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This month's bird watching at Lake Murray a little unusual

Coopers hawks were very common this month
Coopers hawks were very common this month
Darlene Luckins

May 2014 was unusual for bird watching at Lake Murray in San Diego. Usually, the weather is May is mild and mostly cloudy. This month, there were two weeks of extremely high temperatures and dry air. There were fires in areas of the county, but Lake Murray was not affected or threatened. Here are a few of the bird watching highlights for the area for May.

One of the unusual things that happened this month is that American coots seem to have disappeared. Several were seen attempting to nest and a few chicks were spotted early in the month. Slightly fewer adult mallards than usual were seen, but there were fewer ducklings. Redheads and lesser scaup were seen at the beginning of the month, but haven’t been seen since. Ruddy ducks remained until about mid-May. Six Canada goslings were hatched in mid-May, though one disappeared a week later.

The osprey chicks survived to fledging age. At least two seem to have fledged normally, but one might have had a problem. The red-tailed hawks were seen courting, but not nesting. Northern harriers and Cooper’s hawks were very plentiful and at least one juvenile was seen. One red-shouldered hawk was seen, but no young.

At least one killdeer nest and pair were seen in the northern part of the lake. Many of the killdeer seem quiet or have disappeared. Grackles are breeding as usual, but they, too, seem to have fewer young. Hooded orioles and nutmeg manikins are also breeding. At least one yellow warbler was seen on the eastern side of the lake as well as several Pacific slope flycatchers.

The great-blue herons raised five chicks in two different nests. Two of the chicks fledged before the end of the month and the other three were close to fledging. Green herons are also breeding but, have fewer nests than usual. Least bitterns have gone silent and it is unknown if any are breeding.

Most of the gulls remaining in the area are western gulls with a splattering of juvenile California gulls. A few Forster’s and Caspian terns have been seen and heard calling and courting. No signs of any western or Clark’s grebes.

Hopefully in June there will be more signs of breeding at the lake. The weather at the end of May was typical for the time of year. If it remains mostly typical, more chicks and successful breeding may take place. The end of May and the beginning of June is peak duckling season more ducklings should appear by the middle of June.