Southern California: Winter 2022–2023

Winter 2022–2023: 1 Dec–28 Feb

Guy McCaskie

Kimball L. Garrett

Recommended citation:

McCaskie, G., and K. L. Garrett. 2022. Winter 2022–2023: Southern California. <> North American Birds.

Southern California experienced a relatively wet winter, with a series of “atmospheric river” storms that resulted in some soaking rains and a greater than average snowpack in the higher mountains. These conditions produced a welcome change from years of drought conditions that had been increasingly severe. As always, impacts of winter precipitation are reflected over the following seasons and probably have little immediate impact on bird distributions apart from some movements of wetland birds.

A major movement of American Robins into Southern California brought record high numbers south to San Diego and Imperial Counties. There were significant movements and high numbers of other thrushes (Western and Mountain Bluebirds, Townsend’s Solitaires) as well. Otherwise there was only minimal movement of other irruptive species, e.g. very few Pine Siskins and Red-breasted Nuthatches.

Rarity highlights included California’s first winter Wood Sandpiper at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area in Riverside Co, two itinerant King Eiders, and singles of Rufous-backed Robin, Smith’s Longspur, Cassin’s Sparrow, and Streak-backed Oriole.

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), Sammy Cowell (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). Museum collections abbreviated in the text are: SDNHM (San Diego Natural History Museum).

Because most rarities in Southern California are seen by multiple observers, only the observer(s) initially finding and/or identifying the bird are included. Documentation for species on the California Bird Records Committee (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 Trumpeter Swan was at Tinemaha Reservoir, Inyo Co 12 Jan–19 Feb (Chris and Rosie Howard), two immatures were photographed at Newberry Springs, San Bernardino Co 17 Feb (Elizabeth Avey and Sue Swift) and two adults with six Tundra Swans in Blythe 8 Jan–11 Feb (Jason St Pierre) appear to be the first truly wild in Riverside Co, the previous occurrence involved a transplanted bird wearing a red collar at the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve 14–24 Apr 2012. A Tundra Swan at Borrego Springs, San Diego Co 31 Dec–6 Jan Steve Ellis) was the southernmost of the very few reaching Southern California this winter.

A Wood Duck at N.E.S.S. (North Shore) 1 Feb (Robert L. McKernan) was one of a very few recently recorded in the southeastern part of Southern California. At least 37 Eurasian Wigeon were known present, with 28 along the coast and 9 more scattered throughout the interior. A male Eurasian Green-winged (Common) Teal on south San Diego Bay (“J” Street in Chula Vista) 23 Feb–15 Mar (Dan Jehl) was the same bird present here during the past three winters. A Mexican Duck at Carr Park in Huntington Beach, Orange Co 19 Oct–20 Feb (Roger A. Schoedl) was the same bird present here during the past two winters.

Two female King Eiders at Rincon Island/Ventura Pier, Ventura Co 17 Dec–5 Feb (Hugh Ranson) provide the first record involving more than a single bird in California; these two King Eiders may have been the same two present on Lake Hattie in Wyoming 12–18 Nov, and are almost certainly the same two photographed at Crissy Field in San Francisco on 10 Feb. A male Harlequin Duck at Port San Luis, San Luis Obispo Co through the winter (Tom M. Edell) was at the southern extreme of this species’ range. Up to five Surf Scoters at N.E.S.S. 4 Jan–28 Feb+ (Robert L. McKernan) and two S.E.S.S. (Young Rd) 1–17 Feb (Guy McCaskie) were inland where rare. A male White-winged Scoter in the California Aqueduct near the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area, Kern Co 6 Dec (William Rockey) and a female at the Palo Verde Division Dam on the Colorado River, Riverside Co 22 Jan–9 Mar (Jason St. Pierre) were both well inland. A Black Scoter at the Tijuana River mouth, San Diego Co 3 Feb (Dan Hayes) was the southernmost of more than 50 known wintering along the coast. Only five Long-tailed Ducks were reported from along the coast, with one at Coronado, San Diego Co 29 Nov–17 Dec (David Holway) being the southernmost; another in Bishop, Inyo Co 17 Dec–17 Mar+ (Nancy J. Overholtz) was the only one inland. The only Barrow’s Goldeneyes known were a male on the California Aqueduct in Littlerock, Los Angeles Co 5 Dec (Kimball L. Garrett) and a female at N.E.S.S. (84th Ave) 1–8 Feb (Robert L. McKernan). An exceptional flock of up to 36 Common Mergansers was at N.E.S.S.(Ave 84) 25 Jan–28 Feb (Robert L. McKernan).

A Red-necked Grebe on the California side of Lake Havasu, San Bernardino Co 28 Jan (Alexander E. Koonce) was inland where very rare, and only four were known along the coast, with one at Shelter Island on San Diego Bay 30 Nov–13 Jan (Paul E. Lehman) being the southernmost.

Doves through Hummingbirds

An Inca Dove in Borrego Springs 18 Dec–31 Jan (Paul E. Lehman), two more at another location in Borrego Springs 7–27 Jan (Mike Wittmer) and three at Demuth Park in Palm Springs, Riverside Co 26–29 Jan (Tom Crusse) were at the extreme western edge of this dove’s known range. A White-winged Dove in Cayucos, San Luis Obispo 4–21 Dec (Tom M. Edell) was the northernmost of at least a dozen in the coastal lowlands.

A flock of about 30 Vaux’s Swifts over Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo and three more over Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo Co on 1 Dec (Steve McMasters and Herb D. Elliott) were likely attempting to winter locally. An adult male Rufous Hummingbird photographed in Bonita, San Diego Co 17 Dec (John Bruin) provides one of a very few documented records of this hummingbird in winter; an immature male photographed in Pacific Beach 26 Jan–17 Feb (Gary Nunn) may have wintered locally since the earliest of the spring migrants are normally adult males arriving in mid-February, with single adult males in San Diego 10 Feb (Butch Carter) and Encino, Los Angeles Co 11 Feb (Patricia Bates) being the earliest of the spring migrants this year. The Broad-billed Hummingbird found in Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo Co on 21 Oct was still present 18 Mar (Petra and Jack Clayton) and another was in Santa Barbara 22–30 Jan (Rob Hofberg).

Rails through Sandpipers

A Black Rail well photographed walking in the open at S.E.S.S. (Garst Road) 15 Dec (David Arkin) was certainly unexpected. A Sandhill Crane in Pico Rivera, Los Angeles Co 29 Dec–13 Mar (Jon Fisher) was at an unexpected coastal lowland locality.

About ten Pacific Golden-Plovers were known wintering along the coast at traditional sites. A flock of 258 Mountain Plovers at the Carrizo Plain National Monument 28 Jan (Daniel Irons) was the largest number known this winter; otherwise, up to 15 were in the Antelope Valley 17 Nov–3 Feb (Kimball L. Garrett), two were near Blythe, Riverside Co 5 Dec (Kayla Michael), and up to 55 north of Westmorland 22 Nov–15 Feb (Guy McCaskie) were the only ones known in this plover’s former Imperial Valley wintering stronghold.

A Ruff in Ontario, San Bernardino Co 21 Jan–16 Apr (Eugene A. Cardiff) was believed to be the same one present on and off for the past nine winters. A Stilt Sandpiper on south San Diego Bay, San Diego Co 13 Dec–29 Jan (Nick Thorpe) was the only one found away from S.E.S.S. Up to twelve Sanderlings at Salt Creek Beach on the Salton Sea 4 Jan–28 Feb+ (Robert L. McKernan) appeared to be wintering at this inland location. The Little Stint that spent the past four winters on south San Diego Bay was again present 18 Jul–1 Feb (Matt Sadowski) and another was at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area 27 Jan-20 Apr (Charity Hagen), the latter being only the fourth ever in California during the winter. A Pectoral Sandpiper at S.E.S.S. (Unit 1) 25–27 Dec (Darren Hsu) provides one of a very few documented records for this sandpiper in winter.

Single Solitary Sandpipers, very rare in winter, were in Irvine, Orange Co 21–22 Feb (Pete Gordon) and near Mecca, Riverside Co 29 Dec–7 Jan (Chet McGaugh). A Wood Sandpiper adjacent to the San Jacinto Wildlife Area, Riverside Co 20 Dec–13 Apr (David Rankin) was the fourth known in California, and the first in winter. A Wilson’s Phalarope remained on south San Diego Bay from September through at least 28 Feb (Matt Sadowski).

Storms in January forced large numbers of Red Phalaropes up against the coast, such as 225 at Point La Jolla in La Jolla 16 Jan (Matt Sadowski); in addition these same conditions forced some inland such as the single birds at Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa, Ventura Co 19–20 Jan (Carol W. Johnson), Lake Casitas, Ventura Co 15 Jan (Lucas Le Griece), Rancho Bernardo, San Diego Co 2 Jan (Sean Buchanan) and in Lakeside, San Diego Co 2 Jan (Phil Lambert).

Alcids through Terns

A Pigeon Guillemot in La Jolla 17 Jan (Bridget Spencer) was not only at the southern limit of the species’ range, but also totally unexpected in winter when the bulk of the California population is believed to move north to the Puget Sound/Salish Sea area in Washington and British Columbia. Two Marbled Murrelets in the Santa Barbara Channel off Ventura 9 Feb (Joel Barrett) were the southernmost reported this winter. A Scripps’s Murrelet off Carlsbad 30 Dec (Dave Povey) was the earliest of those returning to the waters off San Diego Co. An Ancient Murrelet on Mission Bay, San Diego Co 23 Jan (Sue Murphy) was the only one reported. Of extreme interest were single Parakeet Auklets 243 km west southwest San Miguel Island 18 Jan (Michael Force) and 187 km west of San Miguel Island 22 Jan (Michael Force). Single Tufted Puffins 3 km west of Lunada Bay on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Los Angeles Co 26 Dec (Jess Morton), another, or the same bird, in the same area 4 Mar (Kimball L. Garrett), and 12 km west of La Jolla 18 Feb (Paul E. Lehman) were at the extreme southern limit of this species’ range.

Black-legged Kittiwakes were rare close to shore this winter, but 35 west southwest of San Miguel Island 20 Jan (Michael Force) suggests those getting to Southern California were well offshore, supported by 14 at Montana de Oro State Park 14 Feb (Mark Mushkat) and 11 at Point La Jolla 22 Feb (Paul E Lehman) during periods of strong winds from the northwest. An adult Sabine’s Gull 181 km west southwest of San Miguel Island 22 Jan (Michael Force) provides the only mid-winter record for Southern California. An adult Black-headed Gull, a casual stray to California, was at the Sanderson Sewage Treatment Facility, Riverside Co 20–22 Dec (Anthony Metcalf). A Heermann’s Gull in Atascadero, San Luis Obispo Co 11 Dec (Steve and Janny Tillmann) was inland on the east side of the Coast Range. Single Short-billed Gulls at N.E.S.S. (82nd Ave) 8 Feb (Robert L. McKernan) and (North Shore) 22 Feb (Robert L. McKernan), and at S.E.S.S. near Calipatria, Imperial Co 19–21 Dec (Paul E. Lehman) were well inland, where rare. A Western Gull photographed in Mojave 13 Dec (Brian E. Daniels) is one of a very few ever documented in Kern Co. The number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls known wintering in Southern California continues to increase as illustrated by 19–22 in the Greater Los Angeles area; single birds at the Santa Ynez River mouth 14 Feb–17 Mar (Nick A. Lethaby) in Santa Barbara Co, Silverwood Lake 18 Dec–19 Feb in San Bernardino Co (Brad Singer), and in Bakersfield 24 Jan (Daniel Irons) in Kern County were the northernmost. A Common Tern, not expected in winter, was off Orange Co 22 Jan (Kiandra S. Mitchell). Two Elegant Terns at Point Dume 11 Dec (Marky Mutchler) were exceptionally late fall migrants.

Tropicbirds through Herons

Single Red-billed Tropicbirds were 150 km southwest of China Point, San Clemente Island 9 Jan (Michael Force) and much closer to the coast over Orange Co waters at Crespi Knoll 22 Jan (Jon L. Dunn).

Up to two Pacific Loons, rare inland, were on Lake Isabella, Kern Co 1–15 Jan (Susan Steele, Annie Meyer). A first-winter Yellow-billed Loon on Mission Bay 22 Dec–15 Mar (Matthew Pendleton) was the first known in San Diego County. However, single birds in extreme northwestern Mexico at the Los Coronados Islands and at the northern end of the Gulf of California provide the southernmost records in the West.

Michael Force, as an observer on the NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker, encountered an unprecedented 100 Laysan Albatross on 20 Jan, that included 80 together 130 km west southwest of Point Bennett on San Miguel Island. A Short-tailed Albatross, a bird encouragingly seen increasingly off California, was well photographed 130 km west southwest of Point Bennett on San Miguel Island 20 Jan (Michael Force). A freshly dead Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel recovered in La Jolla 17 Feb (Joachim Bertrands; * SDNHM) and another photographed in flight over San Elijo Lagoon, San Diego Co 22 Feb (Mike MacKenzie) were at the extreme southern limit of this species’ range. A Murphy’s Petrel 450 km southwest of San Nicolas Island 10 Jan (Michael Force) was close to Southern California waters; this Pterodroma is unreported off California in January. Single Cook’s Petrels were 119 km and 182 km west southwest of San Miguel Island on 20 Jan and 248 km west southwest of San Miguel Island 22 Jan (Michael Force). A Buller’s Shearwater was photographed from shore at Point La Jolla, San Diego Co 1 Jan (Dan Jehl), another over the Lausen Sea Mount on 22 Jan (Thomas A. Benson) was only the 7th in Orange Co waters, and one 128 km west of Point Arguello 24 Jan (Michael Force) provides the first record in winter for Santa Barbara County. Single Short-tailed Shearwaters seen from Point La Jolla 1 Jan (Gary Nunn), 16 Jan (Matt Sadowski), and 14 Feb (Bridget Spencer) were the only three reported.

A Masked Booby was well photographed 11.9 miles west of Point Loma 18 Feb (Paul E. Lehman). Single Nazca Boobies were seen at Point La Jolla 1 Jan (Stan Walens), off Mission Bay in San Diego 18 Jan (Nancy Christensen), and over Crespi Knoll off Orange Co 22 Jan (Jon L. Dunn), along with an unidentified Masked/Nazca Booby at Point La Jolla 16 Jan (Matt Sadowski). Three Red-footed Boobies were reported, with single birds on San Diego Bay 12 Dec–16 Jan (David Povey), at Point La Jolla 14 Feb (Paul E. Lehman), and at Newport Beach 10 Feb (Derek J. Hameister).

Up to two Neotropic Cormorants photographed in Bakersfield, Kern Co 18–26 Feb (John C. Wilson), along with one at Lake Sherwood, Ventura Co 16 Dec–6 Jan (Marc Better), and another at the Chino Creek Wetlands near Chino, San Bernardino Co 19 Feb (Joyce Brady) were the northernmost. A Reddish Egret at N.E.S.S. (North Shore) 16 Feb (Bob Packard) was the only one known inland.

Hawks through Woodpeckers

Up to six Harris’s Hawks remained at Shelter Valley in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park through 28 Feb (Nancy Christensen) and up to five were present in Jacumba, San Diego Co through 26 Feb (Paul E. Lehman). A flock of 110 Swainson’s Hawks that spent the night of 3 Jan in Borrego Springs departed south the following morning suggesting they were exceptionally late fall migrants, whereas flocks of 45 over Bonelli Regional Park, Los Angeles Co 6 Jan (Keith Condon) and 40 near Calipatria 28 Jan (Bruce Aird) were likely northbound migrants, illustrating that assigning reports of this hawk in December and January as migrants or wintering birds is simply guesswork. At least 18 Zone-tailed Hawks, including up to five roosting at the San Diego Zoo Safari near Escondido, San Diego Co, were believed wintering in the coastal lowlands, with one at Lake Casitias 17–21 Jan (Tina Tan) being the northernmost, and two at the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve, Riverside Co 31 Dec with one still present 22 Jan (Jason St. Pierre) inland. Only four Rough-legged Hawks, far less numerous in Southern California than 30 years ago, were reported, with two in the northeastern part of San Luis Obispo Co and two more in the Owens Valley of Inyo Co. The Snowy Owl of undetermined origin remained in Cypress, Orange Co 26 Nov–16 Jan, where viewed by hundreds of birders and non-birders alike.

A Williamson’s Sapsucker in Yucaipa, San Bernardino Co 2 Jan–28 Feb+ (Thomas A. Benson) and another in Santa Barbara 25 Dec–7 Mar (Jay N. Bishop) were in the coastal lowlands where rare. A White-headed Woodpecker in Goleta 8 Oct–3 Mar (Rebecca Fagan Coulter) provides one of a very few records for this woodpecker along the coast.


Regular in winter on the coastal slope, Dusky-capped Flycatchers were at Hollister Ranch, Santa Barbara Co 3 Dec (Ryanne Pritchard-Bee), Peck Park in San Pedro, Los Angeles Co 29 Nov–14 Jan (Brian E. Daniels), and Lake Balboa, Los Angeles Co 16 Jan–25 Feb (Jon L. Fisher; returning for its second winter); another was along the lower Colorado River at the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve, Riverside Co 16–28 Jan (Jason St. Pierre). A Brown-crested Flycatcher at the South Coast Botanic Garden, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Los Angeles Co 1 Jan–26 Feb (Nancy Salem) had returned for a third winter; another was at Mission Viejo, Orange Co from 14 Nov–12 Apr (Thomas F. Fangrow) for its fourth winter. Some 32 Tropical Kingbirds were along the coast during the period, where this species regularly winters. Remaining from the fall were

Thick-billed Kingbirds in and near the Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park, Los Angeles Co 31 Oct–12 Mar (Curtis A. Marantz), in Nestor, San Diego Co 7 Jan–11 Feb (Michael Clay) but present nearby in November 2022, and at Bellevue Memorial Park in Ontario, San Bernardino Co from 11 Nov–4 Apr (Thomas Benson, Chuck Burt). Very rare but regular in winter, Western Kingbirds were near the coast at Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station, Ventura Co 9 Dec (Dave Pereksta), Bolsa Chica, Orange Co 22 Dec­­–21 Jan (Brian E. Daniels), and the Bay Park section of San Diego 10 Feb (Marcie Mason), along with birds remaining from November at Nestor, San Diego Co to 28 Feb (Paul E. Lehman) and at Madrona Marsh in Torrance, Los Angeles Co to 28 Feb+ (m. ob.).

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers put in typically brief mid-winter appearances at Huntington Beach, Orange Co 17–19 Feb (Shirley A. Reynolds) and Oceanside, San Diego Co 4–6 Feb (Matt Mygatt).

The winter’s lone Greater Pewee, returning for its fifth winter, was at Balboa Park in San Diego 18 Oct–28 Feb (Paul E Lehman). A Least Flycatcher, casual in winter, was at the West San Gabriel River Parkway Nature Trail in Lakewood, Los Angeles Co 29 Jan–4 Mar (Joyce Brady).

Hammond’s Flycatchers regularly winter in small numbers, with 20 found on the coastal slope this winter, including the northernmost at Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo Co 30 Jan (Petra and Jack Clayton); one at Whitewater Preserve, Riverside Co 13 Dec (Stephen Myers) was at the western edge of the deserts. Gray Flycatcher, sometimes our most numerous winter Empidonax, made a poor showing this winter, with only five documented on the coastal slope, plus a very late northern interior bird at Furnace Creek Ranch, Inyo Co 22 Dec (Carl Lundblad). Some 16 Western Flycatchers were found on the coastal slope from Los Angeles County south, along with interior birds at Cottonwood Spring in Joshua Tree N. P., Riverside Co 19 Feb (Jared Fontaine) and Palo Verde County Park, Imperial Co 24 Dec (Janine McCabe); a spring arrival in Santa Barbara 24 Feb (Mark Bright) was only one day shy of being record early for Santa Barbara Co. An Eastern Phoebe was at Carpinteria, Santa Barbara Co 6 Dec–15 Jan (Spencer Seale), along with seven others on the coastal slope of Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

Vireos through Thrashers

Possibly wintering Bell’s Vireos were in Palm Desert, Riverside Co 10–15 Dec (Rick Machin) and the Alamo River wetlands, Imperial Co 5 Feb (Gjon Hazard); others at Rio de Los Angeles State Park near downtown Los Angeles 25–26 Jan (Mark Wilson, Andrew Birch) and Huntington Gardens in San Marino, Los Angeles Co 26 Feb (Lee Pace) were at sites with February records last year, so might be returning wintering birds. About 8 Cassin’s Vireos and 45+ Plumbeous Vireos during the period was a fairly typical winter ratio. Casual in winter, Warbling Vireos were at the West San Gabriel River Parkway Nature Trail in Lakewood 17 Dec (Joyce Brady) and Mission Bay, San Diego Co 1 Feb (Michelle Haglund), along with one returning for an amazing tenth winter at Bohnett Park in Santa Barbara 14 Dec–12 Jan (Hugh P. Ranson).

Despite indications of Pinyon Jay movements in the fall, the only ones reported during the period away from areas of regular occurrence were 40 on Mt. Pinos, Ventura Co 5 Dec (Amanda Williams, Michael Hartshorne) and flocks of up to 25 remaining into the spring at nearby Frazier Park and Lake of the Woods, Kern Co (Richard Crossley et al.). A Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay at Inyokern, Kern Co 18 Dec–5 Feb (Bob and Susan Steele) was a rare wanderer onto the deserts.

Somewhat out of range were Verdins on the coastal slope of San Bernardino Co near Loma Linda 3 Jan (Adam Jackson) and in the Santa Ana River Wash 22 Jan (Matt Grube). Unseasonal Bank Swallows were in San Diego Co at Lake Murray 30 Dec (Matt Sadowski) and Sweetwater Reservoir 5 Feb (Paul E. Lehman). Continuing their expansion northward and inland, Swinhoe’s White-eyes were at Goleta, Santa Barbara Co 14–31 Dec (2; Jessie Altstatt) and Kellogg Park in Corona, Riverside Co 4 Feb (3; Gary Nunn).

A Winter Wren at Arroyo Burro in Santa Barbara 19 Nov–20 Mar (Hugh P. Ranson) was superbly documented with photos and voice recordings; another in Rincon Ck. on the Santa Barbara/Ventura Co line near Carpinteria 14–18 Dec (Dave Pereksta et al.) was considered probably of this species, as was one on the campus of U. C. Riverside, Riverside Co 29 Nov–25 Jan (David Rankin). The Sedge Wren found at Piute Ponds, Los Angeles Co 14 Nov (Kimball L. Garrett) was well-documented to at least 7 Jan (Mark and Janet Scheel). A Gray Catbird remained from 21 Oct–17 Dec at Ventura (Robert McMorran), and another late fall straggler was at Hollister Ranch, Santa Barbara Co 4 Dec (Mark A. Holmgren); subsequently, singles were found at Tierra Bonita Park in Lancaster, Los Angeles Co 14 Dec (Alex Coffey, Bhaskar Krishnamachari), at Scorpion Campground on Santa Cruz I. 21 Jan (Brett Hartl), and at Julian, San Diego Co 27 Jan–6 Feb (Garret Huffman). A Sage Thrasher at Bishop, Inyo Co 8 Jan (Chris and Rosie Howard) was likely a very early spring migrant.

Thrushes through Pipits

Western Bluebirds wandered away from breeding areas in greater than average numbers this winter; for example, they were more widespread and numerous than normal in the Imperial Valley during the period, with up to 8 at the Salton Seas N.W.R. headquarters 26 Nov–14 Dec (Jean Benoit), and up to 8 in Calipatria 7 Dec–11 Feb (Guy McCaskie). Far more striking was the incursion of Mountain Bluebirds through much of the region. Fifty or more along the San Luis Obispo Co coast during the period was the most in many years (Tom M. Edell). In Los Angeles Co this species was found in large numbers throughout the Antelope Valley (as expected), but numbers were also higher than average along the desert slope of the San Gabriel Mtns;  on the coastal slope, birds made it to the immediate coast at Pt. Vicente 3 Dec (Sofie Shen) and Pt. Dume 18 Dec (two; Kimball L. Garrett), and some high counts for the coastal lowlands included 10–14 in the Sepulveda Basin 4 Dec–26 Feb, 11 at the Rolling Hills Landfill Loop, Palos Verdes Peninsiula 9 Dec, and 22–30 at the San Gabriel Coastal Basin Spreading Grounds in Pico Rivera 1–8 Jan. Orange Co experienced a “mini-irruption” through the period (Ryan S. WInkleman), and San Clemente I. had a flock of 35 at Lemon Tank 11 Feb (Benjamin C. Stalheim, Kandace L. Glanville). Finally, dozens of Mountain Bluebirds were in the low desert areas of Inyo Co (Chris and Rosie Howard), and Imperial Co has a high count of 100 at Calipatria 30 Nov with 75 there to 22 Jan (Guy McCaskie). Another thrush that was exceptionally widespread and numerous this winter was the Townsend’s Solitaire; six were found in the Ventura Co lowlands, and in Los Angeles Co solitaires were found at 20+ sites along the San Gabriel Mtn. foothills, at least 10 sites in the Santa Monica Mts., and at least seven birds at four sites on and near the Palos Verdes Peninsula 18–29 Dec; at least ten were at Blue Jay Campground in Santa Ana Mtns., Orange Co 11 Nov–27 Dec (Ryan S. Winkleman), with a few others in the county’s lowlands. In San Diego Co 18 solitaires were found in the coastal lowlands, 12 in the inland valleys, and 13 on the desert Dec–Feb; finally, ten were in the San Bernardino Co lowlands and 8 in Imperial Co during the period. Hermit Thrushes seemed more widespread this winter as well; for example, at Piute ponds where normally rare in winter there were 5 on 3 Dec (Jack Wickel) and 6 Dec (William Tyrer), and 4 on 17 Dec (Mark and Janet Scheel) and 29 Dec (Kimball L. Garrett); at least 15 others were found through the winter elsewhere on the floor of the Antelope Valley. The rarest thrush of the winter was a Rufous-backed Robin near Calipatria, Imperial Co 20 Dec–4 Jan (Paul E. Lehman), though its appearance was likely independent of the movements of other thrush species. Winter 2022–2023 will be remembered as the season of the American Robin, with superlatives in most parts of the region. Just a sampling of high counts would include: 1750 at Lake Cachuma, Santa Barbara Co 21 Feb (Ron Hirst), 500 in Sycamore Canyon in Whitter, Los Angeles Co 15 Jan (Amy Rangel), 537 at Caballero Canyon in Tarzana, Los Angeles Co 11 Feb (Spat Cannon), 500 in Sullivan Canyon, Brentwood 12 Feb (Joshua Mitchell, Samuel Bressler), 497 at Laguna Niguel, Orange Co 26 Dec (Shirley Reynolds), 413 at Ladera Ranch 18 Jan (Molly Mell), 60 on San Clemente I. 28 Dec (Nicole J. Desnoyers), 1750 near Lake Hodges, San Diego Co 27 Dec (Matt Sadowski), 3000 over Vista, San Diego Co in two hours on 28 Jan (Terry Brashear), 2600 in 30 minutes over Balboa Park, San Diego 1–9 Feb (Paul E. Lehman), and 560 at S.E.S.S. on the Salton Sea (South) CBC 20 Dec (Guy McCaskie).

A Bohemian Waxwing was in Lone Pine, Inyo Co 26–28 Nov (Russell D. Kokx), followed by two at Bishop City Park, Inyo Co 17 Jan (Eric Smith Jr.); this irruptive species has been very scarce in the region in recent decades.

The returning japonicus American Pipit at the Ferraro Soccer fields in Griffith Park, Los Angeles Co remained from 15 Nov to 13 Dec (Andrew Birch).

Finches through Icterids

Up to 12 Evening Grosbeaks were at Upper Agua Dulce Creek, Laguna Mtns., San Diego Co 4–8 Dec (Scott Dietrich), and eight were in w. Bakersfield, Kern Co 7 Feb (John C. Wilson). Red Crossbills (“Type 2” by flight calls) were present in greater-than-average numbers in the Antelope Valley, Los Angeles Co through the winter, with high counts of 20 at Apollo Park nw. of Lancaster on 3 Feb (John Oliver, Michael Abrams) and 4 Feb (Steven Kurniawidjaja, Jodhan Fine) and 23 at Pearblossom Park 16 Jan (Otto Mayer), and nesting documented or suspected at three sites in the Antelope Valley after the winter season; >50 crossbills were found in the San Diego Co mountains during the period.

The scattering of Lapland Longspurs included birds at Lompoc, Santa Barbara Co 9 Dec (Wes T. Fritz) and Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station, Ventura Co 18 Dec (Dave Pereksta), up to five east of Lancaster, Los Angeles Co 26 Dec–26 Feb (Kimball L. Garrett), up to ten at Neenach in the western Antelope Valley, Los Angeles Co 29 Jan–17 Mar (Richard Crossley, Daniel Irons), five along the San Diego Co coast from December through 6 Jan (Guy McCaskie), and singles at Perris Valley, Riverside Co 25 Jan (Greg Cross), and N.E.S.S. (North Shore) 7 Jan (Tim Lenz).  Up to 16 Chestnut-collared Longspurs were in agricultural fields at Neenach 27 Jan–17 Mar (Daniel Irons) and a single bird was at N.E.S.S. (North Shore) 25 Jan (Robert McKernan). Only the region’s sixth, and third for mid-winter, a Smith’s Longspur was well-studied and photographed on the Antelope Valley side of the Tejon Ranch, Kern Co 21 Dec (Dessi Sieburth).

A Cassin’s Sparrow at Estero Bluffs S. P., San Luis Obispo Co 4–9 Dec (Maggie L. Smith) was only the second ever found in California between December and March, with nearly all prior records being between May and October. A Grasshopper Sparrow at the Kern Water Bank in the s. San Joaquin Valley, Kern Co 10 Dec (Todd Easterla) was unexpected. The only Lark Bunting reported during the period was at Redlands, San Bernardino Co 21 Jan–22 Feb (Brittany O’Connor). Clay-colored Sparrows were in below-average numbers this winter, with only a dozen reported, all on the coastal slope from Santa Barbara to San Diego Cos. An American Tree Sparrow at the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve, Riverside Co 7 Dec (Logan Kahle) was among the few ever found along the lower Colorado River. A “Red” Fox Sparrow on San Clemente I. 28 Dec (Nicole J. Desnoyers) was first of that subspecies group for the island; the four Fox Sparrow recorded in Inyo Co this winter included one “Red” in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine 4 Jan (Mike J. Prather), along with two “Slate-colored” and one “Sooty.” White-throated Sparrows were exceptionally numerous this winter, particularly in San Luis Obispo Co where 89 were reported in Dec–Jan and 31 in Feb and a high count of 12 was made along the Bob Jones Trail in San Luis Obispo 1 Jan (Tony Kurz); another ~185 were found elsewhere on the coastal slope plus seven on the deserts. A White-crowned x White-throated Sparrow in Huntington Beach, Orange Co 11 Jan (Brian E. Daniels) might have been the same bird present at the same locality in Dec 2019. A Golden-crowned x White-throated Sparrow was photographed at Montana de Oro S.P., San Luis Obispo Co 15 Jan (Rosie Howard). Harris’s Sparrows were at Hart Park in Bakersfield, Kern Co 17 Dec (Craig O’Neill), Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara Co 12 Dec–6 Jan (Cruz Phillips), Santa Cruz I. 20 Jan (Luke Tiller), Beverly Hills, Los Angeles Co 29 Jan–27 Apr (William Tyrer), and Furnace Creek Ranch, Inyo Co 19 Feb–4 Mar (Rajan Rao). Rare but regular in winter in coastal salt marshes, Nelson’s Sparrows were in San Diego Co at South San Diego Bay 23 Dec–23 Jan (Dave Beeke) and San Elijo Lagoon 24 Dec (Dan King). A Song Sparrow at Wilson Cove 28 Dec–7 Feb (Nicole J. Desnoyers) was the first well-documented bird on San Clemente I. since 2002; it showed characters consistent with the eastern nominate subspecies M. m. melodia. Some 33 Swamp Sparrows were found on the coastal slope, with eight others on the deserts. Two California Towhees were photographed at Coso Junction Rest Area, Inyo Co 28 Feb (Russell D. Kokx), perhaps having strayed from s. Sierra Nevada canyons to the west in response to heavy snow cover. An apparent Spotted x California Towhee was photographed at Fort Tejon State Historic Park, Kern Co 27 Feb (Daniel Irons).

A Yellow-breasted Chat at Morro Bay 27 Dec–15 Jan (Stephanie Little) was only the third to be found in winter in San Luis Obispo Co. A Yellow-headed Blackbird near Los Olivos 12 Dec (Peter T. Schneekloth) was a rare winter and interior occurrence in Santa Barbara Co. Thirteen

Orchard Orioles were found on the coastal slope during the period, barely exceeded by the 15 wintering Hooded Orioles reported prior to the mid-February arrival of the earliest spring migrants. A Streak-backed Oriole frequented a Lone Pine yard 10 Dec–19 Mar (Russell D. Kokx); it was only the second for Inyo Co and eleventh for California. Some 118 Bullock’s Orioles were present during the winter, all on the coastal slope; eleven Baltimore Orioles, again all on the coastal slope, were found during the period. Four Scott’s Orioles were found in Santa Barbara Co during the period, the northernmost of a handful of winter birds in the region. The declining

Rusty Blackbird continues to be rare but regular in winter in the region, with singles this winter at Thompson Reservoir on Santa Catalina I. 10 Dec (Patrick Troy) and in Ventura 30 Dec–15 Feb (Loren Wright, et al.).


Ovenbirds, very rare but regular in winter, were at Apple Valley, San Bernardino Co 6 Dec (Fran Hutton), Huntington Central Park in Huntington Beach 22 Dec–30 Jan (Richard A Cabe, Jasmine C. Kay), and Orange, Orange Co 4 Jan (Debra Nord). A Northern Waterthrush remained from 22 Aug to 28 Dec at Huntington Central Park (Thomas E. Wurster), and others were at the Ventura Settling Ponds, Ventura Co 7 Dec–12 Feb (Frank DeMartino), the Tijuana River Valley, San Diego Co 17 Dec–­8 Apr (Justyn T. Stahl), and Del Mar, San Diego Co 4–7 Feb (Sean Buchanan). Black-and-white Warblers were present in good numbers this winter, with 42 on the coastal slope and others on the desert at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve through the period (Alexander E. Koonce), and the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve 26 Feb (Jason St. Pierre). Also in impressive numbers were Tennessee Warblers, with 32 on the coastal slope and another at the nw. shore of the Salton Sea near Oasis 29 Dec (Joshua Joun, Tony Metcalf, Pema Zonglo). Lucy’s Warblers were in Orange 2 Dec (Phil Bartley), Santa Barbara 22–31 Dec (Nick A Lethaby), Carlsbad, San Diego Co 7 Jan–5 Feb (Jeff Spalding), and Leon Washington Park in South Los Angeles 15 Feb (Chris Dean). Nashville Warblers winter regularly, as evidenced by a total of 65 birds this winter on the coastal slope. The season’s only Virginia’s Warbler was at Ventura 17 Dec (Robert McMorran). MacGillivray’s Warbler is the rarest “western warbler” in winter, with one returning for its third winter at Goleta, Santa Barbara Co 24 Sep–31 Dec, another at nearby Isla Vista 30–31 Dec (David M. Compton), and one at Chula Vista, San Diego Co 17 Dec (Thomas Ford-Hutchinson).

Twenty-one American Redstarts were found on the coastal slope, with a dozen of those in San Diego Co; the deserts hosted birds at Pearblossom, Los Angeles Co 5–10 Dec (Jim Moore et al.), Palo Verde Ecological Reserve 7 Dec–26 Feb (Logan Kahle), Brawley, Imperial Co 14–25 Jan (Ashwin Sivakumar), and Palm Desert, Riverside Co 9 Feb (Devon Campbell). A female Cape May Warbler at Loyola Marymount University in Westchester, Los Angeles Co 1 Jan–19 Mar had returned for its second winter (Calvin Bonn); one at Veterans Park in Sylmar, Los Angeles Co 19 Mar was likely present there through the winter (Jon L. Fisher). Northern Parulas were found on the coastal slope at Goleta, Santa Barbara Co 22 Dec (Guy TIngos), the Ventura Settling Ponds 7–18 Dec (Frank DeMartino), Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park, Los Angeles Co 22 Nov–2 Jan (Manuel Duran et al.), Dana Point, Orange Co 2 Nov–26 Dec (Robert B. McNab), Costa Mesa, Orange Co 25 Dec–8 Jan (Bettina E. Eastman, Doug M. Lithgow), University City, San Diego Co 30 Oct–26 Feb (Bridget Spencer), Encinitas, San Diego Co 27 Dec–7 Jan (Susan E. Smith), Rancho Bernardo, San Diego Co 5–19 Feb (Steven Lima), and Prado Regional Park, San Bernardino Co 14 Dec–1 Jan (Johnny Bovee); on the deserts birds were at N.E.S.S. (near Oasis) 29 Dec (Joshua Joun), and Palo Verde Ecological Reserve 7 Dec (Logan Kahle). A Magnolia Warbler was at Live Oak County Park in Fallbrook, San Diego Co 25 Dec (Kenneth Weaver), and Imperial County’s first wintering bird was at S.E.S.S. (Young at Lindsey) 20 Dec–4 Jan (Jon Feenstra, Curtis A. Marantz). The only Blackburnian Warbler of the season was at Poinsettia Park in Carlsbad, San Diego Co 14–20 Jan (Tito Gonzalez). Yellow Warblers are regular in winter on the coastal slope (e.g., 32 in San Diego Co this winter) and southeastern deserts, but one at Lancaster City Park, Los Angeles Co 13 Dec–10 Jan represented the first mid-winter record for the desert portion of Los Angeles Co (Kimball L. Garrett). Chestnut-sided Warblers were at the San Gabriel River in Pico Rivera, Los Angeles Co 10 Dec (Otto Mayer), Peck Road Water Conservation Park near El Monte, Los Angeles Co 17 Dec (Darren Dowell), Irvine, Orange Co 15 Feb+ (Jerar Palian), Lake Perris, Riverside Co 21 Jan (Julie Szabo), and the Palo Verde Ecological Reserve 7 Dec (Logan Kahle), the last likely continuing from fall. Casual in winter, Black-throated Blue Warblers were at Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo Co 26 Dec–26 Feb (Liam and Kilian Hampl), Miguelito Park near Lompoc, Santa Barbara Co 4 Dec (John Callender), Laguna Niguel, Orange Co 23 Nov–14 Apr (Robert B. McNab), and the Whitewater Preserve, Riverside Co 23 Nov–13 Dec (Steve Ritt, Stephen Myers). Nine Palm Warblers during the period were all near the coast except for one well inland in Ontario, San Bernardino Co 25–26 Jan (Cynthia Case, Steve Neely). Pine Warblers were near the coast at Santa Maria, Santa Barbara Co 6–8 Jan (Jamie M. Chavez) and La Mirada Community Regional Park, Los Angeles Co 13–20 Feb (Jonathan Rowley), and another was in the Coachella Valley at the Living Desert Museum in Palm Desert, Riverside Co 10–12 Dec (Nick Belardes).

No new Grace’s Warblers were found this winter, but birds had returned for their fifth winter in Encinitas, San Diego Co 5 Nov–14 Mar (P. Gretchen Nell) and third winter at Point Loma, San Diego Co 6 Nov–1 Dec (Jonny Sperling). Black-throated Gray Warblers winter in small numbers throughout the coastal slope, with an exceptional 46 this winter in San Diego Co alone. Townsend’s Warblers are not uncommon in winter on the coastal slope, but four were on the desert this winter: two at Whitewater Preserve 13 Dec (Stephen Myers et al.), two different birds in Joshua Tree N. P., Riverside Co 7 Dec and 3 Feb, and up to three in the Coachella Valley 2 Dec–28 Feb. Casual in winter, Black-throated Green Warblers were at Costa Mesa, Orange Co 18 Dec–24 Jan (Jim E. Pike) and Santee Lakes, San Diego Co 17 Oct–15 Jan (Jeremiah Stock). About average were some 95 Wilson’s Warblers found during the winter, all on the coastal slope. Four Painted Redstarts noted in the fall report remained into the winter: in Brentwood/West Los Angeles 12 Oct–27 Feb (Mark Harris), the Linda Vista area of Pasadena, Los Angeles Co 30 Oct–10 Dec (Darren Dowell), Tierrasanta, San Diego Co 1 Nov–11 Feb (Judy Neave, Robert T. Patton), and Birdcage Park in Long Beach 30 Nov and 6 Dec–26 Mar (James Maley, Ashley Hopkins).


The returning Hepatic Tanager at Tierrasanta remained from 24 Oct to 26 Mar (Paul E. Lehman). A now-expected hefty total of 134 Summer Tanagers were noted during the period, half of them in San Diego Co. This total compares favorably with the ~193 Western Tanagers in the region this winter, including a high elevation bird at Palomar Mt. (Doane Pond) 9–10 Dec (Robert T. Patton). The Pyrrhuloxia at Lake Cahuilla in the Coachella Valley, Riverside Co continued from fall to 22 Apr (John Green). Rose-breasted Grosbeaks well outnumbered Black-headed Grosbeaks this winter, with a total of 16 on coastal slope and two on the San Diego Co desert at Borrego Springs. The seven Black-headed Grosbeaks recorded were all on the coastal slope. An unseasonal Blue Grosbeak was at Camarillo, Ventura Co 23 Jan (Rachel Ameche). A rare mid-winter Indigo Bunting was at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego Co 13 Jan (Rebecca Melillo), and the lone Lazuli Bunting was at Escondido, San Diego Co, remaining from the previous summer to 29 Dec (Eric Lutomski); an Indigo/Lazuli Bunting at Goleta 5 Dec (Rebecca Fagan Coulter) could not be identified to species. Interestingly, the most numerous Passerina this winter was Painted Bunting, with singles at Carl Thornton Park in Santa Ana, Orange Co 3 Dec (Thomas E. Wurster), Palm Springs, Riverside Co 3 Dec (Barry Mantell), and Inyokern, Kern Co. 18–24 Dec (Bob Steele).

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 26 Jul 2023.

Photos–Southern California: Winter 2022–2023

One of the two female King Eiders photographed on 27 December 2023 that were known to be present at Rincon Island/Ventura Pier, Ventura County 17 December 2022–5 February 2023. Photo © David Pereksta.

This Little Stint, photographed on 12 February 2023, was known to be present at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area, Riverside County 27 January–22 April 2023. Photo © Curtis A. Marantz.

The first Wood Sandpiper known to spend the winter in North America, and only the fourth ever in California, photographed on 22 December 2022, was found on the 20 December 2022 San Jacinto Wildlife Area Christmas Bird Count in Riverside County and remained through 13 April 2023. Photo © David Pereksta.

This adult Tufted Puffin, 12 km west of La Jolla, San Diego County on 18 February 2023, establishes one of the southernmost records for the species. Photo © Linus Blomquist.

This first-winter Yellow-billed Loon on Mission Bay in San Diego County photographed on 23 December 2022, was present 22 December 2022–15 March 2023 and established the first record for San Diego County. Photo © Gary Nunn.

This young Short-tailed Albatross, an endangered species but increasing in numbers, was over the open ocean 130 km west southwest of San Miguel Island, Santa Barbara County on 20 January 2023 Photo © Michael Force.

This Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, near the southern extreme of this species’ pelagic range, was forced slightly inland over San Elijo Lagoon, San Diego County by fierce westerly winds on 22 February 2023. Photo © Mike McKenzie.

Despite its undetermined origin, this female Snowy Owl, photographed on 29 December 2022, using rooftops in residential Cypress, Orange County for daytime roosting 26 November 2022–16 January 2023, provided a unique viewing experience and attracted much attention from birders and the general public alike. Photo © Robbie Lisa Freeman.

This Winter Wren, photographed on 20 January 2023, was present at Arroyo Burro in Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County 19 November 2022–15 March 2023. Note the pale throat, although the call is the most reliable way to distinguish this vagrant from the closely similar Pacific Wren. Photo © Hugh Ranson.

This Bohemian Waxwing, photographed on 27 November 2022, remained in Lone Pine, Inyo County 26–28 November 2022; two more Bohemians were found in January a short distance north in Bishop. Note the diagnostic chestnut undertail coverts. Photo © Russell Kokx.

Showing a nice blend of characters of its presumed parental species, this towhee at Ft. Tejon State Historic Park, Kern Co on 27 February 2023 was identified as an intergeneric hybrid between Spotted and California. Its calls resembled those of a California Towhee. Photo © Daniel Irons.

This young female Streak-backed Oriole, photographed on 10 December 2022, remained at a private residence in Lone Pine, Inyo County 10 December 2022–18 April 2023 surviving the cold of winter. Note the face pattern and streaks on the mantle that differentiate this oriole from Hooded and Bullock’s Orioles of similar age. Photo © Bob Steele.

This long-staying male Pyrrhuloxia, photographed on 3 November 2022, remained at Lake Cahuilla, Riverside County 3 November 2022–18 April 2023 Photo © Curtis A. Marantz.