The south part of the San Diego Bay is a great place to watch a good variety of bird species. Thousands of birds gather there to feed and rest while migrating. Some stay the entire winter, some continue on with their migration. January is between the major migrations and most of the birds that are seen in the South Bay this time of year are either late or early migrants or winter residents. Here’s what was being seen in the bay during January 2013.
The month started out with the usual birds, about a hundred species were observed during the month. Forster’s and Royal terns were the terns most commonly seen at this time. Bonaparte’s, Ring-billed, California, Western and Herring were the most common gulls seen. There were reports of one mew gull at the end of the month and Heermann’s gulls were seen in early January.
The most common shorebirds seen were greater yellowlegs, willets, and marbled godwits. Lesser and western sandpipers were the most common peeps counted along with dunlin. Red knots didn't make much of an appearance until the end of the month. One of the rarer peeps on this side of the world, the curlew sandpiper, was spotted near 7th Street during the last week. Plenty of black-bellied plovers and killdeer all month, but semipalmated plovers were mostly absent at the beginning of the month. Stilts and avocets were in normal numbers.
Three species of owls were spotted in January. Burrowing and short-eared owls were seen during the salt works tours in the middle of the month. A barn owl was reported at around the same time. The usual peregrine falcons, merlins, red-tails, cooper’s hawks and osprey were also seen. There may have also been a possible prairie merlin in the area at the end of January. It will be interesting to see what happens to the raptors when the South Bay Power Plant is demolished in early February.
The reddish egret still makes his home in the bay. Great and snowy egrets are frequently seen in his company. No reports of yellow-crowned night herons. Common ducks and geese species seen are brant, shovelers, pintails, teal, and American wigeons. No Eurasian wigeons were reported. At the end of the month, someone spotted a white-winged scoter in the more northern areas of the bay and the red-necked grebe continues there as well. Eared grebes are the most common in the area, but a few horned grebes were seen as well.
Birds that should start arriving in February include those heading north to their breeding areas early. Look for numbers of birds and species to stay about the same as in January.