three were at S.E.S.S. (Obsidian Butte) 19–29 Dec (Guy McCaskie). A White-winged Scoter at Silver Lakes, San Bernardino Co 25–26 Dec (Keith Condon), and up to four at S.E.S.S. (Obsidian Butte) 1 Dec–26 Jan (Guy McCaskie), were well inland; numbers along the coast remained low through the winter. At least 25 Black Scoters were reported from along the coast, with up to two at Imperial Beach, San Diego Co 17 Nov–1 Feb (Matt Sadowski) being the southernmost; one was inland, where unexpected, at S.E.S.S. 27 Jan (Brennan Mulrooney). Single Long-tailed Ducks were found inland near Bishop, Inyo Co 21 Feb (Steve Baldwin), at Owens Lake, Inyo Co 15 Dec–7 Feb (Eric A. Smith Jr) and at N.E.S.S. (North Shore) 9–12 Feb (Robert L. McKernan); in addition, ten were reported from along the coast, with one flying south off La Jolla, San Diego Co 5 Dec (Gary Nunn) and another in Carlsbad, San Diego Co 5–23 Jan (Donald Pendleton) being the southernmost. The only Barrow’s Goldeneye reported was one at Imperial Dam, Imperial Co 24 Jan (Deborah House).

A Red–necked Grebe in Malibu, Los Angeles Co 19 Dec–8 Jan (Becky and Steve Turley, Marky Mutchler) and another on San Diego Bay 13 Jan–16 Mar (Max & Grant Witynski) were the only two reported.

Common Ground Doves appear to be expanding their range northward in the San Joaquin Valley with the northernmost being five near Buttonwillow, Kern Co 10 Jan (Carl Haynie). A White-winged Dove near Point Buchon, San Luis Obispo Co 18 Dec (Gregory P. Smith) and another at Grover Beach, San Luis Obispo Co 19–21 Dec (Will K. Knowlton) were the northernmost of those reported from along the coast this winter.

Swifts through Murrelets

A Vaux’s Swift with swallows over Sweetwater Reservoir, San Diego Co 20 Dec–6 Mar (Richard Garrigus), a flock of at least 28 photographed over Balboa Park in San Diego 17 Mar (Joe Alsadi), one over Irvine, Orange Co 12–15 Dec (Jeff M. Bray), and up to three around Silver Lake in Los Angeles 19 Dec–7 Jan (Kimball L. Garrett) were all believed to be wintering locally.

Since Allen’s Hummingbirds are exceptionally rare in the southeastern part of Southern California, an adult male in El Centro, Imperial Co 24–25 Feb (Kenneth Z. Kurland) was noteworthy. The only Broad-billed Hummingbird was one at a residence in Goleta, Santa Barbara Co 31 Jan–9 Feb (Adrian O’Loghlen).

Single oystercatchers in Ventura, Ventura Co through the winter (Adam J. Searcy), at the Los Angeles Harbor 6 Feb (Mark Scheel) and King Harbor/Royal Palms Beach, Los Angeles Co 26 Dec–11 Feb (David Moody, Gregg McClain), and at La Jolla (Point La Jolla) 29 Dec–17 Jan (Paul E. Lehman), Mission Bay (jetty) 18–22 Feb (Paul E. Lehman), and Oceanside (harbor breakwater) 20–21 Feb (Patricia Langen) in San Diego County, appeared close to “pure” Americans, but best considered borderline American x Black Oystercatcher hybrids.

At least 13 Pacific Golden-Plovers were found wintering along the coast, with up to five together at the Tijuana River mouth in San Diego County. Wintering Mountain Plovers included about 90 at the Carrizo Plain National Monument, San Luis Obispo Co 21 Feb (Tom M. Edell); 44 near the Kern National Wildlife Refuge 20 Jan (William L. Rocky), 270 near Taft 12 Feb (Jeff Davis) and 100 near Buttonwillow 1 Feb (Elliot Schoening) in the Kern Co portion of the San Joaquin Valley; up to 33 near Palmdale in the Antelope Valley 7 Nov–31 Jan (Chezy Yusuf), and up to 170 near Calipatria in the Imperial Valley through the winter (GMcC), the latter area formerly believed to hold 30–38 percent of the world population at this time of the year.

A Red Knot at Salt Creek Beach 16 Feb (Robert L. McKernan) probably wintered undetected elsewhere on the Salton Sea as the first of the spring migrants are not known to reach the Salton Sea until March. The only Ruffs reported were one in Ontario, San Bernardino Co 14 Feb–16 Mar (Gary McLarty) and another at S.E.S.S. (Unit 1) 8 Dec (Guy McCaskie). Up to three Stilt Sandpipers at the Kern National Wildlife Refuge 6–25 Feb (Susan L. Steele) were the only ones known away from the S.E.S.S. Sanderlings regularly winter inland only at the Salton Sea, with an impressive 125 counted at N.E.S.S. (North Shore/Salt Creek Beach) 9 Feb (Robert L. McKernan) this winter. The adult Little Stint, present since 11 Aug for its fourth winter on south San Diego Bay (Saltworks), remained through March (Matt Sadowski).

A Solitary Sandpiper at Hansen Dam, Los Angeles Co 3–18 Dec (Amy Worell) and another at Ladera Ranch, Orange Co 15–30 Dec (Thomas F. Fangrow) may have been exceptionally late fall migrants, but one at the Sepulveda Basin, Los Angeles Co 14 Nov–20 Mar (Jon L. Fisher) clearly spent the winter.

A Pigeon Guillemot in alternate-plumage at Port San Luis, San Luis Obispo Co 24 Feb (Sam Larkin) was early for a returning local nester. Scripps’s Murrelets arrived off San Diego earlier than in previous years, with 13 there 12 Dec (Paul E. Lehman). The only Ancient Murrelets reported were one at Montana de Oro State Park 18 Dec (Brad K. Schram), four at Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo Co 4 Jan (Brad K. Schram) and one off Orange County 2 Jan (Ted Keyel).

Gulls through Shearwaters

A Black-legged Kittiwake photographed at the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area 8 Dec (Teresa Connell) was only the second ever known in Kern Co. A Black-headed Gull at N.E.S.S. (Kent Sea Tech) 8 Dec–9 Mar (Robert L. McKernan) was believed to be the same bird present in this area last winter. An adult Little Gull was at Salt Creek Beach 15–29 Dec (Robert L. McKernan). Two Laughing Gulls around the N.E.S.S. through the winter (Robert L. McKernan) and one at Pico Rivera, Los Angeles Co 27 Dec–7 Jan (Chris Dean) were the only three reported this winter. A young Franklin’s Gull lingered at N.E.S.S. (North Shore) to the late date of 6 Jan (Robert L. McKernan). Since Short-billed Gulls are rare away from the immediate coast, single birds inland at Lake Ming, Kern Co 11 Dec (Craig O’Neill), near Colton, San Bernardino Co 11 Dec–4 Feb (Thomas A. Benson), and near Calipatria 20 Dec (Paul E. Lehman) are of note. The number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls reaching Southern California continues to increase with at least twenty reported, with one at the Buena Vista Recreation Area, Kern County 12 Dec (Todd Easterla) and another at Silverwood Lake, San Bernardino Co 23 Jan–26 Feb (Eric Tipton) being the northernmost. An adult Slaty-backed Gull on San Gabriel River in Pico Rivera 5 Feb (Steven Kurniawidjaja), and on the Los Angeles River in Vernon 10–11 Feb (Mark Wilson), was believed to be the same bird, and one of less than five recorded in Southern California. Only four Glaucous Gulls were reported, with all four inland, including single birds in Bakersfield, Kern Co 6 Feb (Alison M. Sheehey), on the Los Angeles River in Los Angeles 17–18 Feb (Naresh Satyan), at the N.E.S.S. 29 Dec–23 Mar (Robert L. McKernan), and at Senator Wash Reservoir, Imperial Co 24 Jan (Deborah House). 

A Common Tern, rare in winter, was photographed off San Diego 18 Feb (Matt Sadowski). The latest staying of the summering Elegant Terns were two Playa del Rey, Los Angeles Co 1 Jan (Marvin Nelson).

A Red-throated Loon, unexpected anywhere well inland, was in Bishop, Inyo Co 1–8 Jan (Chelsea Klocke). Single Pacific Loons, rare inland, were on Lake Isabella, Kern Co 6 Dec (Annie Meyer), at Black Meadow Landing on Lake Havasu, San Bernardino Co 29 Jan (Deborah House), and at the Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area, Riverside Co 12 Dec–18 Jan (Jennifer Cole). Two Common Loons flying northward from the N.E.S.S. 16 Feb (Robert L. McKernan) were suspected to be exceptionally early spring migrants.

A Laysan Albatross 25 km southwest of Marina del Rey 7 Dec (Jon S. Feenstra) and another 23 km west of Point Loma, San Diego Co 4 Jan (Alex Abela) were the only two reported. An immature Short-tailed Albatross photographed 15 km west of Ocean Beach 1 Jan (Sean Buchanan) is the first known over San Diego County waters since 1896. A Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, rare in Southern California waters, was at La Jolla (Point La Jolla) 23 Feb (Jay Desgrosellier). Short-tailed Shearwaters were scarce, with one off Carpinteria, Santa Barbara Co 18 Dec (Hugh P. Ranson) another over the Redondo Canyon off Los Angeles Co 6 Feb (Naresh Satyan) and six off San Diego Co between 4 Dec and 23 Feb (Gary Nunn, Paul E. Lehman) being the only eight reported. 

Boobies through Woodpeckers

A Masked/Nazca Booby was at Point La Jolla in La Jolla 26 Dec (Matt Sadowski) and what may have been the same booby was a little to the north off Cardiff, San Diego Co 30 Dec (Paul E. Lehman); another was 3 km south of Point Vicente, Los Angeles Co 7 Dec (Jon S. Feenstra). Single Red-footed Boobies were 20 km west of Point Loma, San Diego Co 21 Jan (Andrew Newmark) and near Santa Cruz Island 4 Jan (Joel Barrett). Single Neotropic Cormorants at Lake Sherwood 15 Jan–20 Feb (Adam J. Searcy) and at Ormond Beach 26 Jul–12 Dec (Adam J. Searcy) in Ventura County were the northwesternmost reported.

A Little Blue Heron at Bolsa Chica, Orange Co 5 Oct–28 Feb+ (Cynthia K. Case) was the only one reported away from coastal San Diego County where resident. A Tricolored Heron on Upper Newport Bay, Orange Co 23 Sep–28 Feb+ (Scott Marony) and another at the Point Mugu Naval Air Station, Ventura Co, present through the period for a fourth winter (Martin Ruane), were the only two known in the Region.

A Northern Goshawk first noted in Joshua Tree, San Bernardino Co on 2 November remained to 1 Feb (Annica Kreuter). Most of the Harris’s Hawks that moved northward into Southern California last fall withdrew, but eight in Jacumba, San Diego Co, and up to thirteen in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park at Shelter Valley, first noted in September, remained through February (Paul E. Lehman, Hana Hernandez); one at Lake Sherwood 18 Jan–1 Feb (Mary Hansen) was farther north than any of those previously reported. A Swainson’s Hawk over Brawley, Imperial Co 25 Dec (Naresh Satyan) was either an exceptionally late fall migrant or, more likely, a bird wintering locally; one over San Diego 25 Jan (Christopher Adler) and six together near Calipatria, Imperial Co 31 Jan (Curtis A. Marantz) were early spring migrants. At least 17 Zone-tailed Hawks were found wintering in the coastal lowlands, with one at San Simeon, San Luis Obispo Co 7–12 Dec (Bob Keally) then nearby at Morro Bay State Park 18 Dec (Kevin J. Zimmer) being the northernmost, and single birds at Murrieta, Riverside Co 24 Feb (Julie Szabo) and over Riverside 5 Feb (Douglas Long) being the easternmost. Up to three Rough-legged Hawks in Round Valley, Inyo Co through the winter (Jon L. Dunn) and one at the Carrizo Plain National Monument 28 Jan–25 Feb (Cliff Halverson) were at traditional wintering locations; one near San Simeon, San Luis Obispo Co 12–30 Dec (Will K. Knowlton) was on the immediate coast, and single birds near Mount Pinos, Kern Co 2 Jan (Michael I. Christie) and Piute Ponds, Los Angeles Co 20 Nov–17 Mar (Mark Wilson) were the southernmost.

A Northern Pygmy-Owl at Mountain Home Village in the San Bernardino Mts. 18 Dec (Anthony Metcalf) was at the southern limit of this species’ range in California. A Spotted Owl photographed in residential San Diego 1 Jan (Sean Mulcahy) was the first known in coastal San Diego County since 1908, and, based on plumage, may have been from a more northern population than the local mountains.

The number of Lewis’s Woodpeckers remained well above expected in most areas through the winter, with counts of over forty near Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino Mountains (Brad Singer). An Acorn Woodpecker in El Centro (Evergreen Cemetery) 25 Dec–16 Mar (Naresh Satyan) was the first known at the Salton Sink in nineteen years, and one on San Clemente Island 16 Feb (Benjamin C. Stalheim) had flown over 60 miles of open ocean. A White-headed Woodpecker in Beaumont, Riverside Co 27 Dec (Nathan Moorhatch) was in the lowlands, where unexpected. Single Williamson’s Sapsuckers at Yucca Valley, San Bernardino Co 29 Dec (Eddie Monson), Moreno Valley, Riverside Co 11 Dec–7 Jan (David Rankin), in Riverside 2–5 Jan (David Rankin), and at Temecula, Riverside Co 28 Nov (Bob Packard) were all away from the higher portions of the mountains.

Tyrant Flycatchers through Vireos

Dusky-capped Flycatcher is a regular winter visitor in the region, but this season the only report was of one in the Sepulveda Basin, Los Angeles Co 16 Feb–14 Mar (Daniel S. Cooper, Nurit Katz).  Eight Ash-throated Flycatchers were found on the coastal slope from Los Angeles Co south; two others were on the deserts of San Diego and Imperial Co (where generally more regular but in habitats that get little coverage). Exceptionally late was a Great Crested Flycatcher at John Baca Park, Huntington Beach 10 Dec–1 Jan (Richard A. Cabe, Jasmine C. Kay); it was the fourth for Orange Co and by far the latest ever recorded in California. Brown-crested Flycatchers at the South Coast Botanic Garden, Palos Verdes, Los Angeles Co 2 Feb–1 Apr (Randy Harwood) and Mission Viejo, Orange Co 18 Nov–11 Apr (Thomas F. Fangrow) had both returned for a third winter. The 20 wintering Tropical Kingbirds were all on the coastal slope, with the latest remaining to 14 Apr at Colorado Lagoon, Long Beach, Los Angeles Co (Robert A. Hamilton).

The only Thick-billed Kingbird was at the Tijuana River Valley, San Diego Co 23 Nov–13 Dec (Jim Pawlicki); three others returning for multiple winters in recent years failed to return this winter. An unseasonal Western Kingbird was at Ballona Freshwater Marsh in Playa del Rey, Los Angeles Co 11 Dec–11 Jan (Don Sterba). A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at Chula Vista, San Diego Co 11 Dec–19 Jan (Paul E. Lehman) had returned for a fifth winter; others were in Juniper Canyon in San Diego 18–23 Dec (Mandy Mathews) and Del Mar, San Diego Co 2 Jan–1 Feb (Sean Buchanan).

Olive-sided Flycatchers, casual in winter, were at the Elfin Forest Reserve southwest of Escondido, San Diego Co 11–30 Dec (Stacy McCline, Patti Koger) and University City, San Diego Co 4 Feb–3 Mar (Paul Chad). Returning Greater Pewees were at Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles Co 1–2 Jan (Naresh Satyan) and Balboa Park in San Diego 4 Oct–13 Feb (Michelle Haglund). A Least Flycatcher, less than annual in winter, was along the West San Gabriel River Parkway Nature Trail in Lakewood, Los Angeles Co 9 Feb–24 Apr (Thomas E. Wurster). Twenty-one Hammond’s Flycatchers were present during the winter, all on the coastal slope including one in Heritage Park in Bakersfield, Kern Co 26 Jan (William L. Rockey). The coastal slope also held 29 Gray Flycatchers, along with one on the deserts at the Whitewater Preserve, Riverside Co 15–28 Dec (Stephen J. Myers). Far scarcer in winter is Dusky Flycatcher, with four this season at Glen Helen Regional Park, San Bernardino Co from fall to 9 Dec (David A. Goodward), Zuma Canyon in Malibu, Los Angeles Co 21 Nov–15 Jan (Walt Sakai; banded, captured on three dates), Peck Road Water Conservation Park in El Monte, Los Angeles Co 4–22 Dec (Darren Dowell), and the Sepulveda Basin in Encino, Los Angeles Co 26 Jan–5 Mar (Jon L. Fisher). “Western” Flycatchers, presumably all Pacific-slope, totaled 32 birds on the coastal slope. Eastern Phoebes were at City Heights in San Diego 26 Nov–12 Feb (Knut Tjelmeland), Bette Davis Park near Glendale, Los Angeles Co 1 Dec–24 Mar (Greg Slak), Carpinteria, Santa Barbara Co 15 Dec–2 Feb (John B. Callender), Balboa Park in San Diego 17 Dec–4 Jan (Justyn T. Stahl), Lake Lindero in Agoura, Los Angeles Co 19 Dec–11 Jan (Mark and Janet Scheel, Daniel S. Cooper), and San Miguel Ranch, San Diego Co 6 Jan–6 Feb (John Sperling). Vermilion Flycatchers occurred northwest to Jack O’Connell Park in Guadalupe, Santa Barbara Co 27 Oct–16 Mar (John Deacon et al.); farther south their population expansion is illustrated by the occurrence of at least 59 birds at 36 locations in Los Angeles Co and at least 50 birds in Orange Co.

Vireos through Thrashers

A rare mid-winter Bell’s Vireo was at Huntington Gardens in San Marino, Los Angeles Co 31 Jan–10 Feb (Dorian Charnis); one at Rio del Los Angeles State Park in Los Angeles 14 Feb (Marcus England) was apparently an exceptionally early spring arrival. Somewhat out of range was a Hutton’s Vireo at Sunnylands near Palm Springs, Riverside Co 1 Dec (Mickey Dyke). At least eight Cassin’s Vireos were found in Los Angeles and San Diego Cos, in contrast to the 30 Plumbeous Vireos on the coastal slope plus birds at Hart Park in Bakersfield, Kern Co 18 Dec (John C. Wilson), Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, San Bernardino Co 20–26 Feb (Blythe Hazellief), and Brawley, Imperial Co 31 Jan (Curtis A. Marantz). A long-lived Warbling Vireo at Bohnett Park in Santa Barbara 20 Dec–3 Jan (Hugh P. Ranson) had returned for a ninth winter. A Red-eyed Vireo at John Baca Park in Huntington Beach 25 Dec–2 Jan (Roger A. Schoedl) established the latest record for California and briefly shared the same park with California’s latest Great Crested Flycatcher!

Black-billed Magpies continue to decline steadily in the Owens Valley, Inyo Co; this winter’s Bishop Christmas Bird Count on 18 Dec recorded only 31 birds, the lowest total in the count’s 40 year history. A Cliff Swallow at Bonelli Regional Park, Los Angeles Co 24 Jan (Keith Condon) was an early spring arrival. Swinhoe’s White-eyes continue to expand northward on the coast, with two at Oxnard College in Ventura Co 16 Dec (Sammy Cowell). A Wrentit in Palm Canyon at the edge of the Coachella Valley, Riverside Co 25 Dec (Hiromi Hosako) was at an unusual locality. A Phainopepla at Wilson Cove 10–11 Dec (Nicole J. Desnoyers) established only the third winter record for San Clemente Island.

Nearly all county reports suggest that movements of Red-breasted Nuthatches away from montane coniferous habitat were very limited this winter. A Pygmy Nuthatch was in Griffith Park in Los Angeles 2–4 Jan, with two there on 3 Jan (Naresh Satyan). A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at Chalk Bluff north of Bishop, Inyo Co 18 Dec (Santiago Escruceria) was unexpected in winter on the cold northernmost desert. Three Pacific Wrens were in Santa Barbara Co during the period, where expected; less typical was one at the Coachella Valley Preserve, Riverside Co 25 Dec–5 Feb (Kara Jaske, Curtis A. Marantz). A one-day Gray Catbird was well-described from Glendora, Los Angeles Co 12 Jan (Kelly Schmoker). A Curve-billed Thrasher was at Needles, San Bernardino Co 30 Dec (Kenneth Fisher), and one continued farther south along the Colorado River at Black Meadow Landing, San Bernardino Co 3 Feb (Robert Schmidt). A Brown Thrasher was at Coronado’s North Island, San Diego Co 4–6 Dec (Paul E. Lehman). Presumably an early spring arrival though possibly wintering, a Bendire’s Thrasher was at the Mojave National Preserve, San Bernardino Co 28 Feb (Jim Tietz). 

Thrushes through Sparrows

Small groups of Mountain Bluebirds were found in some coastal slope localities; a group of four was on San Clemente I. 31 Dec and again (same birds?) 4 Feb (Nicole J. Desnoyers). A Townsend’s Solitaire at San Timoteo Canyon in Redlands 2 Jan (Matthew A. Grube) was only the second to be found on the coastal plain of San Bernardino Co in winter. A large, grayish Hermit Thrush photographed in Huntington Beach 20 Dec was thought to represent the western montane subspecies auduboni (Brian E. Daniels). Two Rufous-backed Robins wintered at Desert Center, Riverside Co 19 Nov–25 Mar (Bradley Waggoner). Varied Thrushes were in below-average numbers this winter, with only about eight reported, including birds at San Clemente I. 15 Dec (Sean K. Roedl) and Victorville, San Bernardino Co 28 Dec (Estelle Delgado).

An American Pipit of the eastern Palearctic subspecies japonicus returned for a second winter at the Ferraro Soccer Fields in Griffith Park, Los Angeles Co 4 Nov–21 Feb (Andrew Birch). A Sprague’s Pipit was in the Imperial Valley near Calipatria 5–21 Feb (Lucas Stephenson, Mark and Janet Scheel), with up to three in a different area near Calipatria 1–18 Mar (Curtis A. Marantz); after a rash of winter records from the 1980s through about 2016, this species had been unrecorded in the Imperial Valley in recent years.   

The only longspurs detected through the winter were a Lapland Longspur at Mission Bay, San Diego Co 18 Nov–16 Feb (Paul E. Lehman, Eddie Monson); up to 3 Laplands at Chino Hills State Park, San Bernardino Co 1 Dec (Jimmy McMorran); a Chestnut-collared Longspur at Helendale, San Bernardino Co 17 Dec (Keith Condon); and a Thick-billed Longspur along Branch Mtn. Rd. on the Carrizo Plain, San Luis Obispo Co 7–11 Jan (Will K. Knowlton). Chipping Sparrows are scarce in winter in San Luis Obispo Co, so notable was a high count of 12 at Centennial Park in Paso Robles 26 Jan (Thomas M. Edell).

Clay-colored Sparrows were relatively scarce this winter, with 12 found in the coastal counties, including one at Shandon 24 Jan–16 Feb (Steve and Priscilla Summers) which was only the fourth for San Luis Obispo Co inland from the Santa Lucia Mtns. The only (Red) Fox Sparrow reported was at Montana de Oro S. P., San Luis Obispo Co 9 Dec (Jay C. Carroll). What appeared to be an intergeneric Dark-eyed Junco x White-crowned Sparrow hybrid was photo-documented and audio-recorded as it remained at Los Osos, San Luis Obispo Co 4 Feb into April (Kaaren L. Perry); more details will be included in the Spring report. Coastal slope Harris’s Sparrows were at Ventura, Ventura Co 21 Dec (David Pereksta), Carpinteria, Santa Barbara Co 16 Dec (Mark A. Holmgren), Monrovia, Los Angeles Co 22 Dec–9 Jan (Holly Coates), Avila Beach San Luis Obispo Co 14–18 Jan (Dane C. Fagundes), and Tustin, Orange Co 20 Feb+ (Trevor Leitz); up to four were at Furnace Creek, Inyo Co 23 Jan (Chris and Rosie Howard), one was at Lone Pine, Inyo Co 2 Jan (Russell D. Kokx), and singles were at S.E.S.S. (seawall) 20 Dec (Ryan S. Terrill) and Salton Sea N.W.R. headquarters 20 Dec–7 May (Guy McCaskie). Of nearly 100 White-throated Sparrows reported during the period, about 60 were in the northern coastal counties (Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo). Numbers of Lincoln’s Sparrows were thought to be well below normal in Orange Co this winter (Ryan Winkleman), but no clear trends were reported from other counties. Somewhat below average, six Swamp Sparrows were reported on the coastal slope during the winter; on the deserts singles were at Borrego Springs, San Diego Co 20 Oct–22 Dec (Jim Pawlicki), Chalk Bluff north of Bishop, Inyo Co 18 Dec (Santiago Escruceria), and Piute Ponds, Los Angeles Co 22 Jan (Mickey Dyke, Sona Conlin) and 19 Feb (Kimball L. Garrett).

Yellow-breasted Chat through Wood-Warblers

An overwintering Yellow-breasted Chat was at San Elijo Lagoon, San Diego Co 13 Dec–10 Feb (Maryanne Bache). Our two most numerous wintering orioles were represented by at least 20 Hooded Orioles, all on the coastal slope except for one in Palm Springs, Riverside Co 19 Dec (Steve Eckert), and about 86 Bullock’s Orioles (all on the coastal slope). The six Orchard Orioles were at Carpinteria, Santa Barbara Co 21 Oct–12 Mar (Noah Arthur; returning for its fifth winter), Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo Co 2–6 Dec (Liam and Kilian Hampl), North Island Naval Air Station, San Diego Co 4 Dec–10 Feb (Paul E. Lehman; returning for its second winter), Clairemont, San Diego Co 7–27 Jan (Paul E. Lehman), Otay Mesa, San Diego Co 1–7 Feb (Paul E. Lehman), and San Clemente I. 11 Feb–11 Mar (Greyson A. Poutas; the first winter record for the island). Five Baltimore Orioles were at Fountain Valley, Orange Co 11 Oct–30 Jan (Richard A. Cabe, Jasmine C. Kay; adult male) and 4 Nov–30 Jan (Becky A. Turley; immature female), 

Carpinteria 29 Nov–5 Dec (John B. Callender), Otay Mesa, San Diego Co 8 Dec–4 Jan (Paul E. Lehman), and Balboa Park in San Diego 20 Jan–20 Feb (Paul E. Lehman). The northwesternmost of several wintering Scott’s Orioles was in Stone Canyon in Bel Air, Los Angeles Co 15–22 Jan (Jared M. Diamond). The only Rusty Blackbird of the winter was at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine, Orange Co 13 Dec (Andrea M. Carpio).

No overwintering Ovenbirds were detected, but a late fall vagrant was on San Miguel Island 4 Dec (Stacy Baker). A Northern Waterthrush at Carpinteria 25 Sep–10 Mar had returned for its third winter (David M. Compton); others were at the Ventura Wastewater Treatment Plant 1 Sep–12 Feb (Sammy Cowell) and Mojave Narrows Regional Park, San Bernardino Co 7 Jan (Madeline Bauer, Estelle Delgado). Thirty-three Black-and-white Warblers were found during the winter, all on the coastal slope. All four Tennessee Warblers were in San Diego Co, at Nestor 16–18 Dec (Paul E. Lehman), Otay Mesa 1 Jan–7 Feb (Paul E. Lehman), Encinitas SD 3 Jan (Susan E. Smith), and Carlsbad 6 Jan–2 Mar (John Dumlao). Lucy’s Warblers, in contrast, were skewed to the north, with birds at Carpinteria 10 Jan–9 Mar (Eric B. Culbertson), and in Los Angeles Co at Huntington Gardens in San Marino 20 Dec–16 Jan (Mayer Otto, Omar Alui), Riverfront Park in Maywood 15–25 Feb (Jon S. Feenstra), and Madrona Marsh in Torrance 1 Mar (Doug Okamuro). Our second most numerous winter Leiothlypis (after the common Orange-crowned Warbler), Nashville Warblers were represented by some 44 birds, all on the coastal slope. A MacGillivray’s Warbler in Goleta 24 Sep–28 Feb (Brad Hacker) had returned for a second winter; others were in Imperial Beach, San Diego Co 9–20 Dec (Gjon C. Hazard) and Costa Mesa, Orange Co 2 Jan (Bruce A. Aird, Sam A. Bressler, Chris Eijenholm). 

Hooded Warblers were at Clark Valley near Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo Co 18–20 Dec (Scott Inman) and the Hillcrest district of San Diego 30 Oct–16 Jan (Dawn Tagburt, Nathan French). Eighteen American Redstarts were on the coastal slope, with another in Palm Desert, Riverside Co 29–30 Dec (Kara Jaske). Four coastal slope Northern Parulas were at Westminster, Orange Co 2–9 Jan (Art and Linette Davenport), Lemon Grove, San Diego Co 11 Jan–2 Feb (Jim Pawlicki), Carmel Valley, San Diego Co 27 Jan–26 Mar (Kyle Fischer), and Encinitas, San Diego Co 21 Feb–3 Mar (Peter A. Ginsburg); on the deserts one was at Palm Desert, Riverside Co 24 Dec (iNat user “allieallium”; San Diego Co hosted several of our rarest vagrant winter warblers, with a Magnolia Warbler at San Dieguito County Park 18 Nov–30 Apr (Sandy Yayanos, Dan King), Bay-breasted Warblers at Allied Gardens in San Diego 1–8 Dec (Jonathan Casanova) and Encinitas 19 Feb–3 Apr (Barbara Swanson), and a Blackburnian Warbler at Princess del Cerro Park in San Diego 14 Dec (Christopher Adler). A Yellow Warbler at the Kern Water Bank in the southwestern San Joaquin Valley, Kern Co 4–11 Dec (Todd Easterla) was far from more expected coastal and southeastern desert wintering sites. Chestnut-sided Warblers were at Wardlow Park in Long Beach, Los Angeles Co 26 Nov–22 Dec (Eddie Monson), Mason Regional Park in Irvine, Orange Co 15 Dec–25 Jan (Thomas E. Wurster), San Diego State University campus in San Diego 17 Dec (Nicholas A. Barber), and Chula Vista, San Diego Co 18 Dec (Thomas Ford-Hutchinson). The ten Palm Warblers during the winter period spanned all six coastal counties. Pine Warblers were at Santee, San Diego Co 8 Dec (Brennan Mulrooney), Chula Vista 18 Dec–12 Apr (Jay Desgrossellier), and on the deserts at Yucca Valley, Riverside Co 29 Dec–9 Jan (Eddie Monson). A Grace’s Warbler was at Mentone Basin Park in Grover Beach, San Luis Obispo Co from 8 Oct to 18 Jan (m. ob.); three returning birds were in San Diego Co at Encinitas 11 Oct–13 Mar (Susan E. Smith; its fourth winter here), Mission Bay 17 Oct–7 Feb (Jim Pawlicki; its second winter), and Del Mar 20 Nov–26 Mar (Dan King; its fifth winter). Rare in winter on the deserts, a Townsend’s Warbler was at El Centro, Imperial Co 8 Nov–29 Dec (Logan Kahle, Curtis A. Marantz). A Black-throated Green Warbler at Long Beach 1 Jan–6 Feb (Jonathan Nakai) had returned for its second winter; new individuals were at Huntington Gardens in San Marino, Los Angeles Co 18–28 Dec (Jon L. Fisher, Sarah Ngo), Allied Gardens in San Diego 26 Sep–13 Feb (Christopher Adler), and the San Diego Mission in San Diego 10 Dec–15 Mar (Paul E. Lehman). Painted Redstarts included birds at Rocky Nook Park in Santa Barbara 11 Dec–10 Mar (Libby Patten) and Tierrasanta, San Diego Co 10 Nov–19 Feb (Paul E. Lehman), along with returning birds at Arroyo Verde Park in Ventura 13 Oct–25 Dec (m. ob.) and Inglewood Park Cemetery, Los Angeles Co 24 Sep–14 Mar (Russell Stone). 

Tanagers through Buntings

A Hepatic Tanager was at Solana Beach, San Diego Co 7 Oct–19 Apr (Gjon C. Hazard), along with returning birds at Clairemont, San Diego Co SD 28 Nov–10 Apr (PEL) and Tierrasanta 19 Jan–11 Apr (Paul E. Lehman). Summer Tanager numbers were a bit down this winter, but still some sixty were found on the coastal slope, with four others on the deserts. In addition to over 150 Western Tanagers detected in the coastal lowlands during the winter, a late migrant was in the mountains at Palomar Mtn. State Park, San Diego Co 27 Nov–3 Dec (Paula Theobald). Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were at North Island Naval Air Station, San Diego Co 4 Dec (Paul E. Lehman) and Laguna Beach, Orange Co 14 Dec (John Newlander, Christy Miller). Seven Black-headed Grosbeaks were found on the coastal slope during the winter; more surprising was one east of Lancaster (vic. Ave G-8 west of 100th St. East) 1–23 Feb (Joseph Dunn), the only mid-winter record for desert part of Los Angeles Co. An Indigo Bunting was at Meadow Park in San Luis Obispo 12–16 Dec (Eric N. Wier); another at Redlands, San Bernardino Co 3 Jan–6 Apr (John Tveten) had returned for a second winter. Green female or immature male Painted Buntings were at Lemon Tank, San Clemente I. 22 Dec (Justyn T. Stahl), Chula Vista, San Diego 24 Dec (Susan Yamagata), and Lone Pine, Inyo Co 2–4 Jan (Russell D. Kokx); a bedraggled adult male at Rancho Bernardo, San Diego Co 3 Jan (Rafael Bar) is best considered an escapee.

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 1 July 2022.

Photos–Southern California: Winter 2021–2022

This Vaux’s Swift, photographed on 2 March 2022, was first reported on 20 December 2021, and remained with wintering swallows at Sweetwater Reservoir, San Diego Co through at least 6 March 2022; small numbers winter regularly in Southern California. Photo © John Dumlao.

This obvious oystercatcher, photographed at the harbor in Oceanside, San Diego Co on 21 February 2022, closely matches an American Oystercatcher. However, the separation of the black breast and the white belly is ragged suggesting it is not a “pure” American, so best treated as an American x Black Oystercatcher (more frequent in California than “pure” Americans). Photo © David Theobold.

This adult Black-headed Gull, photographed near the north end of Southern California’s Salton Sea, Riverside Co, on 8 December 2021, remained at the Kent Sea Tech facility there through 9 March 2022. Photo © Robert L. McKernan.

This adult Slaty-backed Gull, photographed on the San Gabriel River in Pico Rivera, Los Angeles Co on 5 February 2022, is only the fourth known in Southern California. Photo © Steven Kurniawidjaja.

This Laysan Albatross, photographed 23 kilometers west of Point Loma on 4 January 2022, was closer to the Southern California coast than expected, and one of a very few known over San Diego Co waters. Photo © Thomas A. Blackman.

This Short-tailed Shearwater, one of only eight known off Southern California during the 2021-2022 winter, was off Carpinteria, Santa Barbara Co on 18 December 2021. Photo © Hugh P. Ranson.

This adult Tricolored Heron at the Point Mugu Naval Air Station, Ventura Co on 19 December 2021 was one of only two known is Southern California during the winter of 2021-2022. Photo © David Pereksta.

This Great Crested Flycatcher at John Baca Park in Huntington Beach, Orange Co, photographed on 26 December 2021, was still present on 1 January 2022, establishing by far the latest date for a fall vagrant in California. Photo © Rhondal Howard.

The only Thick-billed Kingbird known in Southern California in the winter of 2021-2022 was this one photographed on 2 December 2021 in the Tijuana River Valley, San Diego Co. Photo © John Dumlao.

This Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, present for its fifth winter at the Poggi Creek Greenbelt in Chula Vista and one of three known during the winter in San Diego Co, California, was well photographed in flight on 8 December 2021. Photo © Haim Weizman.

This Eastern Phoebe, photographed on 19 January 2022, was present in San Diego’s City Heights, San Diego Co, from 26 November 2021 through 12 February 2022 and was one of six found during the period in Southern California. Photo © Barbara Wise.

This Red-eyed Vireo at John Baca Park in Huntington Beach, Orange Co photographed on 1 January 2022 was still present on 2 January 2022, establishing by far the latest date for a fall vagrant in California. Photo © Rhondal Howard.

This young Harris’s Sparrow at a private residence in Ventura, Ventura Co on 21 December 2021 was one of five found along the coastal slope of Southern California this winter. Photo © David Pereksta.