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Good show for bird watchers in the South San Diego Bay in July

Anchovy shoals attracted plenty of brown pelicans to the South Bay
Anchovy shoals attracted plenty of brown pelicans to the South Bay
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Birding in the San Diego South Bay has been interesting during the month of July 2014. Earlier in the month, large shoals of anchovies congregated offshore near La Jolla and Imperial Beach. This resulted in a spectacular bird show with thousands of birds feeding and flying around the area. Here are a few of the highlights for this month.

At the beginning of the month, terns continue to dominate the area in the beginning of the month, but other shorebirds have begun to make an appearance. The snowy plovers have managed to lay several nests and several chicks have been seen in their usual nesting area near the Tijuana River Mouth. A few shorebirds also were feeding in that area and around San Diego Bay.

When the anchovies arrived, around mid-July, several unusual species of birds were spotted close to shore. Several thousand shearwaters, mostly black-vented with some sooty, were flying in a constant stream from the south to north. It often took hours for the entire group to fly by. Heermann’s gulls and Clark’s grebes were seen in the area as well. There have also been reports of a booby and possible albatrosses near shore.

Several more shorebirds have begun to show up in the area. These include curlews, willets, marbled godwits, dowitchers, and a few more ducks. Pelicans were in above normal numbers towards the middle and end of the month due to the anchovies. Otherwise, nothing notable had been reported with shorebirds and other water birds.

Other birds in the area include the usual swallows, doves, phoebes, finches and other passerines. Common ground doves were still being spotted in the Dairy Mart Road area which is notable because of their difficulty to find. Savannah sparrows and least Bell’s vireos were well spotted during this time.

August is sometimes the time of year when birds that normally are seen in Asian and the Pacific sometimes visit the San Diego area. There is no predictability of if and when these birds will arrive, however. Keep an eye on the mudflats for rare visitors as well as the beginning of migrating shorebirds and ducks, still in breeding plumage.