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Bird migration noticeable at Lake Murray in this month's bird watching report

A late April mallard duckling at Lake Murray
A late April mallard duckling at Lake Murray
Darlene Luckins

The month of April, 2014 at Lake Murray, in San Diego, showed a diminishing number of wintering birds. Already, by the beginning of the month, numbers of scaup, gulls, ruddy ducks, and redhead ducks were noticeably less. Summer birds such as hooded orioles were already arriving and looking for mates. Here are some observations made about the birds at Lake Murray during the month.

Diminished numbers of coots, scaup, ruddy ducks at the beginning of the month. Coot numbers are about a fifth of what they were at their peak in the fall. Lesser scaup steadily declined during the month going from a couple dozen in the beginning to about three or four at the end of the month. Mallards were less than half of normal, possibly due to many females beginning to nest.

At the beginning of the month, one domestic mallard had several ducklings which didn’t survive more than a week. Another family of wild mallard ducklings was seen near the end of the month. Two Canada geese were also nesting, but no goslings were seen by the end of the month. Ruddy ducks were fairly numerous at the beginning of the week, but were nearly absent at the end of the month.

A few surprises this month include warbling vireos singing loudly and least bitterns becoming more vocal. Many birds have begun breeding, making them less vocal and more difficult to find and count. Bushtit numbers appear greatly diminished, possibly due to flocks breaking up to nest. Other birds have mostly moved out of the area. These include white-crowned sparrows, of which many were still present throughout April, and yellow-rumped warblers which had pretty much vacated the area by the end of the month. No signs of cliff swallows during April, though northern rough-winged and tree swallows were still present.

For May, most, if not all, of the wintering birds should have left the lake area. A few ruddy ducks and redheads may be still be present. It is not unusual to see a lesser scaup during May, mostly weaker individuals who need to rest during migration. Listen for the “sweet sweet sweet, I’m so sweet” call of the yellow warbler. May also means more mallard ducklings. The ospreys have two chicks in their nest which should fledge in the next month. The three heron chicks, in two nests, will probably not fledge until after May.