Bird watching in December 2013 at Lake Murray in San Diego didn’t have any real surprises. This is mid-migration time and many of the birds that are supposed to have arrived at the lake have arrived and passed through while those who were supposed to leave have left. Here are some of the highlights in birding for this month.
Coot numbers remain high, but have gotten smaller over the month. Scaup and ruddy duck numbers appear smaller than in earlier months. Gadwall numbers are about usual for this time of year, though the gadwalls have taken residence in Alvarado Bay, near the Kiowa Drive entrance rather than their usual location on Padre Point, which is between the ¾ and 1 mile marker. The gadwalls are courting heavily and the high-pitched, raspy, quacks of the males are easily heard. This is a good opportunity to observe gadwall courtship up close. Buffleheads have increased in numbers, slightly.
Killdeer have made an appearance in the Alvarado Bay area. So far, a maximum of nine killdeer are seen, mostly that of adults and first-year young of two families. One lone first-year male killdeer continues to claim territory near Padre Point. A few ring-billed gulls continue and a couple of California gulls have been seen. Western gulls are still the dominant gull species here. One herring gull has also been seen on occasion, mostly with his western gull companion. No sign of the glaucous-winged gull has been seen this month nor has the horned grebe and hooded merganser been spotted.
Yellow-rumped warblers are ever present, though in less numbers than in previous years. White-crowned and song sparrows are the most common sparrows and no fox or Lincoln sparrows have been reported at the lake so far. Spotted towhees can be heard along the east end of the lake and one green-tailed towhee was possibly spotted near the restrooms in the ball field area.
Anna’s hummingbirds are in constant courtship mode and their squeak is heard continuously. There have been some reports of possible black-chinned hummingbirds in the area, but none are confirmed and may be mis-identified Anna’s hummingbirds. The swallows have returned, late, to the lake with a few tree swallows seen near the end of the month along with one possible northern rough-winged swallow.
January’s bird watching may be similar to December’s, but may present some “early birds” on their way back up north. American white pelicans are frequently seen on the lake, off and on, during these months. Expect more killdeer and spotted sandpipers as they gather and get ready for returning to the north. Non-western gulls, such as ring-billed gulls, should also become more frequent.