Summer in San Diego’s South Bay can either be very quiet or very exciting when rarities show up. Most of the shorebirds and ducks have departed to breed in the north, but a few hang around to rest and feed in the mudflats and other types of shoreline. Here are a few highlights of the birding in the area for June 2014.
It appears that some of the wintering ducks didn’t leave right away. There were several reports of lesser scaup in the Dairy Mart ponds late in May into the first part of June. There was also a report of a northern shoveler in the same area. But, few other ducks have been seen except a few mallards, ruddy ducks and even fewer American coots.
Some shorebirds have decided to stay for the summer. Mostly, what were seen in the South Bay were marbled godwits and a few long-billed curlew in non-breeding plumage. Stilts and avocets were very common and some were seen with chicks in the area. Forster’s and elegant terns were in large numbers as they came to breed around the salt works. Gull-billed terns were also seen, but in much lower numbers than last year when the entire colony nearly died off. Least terns were also common. A few skimmers were around and the usual numbers of western gulls were present.
Cliff swallows have returned, but seem to be in lower numbers than the previous year. Other birds, such as resident savannah sparrows and house finches were in usual numbers. A couple of common ground doves were spotted in the Bird and Butterfly Garden. There was at least one Eurasian collard dove in the area and feral pigeons and mourning doves were present. Most of the smaller birds were the usual species for this area with no surprises.
In July, expect more of the same with a few possible early migrators. Most of the shorebirds should be in non-breeding plumage, but a few may arrive still in the breeding colors. Accidental birds, such as last year’s lesser sand plover and curlew sandpipers in other years tend to arrive during July, usually on the mudflats near the salt ponds.