January at Lake Murray in San Diego is the height of the winter birding season. After this month, northern migration will begin again with some birds and some species will increase and some will decrease at the lake in the upcoming months. Here are some of what went on in January in the bird world around the lake area.
The yellow-rumped warblers seem to have peaked at around 400 and are started to decline in numbers as the length of day increases. White-crowned sparrows are still fairly common as are song sparrows. Towards the end of January, song-sparrows became more vocal on dry days. The “mystery warbler,” which might be a Virginia’s warbler, was hardly vocal and stayed fairly hidden throughout the month. He tended to be heard on warmer, sunnier days, but only very briefly. Hopefully, as spring approaches, he will begin to vocalize again.
There was an influx of gadwalls in early to mid-January, but by the end of the month, most had moved on. At the end of January, the number of northern shovelers increased. A couple of cinnamon teal and northern pintails were seen in the north end of the lake in Cowles’ Bay. The wood ducks have practically disappeared with only a brief vocal appearance around mid-January. Still plenty of lesser scaup around, but on January 29th, a trio of ring-necked ducks were seen in Del Cerro Bay on the north end of the lake near the ball fields. The coots seemed to have peaked and are now in more normal numbers around the lake. The grebes seemed to have moved again and maybe be back over by the dam. Ruddy ducks are also getting smaller in number.
There were a few unusual birds for the lake last month, but not unusual for San Diego. A hermit thrush was seen along the canal area near the golf course on the west side of the lake. A northern flicker was seen high up in a palm tree near the Kiowa drive entrance. There was a higher than usual number of herring gulls and a juvenile glaucous-winged gull was spotted several times. There was a normal number of ring-billed, western and California gulls for the month. Several white pelicans still remained at the lake in the beginning of January, but disappeared as the month went on.
Some of the birds that were absent this January include most of the shorebirds. No spotted sandpipers have been seen since September. The killdeer were seen briefly for a few days near the end of the month in the ball fields and in Alvarado Bay near the Kiowa Drive entrance. No yellowlegs or dowitchers were seen. All of these birds may make later appearances as migration begins again.